Tax-Free Employer Contribution to Student Loan Debt Incentive
Mar 23, 2021
Statistics show that a mere 8% of employers offer some kind of student loan repayment option. While this is not a new phenomenon, bigger corporations like Google and Hulu recognize the value-add of such offering to attract and retain top talent. Recent changes to a CARES Act provision providing employers tax incentives if they offer student loan repayments has been making news. Similar to employer-sponsored retirement and health care plans, employers can contribute up to $5,250 toward an employee’s student loan balance (principal or interest) and the payment will be free from payroll and income tax under Section 2206 of the CARES Act. This temporary tax-free provision has now been extended for at least five years, and employers are starting to take notice.
Due to the pandemic, many employers are focusing efforts on employee wellbeing and financial stability. This opportunity benefits both sides: the employee doesn’t have to pay income tax on the $5,250 and the employer gets a tax deduction. Some employers have evaluated the benefit of providing annual raises or offering a contribution to student loan debt. Given the economic impact of the pandemic, some may prefer the latter. Especially with student loan interest suspended until September of this year.
If you are interested in taking advantage of this tax-free provision, employers who already maintain an educational assistance program will need to amend their program, and employers who do not already maintain such a program will need to adopt one. Developing a written plan that outlines: 1) how to notify employees of the program, 2) eligibility and, 3) benefits is a good place to start. If you have questions, please contact your William Vaughan Company advisor today.