A Massachusetts federal judge recently gave a major win to Schneider Electric in an employee benefits lawsuit brought by former workers. According to this Law360 article, seven former Schneider Electric employees accused the company and its investment manager of running afoul of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 when they replaced well-performing funds with those of the investment manager. McDermott Partners Sarah E. Walters, Jennifer B. Routh and Margaret H. Warner represented Schneider Electric.
IRS Announces 2023 Employee Benefit Plan Limits
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration announced the cost-of-living adjustments to the applicable dollar limits on various employer-sponsored retirement and welfare plans and the Social Security wage base for 2023. The table below compares the applicable dollar limits for certain employee benefit programs and the Social Security wage base for 2022 and 2023.*RETIREMENT PLAN LIMITS (guidance link) 2022 Δ 2023 Annual compensation limit $305,000 ↑ $330,000 401(k), 403(b) & 457(b) before-tax contributions $20,500 ↑ $22,500 Catch-up contributions (if age 50 or older) $6,500 ↑ $7,500 Highly compensated employee threshold $135,000 ↑ $150,000 Key employee officer compensation threshold $200,000 ↑ $215,000 Defined benefit plan annual benefit and accrual limit $245,000 ↑ $265,000 Defined contribution plan annual contribution limit $61,000 ↑ $66,000 Employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) limit for determining the lengthening of the general five-year distribution period $245,000 ↑ $265,000 ESOP limit for determining the maximum account balance subject to the general five-year distribution period $1,230,000 ↑ $1,330,000 HEALTH AND WELFARE PLAN LIMITS (guidance links here and here) 2022 Δ 2023 Health Flexible Spending Accounts Maximum salary reduction limit $2,850 ↑ $3,050 Health FSA Carryover Limit $570 ↑ $610 Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts± If employee is married and filing a joint return or if the employee is a single parent $5,000 = $5,000 In employee is married but filing separately $2,500 = $2,500 Excepted Benefit Health Reimbursement Arrangements (EBHRAs) $1,800 ↑ $1,950± Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefit and Qualified Parking (monthly limit) $280 ↑ $300 High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA) HDHP – Maximum annual out-of-pocket limit (excluding premiums): Self-only coverage $7,050 ↑ $7,500 Family coverage $14,100 ↑ $15,000 HDHP – Minimum annual deductible: Self-only coverage $1,400 ↑ $1,500 Family coverage $2,800 ↑ $3,000 HSA – Annual contribution limit: Self-only coverage $3,650 ↑ $3,850 Family coverage $7,300 ↑ $7,750 Catch-up contributions (age 55 or older)± $1,000 ═ $1,000 SOCIAL SECURITY WAGE BASE (guidance link) 2022 Δ 2023 Social Security Maximum Taxable Earnings $147,000 ↑ $160,200
Plan sponsors should update payroll and plan administration systems for the 2023 cost-of-living adjustments and should incorporate the new limits in relevant participant communications, like open enrollment materials and summary plan descriptions.
For further information about applying the new employee benefit plan limits for 2023, contact your regular McDermott lawyer.
* The dollar limits are generally applied on a calendar year basis; however, certain dollar limits are applied on a plan-year, tax-year, or limitation-year basis.
± Not indexed for cost-of-living adjustments, with the exception of limited guidance issued for certain years.
Save It for a Rainy Day: Recent Amendment Extensions for Qualified Retirement Plans, 403(b) Plans and Individual Retirement Accounts
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued needed relief to extend some amendment deadlines for non-governmental qualified retirement plans and 403(b) plans, and for individual retirement accounts (IRAs) under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (SECURE Act), the Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019 (Miners Act), and certain provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) until December 31, 2025. However, the IRS did not provide relief for all required amendments for the 2022 plan year. Plan sponsors that elected to offer COVID-related distributions or loan relief (or utilized disaster-related relief for loans or distributions under the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020) still need to amend their plans by the end of 2022 plan year.
Mature ESOPs: Remodeling the House You Own
On May 5, 2022, McDermott Partner Allison Wilkerson delivered a presentation during the 2022 TEA National Conference titled “Mature ESOPs: Remodeling the House You Own.” Her presentation focused on the traits of a sustainable employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), common concerns of a mature ESOP and other ESOP-specific investment issues. Allison and her co-presenters also discussed redemption, re-leveraging and the hot acquisition market.
The presentation concluded with the following suggestions:
- There are options available no matter where you are in the ESOP life cycle.
- Gauge your employee-owners.
- Respond with changes that make the ESOP more relevant.
- Reach out for help—the ESOP community is vested in your company’s success.
For questions about employee benefits matters, please contact Allison or McDermott’s employee benefits practice team.
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.
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.
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Investing for Retirement Plans: Where We’ve Been, and Where We Are Now
Over the past year, the regulatory backdrop around environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing has shifted. As McDermott Partner Brian J. Tiemann explains in these slides, the US Department of Labor (DOL) under the Trump administration dropped ESG terminology and set a high standard for considering factors other than purely financial projections for investment alternatives. However, the Biden administration’s DOL has said that it will not enforce Trump-era regulations or pursue enforcement actions against plan fiduciaries for failure to comply with those regulations.
Expect More Difficulty Obtaining Fiduciary Insurance
Increasing retirement plan-focused litigation has put insurance carriers and fiduciary service providers in difficult positions. In this article published in PLANSPONSOR, McDermott Partner Erin Turley said such litigation continues to be a “major focus” in the fiduciary insurance marketplace.
“It is a challenging market right now, to the point that we are looking at trying to think about ways that insurance products might be differently structured, to address what we hope will only be a short-term tightening in the market.”
IRS Announces 2022 Employee Benefit Plan Limits
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 2022. Most of the dollar limits currently in effect for 2021 will increase.
IRS Announces 2022 Retirement Plan Limits
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced the cost-of-living adjustments to the applicable dollar limits for retirement plans for 2022. Most of the dollar limits currently in effect for 2021 will increase, with only the catch-up contribution limit remaining the same for 2022.