IRS Finalizes Rules Permitting Use of Forfeitures to Fund Safe Harbor Contributions, QNECs, and QMACs
As we previously reported, on January 18, 2017, the IRS proposed amendments to regulations under Section 401(k) of the Internal Revenue Code that would permit the use of forfeitures to fund safe harbor contributions, qualified non-elective contributions (“QNECs”), and qualified matching contributions (“QMACs”). The IRS recently finalized the proposed amendments, effective as of July 20, 2018, without substantive changes. The prior regulations had provided that employer contributions could only qualify as safe harbor contributions, QNECs, or QMACs if they were non-forfeitable and not eligible for early distribution at the time they were contributed to the plan. The final regulations now provide that safe harbor contributions, QNECs, and QMACs be non-forfeitable and not eligible for early distribution at the time they are allocated to participants’ accounts. View the final regulations.
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.
In Rev. Proc. 2018-21, the IRS modified the favorable determination letter program to allow pre-approved defined benefit plans containing a cash balance formula to provide for the actual rate of return on plan assets as the rate used to determine interest credits, and modifies the guidance in prior Revenue Procedures accordingly. View Rev. Proc. 2018-21.
On January 11, 2018, the IRS released Notice 1036, which contains updated income tax withholding tables for 2018 that reflect changes made to the tax code by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The notice also provides that the new withholding rate for supplemental wages of up to $1 million is now 22 percent, down from 25 percent, and the rate for supplemental wages in excess of $1 million is now 37 percent, down from 39.6 percent. Employers should implement the new withholding rates as soon as administratively possible, but in no event later than February 15, 2018. View Notice 1036.
The IRS recently released a memo instructing its Employee Plans examiners not to challenge a qualified retirement plan’s compliance with the required minimum distribution (“RMD”) rules under Code Section 401(a)(9), in situations where the plan is unable to make an RMD to a missing participant after completing the following steps: (i) searching plan, sponsor, and publicly-available records for alternative contact information; (ii) using a commercial locator service, credit reporting agency, or proprietary Internet search tool; and (iii) attempting contact via certified mail to the last known mailing address and through “appropriate means” for any other addresses or contact information (e.g., email addresses or telephone numbers). If a plan has not taken all of the foregoing steps, an examiner may challenge the qualified status of that plan if it fails to make timely RMDs to lost participants. Plan administrators are thus advised to complete those steps and document the results for… Continue Reading
IRS Provides Retirement Plan Loan and Hardship Distribution Relief for Victims of Hurricane Maria and the California Wildfires
The IRS released Announcement 2017-15 providing relief from some of the loan and hardship distribution requirements for qualified retirement plans (including Code Section 401(a) and 403(b) plans). The relief applies to employees or former employees either (i) whose principal residence was on the island of Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, or in one of the California counties identified by FEMA for individual assistance because of wildfires; or (ii) whose place of employment was in one of those locations. A list of the areas covered by this relief can be found on FEMA’s website. Qualified plans that do not have loan or hardship distribution provisions can still make loans or hardship distributions, so long as the plan is amended to provide for them no later than the end of the first plan year beginning after December 31, 2017. View Announcement 2017-15.
In Notice 2017-45, the IRS extended the temporary nondiscrimination relief that it provided in Notice 2014-5 for plan years beginning before 2019. Notice 2014-5 permits certain employers that sponsor a “closed” defined benefit plan and a defined contribution plan to demonstrate that the aggregated plans comply with the nondiscrimination requirements of Section 401(a)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code on the basis of equivalent benefits, even if the aggregated plans do not satisfy the current conditions for testing on that basis. A “closed” defined benefit plan for purposes of these Notices provides ongoing accruals but was amended before December 13, 2013, to limit those accruals to some or all of the employees who participated in the plan as of a certain date (i.e., is frozen to new participants). View IRS Notice 2017-45. View IRS Notice 2014-5.
In a recent Chief Counsel Advise Memorandum, the IRS analyzed two factual scenarios in which a 401(k) plan participant missed certain loan payments. In the first scenario, the participant missed two consecutive installment payments, which were due in separate calendar quarters. Payments made subsequent to the missed payments were deemed to “cure” the prior missed payments, which resulted in a rolling cure period that would extend to the end of the calendar quarter following the quarter in which the last installment payment was made. Ultimately, the participant made a payment to the plan that included an amount for the two prior missed payments as well as the payment then due. Because all missed payments were cured within the applicable cure period, the IRS concluded that no deemed distribution of the loan proceeds had occurred. In the second scenario, the participant missed three consecutive payments, which were all due in the… Continue Reading
In response to the extreme need for charitable assistance for victims of Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Harvey (collectively, “Harvey”), the IRS recently issued Notice 2017-48, which provides special tax relief for certain employer-sponsored leave-based donation programs designed to aid Harvey victims (the “Notice”). Under such programs, employees may elect to forgo vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for cash payments that the employer makes to a charitable organization described in Section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code (“Qualified Charity”). Ordinarily, such leave-based donations would result in taxable income to the donating employees. However, the Notice provides that the IRS will not assert that the leave-based donations constitute gross income or wages of the donating employees if the payments are: (1) made to a Qualified Charity for the relief of victims of Harvey; and (2) paid to the Qualified Charity before January 1, 2019. In addition, the IRS will… Continue Reading
In Revenue Procedure 2017-41, the IRS modified requirements for pre-approved plans to receive continuing favorable opinion letters on periodic submission cycles. Importantly, the programs for “master and prototype” plans and “volume submitter” plans are combined and replaced with a single program involving standardized and nonstandardized plans. This new program expands the type of plans that can receive an opinion letter. Some of the major changes include allowing employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) to have 401(k) features and allowing cash balance plans with an interest rate based on the actual return on plan assets (but not on the actual return on a subset of plan assets). In addition, the beginning and ending submission dates for the third cycle for defined contribution plans are modified to begin on October 2, 2017, and end on October 1, 2018. View Revenue Procedure 2017-41.