26 CFR § 1.501(c)(9)-2 - Membership in a voluntary employees' beneficiary association; employees; voluntary association of employees.
(a) Membership -
(1) In general. The membership of an organization described in section 501(c)(9) must consist of individuals who become entitled to participate by reason of their being employees and whose eligibility for membership is defined by reference to objective standards that constitute an employment-related common bond among such individuals. Typically, those eligible for membership in an organization described in section 501(c)(9) are defined by reference to a common employer (or affiliated employers), to coverage under one or more collective bargaining agreements (with respect to benefits provided by reason of such agreement(s)), to membership in a labor union, or to membership in one or more locals of a national or international labor union. For example, membership in an association might be open to all employees of a particular employer, or to employees in specified job classifications working for certain employers at specified locations and who are entitled to benefits by reason of one or more collective bargaining agreements. In addition, employees of one or more employers engaged in the same line of business in the same geographic locale will be considered to share an employment-related bond for purposes of an organization through which their employers provide benefits. Employees of a labor union also will be considered to share an employment-related common bond with members of the union, and employees of an association will be considered to share an employment-related common bond with members of the association. Whether a group of individuals is defined by reference to a permissible standard or standards is a question to be determined with regard to all the facts and circumstances, taking into account the guidelines set forth in this paragraph. Exemption will not be denied merely because the membership of an association includes some individuals who are not employees (within the meaning of paragraph (b) of this section), provided that such individuals share an employment-related bond with the employee-members. Such individuals may include, for example, the proprietor of a business whose employees are members of the association. For purposes of the preceding two sentences, an association will be considered to be composed of employees if 90 percent of the total membership of the association on one day of each quarter of the association's taxable year consists of employees (within the meaning of paragraph (b) of this section).
(2) Restrictions -
(i) In general. Eligibility for membership may be restricted by geographic proximity, or by objective conditions or limitations reasonably related to employment, such as a limitation to a reasonable classification of workers, a limitation based on a reasonable minimum period of service, a limitation based on maximum compensation, or a requirement that a member be employed on a full-time basis. Similarly, eligibility for benefits may be restricted by objective conditions relating to the type or amount of benefits offered. Any objective criteria used to restrict eligibility for membership or benefits may not, however, be selected or administered in a manner that limits membership or benefits to officers, shareholders, or highly compensated employees of an employer contributing to or otherwise funding the employees' association. Similarly, eligibility for benefits may not be subject to conditions or limitations that have the effect of entitling officers, shareholders, or highly compensated employees of an employer contributing to or otherwise funding the employees' association to benefits that are disproportionate in relation to benefits to which other members of the association are entitled. See § 1.501(c)(9)-4(b). Whether the selection or administration of objective conditions has the effect of providing disproportionate benefits to officers, shareholders, or highly compensated employees generally is to be determined on the basis of all the facts and circumstances.
(A) In the case of an employer-funded organization, a provision that excludes or has the effect of excluding from membership in the organization or participation in a particular benefit plan employees who are members of another organization or covered by a different plan, funded or contributed to by the employer, to the extent that such other organization or plan offers similar benefits on comparable terms to the excluded employees.
(B) In the case of an employer funded-organization, a provision that excludes from membership, or limits the type or amount of benefits provided to, individuals who are included in a unit of employees covered by an agreement which the Secretary of Labor finds to be a collective bargaining agreement between employee representatives and one or more employers, if there is evidence that the benefit or benefits provided by the organization were the subject of good faith bargaining between such employee representatives and such employer or employers.
(C) Restrictions or conditions on eligibility for membership or benefits that are determined through collective bargaining, by trustees designated pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, or by the collective bargaining agents of the members of an association or trustees named by such agent or agents.
(D) The allowance of benefits only on condition that a member or recipient contribute to the cost of such benefits, or the allowance of different benefits based solely on differences in contributions, provided that those making equal contributions are entitled to comparable benefits.
(G) The provision of benefits in the nature of wage replacement in the event of disability in amounts that are a uniform percentage of the compensation of the covered individuals (either before or after taking into account any disability benefits provided through social security or any similar plan providing for wage replacement in the event of disability).
(3) Examples. The provisions of this section may be illustrated by the following examples:
(1) An individual who is considered an employee:
(2) An individual who became entitled to membership in the association by reason of being or having been an employee. Thus, an individual who would otherwise qualify under this paragraph will continue to qualify as an employee even though such individual is on leave of absence, works temporarily for another employer or as an independent contractor, or has been terminated by reason of retirement, disability or layoff. For example, an individual who in the normal course of employment is employed intermittently by more than one employer in an industry characterized by short-term employment by several different employers will not, by reason of temporary unemployment, cease to be an employee within the meaning of this paragraph.
(c) Description of voluntary association of employees -
(1) Association. To be described in section 501(c)(9) and this section there must be an entity, such as a corporation or trust established under applicable local law, having an existence independent of the member-employees or their employer.
(2) Voluntary. Generally, membership in an association is voluntary if an affirmative act is required on the part of an employee to become a member rather than the designation as a member due to employee status. However, an association shall be considered voluntary although membership is required of all employees, provided that the employees do not incur a detriment (for example, in the form of deductions from pay) as the result of membership in the association. An employer is not deemed to have imposed involuntary membership on the employee if membership is required as the result of a collective bargaining agreement or as an incident of membership in a labor organization.
(3) Of employees. To be described in this section, an organization must be controlled -
(i) By its membership,
(ii) By independent trustee(s) (such as a bank), or
(iii) By trustees or other fiduciaries at least some of whom are designated by, or on behalf of, the membership. Whether control by or on behalf of the membership exists is a question to be determined with regard to all of the facts and circumstances, but generally such control will be deemed to be present when the membership (either directly or through its representative) elects, appoints or otherwise designates a person or persons to serve as chief operating officer(s), administrator(s), or trustee(s) of the organization. For purposes of this paragraph an organization will be considered to be controlled by independent trustees if it is an employee welfare benefit plan, as defined in section 3(1) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), and, as such, is subject to the requirements of parts 1 and 4 of subtitle B, title I of ERISA. Similarly, a plan will be considered to be controlled by its membership if it is controlled by one or more trustees designated pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement (whether or not the bargaining agent of the represented employees bargained for and obtained the right to participate in selecting the trustees).
(4) Examples. The provisions of this section may be illustrated by the following examples: