The Internal Revenue Service today issued IRS Notice 2023-75, setting out the limits on benefits and contributions for 2024. As expected, the limits rose, but not as steeply as last year. Maximum deferrals under a 401(k) or 403(b) plan rose from $22,500 to $23,000, while maximum benefits under a defined benefit plan rose from $265,000 to $275,000.
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: Read more.
In 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:
- What Is a 403(b) Plan?
- What Is a Preapproved 403(b) Plan?
- What Are the Advantages of a Preapproved 403(b) Plan?
- What Are the Legal Pitfalls of a Preapproved 403(b) Plan?
- What Operational Issues Can Arise for a Preapproved Plan?
- What Practical Issues Can Arise for a Preapproved Plan?
- When Should an Employer Adopt a Preapproved 403(b) Plan?
- Can the Employer Cure Past Plan Issues by Adopting a Preapproved 403(b) Plan?
- What Should an Employer Do If It Did Not Comply with the Written Plan Document Requirement in the Past?
In recent years, several states have adopted laws requiring private (nongovernmental) employers to set up payroll deduction individual retirement accounts, individual retirement annuities, or Roth IRAs (collectively, IRAs) for their employees. Certain localities have also indicated an interest in setting up such programs. ERISA by its terms generally preempts any and all state laws relating to any employee benefit plan regulated by ERISA, other than state laws that regulate insurance, banking, or securities. ERISA
- Are the state or local laws setting up such programs preempted by ERISA?
- Aare the plans themselves subject to ERISA?
The Department of Labor issued final regulations on August 30, 2016 providing a safe harbor for statewide plans covering private employers. On December 20, 2016, it expanded on those regulations with further regulations providing a safe harbor for plans for private employers operated by local governments. This bulletin discusses how those programs work, and what employers can expect from them.
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.
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.
Federal 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.
Many 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.