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Homework and Deadlines Matter: New IRS Pre-Audit Compliance Program for Retirement Plans

Retirement plan sponsors should be aware of a new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) pilot program, which permits plan sponsors to conduct a pre-examination “check-up” of retirement plan administration before the IRS begins a plan examination. As part of the program, the IRS will send a letter notifying a plan sponsor that its retirement plan has been selected for an upcoming examination and give the plan sponsor 90 days to identify and voluntarily correct any compliance issues that may be self-corrected. Failure to respond by the 90-day deadline will result in an examination. Retirement plan sponsors who receive a pre-examination notice should immediately begin working with their lawyers and other advisors to determine the best way to respond to the IRS notice.

PRE-EXAMINATION PILOT PROGRAM

The IRS pre-examination compliance pilot program gives plan sponsors a chance to correct certain errors before an examination begins. If a plan sponsor identifies errors, then the plan sponsor may be able to self-correct using the procedures set forth in the IRS Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS) program, and the plan sponsor may notify the IRS of its corrective actions. If mistakes are not eligible for self-correction, the plan sponsor may request a closing agreement. With a closing agreement under the pilot program, the IRS will apply the Voluntary Correction Program (VCP) fee structure to determine the sanctions amount rather than the Audit CAP Program fees, which are unpredictable and typically higher. The IRS will review the plan sponsor’s corrective actions and determine whether it agrees that the plan sponsor appropriately corrected the mistakes. The IRS will then determine whether to issue a closing letter or to conduct a limited or full scope audit. The pilot program begins in June 2022.

It’s not clear what factors the IRS will consider when determining whether to conduct a limited or full scope audit following a plan sponsor’s response. However, it stands to reason that a plan sponsor’s efforts at good faith compliance with the correction requirements may serve to limit the scope because typically the IRS wishes to promote self-correction efforts. It’s also not clear whether the 90-day pre-examination period will apply to all retirement plan audits or only to those randomly selected to be part of the pilot program.

NEXT STEPS FOR PLAN SPONSORS

Plan sponsors who receive a pre-examination notice should immediately begin working with their lawyers and other advisors to determine the best ways to respond to the IRS notice. If you receive an initial letter or have questions about the IRS compliance and correction programs, please contact your McDermott lawyer or the authors listed below.




Preparing for the Demise of Roe v. Wade and the Criminalization of Abortion in Some US States: Practical Considerations for a Post-Roe World

Sometime in the next several weeks, the Supreme Court of the United States will issue its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (Dobbs). Based on the draft majority opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito that was leaked to Politico in early May, there is a significant chance that the Court will overrule Roe v. Wade (Roe) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (Casey) by holding that there is no federal constitutional right to obtain an abortion and leaving individual states free to substantially restrict abortion or prohibit abortion altogether.

The effect of this likely decision on US companies would be substantial. Every US healthcare provider whose services include any aspect of family planning should give serious thought to how this likely new post-Roe reality will affect its offerings and operations. This includes not only those that provide pregnancy termination services (via surgical or pharmaceutical means, whether brick-and-mortar or telehealth/virtual), but also potentially those providing in vitro fertilization services, and conceivably even some contraceptive providers at some point down the line.

Read more here.




America’s Hospital Regulator Wasn’t Designed for a Pandemic

According to this Politico article, the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has had difficulty enforcing its own COVID-19-related hospital rules. The agency often lacks the necessary resources to make sure its regulations are followed. McDermott Partner Sandra M. DiVarco said small changes—like allowing patients to wear highly protective N95 face masks—that CMS publicizes are “not always very coordinated.”

Access the article.




Understanding a Trustee’s Role in Management Incentive Plans

On May 5, 2022, McDermott Partner Erin Turley delivered a presentation during the 2022 TEA National Conference titled “Understanding a Trustee’s Role in Management Incentive Plans.” Her presentation focused on the trustee’s role in Management Incentive Plans (MIPs), how retention and performance stock appreciation rights (SARs) impact an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) and ways to avoid trustee pitfalls with a MIP. Erin also discussed types of synthetic equity design decisions, incentive stock options, non-statutory stock options and phantom stock/SARs.

