IRS releases info to help employers claim COBRA credit

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released detailed information that will help employers claim credit for the COBRA medical premiums they pay for their former employees, a measure contained in President Obama’s economic stimulus package passed last month.

Employers will find a comprehensive set of questions and answers at, in addition to a revised version of the quarterly payroll tax return employers must use to claim credit for COBRA medical premiums paid for former employees.

Beginning with the first quarter of 2009, the Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, Form 941, is the form used to claim the new COBRA payments credit.

“This is the first step in our effort to provide employers with information on this important health benefit for people who have lost their jobs,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We will continue our work in the weeks ahead to help employers implement this crucial change for the nation’s unemployed.”

In February, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The new law contains specific changes to COBRA health benefit requirements, changes that affect former employees, their employers and COBRA coverage providers.

Under the new law, eligible former employees, enrolled in their employer’s health plan at the time they lost their jobs, are required to pay only 35 percent of the cost of COBRA coverage. Employers must treat the 35 percent payment by eligible former employees as full payment, but the employers are entitled to a credit for the other 65 percent of the COBRA cost on their payroll tax return.

The IRS notes that employers must maintain supporting documentation for the COBRA credit claimed, including:

  • Documentation of receipt of the employee’s 35 percent share of the premium.
  • In the case of insured plans: A copy of invoice or other supporting statement from the insurance carrier and proof of timely payment of the full premium to the insurance carrier.
  • Declaration of the former employee’s involuntary termination.

Visit the Department of Labor for more information about COBRA payments and read another HR Forum post on the subject: Stimulus plan subsidizes COBRA, expands unemployment insurance.

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