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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.




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.




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.




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.




The Fiduciary Duties of 457(b) Plans and How to Mitigate Potential Risks

Fiduciaries of 403(b), 401(a) and 457(b) retirement plans have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, in part due to participant lawsuits filed against plan sponsors and the resulting media attention. In this presentation with the 457 Consulting Group, McDermott Partner Todd Solomon discusses the fiduciary duties of plan sponsors and how to mitigate potential risks. The content in these slides applies to governmental 457(b) plans.

Access the slides.




Inflation and ERISA Penalties: Hand in Hand for 2022

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015 directs the US Department of Labor (DOL) to make annual inflation adjustments to specified Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) violations. The increased penalties generally apply to reporting and disclosure failures if the penalty is assessed after January 15, 2022, and if the violation occurred after November 2, 2015.

Access the updated DOL penalties.




Four Mistakes Clients Make with Roth IRAs and Their Estate

The Roth IRA is a powerful and popular tool for all investors. Investors make Roth contributions with after-tax money, and all distributions are tax-free so long as account holders are at least 59.5 years old and the account is at least five years old. In this Investopedia article, McDermott Partner Bobbi J. Bierhals offers insight about the Roth IRA’s biggest benefits for estate planning.

Access the article.




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