IRS Allows Employers to Recover Mistaken HSA Contributions

The IRS recently released an information letter describing circumstances that would allow an employer to recover contributions mistakenly made to its employees’ HSAs.

Previously, IRS guidance allowed employers to recover HSA contributions in very limited situations, such as when the contribution exceeded the applicable annual limit. The new guidance also allows employers to recover HSA contributions when there is clear documentary evidence showing there was an administrative or process error.

In addition, the new IRS information letter provides specific examples of common administrative or process mistakes that occur when administering HSA contributions.

This is helpful guidance for employers that administer HSA contributions. Employers that recover mistaken HSA contributions should maintain documentation showing that a mistake occurred. Also, any correction should put the employer and employees in the same position they would have been had the mistake not occurred.

New IRS Information Letter

The IRS’ Office of Chief Counsel recently released an information letter (Letter 2018-0033) that clarifies the ability of employers to recover contributions to employees’ HSAs that were made by mistake. This information letter expands on the guidance in IRS Notice 2008-59 by allowing employers to recover HSA contributions in more situations.

According to this letter, IRS Notice 2008-59 does not provide an exhaustive list of when HSA contributions may be returned to an employer. Rather, if the employer has clear documentary evidence showing an administrative or process error, an employer may request that the financial institution return the amounts to the employer, as long as the parties are put in the same position that they would have been had the error not occurred.

Some examples of correctable errors include:

  • An amount withheld and deposited in an employee’s HSA for a pay period that is greater than the amount shown on the employee’s HSA salary reduction election.
  • An amount an employee receives as an employer contribution that the employer did not intend to contribute but was transmitted because an incorrect spreadsheet is accessed or because employees with similar names are confused with each other.
  • An amount an employee receives as an HSA contribution because it is incorrectly entered by a payroll administrator (whether in-house or third-party) causing the incorrect amount to be withheld and contributed.
  • An amount an employee receives as a second HSA contribution because duplicate payroll files are transmitted.
  • An amount an employee receives as an HSA contribution because a change in employee payroll elections is not processed timely, so that amounts withheld and contributed are greater than (or less than) the employee elected.
  • An amount an employee receives because an HSA contribution amount is calculated incorrectly, such as a case in which an employee elects a total amount for the year that is allocated by the system over an incorrect number of pay periods.
  • An amount an employee receives as an HSA contribution because the decimal position is set incorrectly, resulting in a contribution greater than intended.

Every employer should have access to the tools necessary to design a benefits program that supports future growth while attracting and retaining talented employees. Austin & Co. helps our clients execute on the key outcomes needed to achieve their desired goals with strategic planning and a team of licensed benefits experts. Contact us today for more information, info@austin-co.com or 800-836-0736.

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