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As Plan Administrator, the Employer is Liable – Not the Service Provider (i.e., What Kind of Indemnification Are You Getting?)

The plan administrator of an employee benefit plan (employee welfare or retirement) has the general fiduciary responsibility under ERISA to ensure the operational and documentary compliance of the plan. Under ERISA, the sponsoring employer is the plan administrator unless another person or entity is named in the plan. This generally means the employer retains ultimate responsibility and liability for legal compliance even though the employer may rely heavily on the plan’s third-party service providers. One way to mitigate this liability is to obtain indemnification from a service provider for the service provider’s errors, for which the employer (as plan administrator) would still be legally liable. The default language in third-party service provider contracts often provides indemnification only for the service provider’s “gross negligence”, but not its “ordinary negligence”, thus leaving the employer responsible for correcting (and paying for) errors caused by the service provider that do not amount to “gross negligence” or “intentional… Continue Reading

IRS Updates Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Audit Technique Guide

The IRS recently updated its Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Audit Technique Guide (the “Updated Guide”), which replaces the previous version published in June 2015. The Updated Guide provides more detailed guidance on the legal standards applicable to deferred compensation arrangements, including the addition of specific citations to relevant regulations and revenue rulings. Notably, the Updated Guide also includes significantly expanded discussions about Code Section 409A and its application to deferred compensation arrangements. Code Section 409A, and other regulations impacting deferred compensation, are very complicated and can carry substantial penalties and taxes for noncompliance. As Congress and the Biden Administration look for additional sources of funding for their initiatives, heightened IRS audit activity may be on the horizon. The Updated Guide is a good reminder to employers that they should periodically review their nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements, not only for documentary compliance but operational compliance as well. The Updated Guide is available… Continue Reading

Updates to Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System

In Revenue Procedure 2021-30 (“Rev. Proc. 2021-30”), the IRS made certain updates to the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (“EPCRS”), including updates to the Self-Correction Program (“SCP”) and the Voluntary Correction Program under EPCRS. Among other updates, Rev. Proc. 2021-30 expands the correction methods for benefit overpayments by adding (i) the “funding exception correction method,” which provides an exception to corrective payments for plans that meet certain funding requirements, and (ii) the “contribution credit correction method,” which prescribes the amount of overpayments required to be repaid to the plan under certain circumstances. Further, Rev. Proc. 2021-30 (i) expands the circumstances under which plan sponsors may correct operational failures under the SCP by plan amendment, and (ii) extends, by one year, the end of the SCP correction period for significant failures. Rev. Proc. 2021-30 is available here. 

February Deadline to Have Mental Health Parity Documentation in Place

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the ?Ç£CAA?Ç¥) requires an employer-sponsored group health plan that imposes nonquantitative treatment limitations (?Ç£NQTLs?Ç¥) on mental health or substance use disorder benefits to perform and document a comparative analysis of the design and application of NQTLs. For example, a plan that imposes prior authorization requirements on any mental health or substance use disorder benefits would need to document: (i) all the benefits that require prior authorization; (ii) the factors used to determine which benefits were subject to prior authorization, such as excessive utilization or high variability in cost per episode of care, and whether any factors were given more weight than others and why; (iii) the sources used to define the factors, such as internal claims analysis or national accreditation standards; and (iv) that the process, strategies, and evidentiary standards used in applying prior authorization requirements are comparable and no more stringently applied to mental… Continue Reading

IRS Publishes Updated Operational Compliance Checklist

The IRS recently published an updated Operational Compliance Checklist (the ?Ç£Checklist?Ç¥), which lists changes in qualification requirements that became effective during the 2016 through 2020 calendar years. Examples of items added to the Checklist for 2020 include, among other things: Final regulations relating to hardship distributions; Temporary nondiscrimination relief for closed defined benefit pension plans; Penalty-free withdrawals from retirement plans for individuals in cases of birth or adoption; and Increase in age for required beginning date for mandatory distributions. The Checklist is only available online and is updated periodically to reflect new legislation and IRS guidance.?á The Checklist does not, however, include routine, periodic changes, such as cost-of-living increases, spot segment rates, and applicable mortality tables, which can instead be found on the IRS?ÇÖs Recently Published Guidance webpage here. The Checklist is available here.

IRS Publishes Updated Operational Compliance Checklist

The IRS recently published an updated Operational Compliance Checklist (the ?Ç£Checklist?Ç¥), which lists changes in qualification requirements that became effective during the 2016 through 2019 calendar years. Examples of items added to the Checklist for 2019 include, among other things: Changes to the hardship distribution rules enacted by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, such as eliminating the requirement to first take out all available plan loans and expanding the types of contributions eligible for distribution Proposed regulations enacting certain other changes to the hardship distribution rules, such as eliminating the six-month contribution suspension requirement and expanding the safe harbor list of expenses deemed to constitute an immediate and heavy financial need The extension of temporary nondiscrimination relief for closed defined benefit plans The Checklist is only available online and is updated periodically to reflect new legislation and IRS guidance. The Checklist does not, however, include routine, periodic changes, such… Continue Reading

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