2022 Social Security Wage Base Increase, and Projected Increases in IRS Limits
(Posted on October 13, 2021 by )


SSALogoThe Social Security Administration today announced that the wage base for 2022 will increase to $147,000 from $142,800. In addition, the Department of Labor issued the CPI-U for September, which enables the calculation of several of the 2022 limits the IRS will shortly be announcing. (Thanks to Tom Poje for his calculation spreadsheet!) The limits for 1996 through 2022 (including the actual Social Security limit and the projected IRS limits) are shown at this link.
 
 
 
 
 

Fifth Edition of the Governmental Plans Answer Book Published
(Posted on December 11, 2020 by )


The Fifth Edition of the Governmental Plans Answer Book has now been published. The Governmental Plans Answer Book is the only full-length treatise on the law governing the retirement plans that federal, state, and local governments maintain for their employees. The law has changed a lot since the Fourth Edition was published in 2017, and the new edition has been updated to reflect them.

The Fifth Edition of Governmental Plans Answer Book gives subscribers the most relevant, current, and practice-oriented answers to the issues faced daily by plan administrators, attorneys, actuaries, consultants, accountants, and other pension professionals as they navigate the requirements and procedures involved in administering their plans. It examines the following significant changes and case law in this area:

  • Department of Labor regulations that define who is a fiduciary as a result of rendering investment advice to a plan, or to its participants, or beneficiaries (see Chapter 7).
  • Elimination of the ability to obtain Internal Revenue Service (IRS) determination letters on individually designed plans, except on their inception or
    termination (see Chapter 4).
  • Recent legislative developments affecting governmental plans (see Chapter 13).
  • Expanded coverage of cases in text cross-referenced to Appendix E, Recent Court Decisions of Interest Involving Governmental Plans (see Appendix E).
  • Updates on the size of the public pension community: its membership, assets, rate of participation in different types of retirement plans, and the number of participating public employers (see Chapter 2 and Appendix Table A–1).
  • New and updated information regarding public pension financial reporting and communications practices (see Chapter 5).
  • Expanded and updated descriptions of hybrid retirement plans provided for employees of state and local government (see Chapter 2 and Appendix Tables A–2 through A–5).
  • An examination of how the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, as further amended by the Bankruptcy Technical Corrections Act of 2010, impacted certain issues arising under the Bankruptcy Code (see Chapter 14).
  • Issues concerning proof of electronically signed or adopted beneficiary designation (see Q 12:5).
  • A review of a Supreme Court case that held a Chapter 7 trustee could not contest the validity of a claimed exemption after the objection deadline
    expired (see Q 14:32).
  • New case law discussing the use of the legal fiction of a nunc pro tunc order (see Q 13:33).
  • Expanded discussion of pre-approved plans (see Chapter 4).
  • Issuance of IRS opinion and advisory letters on pre-approved 403(b) plans (see Chapter 4).
  • Inception of annual Required Amendments Lists for individually designed plans (see Chapter 4).
  • Guidance on correction procedures if a 403(b) plan erroneously excludes participants from making contributions (see Chapter 4).
  • Modifications to the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (see Chapter 4).
  • Expanded discussion on community property (see Q 12:45).

For more information on this book, written by Carol V. Calhoun, Cynthia L. Moore, and Keith Brainard, you can use the following links:

Description | Table of Contents | Purchase

2021 IRS Benefits & Contributions Limits Announced
(Posted on October 26, 2020 by )


irsOn October 26, 2020, the IRS issued IRS Notice 2020-79, announcing the changes in pensions and benefits limits for 2021. The maximum limit on annual additions (primarily to defined contribution plans) rose from $57,000 to $58,000 and the annual limit on compensation taken into account rose from $285,000 to $290,000. Most other limits stayed the same.

A chart showing details, and limits from 1996 to 2021, can be found at this link.

 

 
 

New Article: Pre-Approved 403(b) Plans
(Posted on November 29, 2018 by )


Internal Revenue ServiceIn March 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began issuing advisory and opinion letters to the first preapproved retirement programs described in Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.) § 403(b) (403(b) plans). A new article, Pre-Approved 403(b) Plans, discusses preapproved 403(b) plans, including their advantages, legal pitfalls, and other issues that an eligible employer may consider when determining whether to convert its existing 403(b) plan into a preapproved plan.

The major topics are:

Read more.

