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PPACA Final Regs Issued by Treasury

February 11, 2014
FROM:     Don Konkle, Executive Director, PFESI
RE:          Obama Care/PPACA Final Regs Issued by Treasury

The final regulations for the employer shared responsibility provision of the PPACA were issued yesterday (although technically they aren't being published in the federal register until tomorrow). The references to volunteers are on pages 26-27, 142-143 and 147.

The regs seem to be adequately broad to cover compensated volunteers of any kind, including but not limited to emergency services responders. This is good for auxiliary folks who wouldn't have been covered if the definition applied narrowly to only emergency responders. The regs also encompass a wide range of benefit types, using the terms "reasonable benefit" and "nominal fee" to describe the sorts of incentives that are allowable to bona fide volunteers. Agencies that provide minor stipends, tax or fee reductions, LOSAP or non-monetary benefits are now for all intents and purposes exempt from having their volunteers counted as employees under Obamacare.

In publishing regs saying that bona fide volunteer hours don't count as service hours under Obamacare, and by adopting a definition of "volunteer" that allows for minor compensation, the IRS is clearly signaling that they are not going to treat volunteers as employees under the law. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that agencies that pay a regular wage or salary to individuals that they think of as "volunteers" will be exempted from Obamacare under the new regs. The issue that is still hanging out there is when a payment/incentive stops being "reasonable" or "nominal". If you don't meet the definition of a volunteer under the Fair Labor Standards Act you very well may not be covered by the volunteer exemption from Obamacare. However, until the IRS provides additional clarification or takes enforcement action against a public safety agency over this it will be hard to say for sure.

Thanks to the PFESI for supplying the information provided in this news alert.

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