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IRS ISSUES ADVANCE REV. RUL. 86-88 ON MEDICARE TAX ON WAGES OF NEW STATE EMPLOYEES

JUN. 30, 1986

Rev. Rul. 86-88; 1986-2 C.B. 172

DATED JUN. 30, 1986
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Citations: Rev. Rul. 86-88; 1986-2 C.B. 172

Rev. Rul. 86-88

Section 13205 of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (the Act), 1986-___ I.R.B. ___, amended section 3121(u) of the Internal Revenue Code. In general, the amendment applies sections 3101(b) and 3111(b), the hospital insurance (medicare) tax portion of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), to wages for services rendered after March 31, 1986, by newly hired employees of states and political subdivisions. Previously most employees of states and political subdivisions were not covered under the FICA, as their services were excepted from the term "employment" by section 3121(b)(7).

This revenue ruling provides guidelines concerning the applicability of the medicare tax to employees of states and political subdivisions.

For purposes of this revenue ruling, the term "state" includes the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

For purposes of this revenue ruling, the term "political subdivision" has the same meaning that it has under section 218(b)(2) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. section 418(b)(2). Thus, "political subdivision" ordinarily includes a county, city, town, village, or school district. In many states, depending upon the manner in which such entities are created under state law, "political subdivision" includes a sanitation, utility, reclamation, improvement, drainage, irrigation, flood control, or similar district.

For purposes of this revenue ruling, the term "state employer" of a state includes the state and any agency or instrumentality of that state that is a separate employer for purposes of withholding, paying, and reporting the federal income taxes of employees. The term "political subdivision employer" of a political subdivision includes the political subdivision and any agency or instrumentality of that political subdivision that is a separate employer for purposes of withholding, reporting, and paying the federal income taxes of employees.

SERVICES SUBJECT TO THE MEDICARE TAX

Q1. What services are subject to the medicare tax under the Act?

A1. As a general rule, services performed for a state employer or political subdivision employer by an employee hired by the state employer or political subdivision employer after March 31, 1986, are subject to the medicare tax. The following services, however, are NOT subject to the medicare tax even though the services are performed by an employee hired after March 31, 1986:

(1) services covered by an agreement between the state and the Secretary of Health and Human Services entered into pursuant to section 218 of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. section 418 (218 agreement) providing for social security coverage including medicare,

(2) services excluded from the definition of employment under any provision of section 3121(b) of the Code other than section 3121(b)(7),

(3) services performed by an individual who is employed by a state employer (except for a District of Columbia employer) or a political subdivision employer to relieve the individual of unemployment,

(4) services performed in a hospital, home, or other institution by a patient or inmate thereof as an employee of a state employer or a political subdivision employer,

(5) services performed by an individual as an employee of a state employer or a political subdivision employer serving on a temporary basis in case of fire, storm, snow, earthquake, flood, or other similar emergency, or

(6) services performed by any individual as an employee included under section 5351(2) of title 5, United States Code (relating to certain interns, student nurses, and other student employees of the District of Columbia government), other than as a medical or dental intern or a medical or dental resident in training.

THE CONTINUING EMPLOYMENT EXCEPTION

Q2. If an employee was hired before April 1, 1986, by a state employer or a political subdivision employer and services are performed for the state employer or political subdivision employer by that employee after March 31, 1986, are those services subject to the medicare tax?

A2. Services are not subject to the tax if they are performed after March 31, 1986, for a state employer or political subdivision employer by an employee who was hired by the state employer or the political subdivision employer before April 1, 1986, and if the employee meets the following requirements:

(i) the employee was performing regular and substantial services for remuneration for the state employer or political subdivision employer before April 1, 1986,

(ii) the employee was a bona fide employee of that employer on March 31, 1986,

(iii) the employment relationship with that employer was not entered into for purposes of avoiding the medicare tax, and

(iv) the employment relationship of the employee with that employer has not been terminated after March 31, 1986 (other than as provided in the rules described in Q&A8 below, which concern employees who transfer from one state employer, or one political subdivision employer, to another).

Section 3121(u)(2)(C) of the Code.

For purposes of this revenue ruling, this exception to the medicare tax is called the "continuing employment exception."

Q3. An employee signed an employment contract before April 1, 1986, but did not begin to perform services until after March 31, 1986. Does the employee qualify for the continuing employment exception?

A3. No. The employee does not qualify for the continuing employment exception because the employee was not performing regular and substantial services for remuneration before April 1, 1986. Section 3121(u)(2)(C)(ii)(I) of the Code.

Q4. Before April 1, 1986, an individual was performing services for remuneration as a substitute teacher on an "as needed" basis for a state employer or a political subdivision employer, and the individual continued performing those services on that basis after March 31, 1986. Does the individual qualify for the continuing employment exception?

