Further, the regulations contemplate that an eating facility is a location at which individuals are employed to prepare and/or serve food, stating to this end that components of the direct operating costs of an eating facility include “personnel whose services relating to the facility are performed on the premises of the eating facility” and “labor costs attributable to cooks, waiters, and waitresses.” No guidance raises the inference that the exclusion of section 132(e) extends to all meals provided on the employer’s business premises, irrespective of whether or not they are provided at an “eating facility.”An airline — not identified in the memorandum — had argued to the IRS that catered meals it provided to employees while on duty aboard an aircraft were a 100-percent deductible de minimis benefit under Code Section 132. However, the IRS found that the meals, which were prepared for the airline by an independent third-party vendor at a facility on the ground, met the de minimis standards of Section 132(e)(2) but the employer did not prove the extent to which it could deduct the costs it incurs to provide its employees with the meals. Note: the term “de minimis fringe” includes the operation by an employer of any eating facility for employees if (1) such a facility is located on or near the employer’s business premises, and (2) revenue derived from such a facility normally equals or exceeds the its direct operating costs. Section 119 generally permits an employee to exclude the value of any meals furnished by or on behalf of the employer, but that exclusion is limited by other parts of the tax Code. For example, Section 162 allows for a full deduction if the benefit provided meets the narrow definition of de minimis provided in that section. That section permits an employer to deduct the cost of food and beverages that are provided to employees as trade or business expenses, but Section 274(n) limits that deduction to 50 percent. The IRS said that the Section 274 limitation is not precluded by the Section 119 allowance. “The legislative history of section 274(n) clarifies that the 50 percent limitation applies even to expenses associated with meals that are excludable under Section 119,” the IRS said in its memorandum, which cited a 1986 House Report. “In sum,” the IRS wrote, “this conference committee report specifies both that the 50-percent limitation applies to provision of meals that are excludable only under Section 119, and that the provision of meals must satisfy the particular requirements of Section 132(e)(2) to be exempted from this 50-percent limitation.”
A mandatory uniform standard for health plans to pay claims electronically was adopted in rules issued Jan. 5 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The rules are designed to help health care providers match payments received with the “remittance advice” transactions that plans are already sending them under an existing HHS standard.
Health plans must comply by Jan. 1, 2014, with the electronic funds transfer (EFT) standard, which the health reform law required HHS to add to the eight transaction standards it issued in 2000 under HIPAA. HHS’ interim final rules, scheduled for Jan. 10 publication in the Federal Register, specify the format and data content of the transmission a health plan sends to its bank directing it to pay a health care provider electronically.
“Currently when a provider submits a claim electronically for payment, a health plan often sends a Remittance Advice separately from the [EFT] payment,” making it “difficult or sometimes impossible for the provider to match up the bill and the corresponding payment,” HHS stated in announcing the rules, which require plans to use a tracking number that automatically matches the two.
Rather than add EFT to the HIPAA rules as a separate transaction, HHS amended the existing “health care payment and remittance advice” standard to include EFT. The new standards cover only the “payment initiation” from a health plan to its financial institution, not the bank’s transfer to the recipient provider’s bank.
Health plans that have their bank convert transactions to HIPAA-standard format may continue to do so, but if the bank fails to comply, the plan could be liable for violations. Along with the EFT standard, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will impose “compliance certification” requirements and potentially stiff penalties on health plans (HHS will address these in later rules).
HHS is accepting comments on the interim final EFT rules until March 9.