Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)

According to U.S. News & World Report, estimates for the cost of Hurricane Harvey’s damage have come in as high as $190 billion, and damage estimates for Hurricane Irma are still rolling in but range up to $100 billion. To assist taxpayers affected by these devastating storms, the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation have granted multiple forms of relief to taxpayers impacted by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and other disasters enumerated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) are becoming a popular—and tax effective—way for companies to manage succession planning. When structured properly an ESOP can provide huge financial benefits to companies and their employees alike. There have been several craft brewers who have taken advantage of the ESOP structure in the past year, and we expect this trend to pique the interest of craft distilleries. In this article, originally published in Artisan Spirit, Marc E. Sorini and Emily Rickard explore at a very high level some of the issues involved with starting and maintaining a craft distillery ESOP.

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Last week, Senate Republicans unveiled draft legislation to move toward repealing portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The draft health care bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, was hatched behind closed doors without public committee hearings or debate, in response to concerns raised by the House’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), which passed by the slimmest of margins on May 4, 2017. The bill faces an uphill battle as several Republican senators have already come out in opposition to the draft bill, conservatives have criticized the bill not going far enough to repeal the ACA and moderates are uneasy about the impact severe cutbacks to the Medicaid system will have on their constituents. Senator Mitch McConnell has vowed to bring the draft bill to a vote this week before Congress recesses for the Fourth of July holiday.

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Multiple large, class action lawsuits have been filed against prominent higher education institutions claiming fiduciary breaches under their Code Section 403(b) plans as a result of insufficient oversight of plan investments, which allegedly caused excessive fees to be paid by participants. Last week, district courts in Georgia and North Carolina, respectively, ruled on defendants’ motions under Henderson v. Emory University and Clark v. Duke University. Although the defendants in these cases has some success in eliminating certain causes of action, other causes of actions involving the payment of excessive fees and use of multiple record-keepers will continue through litigation.

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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.

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