A4. No. The individual does not qualify for the continuing employment exception. Even though the services performed may have been substantial, the services were not regular because they were performed on an "as needed" basis. Section 3121(u)(2)(C)(ii)(I) of the Code.

Q5. A was a state employee performing regular and substantial services for remuneration prior to April 1, 1986. A's employment relationship with the state employer was terminated after March 31, 1986. but A was later rehired by the state employer. Does the continuing mployment exception apply to A?

A5. No. Section 3121(u)(2)(C)(iii) of the Code.

Q6. How is termination of employment defined for purposes of determining whether the medicare tax is applicable?

A6. The question of whether an employment relationship has terminated is a question of fact that must be determined on the basis of all the relevant facts and circumstances. Great weight, however, will be given to the personnel rules of the state employer or political subdivision employer to determine if an employment relationship has been terminated.

Q7. An employee who was hired before April 1, 1986, by a state employer transferred after March 31, 1986, to another state employer of that state. The transfer was made without a termination of the employee's overall employment relationship with that state. Does the employee qualify for the continuing employment exception?

A7. Yes. An employee hired before April 1, 1986, by a state employer who transfers after March 31, 1986, to another state employer of that state may qualify for the continuing employment exception, provided the transfer was made without a termination of the employee's overall employment relationship with that state. The same rule applies to an employee hired before April 1, 1986, by a political subdivision employer, who transfers after March 31, 1986, to another political subdivision employer of that political subdivision.

On the other hand, an employee hired before April 1, 1986, does not qualify for the continuing employment exception if after March 31, 1986, the employee transfers from a state employer to a political subdivision employer or from a political subdivision employer to a state employer. Likewise, an employee does not qualify for the exception if the employee transfers from a political subdivision employer in one political subdivision to a political subdivision employer in a different political subdivision, or from a state employer in one state to a state employer in a different state. Section 3121(u)(2)(D) of the Code.

Different rules, however, control whether a transfer affects an employee's status for purposes of the medicare tax wage base. In the case of an employee who is subject to the medicare tax, even if the employee transfers from one state employer to another state employer of that state or from one political subdivision employer to another political subdivision employer of that political subdivision, a new medicare tax wage base applies to wages received from the second employer. Thus, the rules that determine whether there is a new medicare tax wage base are the same as those applicable to employees of private employers.

SERVICES EXCLUDED FROM EMPLOYMENT

Q8. What services are excluded from the definition of employment?

A8. See sections 3121(b)(1)-(6), (8)-(20) of the Code for a list of services that are excluded from the definition of employment for purposes of the social security taxes, including the medicare portion of the taxes.

Q9. A 218 agreement may contain terms optionally excluding from social security coverage certain types of employment. 42 U.S.C. section 418(c)(3). If employment is optionally excluded from coverage under the terms of a 218 agreement, is that employment subject to the medicare tax if services are performed by an individual otherwise subject to the medicare tax under the rules of Q&A1 and Q&A2?

A9. Yes. The optionally excluded services are subject to the medicare tax if they are performed by an individual otherwise subject to the tax under the rules of Q&A1 and Q&A2 above.

Q10. A student is hired by a school, college, or university after March 31, 1986, to perform services for the school, college, or university. The student is in a group optionally excluded from coverage under the terms of an applicable 218 agreement. Are the services performed by the student subject to the medicare tax?

A10. Services performed by a student employed by a school, college, or university are not subject to the medicare tax if the student is enrolled and regularly attending classes at the school, college, or university. Section 3121(b)(10) of the Code. Services of a student that are subject to contributions under a 218 agreement continue to be subject to such contributions.

DEFINITION OF WAGES

Q11. Is the definition of wages for medicare tax purposes the same as the definition of wages for making social security contributions under 218 agreements?

A11. No, not in all cases. The term "wages" for purposes of paying medicare tax is defined by section 3121(a) of the Code. The term "wages" for purposes of making contributions under a 218 agreement is defined by section 209 of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. section 409. Questions concerning the definition of wages (and employment) for purposes of paying medicare tax should be directed to the Service. Questions concerning the definition of wages (and employment) for purposes of making 218 contributions should be directed to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

RULES FOR REPORTING AND PAYMENT OF MEDICARE TAX

Q12. Is the medicare tax reported and paid to the Internal Revenue Service or to the SSA?

A12. The medicare tax is reported and paid to the Service (1) by a state employer of a state if on April 7, 1986, NO employee of any state employer of that state was covered under a 218 agreement, and (2) by a political subdivision employer of a political subdivision if on April 7, 1986, NO employee of any political subdivision employer of that political subdivision was covered under a 218 agreement.

The medicare tax is reported to the state Social Security Administrator (1) by a state employer of a state if on April 7, 1986, ANY employee of any state employer of that state was covered under a 218 agreement, and (2) by a political subdivision employer of a political subdivision if on April 7, 1986, ANY employee of any political subdivision employer of that political subdivision was covered under a 218 agreement.