Nonprofits and Governments Face Compensation and Benefits Issues under the New Tax Law
(Posted on January 11, 2018 by )


The recently passed tax bill imposes a 21% excise tax on excess compensation and excess severance benefits of certain executives of nonprofit and governmental employers. The provision has a substantial impact on the compensation and benefits that such organizations can provide for their executives. Moreover, the determination of which employers, and which executives, are covered includes several traps for the unwary.

Read more.

IRS Issues Self-Assessment Forms for Federal, State, and Local Government Employers
(Posted on July 10, 2017 by )


Internal Revenue ServiceThe IRS has now issued a series of forms to enable federal, state, and local governments to assess their compliance with federal tax statutes, and has set forth some common errors found in examining such employers. Several of the forms relate to employee benefits issues, and may be of assistance to governments trying to ensure that they comply with all legal requirements.

The forms are as follows:

For use by Federal, State and Local Government Entities

For use by State and Local Government Entities Only

Read more.

Employers Need to Adopt Pre-Approved 403(b) Plans by March 31, 2020
(Posted on January 30, 2017 by )


Internal Revenue ServiceWith the IRS no longer issuing rulings or determination letters on individually designed qualified plans or § 403(b) plans under most circumstances, the importance of pre-approved plans (master, prototype, and volume submitter plans) has been vastly increased. Adoption of a pre-approved plan is now the sole method for an employer to have assurance that its plan meets IRS requirements. While § 403(b) plans cannot take the form of master plans, they can be structured as prototype or volume submitter plans.

Reflecting this, Revenue Procedure 2013-22 established a program for issuing opinion and advisory letters for § 403(b) pre-approved plans. Starting June 28, 2013, sponsors of plans intended to qualify as pre-approved § 403(b) plans were permitted to apply for such letters. The first letters have not been issued under that program yet, but the expectation is that they will be issued soon.

The IRS has now announced in Rev. Proc. 2017-18, 2017-5 I.R.B. 743, that the last day of the remedial amendment period for employers to adopt pre-approved § 403(b) plans will be March 31, 2020. After that date, adoption of a pre-approved § 403(b) plan will no longer give an employer retroactive relief for qualification defects which arose since 2010. Revenue Ruling 2013-22 indicated that a six-year cycle would apply to pre-approved § 403(b) plans. While it is not clear whether the second cycle would also end on exactly March 31, there will likely not be another opportunity to adopt a pre-approved plan to fix past errors until about 2025 or 2026. And even then, adoption of a pre-approved plan would likely not provide retroactive relief for periods before 2020.

Obtaining an IRS advisory or opinion letter is not legally required, so long as a plan (in form and operation) complies with § 403(b). However, as a practical matter, an employer will typically want to adopt a pre-approved § 403(b) plan with an IRS letter verifying its status, since one of the major advantages of a pre-approved plan is the opportunity to get IRS blessing on the plan.

A Trump Presidency: What Does It Mean for Employee Benefits?
(Posted on November 29, 2016 by )


White HouseBased on both campaign promises and Donald Trump’s plans for his first 100 days, a Trump presidency is likely to make major changes in employee benefits law. The most significant ones are likely to be:

  1. Major changes in the Affordable Care Act (although the timing and extent of such changes are unclear), combined with expansion of health savings accounts.
  2. Postponement or elimination of the recently issued Department of Labor fiduciary regulations.
  3. Loosening of executive compensation rules.
  4. Further cutbacks in IRS guidance and audit activity.
  5. Increased hostility to consideration of noneconomic factors in selecting retirement plan investments.
  6. Diminished enforcement of protections for LGBT employees.
  7. Increased activity at the state level, including establishment of state-sponsored retirement plans for private employers.

These issues, and others of less general concern, are discussed below. Read more.

Proposed Regulations: Normal Retirement Age for Governmental Plans
(Posted on January 27, 2016 by )


irsOn January 27, 2016, the IRS issued proposed regulations governing the extent to which governmental pension plans must comply with the rules governing normal retirement ages. In general, the rules are a positive step from the perspective of governmental plan sponsors, but they contain a few potential pitfalls.

Background

The qualification rules of the Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) provide for several rules that are based on a plan’s normal retirement age. For example, a pension plan cannot pay in-service benefits before the earlier of age 62 or normal retirement age. Benefits must be fully vested at normal retirement age. Benefits under the plan must be definitely determinable (i.e., subject to calculation, rather than at an employer’s discretion) as of normal retirement age. Read more.

IRS determination letters after 2016; what are the options?
(Posted on July 28, 2015 by )


Internal Revenue ServiceAs 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.