A Rule Deferred: Department of Labor Delays Implementation of Fiduciary Rule

As we previously discussed in our May 19, 2016 SW Benefits Update, the Department of Labor (the “Department”) previously issued final regulations on fiduciary conflicts of interest in retirement programs.  The rules, which focus on curbing self-interested advice to retirement plan and IRA participants, were slated to become effective April 10, 2017.

However, the Department has proposed a delay to the rules of at least 180 days beyond the original effective date and will seek public comment on the rules.  The proposed deferral arises from an executive memorandum dated February 3, 2017, in which President Trump instructs the Department to conduct an “updated economic and legal analysis concerning the likely impact of the fiduciary rule.”  That memorandum signals that the fiduciary rule “may not be consistent with the policies of [the Trump] Administration.”  Accordingly, the fate of the rules in their present form remain uncertain. Read More ›

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Trumping the Affordable Care Act? Not So Fast – Impact of Executive Order on Employers Unclear

On January 20, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order (“Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal,” hereinafter referred to as the “Order”) relating to the future of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).  The stated goal is to direct the agencies (IRS, HHS, and DOL) to waive or defer provisions of the ACA that would “impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products or medications.”  Notoriously absent from this list is any mention of employers or plans.  Read More ›

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IRS Issues First Required Amendments List for Qualified Plans

In a previous blog, we discussed the IRS’ elimination of its five year staggered determination letter cycle for individually designed plans.  The IRS recently provided guidance to help sponsors of individually designed plans keep their plans in compliance with applicable law.  Notice 2016-80 contains the first Required Amendments List (the “RA List”) for individually designed qualified retirement plans.  In general, the RA List is a list of changes in the plan qualification requirements for changes that became effective in 2016.  The list is divided into two parts—(A) changes in qualification requirements that would generally require an amendment to most plans  or to most plans of the type affected by the change and (B) changes that the IRS and Treasury anticipate will not require an amendment in most plans, but might require an amendment due to an unusual provision in a particular plan.  Read More ›

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Certain Information Statements for ISOs and ESPPs Due by January 31, 2017

As reported in Part 1 of our 2016 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List, Section 6039 of the Code requires employers to provide a written information statement to each employee or former employee and file information returns with the IRS regarding: (1) the transfer of stock pursuant to the exercise of an Incentive Stock Option (“ISO”); and (2) the first transfer by the employee or former employee of stock purchased at a discount under an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (“ESPP”).  For ISO exercises and ESPP transfers occurring in 2016, the Section 6039 employee information statement requirement is satisfied by providing Form 3921 (for ISOs) and Form 3922 (for ESPPs) to employees no later than January 31, 2017Read More ›

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Will the ACA Stay or Will it Go?

After surviving two Supreme Court cases and numerous repeal efforts, the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) is in jeopardy again. Despite the law’s uncertainty, employers may want to continue their compliance efforts because: (1) the ACA is currently the law and there are significant penalties for noncompliance; and (2) for the reasons stated below complete repeal is anything but certain.

First, we do not know whether the law will be repealed outright.  Although Republicans control Congress, they do not have a supermajority in the Senate.  This means that, unless current filibuster law changes, Democratic Senators could block a bill to repeal the ACA entirely. Read More ›

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Making a List, Checking it Twice

It’s that time of year when boys and girls start making their lists for the holidays, but we in the employee benefits world make a very different kind of list.  In the rapidly changing world of employee benefits and executive compensation law, a checklist can be particularly helpful to make sure important issues do not fall through the cracks.  Each year we publish an executive compensation checklist, a health and welfare plan checklist, and a qualified retirement plan checklist to help individuals stay apprised of changes in the law, changes that they might need to make to their employee benefits plans, and various notice requirements.  Read More ›

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A Little Breathing Room: IRS Extends ACA Reporting Deadline and Good Faith Penalty Relief

The IRS delivered welcome news to employers gearing up to meet the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA”) information reporting deadlines for the 2016 calendar year. In Notice 2016-70, the IRS extended the deadline to furnish Forms 1095-B and 1095-C to employees.  The new deadlines are provided below.

  Old Distribution Deadline New Distribution Deadline
Form 1095-B (to employees) January 31, 2017 March 2, 2017
Form 1095-C (to employees) January 31, 2017 March 2, 2017

Importantly, the Notice does not extend the deadline for filing Forms with the IRS.  The deadline to file with the IRS remains February 28, 2016 (for paper filings) and March 31, 2017 (for electronic filings). Read More ›

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IRS Announces 2017 Retirement Plan Dollar Limits

The IRS recently announced cost-of-living adjustments for 2017 in Notice 2016-62. The key dollar limits, along with last year’s limits, are noted below.

Maximum Qualified Retirement Plan Dollar Limits

  2016 2017
Limit on Section 401(k) deferrals (Section 402(g)) $18,000 $18,000
Dollar limitation for catch-up contributions (Section 414(v)(2)(B)(i)) $6,000 $6,000
Limit on deferrals for government and tax-exempt organization deferred compensation plans (Section 457(e)(15)) $18,000 $18,000
Annual benefit limitation for a defined benefit plan (Section 415(b)(1)(A)) $210,000 $215,000
Limitation on annual contributions to a defined contribution plan (Section 415(c)(1)(A)) $53,000 $54,000
Limitation on compensation that may be considered by qualified retirement plans (Section 401(a)(17)) $265,000 $270,000
Dollar amount for the definition of highly compensated employee (Section 414(q)(1)(B)) $120,000 $120,000
Dollar amount for the definition of a key employee in a top-heavy plan (Section 416(i)(1)(A)(i)) $170,000 $175,000
Dollar amount for determining the maximum account balance in an ESOP subject to a five-year distribution period (Section 409(o)(1)(C)(ii)) $1,070,000 $1,080,000
SIMPLE retirement account limitation (Section 408(p)(2)(E)) $12,500 $12,500
Social Security Taxable Wage Base $118,500 $127,500

  Read More ›

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Settlement of Calma v. Templeton Provides Guidance on Setting Director Pay

In response to recent lawsuits by the plaintiffs’ bar, I have previously posted about why public company employers may wish to consider adding a separate annual limit on non-employee director equity awards. Just last month the Delaware Chancery Court approved a settlement of Calma v. Templeton, a case in which Calma challenged the size of director equity awards granted under Citrix’s shareholder-approved equity compensation plan.  Among other things, the settlement provides what some practitioners believe to be a reasonable framework for structuring director compensation programs on a go-forward basis.  Key provisions of the settlement are as follows:

  • Citrix agreed to amend its equity compensation plan to incorporate a $795,000 cap on the value of equity awards that may be granted to any one non-employee director in any one year. 
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Now You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too: New Pension Distribution Rules Allow More Flexibility

If you are one of the lucky few employees who participate in an employer’s defined benefit retirement plan, you previously had to choose between receiving your benefits in a lump sum or in annuity payments. However, in the final rule adopted by the Treasury Department, defined benefit plans are allowed to offer participants the choice of taking a portion of their benefit in a lump sum and the remainder in annuity payments.

These new rules are designed to increase a participant’s flexibility in designing his or her retirement income. As Treasury explained, on the one hand, for plans that permitted a distribution of either lump sum or annuity payments, many participants were reluctant to take the annuity payments and instead chose a lump sum to maximize their flexibility.  Read More ›

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