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Retirement Plans Year-End Action Items

The following non-exhaustive list describes year-end action items and the annual notices for retirement plans, which generally must be distributed within a reasonable time prior to the start of the plan year. For calendar year plans, providing the notices outlined below by December 1, 2017 will meet this requirement in most cases. Safe Harbor 401(k) Notice: For 401(k) plans that are designed to comply with the safe harbor requirements of the Internal Revenue Code Automatic Enrollment Notice: For any plan that includes automatic enrollment provisions Qualified Automatic Contribution Arrangement Notice: For plans that are designed to comply with the Internal Revenue Code’s qualified automatic contribution provisions Eligible Automatic Contribution Arrangement Notice: For plans that are designed to comply with the Internal Revenue Code’s eligible automatic contribution provisions Qualified Default Investment Alternative (“QDIA”) Notice: For plans with participant-directed investments that include a QDIA in which a participant’s account will be invested… Continue Reading

IRS Announces 2018 Qualified Retirement Plan Limits

The IRS recently announced cost-of-living adjustments for 2018. Below is a list of some of the key annual limits that will apply to qualified retirement plans in 2018: Compensation limit used in calculating a participant’s benefit accruals: increased to $275,000. Elective deferrals to 401(k) and 403(b) plans: increased to $18,500. Annual additions to a defined contribution plan: increased to $55,000. Catch-up contributions for employees aged 50 and over to 401(k) and 403(b) plans: remains unchanged at $6,000. Annual benefit limit for a defined benefit plan: increased to $220,000. Compensation dollar limit for defining a “key employee” in a top heavy plan: remains unchanged at $175,000. Compensation dollar limit for defining a “highly compensated employee”: remains unchanged at $120,000. The full list of 2018 plan limits can be found in IRS Notice 2017-64.

IRS Issues Regulations and Guidance Updating Mortality Tables and Procedures for Using Substitute Mortality Tables

On October 3, 2017, the IRS issued final regulations updating the mortality tables that most defined benefit pension plan sponsors must use when calculating lump-sum benefits for participants and determining annual funding obligations. In addition, the final regulations provide updated procedures for sponsors of large defined benefit plans to use when applying to the IRS to use substitute mortality tables based on actual plan mortality experience. In conjunction with the regulations, the IRS issued Notice 2017-60, which explains the new mortality tables, and Revenue Procedure 2017-55, which explains and supplements the changes to the requirements for using substitute mortality tables. The regulations apply to plan years beginning on and after January 1, 2018. The final regulations are available here. Notice 2017-60 is available here. Rev. Proc. 2017-55 is available here.

IRS Extends Nondiscrimination Relief for Closed Defined Benefit Plans through 2018

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.

IRS Issues Model Amendments for Bifurcated Payment Forms for Defined Benefit Plans

In Notice 2017-44, the IRS issued model amendments to describe the method of bifurcation for defined benefit plans that offer bifurcated benefit distribution options (i.e., partial lump sum and partial annuity distributions). Bifurcated benefits could arise if a plan that offered a lump sum option wished to offer participants the additional option of taking part of the benefit in a lump sum and part as an annuity. View IRS Notice 2017-44.

New IRS Guidance on Participant Loan Cure Periods

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

PBGC Provides Disaster Relief to Persons in Texas Affected by Hurricane Harvey

In Disaster Relief Announcement 17-09, the PBGC announced that it is waiving certain penalties and extending certain deadlines in response to Hurricane Harvey. In accordance with the relief granted by the IRS in Tax Relief Notice TX-2017-09, the PBGC will provide relief relating to PBGC deadlines to persons responsible for meeting PBGC deadlines who reside or are located in the disaster area consisting of Aransas, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Jackson, Kleberg, Liberty, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria and Wharton Counties in Texas (“Designated Persons“). The relief generally extends from August 23, 2017 through January 31, 2018 (the “Relief Period“). Importantly, the relief offered by the PBGC does not cover every situation in which relief may be warranted. For example, it does not provide relief for certain filings that involve particularly important or time sensitive information where there may be a high risk of substantial… Continue Reading

Additional Relief for Benefit Plans Due to Hurricane Harvey

The IRS and DOL have announced additional relief for benefit plans affected by Hurricane Harvey. This relief applies to participants, beneficiaries, and plans whose plan administration and/or recordkeeping functions reside within the disaster area. This relief includes the following: The filing date for Form 5500 filings due on or after August 23, 2017 and before January 31, 2018 is automatically extended to January 31, 2018. The DOL will provide relief for certain plan loan and distribution verification procedures to be described in later guidance, provide enforcement relief for delays in forwarding participant contributions, and provide relief for failures to timely provide blackout notices for temporary plan restrictions caused by Harvey. The DOL requests welfare plans make reasonable accommodations for participants and beneficiaries who are unable to timely file benefit claims or make COBRA elections for the purposes of preserving coverage and providing benefits. The request for accommodation should also include… Continue Reading

IRS provides Retirement Plan Loan and Hardship Distribution Relief for Harvey Victims

The IRS has released Announcement 2017-11 providing relief from some of the loan and hardship distribution requirements under qualified retirement plans (including Code Section 401(a) and 403(b) plans) for the period of August 23, 2017 through January 31, 2018. The relief applies to employees or former employees either (i) whose principal residence on Aug. 23 was in one of the Texas counties identified by FEMA for individual assistance because of Hurricane Harvey, or (ii) whose place of employment on Aug. 23 was in one of those counties. The relief also applies if the employee’s or former employee’s “lineal ascendant or descendant, dependent, or spouse” lived or worked in one of those counties on Aug. 23. This relief will also apply to those living or working in other areas FEMA may identify for individual assistance in Texas or other states due to damage from Harvey. For a list of the counties… Continue Reading

IRS Issues Guidance on Changes to Opinion Letter Program for Pre-Approved Plans

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.

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