Yesterday, November 15, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) increased the annual maximum salary reduction limit for contributions to a health flexible spending account to $2,700. The 2019 contribution limit was published in Rev. Proc. 2018-57. The 2018 contribution limit was $2,650, resulting in an increase of $50 for 2019. An employer may use the increased limit for both health flexible spending accounts and limited purposed health flexible spending accounts that it maintains for its employees.
Todd Solomon and Brian Tiemann presented on alternative investments for pension plans during the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) Conference in Chicago. They discussed various rules benefit plan investors should consider, including the “look-through” rule and the “significant” investment rule. They also addressed common hedge fund structural and operational issues, and problems if a fund holds ERISA plan assets.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was the biggest story of 2018 in the field of global privacy and data protection. The GDPR became enforceable in European Union Member States on May 25, 2018, significantly expanding the territorial reach of EU data protection law and introducing numerous changes that affected the way organizations globally process the personal data of their EU customers, employees and suppliers. These important changes required action by companies and institutions around the world. In almost six months after the GDPR’s effective date, organizations are still working on compliance—and will be for years to come.
The GDPR applies to organizations inside and outside the EU. Organizations “established” inside the EU, essentially meaning a business or unit located in the EU, must comply with the GDPR if they process personal data in the context of that establishment. The GDPR also applies to organizations outside the EU that offer goods or services to, or monitor the behavior of, individuals located in the EU.
The GDPR uses other terms not familiar to US businesses but which need to be understood. Both “data controllers” and “data processors” have obligations under the GDPR, and data subjects can bring actions directly against either or both of those parties. A data controller is an organization that has control over and determines how and why to process data. A data controller is often, but not always, the organization that has the direct relationship with the data subject (the individual about whom the data pertains). A data processor is an organization that processes personal data on behalf of a data controller, typically a vendor or service provider. The GDPR defines “processing” to mean any operation or set of operations performed on personal data or on sets of personal data, whether or not by automated means (e.g., collection, recording, storage, alteration, use, disclosure and structuring).
The GDPR also broadly defines “personal data” as any information directly or indirectly relating to an identified or identifiable natural person, such as a name, identification number, location data, an online identifier, or one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person. Organizations in the US are used to a narrower definition of personal data, which typically includes information that, if breached, would put an individual at risk of identity theft or fraud and require notice (e.g., Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and financial account, credit and debit card numbers). Continue Reading GDPR 6 Months After Implementation: Where are We Now?
The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has solidified a circuit split on who has burden of proving loss causation in ERISA breach of fiduciary duty cases. The First Circuit joined the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Circuits holding that once a plaintiff demonstrates a fiduciary breach, the defendant has the burden to negate loss causation. Other circuits, including the Sixth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Circuits, have held that a plaintiff bears to burden to establish loss causation. This issue is ripe for Supreme Court review.
One of the busiest times of year for an employee benefits professional is open enrollment. It is a crucial and yet stressful time of year that typically results in numerous employee questions and complaints and is a time of year with high potential for both employer and employee mistakes. Despite the stress and potential for problems, open enrollment provides an opportunity for a company to set itself up for success for the following year.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) does not require an annual opportunity for employees to change benefit plan elections. However, because of compliance issues that can spring from not offering a regular enrollment period, most companies choose to offer an “open enrollment” period, usually taking place in mid- to late fall for calendar-year health and welfare benefit plans.
Employee attention to employer communications during this period is often high, and attention to detail in participant communications behooves an employer during this period. Well-written and timely notices may be relied upon to satisfy many compliance obligations. Inaccurate or incomplete open enrollment materials, however, can create employee confusion and result in legal liability under the complex network of federal laws governing employer-sponsored benefit programs.
Read the full article here for a sampling of key issues to consider to help you avoid compliance missteps during this year’s open enrollment period.
Originally published in BenefitsPRO.com, October 2018.
Recently the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration announced the cost-of-living adjustments to the applicable dollar limits on various employer-sponsored retirement and welfare plans and the Social Security wage base for 2019. The table below compares the applicable dollar limits for certain employee benefit programs and the Social Security wage base for 2018 and 2019.*
|RETIREMENT PLAN LIMITS||2018||2019|
|Annual compensation limit||$275,000||$280,000|
|401(k), 403(b) & 457(b) before-tax contributions||$18,500||$19,000|
|Catch-up contributions (if age 50 or older)||$6,000||$6,000|
|Highly compensated employee threshold||$120,000||$125,000|
|Key employee officer compensation threshold||$175,000||$180,000|
|Defined benefit plan annual benefit and accrual limit||$220,000||$225,000|
|Defined contribution plan annual contribution limit||$55,000||$56,000|
|Employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) limit for determining the lengthening of the general five-year distribution period||$220,000||$225,000|
|ESOP limit for determining the maximum account balance subject to the general five-year distribution period||$1,105,000||$1,130,000|
|HEALTH AND WELFARE PLAN LIMITS|
|High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA)|
|HDHP – Maximum annual out-of-pocket limit (excluding premiums):|
|HDHP – Minimum annual deductible:|
|HSA – Annual contribution limit:|
|Catch-up contributions (age 55 or older)||$1,000||$1,000|
|SOCIAL SECURITY WAGE BASE|
|Social Security Maximum Taxable Earnings (dollars)||$128,400||$132,900|
Plan sponsors should update payroll and plan administration systems for the 2019 cost-of-living adjustments and should incorporate the new limits in relevant participant communications, like open enrollment materials and summary plan descriptions.
For further information about applying the new employee benefit plan limits for 2019, contact your regular McDermott lawyer.
*The dollar limits are generally applied on a calendar year basis; however, certain dollar limits are applied on a plan-year, tax-year, or limitation-year basis.
President Trump signed an executive order last year directing the Secretaries of Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services to consider proposing regulations to “increase the usability of HRAs.” This month, the collective departments issued proposed regulations containing changes to the prohibition on pairing HRAs with individual health policies, as well as other changes to the current HRA rules.
Proposed effective date January 1, 2020; comments due December 28, 2018.
Join us Friday, November 2 for our monthly Fridays with Benefits webinar. With 2019 right around the corner, now is the time to dust off your year-end checklist and take stock of changes we have seen in 2018, and how they project to impact planning for the new year. Join us for an interactive discussion designed to draw attention to the key employee benefits issues you should tackle before New Year’s Eve. Our lively 45-minute discussion will include a tax reform update, an overview of retirement plan disaster relief, responding to new disability regulations from the DOL, and how to implement final regulations on QNECs and QMACs.
Friday, November 2, 2018
10:00 – 10:45 am PDT
11:00 – 11:45 am MDT
12:00 – 12:45 pm CDT
1:00 – 1:45 pm EDT
During the Tax in the City event held in Dallas, Erin Turley and Allison Wilkerson gave an overview of benefit plan audits and the IRS examination process. They discussed various areas of focus, including, required minimum distributions, investment issues, benefit calculations and appropriate tax reporting. They provided attendees with best practices before an audit, as well as helpful resources from the IRS and DOL.
Late last month, the IRS released the latest version of its Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System, the IRS’s program for correcting retirement plan errors. The newest version of the correction program—effective beginning in 2019—includes mostly minor changes and clarifications. Most importantly, however, it requires electronic filing of Voluntary Correction Program submissions beginning April 1, 2019.