by Nancy S. Gerrie, Jeffrey M. Holdvogt and Brian J. Tiemann
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico recently adopted a new Internal Revenue Code (PR Code) that contains numerous changes to sections governing qualified retirement plans. The new PR Code will require significant changes to documents and administration for both dual-qualified plans (i.e., plans qualified under both the U.S. and Puerto Rico Internal Revenue Codes) and Puerto Rico-only qualified retirement plans. Many of the changes are effective in 2011.
In general, the new qualified retirement plan provisions in the PR Code make changes to more closely mirror provisions applicable to U.S. qualified retirement plans. For example, qualified retirement plans in Puerto Rico are now subject to annual benefit and contribution limits similar to limits under Section 415 of the U.S. Code and annual compensation limits similar to limits under Section 401(a)(17) of the U.S. Code. However, the PR Code continues to have significant differences from the U.S. Code with respect to qualified plans. For example, limits on deferred contributions and catch-up contributions to a cash or deferred arrangement continue to be lower than the limits under the U.S. Code. In addition, although the definition of highly compensated employee for nondiscrimination testing purposes is now much more similar to the definition under the U.S. Code, it still has some significant differences from the definition applicable to U.S. qualified plans. The new PR Code also still does not permit all U.S. plan design options, such as Roth-type contributions, nor does it specifically address other U.S. plan features such as pass-through of dividends from employee stock ownership plans.
Sponsors of both dual-qualified and Puerto Rico-only qualified retirement plans should begin working with advisors to update plan documents and administration for compliance with the new PR Code as soon as possible. For more details on specific plan implications of the new PR Code, see New Puerto Rico Tax Code Means Significant Changes to Retirement Plans for Puerto Rico Employees.
In addition, sponsors of both dual-qualified and Puerto Rico-only qualified plans should continue to keep in mind potential restrictions on participation in U.S. group and master trusts following the end of the transition period announced in IRS Revenue Ruling 2011-1. For more information on Puerto Rico plan participation in U.S. group and master trusts, see IRS Permits Puerto Rico-Qualified Plans to Participate in U.S. Group and Master Trusts for Transition Period, Extends Deadline for Puerto Rico Spin-Offs.