Q13. A 218 agreement was in effect with state X on or before April 7, 1986. The agreement provided for coverage of employees of a political subdivision employer of political subdivision A but not for coverage of any employee of any political subdivision employer of political subdivision B. After April 7, 1986, a modification of the 218 agreement was executed providing for coverage of some, but not all, employees of a political subdivision employer of political subdivision B. The effective date of the new coverage was April 1, 1986. When that political subdivision employer of political subdivision B reports and pays the medicare tax on wages for services performed by those of its employees who are not subject to the modification, is the tax reported and paid to the state Social Security Administrator or to the Internal Revenue Service?

A13. The tax is reported and paid to the Internal Revenue Service. Modifying a 218 agreement after April 7, 1986, to extend coverage on a retroactive basis does not change the agency to which the employer must report and pay the medicare tax for services performed by employees who are subject to the medicare tax.

Q14. How is the medicare tax reported and paid to the Internal Revenue Service?

A14. Taxable wages must be reported on line 6 of Form 941E, Quarterly Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax and Hospital Insurance (Medicare) Tax. The reporting, depositing, and paying of the medicare tax are subject to the same rules applicable to private employers. These rules are similar to those applicable to income tax withholding.

Q15. How is the medicare tax reported and paid to the SSA?

A15. The medicare tax is reported and paid to the SSA just as contributions under a 218 agreement are reported and paid to the SSA.

Q16. Will all penalties for failure to pay the medicare tax and failure to make timely deposits of that tax be assessed against state and political subdivision employers?

A16. The Service will waive penalties for failure to pay and for failure to make timely deposits of the medicare tax with respect to services performed through the fourth quarter of 1986, so long as all payments due for April through December of 1986 are paid by February 2, 1987. If all payments due for April through December 1986 are not paid by February 2, 1987, this automatic waiver of penalties is not applicable, even with respect to amounts paid by February 2, 1987. Penalties may be waived, however, if the employer shows reasonable cause for failure to pay and failure to make timely deposits of the tax. See sections 6651 and 6656 of the Code. A state employer or political subdivision employer should not report any medicare tax wages on line 6 of Form 941E for the second or third quarter unless appropriate deposits and/or payments are made for that quarter.

Q17. If a state employer or a political subdivision employer has federal employees on the state or political subdivision payroll, how should that employer report the full social security tax or the medicare portion of the social security tax, whichever is applicable?

A17. The state employer or political subdivision employer should use Form 941E to report the full social security taxes and or the medicare portion of the taxes. For those federal employees subject to the FULL social security taxes, the tax must be included with the withheld federal income tax on line 3 of Form 941E, with an attached supporting statement showing the amount of wages subject to the social security taxes, the amount of the taxes withheld, and the employer's share of the taxes. For those federal employees subject ONLY to the medicare portion of the social security taxes, the medicare tax must be reported on line 6 of Form 941E.

Q18. If a state employer or a political subdivision employer must report and pay the medicare tax to the Service as explained in Q&A12, how should the employer transmit Copy A of Forms W-2 for newly hired employees who are subject to the medicare tax?

A18. For newly hired employees subject to the medicare tax. the employer should transmit Copy A of Forms W-2 with a Form W-3, Transmittal of Income and Tax Statements, and should check the "Medicare Fed. emp." checkbox in Box 2 on the Form W-3. This checkbox will be changed to "Medicare government employee" on the 1987 Form W-3 to reflect the extension of the medicare tax to state and political subdivision employees. For employees not subject to the medicare tax, the employers should follow the current practice of transmitting Copy A of Forms W-2 with a Form W-3, checking the "941/941E" checkbox in Box 2 on the Form W-3.

Q19. If a state employer or a political subdivision employer must report and pay the medicare tax to the state Social Security Administrator as explained in Q&A12, how should the employer transmit Copy A of Forms W-2 for newly hired employees subject to the medicare tax?

A19. For newly hired employees subject to the medicare tax, the employer should transmit Copy A of Forms W-2 with a Form W-3 S&L, Transmittal of Income and Tax Statements for State and Local Governmental Employers, and should check the "Medicare Government Employee" checkbox on the Form W-3 S&L IN ADDITION TO the "Section 218" checkbox. For those employees covered under a 218 agreement, the state employer or the political subdivision employer should follow the current practice of transmitting the Forms W-2 with a Form W-3 S&L, checking the "Section 218" checkbox in Box 2 on the Form W- 3 S&L. If the employer also has employees who are not covered under the 218 agreement and who were hired before April 1, 1986, then for those employees, the employer should transmit Forms W-2 with a Form W-3 and should check the "941/941E" box on the Form W-3.

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