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

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.

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.

Governmental Plan Determination Letters: Last Chance?
(Posted on July 21, 2015 by )


irsOn 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.

Employee benefits effects of Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision
(Posted on July 14, 2015 by )


SCOTUSOn 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.

EEOC: Discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status is prohibited sex discrimination
(Posted on May 12, 2015 by )


EEOCLogoFederal law contains provisions forbidding discrimination based on several classifications: race, sex, veteran status, etc. However, no federal law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status. As a result, many employers in states which do not have their own legislation barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status have assumed that no laws prohibited such discrimination.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has now called this assumption into question, by bringing several lawsuits treating discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status as a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This issue is a focus of the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2013-2016. Read more.

Can a state retirement system deny benefits to felons? It’s complicated.
(Posted on May 12, 2015 by )


PrisonMany state laws provide that an individual who commits a felony related to his or her official duties will forfeit benefits under the state retirement system. It is clear that such provisions in a pension plan are permissible if they were included in a pension plan on its adoption, or if they apply only to employees hired after the provision was adopted. However, two states (New York and California) have recently struggled with the issue of whether such a provision can be effective with respect to employees hired before the adoption of the provision. Read more.