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In a case that has obvious implications for employee benefit plans, the Veterans’ Administration (“VA”) has just provided survivor benefits to the partner of a service member, even though the partners were not married before the service member’s death.
On October 30, 2015, the IRS issued IRS Notice 2015-75, announcing the changes in pensions and benefits limits for 2016. Most limits were unchanged. An updated chart, showing these limits for 1996 to 2016, is available by clicking here.
The Social Security Administration has now announced that the wage base (the maximum amount subject to Social Security taxes) for 2016 will be unchanged from 2015 at $118,500. A chart of the limits for 1996 through 2016 can be found at this link.
As previously discussed, faced with substantial budget cuts, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) has announced that it is eliminating most determination letters (letters concerning the qualified status of retirement plans, which gives rise to numerous tax benefits), effective December 31, 2016. (Announcement 2015-19.) In the past, individually designed retirement plans were able to obtain a determination letter once every five years, during a cycle provided by the IRS. The most likely new regime will involve making determination letters on individually designed plans available only when a plan is first adopted, or when it is terminated. Between those dates, the only way to ensure qualification other than filing a declaratory judgment action with the Tax Court is likely to be to adopt annual updates put out by the IRS that will include model wording for amendments.
For entities that maintain a retirement plan, the new regime may mean that they discover qualification issues only on audit, when it is too late to fix the issue. And the potential penalties on audit (for the employer, the trust under the plan, and the employees) are, as set forth in a prior article, huge. What steps should a plan administrator take to ensure the qualification of a plan after that point? Read more.
On July 21, 2015, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) issued Announcement 2015-19, in which it announced that it would be making substantial changes to the determination letter program intended to allow retirement plan sponsors to ensure that their plans are qualified (eligible for tax benefits). This announcement will affect all retirement plans intended to be qualified, but will create particular issues for plans maintained by governmental employers (“governmental plans”). Read more.
When the Supreme Court struck down same-sex marriage bans in Obergefell v. Hodges, one of the questions raised was the extent to which couples married before the date of the decision could sue their employers for failing to recognize their marriages for employee benefits purposes. A class action lawsuit filed by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (“GLAD”) and the nonprofit Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs today, Jacqueline Cote, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., tests that question, arguing that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (“Wal-Mart”) should be liable for failing to recognize an employee’s marriage for periods before the date of the Obergefell decision. Read more.
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. For employers, this decision raises the issue of what changes must be made in employee benefits to reflect the decision.
For this purpose, we will look at three categories of employers: those that have already been offering benefits to same-sex spouses, those that have not previously offered benefits to same-sex spouses, and those that have been offering benefits to domestic partners. Read more.
In light of the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, employers that maintain plans covering employees in same-sex marriages who live in any of the states that previously did not recognize same-sex marriage will have to adjust state tax withholding and reporting for such employees. State Taxes and Married Same-Sex Couples Before Obergefell provides a handy chart for determining which states are affected.