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COVID-19 — Tax Planning Opportunity for Defined Benefit Participants?

Much has been written about the new CARES Act distribution that allows impacted COVID-19 participants to access up to $100,000 in their tax-qualified defined contribution plan penalty-free and with income taxes spread over three years. However, the CARES Act legislation applies to all “eligible retirement plans” as defined in Code Section 402. So technically the CARES Act also applies to defined benefit plans.

Consider, the following examples.

  • A cash balance plan permits lump sum distributions to terminated participants. If this cash balance plan decides to add CARES Act distributions, and if its record keeper will administer the provisions, terminated participants who meet the CARES Act conditions can access their funds penalty-free and spread the income tax consequences over three years.
  • In addition, if a plan will offer a lump sum window during 2020, then participants who qualify under the CARES Act distribution rules could elect a lump sum and use the favorable tax treatment for the applicable portion of the distribution, up to $100,000.

Note that the $100,000 limit applies across all plans, so a participant in both a defined contribution plan and a defined benefit plan will need to ensure that the limit is applied to all plans in which he or she participates.

Given all the difficulties that both employees and retirees are experiencing with COVID-19, a plan sponsor may want to explore all available COVID-19 distributions under the CARES Act, including options for its defined benefit plan with its actuaries, record keepers, and attorneys.




No Stone Unturned: Locating Missing Participants under the PBGC’s Expanded Program for Terminated Plans

The PBGC’s missing participants program, which previously applied only to single-employer defined benefit pension plans, has been expanded to defined contribution plans, multiemployer defined benefit plans and small professional service defined benefit plans that end on or after January 1, 2018. The revised program provides a helpful alternative for plan administrators of terminating defined contribution plans, and also includes welcome clarifications that enhance the program available to defined benefit pension plans.

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The Budget Act Makes Some Surprising Changes to Benefit Plans

On February 9, 2018, President Trump signed a bipartisan budget deal into law, effectively extending federal funding through March 23, 2018. The act includes multiple provisions affecting employee benefit plans, including relaxed hardship withdrawal rules and relief for individuals affected by the California wildfires.

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Benefits Emerging Leaders Working Group

McDermott’s Benefits Emerging Leaders Working Group provides benefit professionals with tools to better serve employees in an ever-changing and evolving benefits landscape.

Presentations will tackle the latest benefits hot topics and best practice solutions, supplemented with important networking opportunities aimed to connect tomorrow’s benefit leaders with a broad network of professionals.

Planned agenda topics include:

  • What’s Happening in Washington?
  • Lessons from an RFP
  • Lunch Discussion: Changing Behavior through Benefits Communication
  • Global Benefit Plans
  • Moderated Group Discussion (including Voluntary Benefits)

Register Now.




Live Webinar: Tax Reform and Your Employee Benefit Plans

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was signed into law last year. From biking benefits to leave tax credits, we’ll discuss the employee benefit provisions and strategies for compliance, as well as opportunities your company won’t want to miss! Join the McDermott team on Friday, February 2 for a discussion of how the new law impacts fringe benefit plans, executive compensation and retirement plans.

Friday, February 2, 2018
10:00 – 10:45 am PST
11:00 – 11:45 am MST
12:00 – 12:45 pm CST
1:00 – 1:45 pm EST

Register Here.




IRS Announces Employee Benefit Plan Limits for 2016

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 2016. Although some of the dollar limits currently in effect for 2015 will change, the majority of the limits will remain unchanged for 2016.

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View From McDermott: Conflicting Review Standards in Executive Retirement Plan Benefit Claims—Is There Really a Difference?

Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, retirement plans generally come in two flavors – (i) retirement plans qualified under Section 401 of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code) and (ii) executive retirement plans, called “top hat” plans, which aren’t Code-qualified.  What does that mean? While qualified retirement plans are subject to all of ERISA’s funding, participation and fiduciary provisions, top hat plans aren’t and may offer benefits exceeding those allowed under Code-qualified plans. Simply put, top hat plans are unique animals under ERISA.

Litigation involving top hat plans isn’t plentiful—likely due to the fact that such plans are available only to a small number of highly paid executives. However, within the limited top hat litigation realm, there exists a conflict among the federal courts of appeals over a seminal question—what review standard is to be applied to a benefit determination? While the U.S. Supreme Court has definitively answered this question for most ERISA plans in Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bruch, the unique nature of top hat plans has resulted in conflicting rules among the circuits.  Whether these conflicting standards elicit similar results is an open and complex question for most ERISA practitioners.

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