As we’ve previously reported here, there are a number of record retention requirements applicable to employee benefit plans. Plan sponsors should be mindful of the impact and application of these requirements in the context of corporate mergers and acquisitions, especially if assets of the target’s retirement plan are to be merged into the buyer’s plan. When acquiring a company that sponsors (or has sponsored) its own retirement plan, plan sponsors should consider: Protected Benefits. Though the buyer’s plan may be amended to protect certain benefits under the target’s plan, as required by the Internal Revenue Code, in many cases the plan sponsor will need to refer to the target’s actual plan document to fully understand the specifics of the protected benefits. Missing Participants. The DOL recently issued a memorandum outlining best practices for pension plans to avoid and resolve missing participant issues (we previously discussed this issue here). Included in… Continue Reading
Extended Time to Supplement Determination Letter Applications for Amended Individually Designed Statutory Hybrid Plans
On August 24, 2020, the IRS announced that applicants that submit determination letter applications for amended individually designed statutory hybrid plans, such as cash balance plans (“Hybrid Plans“), under Rev. Proc. 2019-20 may supplement such applications through the end of the year. Under Rev. Proc. 2019-20, applicants could submit determination letter applications for Hybrid Plans during the 12-month period ending on August 31, 2020. Now, an applicant may provide additional documents or information to supplement their initial submission, if it was filed by August 31, 2020, so long as: the initial application includes the Form 5300; Form 8717, including the appropriate user fee; and Form 8821 or Form 2848, if applicable; the cover letter to the initial application indicates that the application is made pursuant to Rev. Proc. 2019-20 Amended Hybrid Plan; and the cover letter to the initial application provides an address or fax number to which the IRS… Continue Reading
The IRS recently issued Announcement 2020-14 (the “Announcement”), which provides notice of increased user fees for certain letter ruling and determination letter requests. The increased user fees will be included in Rev. Proc. 2021-4 and will be effective January 4, 2021. The Announcement also includes a chart showing the current user fee amounts and the increased amounts for 2021 for various types of letter ruling and determination letter requests. The Announcement is available here.
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 “interested parties” 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’s 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.
The IRS released Rev. Proc. 2020-29, which modifies Rev. Proc. 2020-1, to temporarily allow taxpayers to electronically submit requests for letter rulings, closing agreements, determination letters (including those issued by the IRS Large Business and International Division), and information letters, which are under the jurisdiction of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel. The procedures for determination letters issued by the IRS’s Small Business/Self Employed Division, Wage and Investment Division, or Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division remain unchanged. Rev. Proc. 2020-29 describes the procedural, formatting, and technical requirements for any such electronic submissions and is effective April 30, 2020, until modified or superseded. Rev. Proc. 2020-29 is available here.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that most offices are closed, with employees largely working remotely, it may be easy to imagine that the whole world functions online. This is not true. Many governmental agencies, including the IRS and DOL, continue to rely heavily, if not nearly exclusively, on the United States Postal Service for delivering plan-related communications. For this reason, it is important that someone within your organization continues to check your “snail” mail during this time of pandemic, particularly if you have a plan that is subject to an ongoing audit or investigation or a pending determination letter or Voluntary Correction Program application. The IRS and DOL frequently request additional information in these contexts, providing a limited time period (normally, fourteen days) to respond. While the agencies are typically generous in granting extensions to respond, such extensions must be requested.
In Revenue Procedure 2019-20, the IRS extended the determination letter program, effective as of September 1, 2019, to include merged plans resulting from a corporate merger or similar transaction. For a merged plan to be eligible for a favorable determination letter, (i) the date of the plan merger must occur no later than the last day of the first plan year beginning after the plan year that includes the closing date of the corporate transaction, and (ii) the determination letter application must be submitted between the date of the plan merger and the last day of the first plan year beginning after the date of the plan merger. In addition, the IRS will accept determination letter applications for individually designed statutory hybrid plans during a 12-month window beginning on September 1, 2019. As always, the IRS will continue to process determination letter applications for initial plan qualification and for qualification… Continue Reading
In Rev. Proc. 2018-19, the IRS reduced the fee for filing for a favorable determination letter on Form 5310 in conjunction with a plan termination from $3,000 to $2,300. The reduced fee is effective retroactively for all Forms 5310 filed on or after January 2, 2018. Filers who paid the $3,000 user fee will receive a $700 refund. View Rev. Proc. 2018-19.
The IRS recently announced new requirements for determination letter applications for defined benefit plans. Applicants must identify, either in the cover letter to the application or in an attachment, whether the plan contains language which allows participants already receiving annuity payments to accelerate their remaining payments by receiving a lump sum in lieu of a future annuity stream. If the plan does contain such language, also identify whether it satisfies one of the four “Pre-Notice Acceleration” conditions in Notice 2015-49. If the applicant states that such risk transfer language is included in the plan and it satisfies one of the conditions in Notice 2015-49, then the IRS will issue a determination letter with a favorable caveat providing reliance on the risk transfer language. Plans with risk transfer language that don’t meet one of the conditions in Notice 2015-49 will not receive a determination letter unless the risk transfer language is… Continue Reading
Rev. Proc. 2016-37 provides new guidance on changes to the IRS’s determination letter program for individually designed, qualified retirement plans. As previously announced in Notice 2016-03, the five-year remedial amendment cycle for individually designed plans will be eliminated effective January 1, 2017. After that date, individually designed plans may only seek a determination letter for the plan’s initial qualification, upon the plan’s termination, and in “certain other circumstances.” Rev. Proc. 2016-37 states that such “other circumstances” may include significant law changes, new plan design approaches, and the inability of certain plans to convert to pre-approved plan documents. The IRS will consider its current case load and available resources when deciding if and when to permit determination letter requests in these other circumstances. To help plan sponsors remain in operational compliance with the Internal Revenue Code’s various qualification requirements, the IRS will begin issuing an annual Operational Compliance List that identifies… Continue Reading