Buried in Sections 41113 and 41114 of the recent Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 are provisions designed to facilitate hardship withdrawals from 401(k) and 403(b) plans. Because these provisions take effect for plan years beginning after December 31, 2018, sponsors of these plans will want to consider whether to broaden their hardship withdrawal provisions – or even add such provisions.
Qualified Retirement Plans
Although the main feature of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a significant reduction in the corporate federal income tax rate, the Act also makes a number of significant changes to the rules governing employer-sponsored retirement plans and individual retirement accounts. From plan loans to hardship withdrawals and Roth recharacterizations, employers should make sure that they understand how these new rules might affect them.
It is common for employers to contract with one or more third parties (sometimes referred to as “leasing companies”) to provide individuals to perform services for the employer. Various issues may arise regarding the treatment of such individuals under a retirement plan maintained by the employer.
On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court published its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding (by a 5 to 4 margin) that the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license marriages between two people of the same sex, and to recognize any such marriage that is lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state. As a result, all (remaining) state laws or constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage are now invalid.
The IRS is now accepting applications for updated determination letters on behalf of individually designed retirement plans falling within “Cycle E” of the determination-letter program. These include plans sponsored by employers having either a “5” or “0” as the last digit of their employer identification number, as well as governmental plans that elected not to file during Cycle C.
Plan administrators who fail to timely file Form 5500 annual reports for their retirement plans may be subject to penalties under both ERISA and the Tax Code. Under previous guidance from the IRS, correcting such a late filing under the Department of Labor’s Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance (“DFVC”) Program could relieve the filer from penalties assessed by both the Department of Labor (“DOL”) and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). However, under new guidance from the IRS, relief from its penalties now depends on a separate filing. Moreover, this new IRS requirement will apply retroactively to DFVC Program filings made since 2009.
The IRS has issued additional guidance regarding how the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Windsor v. United States (regarding same-sex marriage) applies to qualified plans and Section 403(b) arrangements. Notice 2014-19 provides that plans must operationally comply with the Windsor decision as of June 26, 2013, although certain same-sex marriages are not required to be recognized until September 16, 2013. Plans with language that is inconsistent with the Windsor decision must generally be amended by December 31, 2014 (although certain plans may have additional time to amend). The related FAQs provide that Section 403(b) plans are also subject to the same operational effective dates, but are not required to be amended at this time. Plan sponsors should consult with counsel to determine whether their qualified plans must be amended to comply with Windsor and to discuss correction of any operational failures that may have occurred since June 26, 2013.
The IRS has resolved key questions about in-plan Roth conversions. Notice 2013-74 addresses both old concerns (raised when Congress first authorized in-plan Roth conversions in 2010) and new ones (raised when Congress expanded the scope of Roth conversions in 2013). With the added certainty this guidance offers to employers, administrators, and recordkeepers, plan sponsors who decided against adding an in-plan conversion feature may wish to reconsider. Sponsors who already offer in-plan conversions may now wish to take advantage of the new options.
The IRS is now accepting applications for updated determination letters on behalf of individually designed retirement plans falling within “Cycle D” of the determination letter program. These include plans sponsored by employers having either a “4” or “9” as the last digit of their employer identification number, as well as all multiemployer plans.
In Notice 2014-5, the IRS has granted temporary relief to sponsors of “closed” defined benefit plans. This will allow such a plan (which has been “soft frozen” to new entrants) to be aggregated with a defined contribution plan sponsored by the same employer when testing the plans for compliance with the Tax Code’s minimum coverage and nondiscrimination requirements. This relief only modestly expands the circumstances under which such aggregation is already allowed, and it applies only for plan years beginning before January 1, 2016.