Have a POP

“I just started offering health insurance to my employees. Now my broker is trying to sell me something called a POP. Do I need it?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Congratulations on providing health insurance for your employees. We know that’s a big financial hit but it does make your company better able to recruit and retain employees.

Yes, you want a POP. This is a “Premium-Only Plan” that allows you to deduct an employee’s share of the premium on a pre-tax basis. Without having a POP in place, you must deduct from the after-tax, net pay. Since a POP is typically only about $150 per year, it’s a very low amount to spend to ensure your employees save money when they elect your insurance.

A POP is one part of what the IRS allows under Section 125 in the Internal Revenue Code. The other parts are usually just called Section 125 plans or Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). These allow employees to set money aside on a pre-tax basis for healthcare expenses that may not be covered by insurance, such as over-the-counter medications, eyeglasses, contact lenses, etc. Another portion can be used to pay for childcare with pre-tax monies.

While employees may like the sound of implementing an FSA, do so very carefully and after you fully understand it. Since the IRS rules this, there are pros and cons for your company and for your employees with the healthcare FSA. For example:

Sam wants to set aside $1,500 so you divide that between all his paychecks for the plan year. Sam could use the whole $1,500 in January and the company is covering that… and waiting to be paid back throughout the year by Sam’s deductions. However, if Sam quits in March, the company has no way to recover the full amount used by Sam. On the other hand, if Sam didn’t have the medical needs he thought he would have and only had $200 in eligible expenses to submit, Sam would lose the excess he set aside and it would revert to the company. The IRS feels the healthcare FSA balances out because sometimes the company is the loser and sometimes it’s the employee. However, if the plan is explained to employees carefully, they are less likely to lose much money. The IRS sets the maximum allowed for use in this plan but the company can set a lower maximum to lessen the risk.

The dependent care FSA is much simpler. The employee cannot submit a receipt for more than they have already put into the plan. Therefore, the company doesn’t provide any advance. If the employee understands the plan and knows their expected expenses, this works great for them, too.

While the FSA plans can be very good, you want to fully understand the risks and limit your exposure. Buy the POP because you and your employees will save on taxes. Don’t assume you have one just because you are taking those deductions pre-tax or you may end up paying back taxes. Ask your broker to be sure.

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