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Time running out for employers to implement special qualified transit benefit procedure

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Hands and calculatorThe IRS issued a special administrative procedure Jan. 8 allowing employers that have yet to file their 2014 fourth-quarter Form 941 to implement a retroactive increase in excludible qualified transit benefits. The increase resulted from recent tax extender legislation.

Under Notice 2015-2, employers that provided transit benefits in excess of $130 per month may make an adjustment on the fourth-quarter Form 941 to reduce the wages subject to withholding for all four quarters of 2014.  Under normal refund and adjustment procedures, employers would be required to file a Form 941-X for each quarter of 2014.

This Tax Flash describes procedures for employers who have and have not filed Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2014, which is generally due Jan. 31.

Retroactive increase In December, Congress passed, and the president signed into law, H.R. 5771, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (TIPA). The law retroactively extended more than 50 previously expired tax provisions from Jan. 1, 2014, through the end of 2014. One such provision was the monthly transit benefit exclusion under Section 132(f)(2)(A). As a result of this legislation, the per-employee benefit exclusion increased from $130 to $250 for the 2014 calendar year.  

Section 132(a)(5) excludes any qualified transportation fringe benefit from an employee’s income. A qualified transportation fringe includes (i) transportation in a commuter highway vehicle between home and work, and (ii) transit passes (transit benefits). TIPA retroactively increased the monthly qualified transit benefit to $250 per employee only for the 2014 calendar year. Neither TIPA nor Notice 2015-2 allows employees to retroactively increase their compensation reduction for 2014 to take advantage of the increase in excludible transit benefits.  

A qualified transportation fringe for purposes of Section 132(a)(5) also includes qualified parking. The extenders legislation did not change the amount excludible from income for qualified parking during 2014, which is $250 per month.

In response to the extenders legislation, the IRS issued Notice 2015-2, which includes a special administrative procedure that applies to any employer that provided transit benefits in excess of $130 per month during 2014 using either its own funds or an arrangement to reduce compensation. The amounts in excess of $130 a month and less than $250 a month are referred to as “excess transit benefits.”  

Special administrative procedure As described previously, the special administrative procedure allows employers that have not yet filed their 2014 fourth- quarter Form 941 to make an adjustment on that form to reduce the wages subject to withholding for all four quarters of 2014.

On or before filing the 2014 fourth-quarter Form 941, the employer must repay or reimburse the employee for the overcollected Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes (including the additional 0.9% Medicare tax on wages in excess of $200,000) on the excess transit benefits for all four quarters of 2014. The employer then reduces the amount of wages reported on the fourth-quarter Form 941 in lines 2, 5a, 5c and 5d by the excess transit benefit for all four quarters of 2014. Employers may correct the employer share of FICA tax only if the employee’s share of FICA tax has been repaid or reimbursed to the employee. Also, the repayment and reimbursement of overwitheld Social Security tax must take into account that the refund is limited to the amount paid on excess transit benefits that, when added to other wages for the year, did not exceed the Social Security wage base for 2014 ($117,000).  

Under normal refund procedures, an employer must obtain an employee’s written consent to request the refund and must obtain a written statement from each employee confirming that the employee did not and will not make a claim for refund of the overcollected FICA tax. The special administrative procedure allows employers who have not yet filed Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2014 to make the adjustment without obtaining the written statements from the employees. 

Employers that filed the fourth-quarter Form 941 Employers that have already filed the fourth-quarter Form 941 must use Form 941-X and normal procedures to make adjustments or claim refunds for any quarter in 2014. This means employers must file a Form 941-X for each quarter in 2014 in which amounts were withheld on excess transit benefits, and must secure written consents and the appropriate written statements from employees. Furthermore, the employer may not repay or seek a refund of the additional 0.9% Medicare tax or income tax deducted or withheld from the employee in 2014.  

2014 Form W-2 Employers that paid excess transit benefits and that have not yet issued the 2014 Form W-2 must reduce the amounts reported in boxes 1, 3 and 5 by the amount of the excess transit benefits. Any adjustment to box 3 of Form W-2 for wages subject to Social Security tax must take into account that the reduction is limited to the amount paid on excess transit benefits that, when added to other wages for the year, did not exceed the Social Security wage base for 2014 ($117,000).  

Those employers that repaid the overcollected FICA tax prior to finishing Form W-2 must reduce the amounts of withheld tax reported in boxes 4 and 6 by the amounts of the repayments. In all cases, employers must report in box 2 of Form W-2 the amount of income tax withheld during 2014.  

Employers that have already filed the 2014 Forms W-2 must file Forms W-2c to take into account the increased exclusion for transit benefits and to reflect any repayment of the withheld FICA taxes.  

Contacts
Eddie Adkins
+1 202 521 1565
eddie.adkins@us.gt.com

Jeffrey Martin
+1 202 521 1526
jeffrey.martin@us.gt.com

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