The Ninth Circuit Reverses Itself and Enforces ERISA Mandatory Arbitration Clause

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit recently decided that Charles Schwab Corp. can require a proposed class action to arbitrate its claim that Schwab breached its fiduciary duties by including Schwab-affiliated investment funds in the Plan, despite the funds’ poor performance, to generate fees for Schwab and its affiliates.  In doing so, the Ninth Circuit overturned its former decision in which it held that ERISA claims cannot be arbitrated.

Specifically, the Ninth Circuit panel determined that the Ninth Circuit’s 1984 opinion in Amaro v. Continental Can Co. should no longer be followed because of more recent precedent permitting ERISA claims to be arbitrated, including the U.S. Read More ›

Posted in Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation, Qualified Retirement Plans | Tagged , ,

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To Err is Human – To Forgive is Up to the IRS in Rev Proc 2019-19

The IRS recently issued its latest version of the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (“EPCRS”) in Rev. Proc. 2019-19.  The EPCRS is the IRS program that assists employers in correcting both operational and document failures with respect to qualified retirement plans.  There are several welcome changes to the new EPCRS, including:

  • Certain plan loan failures can now be self-corrected:
    • If a participant defaults on a loan, the participant can pay a single sum corrective payment equal to the amount (plus interest) that would have paid to the plan  absent the failure and re-amortize the outstanding balance either over the remaining payment schedule or over the maximum allowed period.
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Reopening the Floodgates: IRS Announces Expanded Determination Letter Program

As we previously reported, the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) scaled back its determination letter program for individually designed retirement plans effective as of January 1, 2017. In the intervening years, the Service received a multitude of comments requesting the reopening of the program.

Now, the Service has decided to offer a limited expansion of the determination letter program as outlined in Revenue Procedure 2019-20 (the “Revenue Procedure”). In particular, the Revenue Procedure provides that the Service will accept determination letter applications for both individually designed statutory hybrid plans and individually designed merged plans.

Hybrid Plans

The Revenue Procedure indicates that plan sponsors may submit determination letter applications for individually designed statutory hybrid plans during the twelve-month period beginning September 1, 2019 and ending August 31, 2020. Read More ›

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IRS Changes Course on Lump Sums to Retirees

In Notice 2019-18, the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) changed its position and now will permit employers to offer lump sum payments to retirees who are currently receiving annuity payments from a defined benefit plan.  This is a reversal from its position in Notice 2015-49, in which the Treasury Department and the IRS stated that they intended to propose amendments to the required minimum distribution regulations to address the payment of lump sums to replace ongoing annuity payments under a defined benefit plan.  Prior to the issuance of Notice 2015-49, a number of defined benefit plans started offering retirees who were receiving annuities an opportunity to elect to convert their annuities into lump sum benefits during a limited period of time in what became known as “de-risking” transactions.  Read More ›

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IRS Issues Updated Tax Notice for Qualified Retirement Plan Distributions

The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) recently released guidance that contains two updated safe harbor notices that retirement plans may use to satisfy the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) to provide an advance notice to a participant prior to the date on which the participant receives a distribution that meets the requirements for an eligible rollover distribution.  This notice is commonly referred to as the “402(f) Notice” after the relevant section of the Code that requires the notice to be provided.

The IRS guidance contains two model notices, one that may be used when distributions are not from a Roth account and a second model notice that may be used for distributions that are from a Roth account. Read More ›

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IRS Updates Retirement Plan Correction Procedures

On September 28, 2018, the IRS released Revenue Procedure 2018-52. The Revenue Procedure makes changes to the IRS Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (“EPCRS”), which is the IRS’ comprehensive correction program for qualified retirement plans.  The primary purpose of the Revenue Procedure is establishing the process for filing correction applications and paying the applicable user fee through the www.pay.gov website.

Beginning April 1, 2019, the IRS will no longer accept paper applications meaning that plan sponsors are required to use pay.gov to submit their application and pay their user fees.  During a transition period running from January 1 – March 31, 2019, plan sponsors may, but are not required to, file their EPCRS applications online. Read More ›

Posted in Qualified Retirement Plans | Tagged , ,

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A New Perspective on Student Loan Repayment Benefits

On August 17, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) published a Private Letter Ruling (the “PLR”) describing a unique student loan repayment program in the context of a qualified retirement plan.

Proposed Student Loan Repayment Program

As described in the PLR, an Employer sponsors a Section 401(k) defined contribution plan that permits elective deferrals. The plan requires the Employer to make a matching contribution equal to 5% of an eligible employee’s compensation for a given pay period if such employee makes an elective contribution of at least 2% of his or her compensation during the same period.

The Employer proposed to amend the plan to incorporate a student loan repayment program (the “Program”). Read More ›

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Congress Eases Restrictions on Hardship Distributions

We previously reported on certain changes made to the hardship distribution rules for qualified retirement plans by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  Since then, Congress has made additional and significant changes to those same hardship distribution rules by the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act (the “BBA”).  The BBA loosens various restrictions on a participant’s ability to request and receive a hardship distribution.  In particular, the BBA provides:

  1. Effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 2018, participants may receive hardship distributions comprised of employee elective deferrals, employer contributions and earnings on both.  Traditionally, hardship distributions were limited to employee elective deferrals and did not include qualified nonelective contributions, qualified matching contributions, safe harbor contributions or earnings on the same.
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Review of Qualified Plan Compensation Definition May be Needed Due To Tax Reform

Tax reform made few changes that directly impact qualified retirement plans; however, it made some changes that may indirectly impact qualified retirement plans.  We previously blogged on the indirect changes that tax reform had on hardship distributions. 

Tax reform also made changes to the taxation of certain fringe benefits that may impact the definition of “compensation” used in some qualified plans. Some qualified plans define compensation for plan purposes based on the taxability of a fringe benefit.  For example, a qualified plan may exclude from its definition of compensation “moving expenses, to the extent excluded from gross income.”  After tax reform, employers may no longer pay or reimburse moving expenses on a tax-free basis.  Read More ›

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Hardship Distribution Changes – Tax Reform May Have Unintended Consequences

When tax reform proposals were floating around in the fall of 2017, several early proposals to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Act”) included changes to the hardship distribution rules for qualified retirement plans. However, the final version of the Act did not make any direct changes to hardship distributions.  Nevertheless, the Act, perhaps unintentionally, made a significant change to the circumstances under which a participant can request a hardship for a personal casualty loss.

Personal Casualty Loss

The Act changed to the definition of a “personal casualty loss” under Section 165 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”). Under the revised definition of 165, a personal casualty loss is only deductible if it is attributable to a federally declared disaster (i.e. Read More ›

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