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Northwest OH Legal Blog

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Properly Soliciting a Participant’s Social Security Number---What Exactly Does that Mean?

Section 6055 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers, plan sponsors and insurers to send annual eligibility reports to employees identifying all individuals including dependents, receiving health care coverage.  Such eligibility and coverage reports must also be filed with the IRS by the designated deadlines which were extended. The 2017 reports that are sent to participants and the IRS will reflect entering and exiting of health plan participants and dependents in 2016. Employers and plan sponsors are required to obtain information, including Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN), more informally known as Social Security numbers, for employees and dependents who maintained health coverage under a plan during any of the months in 2016 from January through December.

With the newest extension, submissions to the IRS are due on March 31, 2017 for plan sponsors filing electronically and February 28, 2017 for paper forms. Organizations are required to distribute 2016 Forms 1095-C and 1095-B to employees by March 2, 2017.  Delaying these transmissions and filings until the fate of the ACA is formally decided would not be a prudent application of a plan fiduciary’s duties. 

But what does it mean to show that an employer or plan fiduciary, “properly solicited the TIN”  for a participant or a dependent in order to show that reasonable efforts were made in avoidance of an IRS fine?  In the 18th Q&A in IRS Questions and Answers on Information Reporting by Health Coverage Providers , the following steps for soliciting a Social Security number are advised:

  1. Request the Social Security number at the time the relationship with the payee is established (such as an employment relationship).
  2. Make a second request by December 31 of the year in which the relationship begins (or January 31 of the following year if the relationship begins in December).
  3. Make another request by December 31 of the following year.

If the SSN is still not provided, there is no need to continue soliciting the SSN.  Once these steps are taken without success, a birth date may be submitted as a sufficient identifier for a participant or dependent.  Social Security numbers for an individual whose coverage is terminated need not be reported, according to IRS Notice 2015-68.   Furthermore, the IRS does not require or supply any model language for requesting an individual’s Social Security number for health coverage reporting.  Finally, keep in mind that this process to identify health plan participants and dependents may be revoked or changed by 2018.


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With offices in Toledo and Lima, OH Allotta Farley Co., L.P.A. serves clients throughout northwest OH with various legal matters. Areas of service include Allen County, Ashland County, Auglaize County, Crawford County, Defiance County, Erie County, Fulton County, Hancock County, Hardin County, Henry County, Huron County, Lucas County, Marion County, Mercer County, Morrow County, Ottawa County, Paulding County, Putnam County, Richland County, Sandusky County, Seneca County, Van Wert County, Williams County, Wood County, Wyandot County.

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