Benefits advisors are fighting on Capitol Hill to get owners of small businesses permission to use the cafeteria plans they sponsor.
Letting cash-strapped owners use the plans themselves would be a cheap, simple way to encourage owners to offer the plans, advisors said today in Washington, at a hearing on cafeteria plans.
Matthew Tassey, who testified on behalf of the Falls Church, Virginia-based National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, said the current treatment of small business owners hurts workers.
“The inability of small business owners to participate in a plan acts as a disincentive to design, implement, administer and pay for the plan,” Tassey said at the hearing, which was streamed live on the web. “Allowing owners to participate would likely encourage more of them to make plans available to their workers.”
The workers could use the cafeteria plans to pay for health coverage or dependent care with pretax dollars, Tassey said.
The subcommittee posted a copy of the hearing video the committee website. The video and written versions of the witnesses’ remarks are available here.
Businesses offer employees cafeteria plans using Internal Revenue Code Section 125. Congress included the provision creating IRC Section 125 in the Revenue Act of 1978.
Jennifer Brown, the research manager at the Washington-based National Institute on Retirement Security, said officials at the U.S. Treasury Department worried that the plans would help highly paid owners and top executives more than ordinary workers. To ease those concerns, Congress added a provision limiting owners’ ability to use an employer’s plan in the Tax Reform Act of 1984.
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The Internal Revenue Service added a discrimination test, based on employees’ use of the cafeteria plan benefits, in regulations proposed in 2007.