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EMPLOYEE BENEFIT/EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION CHANGES MADE BY THE CARES ACT

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”). This historic $2 trillion relief package received bipartisan support and is part of the third wave of federal government support as the nation copes with the acute economic fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  Some of the key provisions of the CARES Act that apply to health and welfare plans, educational assistance programs, retirement plans, executive compensation programs, and employment and payroll taxes are outlined below. Health and Welfare Plans Q1.      What COVID-19 testing and treatment is our company’s employer-sponsored group health plan required to cover? The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) requires an employer-sponsored group health plan (including a grandfathered plan under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”)) (a “Plan”) to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and services related to the diagnostic testing without any cost sharing (including deductibles, copayments, and… Continue Reading

Deadlines Extended for 403(b) Plans and Pre-Approved Defined Benefit Plans

The IRS announced it is extending the deadline for plan sponsors to update their pre-approved and individually designed 403(b) plan documents as well as certain upcoming deadlines applicable to pre-approved defined benefit plans. The IRS’s announcement is available here.

IRS Guidance Regarding High Deductible Health Plans and Expenses Related to COVID-19

In Notice 2020-15 (the “Notice”), the IRS provides relief for certain expenses related to the 2019 novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”). Generally, a high deductible health plan (“HDHP”) must satisfy the minimum deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expense requirements under Section 223(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code. However, “[t]o facilitate the nation’s response to [COVID-19],” the Notice provides that a health plan that otherwise satisfies the requirements to be an HDHP will not fail to be an HDHP merely because the plan provides health benefits for testing and treatment of COVID-19 before satisfying the applicable minimum deductible requirements. Notice 2020-15 is available here.

March 31st Deadline to Adopt Compliant 403(b) Plan

Tax-exempt organizations that sponsor individually-designed 403(b) plans that have not received favorable determination letters and which may contain one or more form defects, and plan sponsors that have not timely adopted amendments to reflect changes in the law or regulations, generally have until March 31, 2020 to cure any defects by either (i) amending and restating their plan on an up-to-date pre-approved plan document or (ii) correcting any form defects retroactively to January 1, 2010 (or the plan’s original effective date, if later). After the March 31, 2020 deadline, generally, the only way to cure form defects in a 403(b) plan that arose prior to March 31, 2020 will be through the IRS’s voluntary correction program.

Agencies Update Group Health Plan Required Disclosure Documents

Federal agencies recently issued updated versions of certain documents that are required to be disclosed to individuals under applicable employer-sponsored group health plans. A set of FAQs regarding the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) was issued by the federal Departments of Labor (“DOL”), Health and Human Services (“HHS”), and Treasury (collectively, the “Departments”), which describe recent changes made by the Departments to the “summary of benefits and coverage” template under the ACA (“SBC”). Among other minor changes to the SBC, certain verbiage on the SBC and the associated uniform glossary were revised to reflect the prior elimination, as of January 1, 2019, of the tax penalty related to an individual’s failure to comply with the so-called “individual mandate” under the ACA. The FAQs also provide additional guidance regarding the updated SBC coverage examples calculator that was released by HHS late last year. The revised SBC and SBC coverage examples calculator each… Continue Reading

IRS Emphasizes Requirement to Retain Executed Copies of Plan Documents

The IRS recently released Chief Counsel Memorandum 2019-002 (the “CCM”), in which it emphasized an employer’s obligation to timely sign and retain a copy of its qualified plan document pursuant to Section 6001 of the Internal Revenue Code or risk plan disqualification. The IRS issued the CCM in response to the Tax Court’s holding in Van Lanes Recreation Center v. Commissioner, TC Memo 2018-92. In Van Lanes, the Tax Court held that the IRS had abused its discretion by disqualifying a plan when the employer failed to produce a signed copy of the restated plan document. The Tax Court determined that there was both credible evidence that the restated plan had been adopted and credible explanations for the absence of the signed documents including flooding of the employer’s premises and seizure of its accountant’s computers. Plan documents must be signed by the plan sponsor or someone authorized to act on… Continue Reading

IRS Publishes 2019 Required Amendments List

In Notice 2019-64, the IRS published the Required Amendments List for 2019, which lists statutory and administrative changes in plan qualification requirements that (i) are first effective in the plan year in which the list is published and (ii) may require a plan amendment. This year’s list contains two items related to the final regulations for (x) hardship distributions, which implement legislative changes enacted in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, and (y) certain collectively bargained cash balance/hybrid defined benefit plans maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements ratified on or before November 13, 2015. The deadline for adopting any required amendments described in this year’s list is December 31, 2021. In addition, any required amendments that were listed in the 2017 Required Amendments List must be adopted (if applicable to an employer’s plan) by December 31, 2019. The 2017 list included three items that relate to (i)… Continue Reading

IRS Issues Guidance on Remedial Amendment Periods for 403(b) Plans

In Revenue Procedure 2013-22, as modified by Revenue Procedure 2017-18, the IRS previously established an initial remedial amendment period for correcting form defects in a 403(b) plan that ends on March 31, 2020. In Revenue Procedure 2019-39, the IRS has now established a system of ongoing remedial amendment periods for correcting form defects in 403(b) plans that occur after March 31, 2020, as well as extending the deadline for certain defects that occur before March 31, 2020. In addition, to assist plan sponsors, the IRS will begin including changes to 403(b) plan requirements on its Required Amendments List and Operational Compliance List. The IRS also introduced a cycle program for pre-approved plans during which Section 403(b) prototype plans and volume submitter plans can request to receive a pre-approved plan letter from the IRS. Under this new guidance, the remedial amendment period for non-governmental Section 403(b) individually-designed plans will end on… Continue Reading

IRS Announces Final Regulations Implementing New Hardship Distribution Requirements

The IRS recently published final regulations addressing changes enacted by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, and other prior changes to the tax code. The final regulations do not contain any substantive differences to the proposed regulations issued by the IRS in November 2018. The new final regulations: • Permit, but do not require, hardship distributions from a participant’s elective contributions, QNECs, QMACs (including safe harbor matching contributions), and any earnings on those amounts, regardless of when they were contributed or earned. • Prohibit plans from containing a requirement that a participant may not contribute to the plan for any period of time following a hardship distribution (in other words, eliminate the six-month suspension rule). • Eliminate the requirement that a participant take out all available plan loans before receiving a hardship distribution (although plans may continue to contain such a requirement).… Continue Reading

IRS: Retirement Plan Distributions are Taxable Even if a Participant Refuses to Cash a Distribution Check

In Revenue Ruling 2019-19, the IRS clarified that a plan participant’s refusal to cash a distribution check after she received it does not (i) permit her to exclude the amount of the distribution from her taxable income, (ii) alter her employer’s duty to withhold all applicable taxes from the distribution, or (iii) alter her employer’s duty to report the taxable income on a Form 1099-R. While this Revenue Ruling addresses the treatment of plan distributions when a participant receives, but refuses to cash, a distribution check, the ruling does not address other situations in which a distribution check is not cashed, such as in the case of missing participants. The ruling states that the IRS and Treasury are continuing to analyze such issues and may publish related guidance in the future. Revenue Ruling 2019-19 is available here.

April 2020
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