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New Procedures to Establish Qualified Plan Distributions in the U.S. and Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rico Treasury Department recently issued Internal Revenue Circular Letter 21-20, which establishes procedures for a former resident of Puerto Rico to demonstrate that distributions received from a U.S. retirement plan qualified under the Code and whose trust was created in a U.S. state are not subject to tax under the Puerto Rico Internal Revenue Code of 2011, as amended (the “Puerto Rico Code”). In order to establish that distributions received from a U.S. retirement plan are not taxable under the Puerto Rico Code, an individual is required to submit IRS Form 8898 (Statement for Individuals Who Begin or End Bona Fide Residence in a U.S. Possession) to the employer who maintains the plan from which the distributions are made. If the individual does not submit a Form 8898, such individual must instead submit the following information to such employer to demonstrate the individual’s change of residence: An affidavit… Continue Reading

Filing a Form 5558 for Retroactively Adopted Plans Does Not Establish a 2020 Form 5500 Filing Requirement

In August 2021, the IRS issued guidance clarifying that certain plans retroactively adopted after the end of the plan year would not have to file a 2020 Form 5500 series return, which we previously discussed in our blog post here. Recently, the IRS further clarified that if a plan sponsor already submitted a Form 5558 (Application for Extension of Time to File Certain Employee Plan Returns) for a retroactively adopted plan, the submission of such Form 5558 would not require such plan to file a 2020 Form 5500. The IRS stated that the filing of the Form 5558 will not result in an IRS delinquency notice if no 2020 Form 5500 is ever filed for the plan specified in the Form 5558. The delinquency notices are based on when the Form 5500 is filed and not the filing of aForm 5558.   IRS newsletters are available here.

Federal Agencies Issue Proposed Revisions to Form 5500 Return/Report

The DOL, PBGC, and IRS (the “Agencies”) recently issued a Notice of Proposed Revision (the “Notice”) to update the Form 5500 Annual Return/Report filed for employee pension and welfare benefit plans. The DOL simultaneously issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to implement the revisions proposed in the Notice. These proposed revisions primarily relate to certain statutory amendments to ERISA and the Code enacted as part of the SECURE Act and include other changes intended to improve Form 5500 reporting. Specifically, the Notice describes the following proposed revisions to the Form 5500 Annual Return/Report:  Consolidation of the Form 5500 reporting requirement for defined contribution retirement plan groups by (i) adding a new type of direct filing entity called a “defined contribution group” reporting arrangement, and (ii) establishing a new reporting schedule for such arrangement; Modifications to reflect pooled employer plans as a type of multiple employer pension plan (“MEP”) and implement… Continue Reading

New IRS Guidance on Excess COVID Related Employment Tax Credits

The IRS recently released proposed regulations related to excess employment tax credits claimed by employers under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Specifically, the proposed regulations clarify that any paid sick and family leave credits or employee retention tax credits that were refunded or credited to an employer in excess of the credits the employer was actually entitled to claim will be treated as an underpayment of the applicable employment taxes that will be collected by the IRS in accordance with its customary assessment and collection procedures. For additional information on the requirements and limitations related to these employment tax credits, please see our prior blog posts here, here, and here.  The proposed regulations are available here.

Benefit Compliance Tip: Be Sure to Sign on the Dotted Line

Benefit plan administration can be complicated and challenging, but sometimes it is not the complex issues that cause the biggest problems; it’s the simplest, such as remembering to ensure plan documents and amendments are actually signed. Far too often, when new plans or plan amendments are adopted, the board or a plan committee will adopt resolutions approving the new plan or amendment, but the actual documents are never signed. Unfortunately, this area of non-compliance may go unnoticed until an IRS or DOL audit or the sale of the plan sponsor, where signed documents are requested but the plan sponsor cannot find them. To avoid being caught with unsigned plan documents, plans sponsors should: Adopt procedures so that immediately after new plans or amendments are adopted, the documents are signed and dated by an authorized signer; After documents are signed, maintain the executed documents in an easy to find location, and… Continue Reading

Federal District Court Rules that Cross-Plan Offsetting Violates ERISA

Cross-plan offsetting is a practice that is used by third-party administrators (“TPAs”) of employer-sponsored group health plans as a means of recouping a benefit payment that was purportedly overpaid to an out-of-network health care provider under one plan by reducing the benefit payment owed to the same provider under another entirely separate plan. This practice has raised fiduciary compliance issues under ERISA and has frequently been the subject of litigation. Recently, in Lutz Surgical Partners, PLLC, et al. v. Aetna, Inc., et al.¸ a federal district court in New Jersey held that Aetna’s use of cross-plan offsetting violated ERISA. Under ERISA, a plan fiduciary may not, “in his individual or in any other capacity act in any transaction involving the plan on behalf of a party (or represent a party) whose interests are adverse to the interests of the plan or the interests of its participants or beneficiaries.” In addition, ERISA… Continue Reading

Hardship Withdrawal and Tax Filing Relief Due to Recent Disaster Declarations

In 2019, the IRS updated the safe harbor rules for hardship withdrawals from a retirement plan to permit such withdrawals for expenses and losses incurred by a participant due to a natural disaster declared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”), provided the participant’s principal residence or principal place of employment at the time of the disaster was located in an area designated by FEMA for individual assistance related to that disaster. FEMA has issued a series of disaster declarations as a result of recent catastrophes across the country, including Hurricane Ida, the wildfires in California, and the severe storms and flooding in Tennessee. A list of counties designated by FEMA for individual assistance associated with these incidents can be found on FEMA’s website here. These disaster declarations mean that affected participants may be eligible for hardship distributions from their 401(k) plan accounts. Plan sponsors with participants who live or… Continue Reading

Recent Ruling Highlights Importance of ERISA Document Disclosures

Employers that sponsor ERISA group health plans should regularly confirm that all required plan information and documentation has been properly disclosed to participants. A recent federal district court decision highlights the importance of making sure all necessary information has been disclosed, which may be more than just the summary plan description or underlying plan document. Among other claims, the participant and his spouse and child (collectively, the “Plaintiff”) in the case brought claims against his employer as the plan administrator of the employer’s self-funded group health plan (the “Plan”), the third-party claims administrator of the Plan (the “TPA”), and the Plan itself (collectively, the “Defendants”) for penalty amounts under ERISA due to the failure of the Defendants to provide (i) the criteria used under the Plan to determine the medical necessity with respect to both mental health and substance use disorder benefits and medical/surgical benefits (the “Criteria”), and (ii) the… Continue Reading

Employers Considering Higher Health Plan Premiums for Unvaccinated Employees

Delta Air Lines announced last week that it is implementing a $200 monthly health plan premium surcharge for employees who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19. Employers contemplating a similar move should be aware of a number of associated legal considerations. These considerations include the applicability of the HIPAA wellness program rules for health-contingent wellness programs, which require, among other items, (i) offering employees a reasonable alternative to vaccination that can be used to avoid the surcharge, and (ii) a total dollar cap on incentives/surcharges. In addition, there are implications for determining the health plan’s “affordability” for purposes of the ACA employer penalties. The ADA rules requiring “reasonable accommodations” may also apply. Government agencies have not yet provided specific guidance regarding vaccine surcharges under applicable laws, unlike the guidance already provided concerning vaccine mandates. Employers should consult with legal counsel before implementing a vaccine surcharge program.

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