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Proposed Required Minimum Distribution Regulations Clarify Application of Ten-Year Rule for Designated Beneficiaries

The IRS recently issued proposed regulations interpreting the changes in the required minimum distribution requirements resulting from enactment of the SECURE Act. Under the ten-year rule, a distribution of the participant’s entire interest must be made to a designated beneficiary who is not an eligible designated beneficiary within ten years after the death of the participant, regardless of whether the owner died before reaching his or her required beginning date. Among the proposed regulations, the IRS clarified that if a participant dies following his or her required beginning date, in addition to satisfying the ten-year rule, the participant’s benefit must also continue to be distributed to the beneficiary at least as rapidly as it was being distributed when the participant died.  The IRS Proposed Regulations are available here.

New Proposed Regulations May Signal Administration Shift in Focus to Benefit Plans

Whenever a new president from a different political party is elected, it’s not unusual for plan sponsors to expect changes in policy resulting in new laws and regulations impacting benefit plans. Though President Biden’s administration primarily focused on the pandemic and other areas of foreign and domestic policy in its first year, it recently has turned its attention to benefit plans with the issuance of two new proposed regulations, as described below.   Proposed Regulations on Required Minimum Distributions – On February 24, 2022, the IRS released proposed regulations that update the required minimum distribution requirements to reflect changes made by the SECURE Act and contain additional guidance regarding required minimum distribution requirements. The IRS is currently taking comments on the proposed regulations until May 25, 2022.  Proposed Regulations on Prohibited Transaction Exemption Filing Procedures – The DOL recently announced proposed amendments to the procedures governing the filing and processing of… Continue Reading

Small Perquisites Can Cause Big Trouble

Employers often provide employees with special rewards or prizes as a means to boost morale, recognize achievements, acknowledge long-term service, and retain employees. These special perquisites can take on many forms – anything from holiday turkeys to gift cards to allowing employees to take home the employer’s products for free or at a discount. While these small additional benefits may seem like “gifts” from the employer to the employee, what employers sometimes fail to realize is that there are no “gifts” in the employment context, regardless of the employer’s intent. Generally, anything provided to an employee by an employer is includable in the employee’s taxable income unless specifically excluded under the Code.   Common exclusions for perquisites to employees include: no-additional-cost services, qualified employee discounts, working condition fringes, and de minimis fringes. All of these exclusions have specific requirements and rules to qualify for the exclusion. For example, for a benefit… Continue Reading

IRS Issues Updated Guidance Regarding Substantially Equal Periodic Payments

The IRS recently issued Notice 2022-6 (the “Notice”), which provides guidance regarding how to determine whether a series of payments from a qualified retirement plan is considered a series of substantially equal periodic payments and is thus exempt from the 10% excise tax under Code Section 72(t). Payments are exempt from that excise tax if they are made in accordance with one of the following methods: (i) the required minimum distribution method, (ii) the fixed amortization method, or (iii) the fixed annuitization method. The Notice provides an updated life expectancy table that can be used to determine distribution periods for the required minimum distribution method and the fixed amortization method. In addition, the Notice modifies the existing minimum interest rate that may be used to apply the fixed amortization method and the fixed annuitization method (which is 120% of the federal mid-term rate) to add a 5% floor. The guidance… Continue Reading

Upcoming Deadlines: Annual Reporting and IRS Filings for ISO Exercises and ESPP Stock Transfers

Employers sponsoring equity incentive plans or tax-qualified employee stock purchase plans (“ESPP”) must fulfill certain year-end information reporting requirements under Section 6039 of the Code with respect to company stock that is either (i) issued to current or former employees upon exercise of an incentive stock option (“ISO”), or (ii) transferred under an ESPP.  The two IRS forms used to satisfy those requirements are: Form 3921, which is required when an individual exercises an ISO. Form 3922, which is required when an individual acquires stock under an ESPP when either the purchase price of the shares (i) was less than the stock’s fair market value on the date of grant, or (ii) was not fixed or determinable on the date of grant. For ISO exercises and ESPP transfers occurring in the 2021 calendar year, employers should file Copy A of the applicable forms with the IRS no later than February… Continue Reading

New 2022 Health and Welfare Benefits Limits: In Time for Open Enrollment?

The IRS published increased limits for 2022 for various health and welfare benefits, including: Health flexible spending account limit increased to $2,850 (from $2,750); Qualified transportation fringe benefit limit for parking and transit each increased to $280 (from $270); Adoption assistance program limit increased to $14,890 (from $14,400); and Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement limit increased to $5,450 for individual coverage and $11,050 for family coverage (from $5,300 and $10,700, respectively). An employer that wants to incorporate these increased limits into its plans should determine whether the plans are drafted to automatically reflect the increased limits or whether amendments would be required. If a plan (including a health flexible spending account) is drafted to automatically incorporate any increased limits, the plan sponsor should communicate the increased limits to participants to permit changes during open enrollment for the upcoming plan year. The list of 2022 plan limits can be found in… Continue Reading

IRS Announces 2022 Qualified Retirement Plan Limits

The IRS recently announced cost-of-living adjustments for 2022. Below is a list of some of the key annual limits that will apply to qualified retirement plans in 2022: Compensation limit used in calculating a participant’s benefit accruals: increased to $305,000. Elective deferrals to 401(k) and 403(b) plans: increased to $20,500. Annual additions to a defined contribution plan: increased to $61,000. Catch-up contributions for employees aged 50 and over to 401(k) and 403(b) plans: remains unchanged at $6,500. Annual benefit limit for a defined benefit plan: increased to $245,000. Compensation dollar limit for defining a “key employee” in a top heavy plan: increased to $200,000. Compensation dollar limit for defining a “highly compensated employee”: increased to $135,000. The full list of 2022 plan limits included in Notice 2021-61 is available here.

IRS Releases FAQs on Rehiring Retirees and Retaining Employees After Retirement Age

As employers around the country struggle with labor shortages, many are turning to former employees who retired to fill in the gaps. The IRS recently released two FAQs on plan distributions related to concerns with the rehiring of retirees and the retention of employees who have reached their retirement age. Generally, for plans that do not permit in-service distributions, benefit distributions to an individual may only commence when the individual has a bona fide retirement. The FAQs state that rehiring an individual who already experienced a bona fide retirement will not cause such retirement to no longer be considered “bona fide” if the rehiring was due to unforeseen circumstances that do not reflect any prearrangement to rehire. Thus, if a plan’s terms permit, benefit distributions can continue after the rehire. The FAQs also state that plans may generally permit in-service distributions for employees who have reached age 59½ or the… Continue Reading

Recent IRS Snapshot Regarding Deemed Distributions for Participant Loans Reminds Employers of Risk of Plan Loan Errors

The IRS recently released an Issue Snapshot (the “Snapshot”) focusing on participant loans from retirement plans and when certain compliance errors could trigger deemed distributions with respect to such loans. Specifically, the Snapshot lists the following requirements, which if not satisfied, will cause a participant loan to be treated as a deemed distribution: Enforceable agreement requirement, which generally requires a participant loan to be a legally enforceable agreement (which may include more than one document) and the terms of the agreement demonstrate compliance with the applicable requirements of the Code. Maximum loan amount limit requirement, which generally limits the maximum amount of a participant loan to the amount specified under the Code. The Snapshot also noted the CARES Act allowed modifications to the loan limit for certain loans to “qualified individuals.” Repayment period requirement, which generally requires the repayment period of a loan be limited to five years, unless the loan… Continue Reading

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

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