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Employee Layoffs Due to COVID-19 Can Trigger Partial Retirement Plan Termination

Under current IRS guidance, when a “significant” number of participants cease to be eligible to participate in a tax qualified retirement plan, such as due to involuntary terminations of employment, a partial plan termination has occurred, and the affected participants must be made 100% fully vested in their account balances. The IRS considers an involuntary reduction in the number of plan participants by more than 20% in a given plan year to be significant for that purpose. In light of the significant disruptions to many employers’ businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the question arises whether any of their workforce reductions also triggered a partial plan termination. The IRS recently issued FAQs which clarify that employees who are laid off or terminated in 2020 but are rehired by their employer by the end of 2020 will not have incurred an involuntary termination of employment for purposes of determining whether a… Continue Reading

Postponed Deadline for Reporting and Payment of Excise Taxes

The IRS recently released Announcement 2020-17 (the “Announcement”) postponing the due dates for reporting and paying excise taxes related to certain delayed minimum required contributions to single employer defined benefit plans. The Announcement only applies to excise taxes under Internal Revenue Code Sections 4971(a)(1) (failure to meet minimum funding standards) and 4971(f)(1) (failure to pay liquidity shortfall). Generally, these taxes must be reported and paid by the last day of the seventh month after the end of the employer’s tax year or eight and one-half months after the last day of the plan year that ends with or within the filer’s tax year. However, because the CARES Act postpones the deadline to make minimum required contributions that are otherwise due in 2020 until January 1, 2021, the Department of Treasury and the IRS are extending the deadline to report and pay the excise taxes under Sections 4971(a)(1) and 4971(f)(1) with… Continue Reading

IRS Issues Guidance on Certain Changes Made Under the Secure Act and the Miners Act

The IRS recently issued Notice 2020-68 (the “Notice”), which contains several sets of questions and answers that provide helpful guidance regarding various provisions in the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the “SECURE Act”) and Section 104 of the Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019 (the “Miners Act”). Specifically, the Notice addresses certain issues concerning the following provisions of the SECURE Act: The small employer automatic enrollment credit; The repeal of the maximum age for traditional IRA contributions; Participation of long-term, part-time employees in 401(k) plans; Qualified birth or adoption distributions; and Permitting excluded “difficulty of care payments” to be taken into account as compensation for purposes of determining certain retirement contribution limits. The Notice also provides guidance with respect to the reduction in minimum age for in-service distributions as provided in the Miners Act. In addition, the Notice sets forth the deadlines to amend retirement… Continue Reading

IRS Issues Guidance on Deadline for Discretionary Amendment to Pre-Approved Plans

Revenue Procedures 2016-37 and 2019-3 provide that the general deadline to adopt a discretionary amendment to a pre-approved qualified plan or pre-approved 403(b) plan is the end of the plan year in which the plan amendment is operationally put into effect. Each Revenue Procedure also contains an exception, which provides in part that the general deadline does not apply when a statute or IRS guidance sets forth an earlier deadline. In Revenue Procedure 2020-40, the IRS recently modified this exception to provide that the general year-end deadline does not apply when a statute or IRS guidance sets forth an earlier or later deadline. Importantly, this change only applies to pre-approved plans that are tax qualified and not to individually designed plans. Revenue Procedure 2020-40 is available here.

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

May I or Must I: Questions Remain on Implementing Payroll Tax Deferral Executive Order

On Friday, August 28th, just two business days prior to the September 1st effective date of the executive order (the “Executive Order”) directing the Treasury Secretary to defer the withholding and payment of the employee portion of Social Security taxes otherwise due on wages paid to eligible employees for the last four months of 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-65 (the “Notice”), which provides additional guidance (discussed in the following paragraph) on implementing that tax deferral. Notably, however, the Notice did not answer two key questions for employers and employees alike: (1) is the tax deferral mandatory, and (2) who is ultimately responsible for remitting any deferred taxes to the IRS when they become due (i.e., what if an employee’s future paycheck is insufficient to cover the deferred taxes or if the employer is unable to recoup deferred taxes from a former employee). The Executive Order permits the deferral of… Continue Reading

Keep It Simple: FASB Issues Proposed Standard to Simplify Accounting for Private Company Stock Options

Many privately-held companies use an independent valuation expert to value their common stock for purposes of establishing the exercise price for options granted to their employees, consultants, and outside directors. If this valuation is performed in accordance with Treasury Regulation § 1.409A-1(b)(5)(iv)(B)(2), then the valuation is given a presumption of reasonableness under the Internal Revenue Code, making it easier for the granting company to prove to third parties (including the IRS) that the value used was the underlying stock’s fair market value. However, even if a company used such a valuation to establish the exercise price, the company would not be able to use that valuation for purposes of accounting for the stock option awards under Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) Accounting Topic 718. Instead, for accounting purposes, private companies would typically use an option-pricing model that required the company to provide various inputs, including the fair value of the… Continue Reading

Increased User Fees for Certain Letter Ruling and Determination Letter Requests in 2021

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.

Changes to Safe Harbor Notices for Recipients of Eligible Rollover Distributions

The IRS recently issued Notice 2020-62 (the “Notice”), which modifies the two safe harbor explanations set forth in Notice 2018-74 that plan administrators may use to satisfy the requirements under Code Section 402(f) that plans provide certain information regarding eligible rollover distributions to participants, beneficiaries, and alternate payees who are receiving distributions. The modifications to these explanations reflect recent legislative changes, including those made by the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (SECURE Act), and include a new exception to the 10% additional tax for qualified birth or adoption distributions and the increase in age for required minimum distributions to age 72 for employees born after June 30, 1949. The Notice also includes an updated (i) model safe harbor notice for distributions that are not from a designated Roth account and (ii) model safe harbor notice for distributions that are from a designated Roth account. Plan… Continue Reading

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

The IRS recently issued Notice 2020-61 (the “Notice”) 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 “CARES Act”). Section 3608 of the CARES Act delays the due date for “minimum required contributions” otherwise due during calendar year 2020 until January 1, 2021. In addition, it allows plan sponsors to use the plan’s adjusted funding target attainment percentage (“AFTAP”) 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

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