IRS Guidance Affects Employment Taxes and COBRA Premium Subsidy

The IRS issued Notice 2021-24, which provides guidance following the passage of the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARPA). The Notice provides information regarding the applicable penalty relief available to an employer under the ARPA for failing to pay employment taxes in anticipation of a credit for COBRA premium assistance paid to assistance-eligible individuals. Notice 2021-24 provides that the credit applies against the employer Medicare taxes for each calendar quarter and is reported on the employer’s return, reporting liability for FICA tax or RRTA tax, as applicable. For most employers, the Form 941 would be used to file quarterly employment taxes and the Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19, would be used to obtain an advance payment of the refundable credit. An employer will not be subject to a penalty for failing to pay quarterly employment taxes if

  • the employer is the person to whom premiums are payable;
  • the amount of employment taxes that is not timely paid is less than or equal to the amount of the employer’s anticipated credits for the quarter; and
  • the employer did not seek an advance credit by filing the Form 7200.

Drafts of the Form 941-X Instructions and Form 7200 have been released by the IRS but will not be finalized until the Office of Management and Budget has reviewed and approved the forms. Usually, once approved, the final forms contain updated instructions and information. As released, the draft Form 7200 contains a line item to include the amount paid by the employer in COBRA premium subsidies. The draft Form 941-X contains outdated instructions applicable to COBRA premium assistance payments between September 2008 and May 2010. The draft Form 941-X section regarding COBRA premium assistance payments will be updated in July 2021 to reflect changes under the ARPA.