IRS Approves Additional Leave-Based Donation Programs for COVID-19 Relief

We previously posted about two leave-sharing programs available to employers during the COVID-19 pandemic: major disaster leave-sharing programs and medical emergency leave-sharing programs.  These leave-sharing programs may allow employees to donate paid leave to co-workers affected by COVID-19.  When properly structured under Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) guidance, the donated leave is excluded from the gross income of the donor employee. 

On June 11, 2020, the IRS published Notice 2020-46, which permits employers to establish an additional type of leave-sharing program: a leave-based donation program under which employees can donate vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for cash payments that the employer makes to a charitable organization described in Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) Section 170(c) (a “Section 170(c) Organization”). Read More ›

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Department of Labor Issues Final Electronic Disclosure Rule

On May 21, 2020, the Department of Labor (the “DOL”) announced a final rule establishing a new electronic disclosure safe harbor.  The new safe harbor permits retirement plan administrators to deliver certain plan documents by one of two methods: (1) a “Notice and Access” method; or (2) a direct email method.  The new safe harbor is unavailable to health and welfare plans.  The regulatory electronic delivery safe harbor established by the DOL in 2002 is not superseded by the new safe harbor and is still available as an option for plan sponsors.  A brief summary of the new safe harbor follows. Read More ›

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COVID-19-Related Cancellations of NQDC Elections

As a general matter, deferral elections under non-qualified deferred compensation plans (“NQDCs”) cannot be cancelled unless a NQDC plan participant incurs an “unforeseeable emergency” or “disability” as each such term is defined in Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code. Internal Revenue Service Notice 2020-50 (the “Notice”) adds a third reason to permit the cancellation of NQDC elections, the receipt of a coronavirus-related distribution (“CRD”) from a qualified retirement plan.

The Internal Revenue Service issued the Notice on June 19th to, among other things, help plan sponsors allow plan participants to take advantage of the provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) by giving participants greater access to their retirement plan savings. Read More ›

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CARES Act Enables Employers to Assist with Student Loan Repayments

The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”), signed into law on March 27, 2020, provides employers with a new mechanism to assist their employees with repayment of student loans. Section 2206 of the CARES Act amends Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) to allow employers to pay up to $5,250 toward qualified education loans as part of an educational assistance program as long as the payments are made before January 1, 2021. Employers can make payments either directly to the employee or to a lender.

Section 127 provides that amounts paid or expenses incurred by employers under an educational assistance program for the educational assistance of employees are not included in the employee’s gross income, provided that the program satisfies the following requirements:

  1. The program must be a separate written plan of the employer for the exclusive benefit of its employees to provide such employees with educational assistance. 
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Two Leave-Sharing Program Options for Employers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As employers cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, they may consider leave-sharing programs as a method to permit employees to donate paid leave to their coworkers. Leave-sharing programs that are properly structured under Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) guidance permit exclusion of transferred leave from the gross income of a donor employee and inclusion of the transferred leave in the gross income of the coworker recipient. However, the IRS has generally limited this favorable tax treatment to leave-sharing programs for: (1) major disasters, and (2) medical emergencies.

  1. Major Disaster Leave-Sharing Programs
    1. Eligible Employers

IRS Notice 2006-59 defines a “major disaster” as a major disaster as declared by the President under Section 401 of the Robert T. Read More ›

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IRS Continues to Extend Key Filing Deadlines in Response to COVID-19

On April 9. 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) issued Notice 2020-23, which extends a number of key filing deadlines in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The guidance provides welcome relief to individuals and plan sponsors who must perform certain “time-sensitive actions” on or after April 1, 2020 and before July 15, 2020.  For Notice 2020-23 purposes, “time-sensitive actions” are described, in part, in Revenue Procedure 2018-58, and include key filings such as Forms 5500, 990, and Section 83(b) elections.  Because the relief is provided only for filings due during the period from April 1, 2020 to July 15, 2020, certain individuals and plan sponsors will remain subject to normal filing deadlines.  Read More ›

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U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Standing Question on ERISA Pension Lawsuits

The U.S. Supreme Court is mulling over whether retirement plan participants must demonstrate individual or imminent risk of financial loss before seeking a breach of fiduciary duty action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”).  On January 13, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the matter of Thole v. U.S. Bank, N.A. (No. 17-1712), and the Court’s coming decision could have wide-reaching implications for participant standing in ERISA causes of action.

The plaintiffs in Thole, who are participants in a U.S. Bank defined benefit pension plan (the “Plan”), allege that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties by mismanaging and failing to diversify the Plan’s assets.  Read More ›

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IRS Issues Final Regulations for Hardship Distributions

We previously reported on the Bipartisan Budget Act (the “Budget Act”) hardship distribution rule changes for qualified retirement plans. On September 23, 2019, the IRS issued final regulations implementing certain statutory changes to the hardship distributions rules, including those required by the Budget Act. The final regulations closely track the proposed regulations issued in November 2018. The following are some of the more significant changes implemented by the final regulations:

  • Employers must remove the six-month suspension of a participant’s plan contributions following a hardship distribution occurring on or after January 1, 2020.
  • Participants may receive a hardship distribution without first requesting a loan from the plan. 
Read More ›
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Design Considerations for Medical Emergency Leave-Sharing Programs

Employers often allow employees to donate leave to co-workers who are experiencing medical emergencies. If properly structured, these leave transfers can be excluded from the gross income of the donor employee and included in the gross income of the co-worker recipient.  There are no statutes or regulations governing these arrangements. The only formal guidance available to employers seeking this favorable tax treatment for medical emergency leave-sharing programs is Revenue Ruling 90-29 (“Rev. Rul. 90-29”). Other leave-sharing programs, such as those for major disasters or military leave, are subject to different rules and may or may not receive similar tax treatment.

Departure from the medical emergency leave-sharing program design approved by the IRS in Rev. Read More ›

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Reassigning Section 1557: Trump Administration Proposes Reversal of Transgender Benefits Rule

In 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office of Civil Rights issued final regulations implementing the nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act (“Section 1557”), which prohibit the categorical refusal of health coverage to transgender participants and require that individuals be treated consistent with their self-selected gender identity. These regulations drew sustained legal challenges and prompted HHS to withdraw, revise and reissue the Section 1557 regulations (the “Proposed Regulations”).

In short, the Proposed Regulations would repeal large portions of the original nondiscrimination rules and would redefine the scope of various protections under Section 1557. Specifically, the Proposed Regulations negate the provisions of Section 1557 covering nondiscrimination based on sex and gender identity. Read More ›

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