Based 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:
- Major changes in the Affordable Care Act (although the timing and extent of such changes are unclear), combined with expansion of health savings accounts.
- Postponement or elimination of the recently issued Department of Labor fiduciary regulations.
- Loosening of executive compensation rules.
- Further cutbacks in IRS guidance and audit activity.
- Increased hostility to consideration of noneconomic factors in selecting retirement plan investments.
- Diminished enforcement of protections for LGBT employees.
- 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.
On 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.
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.
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.
Highlights of the regulations, as issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) today: Read more
The IRS explanation states as follows: Read more
The IRS has issued a copy of its long-awaited final regulations on the extent to which a pension plan can make distributions to an individual in the process of a phased retirement. A copy of the regulations can be seen by clicking here.
On April 5, 2007, the IRS proposed new regulations under section 415 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), as amended. Section 415 limits the benefits that may be paid by defined benefit plans and contributions that may be made to defined contribution plans. While some of the provisions may be a restatement of the current rules or a codification of guidance issued over the years since the current regulations were adopted, other provisions may represent new interpretations that need to be studied carefully. Read more
The Department of Labor has issued a final regulation that establishes a safe harbor pursuant to which a fiduciary of a pension plan subject to Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA), will be deemed to have satisfied his or her fiduciary responsibilities in connection with automatic rollovers of certain mandatory distributions to individual retirement plans. Read more