Friday, June 28, 2013

IRS and Treasury anticipate employers may try to 'exploit', using temporary employment agencies in PPACA and they are watching

If your business relies upon temporary staffing agencies or any other shared-employment arrangement, you must make sure that benefits are provided to those folks or risk being fined.  This is a great summary on the topic from E is for ERISA: (Hat tip to Dr. Ryan Kennedy.)
General Anti-Abuse Rule. The proposed regulations also provide that any hour of service will be disregarded if the hour of service is credited, or the underlying services are requested or required of the employee, for the purpose of circumventing employer shared responsibility rules. 
Use of Temporary Employment Agencies. Thepreamble to the regulations identify practices that the IRS and Treasury anticipate employers may try to exploit, using temporary employment agencies as purported common law employers, and state that final regulations on employer shared responsibility duties will expressly prohibit such practices. In one scenario the employer would purport to employ individuals only part of a week, such as 20 hours per week, but would then hire the same individuals through a temporary employment agency who acts as their common law employer for the remaining hours in the week, with the result that the individuals do not qualify as full-time employees, for shared responsibility purposes, of either the employer “client” nor the temporary employment agency. An alternative scenario would split the hours between two separate temporary employment agencies. The preamble minces no words in commenting on these strategies: 
“The Treasury Department and the IRS anticipate that only in rare circumstances, if ever, would the “client” under these fact patterns not employ the individual under the common law standard as a full-time employee. Rather, the Treasury Department and the IRS believe that the primary purpose of using such an arrangement would be to avoid the application of section 4980H.” 
As this excerpt makes clear, the government intends that the employer shared responsibility duties will attach to businesses based on “common law” employment relationships, irrespective of third party involvement. Very generally, a common law employment relationship exists if the employee is subject to the will and control of the employer not only as to what work must be done but as to how the work will be performed. (This is a gross oversimplification...)
Here are some more resources on this topic:

Here is what the IRS has to say about "Common Law Employees:"  
Under common-law rules, anyone who performs services for you is your employee if you can control what will be done and how it will be done. This is so even when you give the employee freedom of action. What matters is that you have the right to control the details of how the services are performed. 
Example: Donna Lee is a salesperson employed on a full-time basis by Bob Blue, an auto dealer. She works 6 days a week, and is on duty in Bob's showroom on certain assigned days and times. She appraises trade-ins, but her appraisals are subject to the sales manager's approval. Lists of prospective customers belong to the dealer. She has to develop leads and report results to the sales manager. Because of her experience, she requires only minimal assistance in closing and financing sales and in other phases of her work. She is paid a commission and is eligible for prizes and bonuses offered by Bob. Bob also pays the cost of health insurance and group-term life insurance for Donna. Donna is an employee of Bob Blue.
The IRS formerly used what has become known as the "Twenty Factor" test. Under pressure from Congress and from representatives of labor and business, it has recently attempted to simplify and refine the test, consolidating the twenty factors into eleven main tests, and organizing them into three main groups: behavioral control, financial control, and the type of relationship of the parties. Those factors appear below, along with comments regarding each one (source: IRS Publication 15-A, 2010 Edition, page 6; available for downloading from (PDF). Another good IRS resource for understanding the independent contractor tests is at,,id=99921,00.html. In the first of the two pdf's in this paragraph the IRS provides on pages 7-8:

Common-Law Rules

To determine whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor under the common law, the relationship of the worker and the business must be examined. In any employee-independent contractor determination, all information that provides evidence of the degree of control and the degree of independence must be considered.

Facts that provide evidence of the degree of control and independence fall into three categories: behavioral control, financial control, and the type of relationship of the parties. These facts are discussed next.

Behavioral control. 
Facts that show whether the business has a right to direct and control how the worker does  the task for which the worker is hired include the type and degree of:

Instructions that the business gives to the worker.  An employee is generally subject to the business' instructions about when, where, and how to work. All of the following are examples of types of instructions about how to do work.
  • When and where to do the work.
  • What tools or equipment to use.
  • What workers to hire or to assist with the work.
  • Where to purchase supplies and services.
  • What work must be performed by a specified individual.
  • What order or sequence to follow.
The amount of instruction needed varies among different jobs. Even if no instructions are given, sufficient behavioral control may exist if the employer has the right to  control how the work results are achieved. A business  may lack the knowledge to instruct some highly specialized professionals; in other cases, the task may require little or no instruction. The key consideration is whether the  business has retained the right to control the details of a  worker's performance or instead has given up that right.

Training that the business gives to the worker. An employee may be trained to perform services in a particular manner. Independent contractors ordinarily use their own methods.

Financial control
Facts that show whether the business has a right to control the business aspects of the worker's  job include:
  • The extent to which the worker has unreimbursed business expenses. Independent contractors are more likely to have unreimbursed expenses than are employees. Fixed ongoing costs that are incurred regardless of whether work is currently being performed are especially important. However, employees may also incur unreimbursed expenses in connection with the services that they perform for their employer.
  • The extent of the worker's investment. An independent contractor often has a significant investment in the facilities or tools he or she uses in performing services for someone else. However, a significant investment is not necessary for independent contractor status.
  • The extent to which the worker makes his or her services available to the relevant market. An independent contractor is generally free to seek out business opportunities. Independent contractors often advertise, maintain a visible business location, and are available to work in the relevant market.
  • How the business pays the worker. An employee is generally guaranteed a regular wage amount for an hourly, weekly, or other period of time. This usually indicates that a worker is an employee, even when the wage or salary is supplemented by a commission. An independent contractor is often paid a flat fee or on a time and materials basis for the job. However, it is common in some professions, such as law, to pay independent contractors hourly.
  • The extent to which the worker can realize a profit or loss. An independent contractor can make a profit or loss.
Type of relationship.

Facts that show the parties' type of relationship include:
  • Written contracts describing the relationship the parties intended to create.
  • Whether or not the business provides the worker with employee-type benefits, such as insurance,  a pension plan, vacation pay, or sick pay.
  • The permanency of the relationship.If you engage a worker with the expectation that the relationship will continue indefinitely, rather than for a specific project or period, this is generally considered evidence that your intent was to create an employer-employee relationship.
  • The extent to which services performed by the worker are a key aspect of the regular business of the company.If a worker provides services that are a key aspect of your regular business activity, it is more likely that you will have the right to direct and control his or her activities. For example, if a law firm hires an attorney, it is likely that it will present the attorney's work as its own and would have the right to control or direct that work. This would indicate an employer-employee relationship.
IRS help. If you want the IRS to determine whether or not a worker is an employee, file Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding, with the IRS.