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IRS Issues Guidance on Special Funding and Benefit Limitation Rules under the CARES Act

The IRS recently issued Notice 2020-61 (the ?Ç£Notice?Ç¥) containing 18 questions and answers that provide helpful guidance for sponsors of single-employer defined benefit pension plans regarding Section 3608 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the ?Ç£CARES Act?Ç¥). Section 3608 of the CARES Act delays the due date for ?Ç£minimum required contributions?Ç¥ otherwise due during calendar year 2020 until January 1, 2021. In addition, it allows plan sponsors to use the plan?ÇÖs adjusted funding target attainment percentage (?Ç£AFTAP?Ç¥) for the last plan year ending before January 1, 2020, for plan years that include calendar year 2020. The Notice addresses issues related to the deadline extension for minimum required contributions under the CARES Act, including how the contributions are to be adjusted for interest. The Notice also discusses issues related to the use of the prior year AFTAP for benefit limitations. Plan sponsors should consult with their benefits counsel… Continue Reading

Approaching Deadline for Cash Balance Plans to Submit IRS Determination Letter Applications

Sponsors of retirement plans that use a statutory hybrid benefit formula (e.g., cash balance plans) have until August 31, 2020 to submit such plans to the IRS for a favorable determination letter. However, because ?Ç£interested parties?Ç¥ must be notified of the filing at least ten days in advance of the submission, the decision on whether to file must be made sooner (within the next week or so). Among other things, under this special determination letter cycle for cash balance plans, the IRS will review plan provisions implementing the final cash balance plan regulations. This is true even if the plan?ÇÖs cash balance formula was in place when the plan received a prior favorable determination letter. The guidance allowing for the special cycle for cash balance plans is available here.

IRS Publishes Updated Operational Compliance Checklist

The IRS recently published an updated Operational Compliance Checklist (the ?Ç£Checklist?Ç¥), which lists changes in qualification requirements that became effective during the 2016 through 2020 calendar years. Examples of items added to the Checklist for 2020 include, among other things: Final regulations relating to hardship distributions; Temporary nondiscrimination relief for closed defined benefit pension plans; Penalty-free withdrawals from retirement plans for individuals in cases of birth or adoption; and Increase in age for required beginning date for mandatory distributions. The Checklist is only available online and is updated periodically to reflect new legislation and IRS guidance.?á The Checklist does not, however, include routine, periodic changes, such as cost-of-living increases, spot segment rates, and applicable mortality tables, which can instead be found on the IRS?ÇÖs Recently Published Guidance webpage here. The Checklist is available here.

IRS Relief Allows Individuals to Make Participant Elections Electronically

Treasury Regulations ?º 1.401(a)-21(d)(6) requires participant elections, including spousal consents, to be witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative or notary public.?á In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS recently issued Notice 2020-42 (the ?Ç£Notice?Ç¥) to allow individuals making participant elections to do so through electronic means for the period from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.?á For participant elections, including spousal consents, that require a signature to be witnessed in the physical presence of a notary public, the ?Ç£physical presence?Ç¥ requirement is satisfied if remote notarization is done through live audio-video technology that otherwise satisfies the requirements of Treasury Regulations ?º 1.401(a)-21(d)(6) and is compliant with state law applicable to notaries.?á For participant elections, including spousal consents, that require a signature to be witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative, the ?Ç£physical presence?Ç¥ requirement is satisfied if (i) the person signing the participant… Continue Reading

IRS Releases FAQs on Retirement Plan Relief Under the CARES Act

The IRS recently published guidance in the form of FAQs related to the implementation of retirement plan relief available under the CARES Act. While the guidance does not resolve all of the open issues, it does provide some helpful clarifications and insight into what we may expect from future guidance. Specifically, the guidance confirms that the CARES Act provisions allowing for coronavirus-related distributions (?Ç£CRDs?Ç¥) and loan relief are permissible, not required. Furthermore, the guidance points out that even if a 401(k) plan decides not to allow CRDs, if an individual meets the requirements to be a ?Ç£qualified individual,?Ç¥ he or she may be able to treat other plan distributions as a CRD for federal tax purposes. Individuals need to consult with their personal tax advisors on these matters. Finally, alluding to what we may expect from future guidance, the CARES Act FAQs referred back to IRS Notice 2005-92 (issued on… Continue Reading

