Cafeteria Plans

nternal Revenue Code 125 allows an employer to implement an employee benefit plan which allows employees to select the benefit programs they prefer.

The plan offers two or more options and the employee chooses the option most appropriate for him or her.  Because of the "menu" of benefits available, the plan is referred to as a "Cafeteria Plan".

Cafeteria Plans, along with 401(k)'s, are among the most popular employee benefit plans of the past decade.  The tax benefits to the employer and employees far exceed the minimal required government reporting.

Benefit Options

In general, the IRS allows the following benefits to be present in a Section 125 plan:

  • Group-term life insurance (in excess of $50,000)
  • Accident and health plans
  • Long and short term disability benefits
  • Dependent child care costs
  • CODA [401(k) plans]
  • Dependent group life and accident and health insurance
  • Vacation

Employee Tax Aspects

Basically, the plan allows expenses that normally would be paid by the employee on an after-tax basis to be paid via salary reductions on a pretax basis.  This allocated income will not be subjected to FICA or income taxes.  The result is that taxable dollars have been converted to nontaxable dollars - thereby increasing the employee's take-home pay.

Employer Tax Aspects

Generally, employer contributions to a plan are income tax deductible.  In addition, contributions on behalf of the employees, if such contributions are not included in the employee's income, are not subject to FICA (Social Security) or FUTA (Federal Unemployment Tax Act).  This can result in significant savings to the company's bottom line.

The employer must file an annual information return (IRS Form 5500) stating plan participation, cost and business type.

Use-It-or-Lose-It

An important point for the employee to remember is that there can be no claim of any unused benefits or contributions from one plan year to the next.  This is known as the "use-it-or-lose-it" rule.
 

Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice.  Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary therefore, the information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.