CARES Act Overview

The House of Representatives passed Friday, March 27—by an expedited procedure—the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed by the Senate late on Wednesday, March 25. Friday afternoon, President Trump signed the legislation into law.

The CARES Act has many elements intended to aid businesses and workers, and to assist the U.S. healthcare system in dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It also contains the following key provisions that would affect retirement savings arrangements, health savings accounts (HSAs), Archer medical savings accounts (MSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), and health flexible spending arrangements (FSAs).

 Retirement Savings Provisions

  • As originally drafted, this legislation extended the income tax return filing deadline from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. Prior to its enactment, however, the Treasury Department issued guidance extending the deadline and clarified other acts that are extended—including the ability to make IRA, HSA, and certain employer plan contributions—to July 15 for tax year 2019.
  • Up to $100,000 in coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs) can be withdrawn by an individual from eligible retirement plans. These distributions will be exempt from the 10 percent early distribution penalty tax.
    • A CRD is defined as any distribution made on or after January 1, 2020, and before December 31, 2020, to a qualified individual, defined as:
      • an individual (or the spouse or a dependent of that individual) who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 in an approved test; or
      • an individual who suffers related adverse financial consequences, or suffers from other factors as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Plan administrators can rely on plan participants’ certification that they meet these requirements.

    • An eligible retirement plan is defined as a qualified retirement plan (e.g., a 401(k) plan), 403(a) plan, 403(b) plan, governmental 457(b) plan, or an IRA.
    • CRDs will be treated as meeting retirement plan distribution requirements, so long as all distributions from one employer—including members of a controlled group—do not exceed $100,000 to an individual.
    • There will be a three-year repayment period beginning the day after distribution, during which one or more repayments may be made, not to exceed, in aggregate, the amount distributed. Taxpayers can recontribute these amounts to an eligible retirement plan or IRA.
    • CRDs that are recontributed within the three-year period will be treated as having satisfied the general 60-day rollover requirement.
    • CRDs will be taxed ratably over a three-year period, unless an individual elects otherwise.
    • CRDs are not considered statutory “eligible rollover distributions” for purposes of 20 percent mandatory withholding, the notice provided to recipients of distributions eligible for rollover (i.e., “402(f) notice”) and direct rollover requirements (but do remain eligible for rollover).
  • The retirement plan loan maximum for a qualified individual (defined as meeting the COVID-19 or SARs-CoV-2 conditions described above) will increase to the lesser of $100,000, or 100 percent of a participant’s vested balance.
    • Retirement plan loan repayment dates that occur between the date of enactment and December 31, 2020, can be delayed for one year. Due dates of subsequent payments (payments after those that may be delayed one year) and the five-year amortization period will be adjusted accordingly.
  • Plan sponsors will generally be required to amend their retirement plans for these provisions by the last day of the 2022 plan year (government plans will have an additional two years), or such other date as the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe, with operational compliance during the interim period.
  • Individuals, including beneficiaries, will not be required to take their 2020 required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their defined contribution plans or IRAs. This RMD waiver would also apply to individuals who turned 70½ in 2019 but did not take their RMD before January 1, 2020).
  • The 2020 year will not be counted for purposes of a five-year payout period for a beneficiary. (This provision will not alter a required beginning date for years after 2020.)
  • Single employer defined benefit pension plan minimum required contributions due during 2020 can be delayed to January 1, 2021 (adjusted for interim earnings). This provision will also provide an option to use an alternative funding target percentage.
  • This legislation adds “public health emergency” to those events that allow the Department of Labor to postpone certain deadlines governed by ERISA Section 518.

Health Savings Arrangement-Related Provisions 

  • For plan years before 2022, health insurance plans can pay for telehealth and remote care services without first satisfying HSA-qualifying deductible conditions.
  • A medicine or drug need not be obtained by prescription to be a qualified medical expense for HSA, HRA, MSA, and health FSA purposes. This includes over-the-counter menstrual care products.

We will continue to keep you posted on further developments, including any clarifying guidance issued by the IRS or other governing agencies.