UPDATE: Calculation of Payroll Costs for Purposes of the Paycheck Protection Program (?Ç£PPP?Ç¥)

The Small Business Administration (?Ç£SBA?Ç¥) continues to update its FAQs on PPP loans to provide additional guidance regarding what costs constitute payroll costs. Borrowers should use care in determining what amounts constitute payroll costs since borrowers are responsible for providing an accurate calculation of payroll costs and must attest to the accuracy of those calculations on their Borrower Application Form. Under the new guidance the SBA clarified: The $100,000 annualized per employee cap only applies to cash compensation and does not include any non-cash benefits, such as employer contributions to defined benefit or defined contribution retirement plans, payment for the provision of employee benefits consisting of group health care coverage, including insurance premiums, and payment of state and local taxes assessed on employees?ÇÖ compensation. PPP loans can be used to cover costs for employee paid vacation, parental, family, medical and sick leave (other than qualified sick and family wages for… Continue Reading

The DOL and the IRS Jointly Provide Relief from Certain Timeframes Applicable to Health and Welfare and Pension Plans

On April 28, 2020, the IRS and DOL issued a Final Rule extending certain timeframes under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code for group health, disability and other welfare plans, pension plans, and the participants and beneficiaries under those plans. The timeframe extensions include, among other things, the time to elect COBRA and pay premiums, special enrollment timeframes under HIPPA and CHIPs, claims procedure timeframes, and certain external review process timeframes.?á Applicable plans must disregard the period from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the announced end of the COVID-19 National Emergency for all plan participants, beneficiaries, qualified beneficiaries, or claimants wherever located in determining the enumerated time periods and dates and for providing COBRA election notices. ?áIn addition, Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 was issued addressing the timeframe relief and addressing certain other COVID-19 relief. The Final Rule is available here:?áhttps://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ebsa/temporary-postings/covid-19-final-rule.pdf. Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 is available here:?áhttps://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/employers-and-advisers/plan-administration-and-compliance/disaster-relief/ebsa-disaster-relief-notice-2020-01.

Employee Benefits as Payroll Costs under the Paycheck Protection Program

Businesses that received a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (?Ç£PPP?Ç¥) are eligible for forgiveness of that loan if, among other things, the loan proceeds are used to cover ?Ç£payroll costs?Ç¥ incurred over the eight-week period after the loan is made. Payroll costs, capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee (i.e., $15,384 over the eight-week period), are broadly defined to include, among other things: Salary, wages, commissions, or tips; Employee benefits costs, such as for vacation or paid family or medical leave (other than wages for which a credit is received under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act), group health care costs, retirement plan contributions, and severance benefits; and State and local taxes assessed on employee compensation. As of the date of this posting, no guidance has been issued by the IRS or the Department of Treasury to further clarify what specific items qualify as payroll costs.… Continue Reading

Defined Benefit Plan Annual Funding Notices Have Not Been Delayed

Although the CARES Act permitted the DOL to delay the deadline for distributing defined benefit plan Annual Funding Notices (“AFNs“), the DOL has not done so. For calendar year plans, that deadline is April 29, 2020 (because 2020 is a leap year). While AFNs generally can be distributed electronically, if there are participants or beneficiaries (including alternate payees) for whom electronic distribution is not possible, those AFNs must be mailed and postmarked no later than April 29.

Spousal Consent Under a Retirement Plan During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Generally, a spouse must consent to a retirement plan participant?ÇÖs waiver of a qualified joint and survivor annuity or the designation of an optional form of benefit or an alternate beneficiary. The applicable regulations require this consent, even if signed electronically, to be witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative or a notary public. Neither the IRS nor the DOL has issued guidance permitting the physical presence requirement to be satisfied by electronic means (for example, via webcam) even though numerous states now permit electronic notarizations. Employers should use care and consult with legal counsel when determining how to handle participants who are unable to satisfy the plan?ÇÖs current physical presence notarization requirements.

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