The presentation concluded with the following fiduciary considerations:

  • Since the issuance of any equity or synthetic equity can have a potentially dilutive impact on the ESOP, it is important for any plan to be in the best interest of the ESOP plan participants.
  • As a result, one of the primary objectives of the plan should be to identify and select a group of people to be incentivized and rewarded to drive value for everybody.
  • For example, in the case of a SAR, you are rewarding a group of individuals based only on appreciation in the value of the company stock. If the value goes up, that’s good for everybody.
  • The overall compensation program should be in line with compensation practices for comparable-type positions in the industry, perhaps taking geography into account.

For questions about employee benefits matters, please contact Erin or McDermott’s employee benefits practice team.




German Tax Aspects of Cross-Border Remote Working

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working became a necessity. Despite the easing lockdowns, the trend is likely to stay, particularly with “workstations” being actively promoted by the travel industry; however, there are considerable tax consequences for international employers. In this International News article, McDermott’s Gero Burwitz and Isabella Denninger discuss the complexity of this new working order and how international businesses can navigate it.

Access the article (pg. 11).




When Are Cryptocurrencies Appropriate Investments for Retirement Plans and IRAs?

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued guidance for the first time on the investment of retirement plan assets in cryptocurrencies. Compliance Assistance Release No. 2022-01 cautions 401(k) plan fiduciaries to “exercise extreme care” before allowing participants to invest plan assets in cryptocurrencies because cryptocurrencies “present significant risks and challenges to participants’ retirement accounts, including significant risks of fraud, theft, and loss.” In this Intellectual Property & Technology Law Journal article, McDermott Partners Andrea S. Kramer and Brian J. Tiemann outline what retirement plan fiduciaries need to know about cryptocurrency investments in the current market.

Access the article.




Employers Explore Abortion Coverage Continuation

While the United States awaits the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, which may overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate the federal standard for abortion access, some states are considering setting their own standards that would ban or protect the medical procedure. This state-by-state rulemaking will cause some difficulty for employer plans, and employers are increasingly exploring ways to continue providing abortion coverage.

Read more here.




New York City’s Wage Transparency Law to Take Effect November 1, 2022

On January 15, 2022, the New York City Council enacted Local Law 32 of 2022 (Wage Transparency Law or Law) to amend the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to require that most employers include compensation data in their job advertisements. The Law was supposed to take effect on May 15, 2022, however, it faced criticism over a number of ambiguities, including undefined penalties. In response, on April 28, 2022, the New York City Council passed an amendment to the Wage Transparency Law. Among the biggest changes is that employers now have until November 1, 2022—more than six months—to ensure compliance with the Law’s requirements. If Mayor Eric Adams signs the Law, which he is expected to do, New York City will become the second jurisdiction in the country (the first being Colorado) to require employers to include minimum and maximum potential salary amounts for open positions in job postings.

Read more here.




OSHA Announces Plan to ‘Expand Its Presence’ in Certain Healthcare Facilities Treating COVID-19 Patients

Between March 9, 2022, and June 9, 2022, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will “expand its presence” in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities that treat COVID-19 patients and that were previously cited or issued Hazard Alert Letters for alleged COVID-19 violations. OSHA’s stated purpose is to “target[] high-hazard healthcare facilities” to “verify and assess . . . compliance actions taken” by employers to rectify prior allegations related to COVID-19 safety violations. The initiative is focusing on employers’ “readiness to address any ongoing or future COVID-19 surges.”

Read more here.




ERISA Litigation: What Have We Learned?

Earlier this spring, McDermott Partner Erin Turley delivered a presentation about the impacts of recent Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) litigation. Lawsuits now target both large and small employee benefit plans; plan sponsors are being sued and dragged into complex and lengthy litigation, thus changing the basic economics of the provision of fiduciary liability insurance. In response to these lawsuits, plan sponsors are looking to outsource as much of this fiduciary responsibility and potential liability and exposure as possible.

Access the presentation slides.




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