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Plan Administration

Retirement Plan Sponsors Should Prepare For the New IRS Pre-Examination Pilot Program

In June 2022, the IRS launched a pre-examination pilot program for retirement plans that could help employers avoid costly penalties. The program aims to reduce the burden of, and time spent on, retirement plan audits, which are typically a time consuming endeavor for plan sponsors. The program ultimately should be good news for plan sponsors in terms of both financial penalties and, presumably, a more efficient audit process.

Issue Spotting for Health Plans after Dobbs – More Questions Than Answers

In a year already marked by overwhelming legislative and regulatory change, group health plans now must address yet another issue – abortion coverage in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org. The Court overruled Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion and leaving states free to regulate the procedure – and health plan sponsors wondering what to do next.

New in ’22 for 401(K) Plans – Lifetime Income Disclosures

The SECURE Act added a new disclosure requirement for sponsors of defined contribution plans that becomes effective this year.   Plan sponsors of ERISA-covered defined contribution plans must provide participants with a lifetime income disclosure (at least annually) which estimates the monthly income that a participant’s account balance could produce if paid in the form of a qualified joint and survivor annuity or single life annuity stream of payments, rather than a lump-sum.

For participant-directed plans, the initial lifetime income disclosures must be incorporated into benefit statements no later than June 30, 2022.  For plans under which participants do not direct the investment of their account, the disclosures must be on the statement for the first plan year ending on or after September 19, 2021.  For most plans, this will be October 15, 2022.

Enforcement of Investment Advice Exemption – On The Horizon

Investment consultants and other service providers who advise plan participants and fiduciaries about rollovers and investment choices received another reprieve from new rules governing that advice.  But the reprieve is only temporary; those consultants and advisors must be prepared to comply by February 1, 2022.

DOL Issues Cybersecurity Guidance

On April 14, 2021, the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (“EBSA”) issued cybersecurity guidance for retirement plan fiduciaries and service providers, as well as plan participants.  In the guidance, the EBSA states that ERISA fiduciaries are required to take appropriate steps to mitigate internal and external cybersecurity threats to plan participants and retirement plan assets.   To assist fiduciaries  and service providers in fulfilling this obligation, the EBSA issued two documents that describe cybersecurity best practices – Cybersecurity Program Best Practices and Tips for Hiring a Service Provider.  The EBSA also issued some basic rules – Online Security Tips – to help participants reduce the risk of fraud and loss to their retirement accounts.

COBRA Changes Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA” or “the Act”) into law.  Among the Act’s many provisions is a temporary subsidy for COBRA coverage that will undoubtedly be a significant benefit for individuals who lost health coverage during the pandemic, but which is just as certain to be a tremendous administrative burden for employers and group health plans.

Plan Administration – A SECURE and CARES Act Reminder

The SECURE and CARES Acts provide a broad spectrum of required and optional changes that employers must evaluate with respect to retirement plan administration.  One impending change is the SECURE Act’s broader eligibility requirement for part-time employees in 401(k) plans, which becomes effective on January 1, 2021.  In addition, employers may be surprised to learn that some CARES Act distribution options were added to their plans automatically by their record keepers through a “default” process.   Thus, employers should review their plan’s administrative procedures to determine if (and how) changes under the SECURE Act and CARES Act were (and are being) implemented to ensure administrative compliance with the plan document.

 

DOL Disaster Relief Notice Extends Deadlines, Enables COBRA Gamesmanship

The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration issued guidance on April 28, 2020, providing temporary, coronavirus-related relief from many deadlines and requirements under ERISA.  Notably, the guidance relaxes the standards for employers to provide notices electronically, and affords significant latitude to COBRA qualified beneficiaries for electing, and paying for, COBRA continuation coverage.

Employee Benefits in the Age of COVID-19: Brief Answers to Some Common Health Plan Questions

As we are all now intimately aware, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the nature of the workplace, and all of the benefits, rights, and responsibilities arising out of employment.  We are operating under a new set of rules, and those rules are changing daily.  Employers’ efforts to manage their workforce in order to maintain fiscal viability while protecting the health of employees also affect benefits.  The cascading effect of these factors raises many thorny benefits questions.  We will summarize – and attempt to answer – a few of those questions here (based on the legal landscape as of March 31, 2020).

“CARES” Act and Defined Benefit Plans

The CARES Act signed by President Trump on March 27, 2020, includes relief for defined contribution plans, but defined benefit plans also received some relief.  In addition, the IRS issued guidance that includes an extension for employers to adopt a pre-approved defined benefit plan.  And, employers should remember their option to decrease the age at which employees may request an in-service withdrawal from defined benefit plans.

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