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.

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In early 2017, the IRS updated its Golden Parachute Payments Audit Technique Guide for the first time since its 2005 issuance. While intended as an internal reference for IRS agents conducting golden parachute examinations, the Audit Technique Guide offers valuable insight for both public and private companies, and recipients of golden parachute payments, into how IRS agents are likely to approach golden parachutes when conducting an audit.

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Andrew Liazos and Allison Wilkerson wrote this bylined article on Tax Code Section 409A’s deferral and payment requirements for nonqualified deferred com­pensation plans. Recent IRS Section 409A guidance makes “several helpful changes that employers will want to consider and take advantage of,” the authors wrote, and they warned employers that they ignore final IRS “at their peril…in light of the more limited ability to correct errors.”

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Originally published in The Practical Tax Lawyer, Spring 2017

In a major victory for church-affiliated hospitals, the US Supreme Court overturned three appellate court rulings and decided unanimously that church-affiliated hospitals can maintain their pension plans as “church plans” exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA), regardless of whether a church actually established the plan. Impacted health systems, and especially their management, should evaluate how best to document and demonstrate their common religious bonds and convictions with the church.

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Based on a recent audit conducted by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the IRS’ processes and procedures to ensure compliance with the employer information reporting requirements mandated by the employer shared responsibility provision (the play or pay rules) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), have fallen short of their intended goals. (see Audit Report No. 2017-43-027). According to TIGTA, due to faulty processes, the IRS did not have “accurate and complete data for use in its compliance strategy to identify noncompliant employers potentially subject to the employer shared responsibility payment.” System errors also resulted in the agency being unable to process paper information returns “timely and accurately,” TIGTA noted. Approximately 16,000 paper Forms 1094-C and 1.4 million paper Forms 1095-C had not been processed as of five months after May 31 (the deadline). The TIGTA offered several recommendations to the IRS to improve management practices. The IRS agreed with all but one of these recommendations and is developing a more accurate system for identifying employers that are not complying with the employer shared responsibility requirements.

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.

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M&A advisors are becoming increasingly familiar with leveraged ESOP transactions and are routinely considering the ESOP platform in structuring acquisitions and divestitures.  The first part of this article references the ways in which leveraged ESOPs have historically been used to provide a tax-advantaged exit strategy for privately held business owners. The article then discusses the advantages the leveraged ESOP structure can bring to M&A advisors and private equity groups charged with structuring acquisitions and divestitures during a down economy.

Continue Reading Advantages of Using ESOPs To Structure Acquisitions and Divestitures In An Uncertain Economy

On July 11, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced a proposal to implement significant changes to the forms and regulations that govern annual employee benefit plan reporting on Form 5500. The proposed changes, which were published in the Federal Register on July 21, 2016, would considerably increase the annual reporting obligations for nearly all health and welfare plans. The changes would also have a considerable impact on annual retirement plan reporting obligations.  For more information about the effect of the proposed changes on retirement plan sponsors, see Proposed Changes to Form 5500 Reporting Requirements May Have Significant Impact on Retirement Plan Sponsors.

The DOL is seeking written comments on the proposed changes, which must be provided by October 4, 2016. The revised reporting requirements, if adopted, generally would apply for plan years beginning on and after January 1, 2019.

Read the full article here.

On July 11, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) announced a proposal to implement sweeping changes to the forms and regulations that govern annual employee benefit plan reporting on Form 5500. The proposed changes, which were published in the Federal Register on July 21, 2016, would significantly increase the annual reporting obligations for nearly all retirement plans. The changes also would have a considerable impact on employer-sponsored group health plans.  For more information about the effect of the proposed changes on health and welfare plan sponsors, see Proposed Changes to Form 5500 Would Significantly Increase Reporting Obligations for Health and Welfare Plan Sponsors.

The DOL is seeking written comments on the proposed changes, which must be provided by October 4, 2016. The revised reporting requirements, if adopted, generally would apply for plan years beginning on and after January 1, 2019. Certain compliance questions will, however, be effective for Form 5500 series returns filed for the 2016 plan year.

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On June 22, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued proposed changes to the regulations under the Internal Revenue Code (Code) §409A. The Code intends to clarify or modify a wide range of very restrictive rules pertaining to “nonqualified” deferred compensation plans as well as other types of compensation arrangements that may defer compensation. The proposed changes are designed to benefit taxpayers, with a few intending to close potential loopholes.

The following PowerPoint highlights key points from the proposed regulations and what employers and employees should know and can expect moving forward.

View the PowerPoint slides here.