On Monday, November 27, 2017, the Social Security Administration announced (announcement here) that the it is lowering the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax for 2018 to $128,400. The Social Security Administration had previously announced the amount as $128,700. The revision is the result of updated wage data reported to Social Security. Our On The Subject article has been updated to reflect the lower amount.
Jeffrey (Jeff) M. Holdvogt advises clients regarding a wide range of employee benefits matters. He focuses primarily on the design and administration of complex pension, defined contribution and executive deferred compensation arrangements. Jeff counsels privately and publicly held corporations on ongoing day-to-day retirement and executive compensation issues, as well as employee benefits design and transition matters arising from corporate mergers, acquisitions and divestitures. Read Jeff Holdvogt's full bio.
The US Department of the Treasury recently issued guidance that retirement plan sponsors should consider as part of their obligation to take reasonable steps to locate missing participants. Specifically, the Treasury issued a memorandum which sets forth guidelines that prohibit auditors from challenging qualified plans as failing to satisfy the required minimum distribution standards under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 401(a)(9) if the plan has fulfilled all of the following with respect to participants that cannot be located:
- Searched for alternative contact information in plan, plan sponsor and publicly available records for directories;
- Used a commercial locator service, credit reporting agency or a proprietary internet search tool for locating individuals; and
- Sent mail via United States Postal Service (USPS) certified mail to the last known mailing address and attempted contact “through appropriate means for any address or contact information,” which includes email addresses and telephone number.
The Treasury guidance is similar to, but also expands upon, prior guidance provided by the US Department of Labor, which addresses locating missing participants for terminated retirement plans.
Locating missing participants and beneficiaries can be challenging for plan sponsors. Many plan sponsors find that they are unable to locate participants who left employment many years prior and, as a result, are unable to make required minimum distributions. Both the IRS and Department of Labor have stepped up their enforcement of these requirements in recent years. In particular, the Department of Labor has made locating missing participants an enforcement priority for plan audits.
The IRS recently issued new mortality tables for 2018, which will likely increase pension funding liabilities for many plan sponsors. Plan sponsors should consider options to delay the use of the new mortality tables for funding purposes, while large plan sponsors should consider the option to utilize plan-specific mortality tables instead.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced the cost-of-living adjustments to the applicable dollar limits for various employer-sponsored retirement and welfare plans for 2018. Although some of the dollar limits currently in effect for 2017 will remain the same, the majority of the limits will experience minor increases for 2018.
Since the announcement by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that sponsors of individually designed retirement plans may no longer receive a periodic determination letter, plan sponsors have faced uncertainty about how to demonstrate compliance for their retirement plans. Our McDermott Retirement Plan Compliance Program, a new opinion letter and operational review program for individually designed 401(a) and 403(b) retirement plans, will allow plan sponsors to document their plans’ compliance with tax code requirements in response to the curtailment of the IRS’ determination letter program.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) conduct different types of benefit plan audits, such as retirement plans and health and welfare plans, and for various reasons. In a presentation, Jeffrey Holdvogt and Maggie McTigue discuss IRS and DOL audit triggers, the process for each and what to do if your plan is audited. They also discuss the top audit issues and actionable steps companies can take to avoid audits and compliance issues.
Puerto Rico enacted new legislation in February that will require changes to tax-qualified retirement plans covering Puerto Rico employees, including both Puerto Rico-only and dual-qualified (US and Puerto Rico) retirement plans. Act No. 9-2017 revises a number of Puerto Rico qualified retirement plan rules including contribution limits, rules related to nondiscrimination testing and employer deductions for retirement plan contributions. Questions remain about how and when to implement these changes, but the 2017 Act became effective immediate upon enactment, so plan sponsors should be prepared for the possibility of mid-year 2017 changes to their retirement plans.
Amy Gordon, Jeffrey Holdvogt, Susan Nash and Mary Samsa wrote this bylined article on health system employee benefit opportunities and challenges in 2017. The authors urged health systems to review internal controls for 403(b) plan compliance and new design opportunities for 457(f) plans, to review their short- and long-term health plan operation in light of any Affordable Care Act replacement.
Near the end of 2016, the Department of Treasury (Treasury) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published two significant sets of proposed regulations on issues pertaining to defined benefit pension plans, including mortality table updates that likely would increase pension funding liabilities for many plan sponsors.
Health system employers should make sure they are familiar with three key employee benefit issues: (1) the new Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule that currently becomes effective April 10, 2017 (but may be delayed in the near future under the new administration); (2) recent excessive fee litigation filed against universities (and now health care systems such as Essentia Health) maintaining Code Section 403(b) fee plans; and (3) new Code Section 457(f) regulations. Each of these issues present risks and opportunities for health systems in 2017.