News

Bill for a Commission to Advise Congress on Retirement Issues Is Re-Introduced

Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have introduced the Commission on Retirement Security Act of 2019, legislation virtually identical to the 2018 bill these senators introduced. Its purpose is to create a commission that would advise Congress on issues pertaining to retirement security in the United States. The commission would be charged with reviewing existing private retirement benefit programs and drafting a report to Congress that could be useful to lawmakers in improving retirement security.

The following would be among the areas of focus for this commission.

  • Comprehensively review existing U.S. retirement savings vehicles, including the long-term transition from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution plans
  • Take into consideration social and economic changes that have occurred in the U.S.
  • Examine alternative retirement programs in other countries that could have value or application in the U.S.

A schedule for consideration of the legislation has not been announced.

 

 


Ascensus Expands Arizona Footprint with Agreement to Acquire Pension Strategies, Inc.

Addition of Retirement TPA Offers Clients Access to More Expertise and Extends Reach of FuturePlan by Ascensus

Dresher, PA  Ascensus—whose technology and expertise helps millions of people save for retirement, education, and healthcare—is pleased to announce that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Pension Strategies, Inc. The third-party administration (TPA) firm will immediately become part of FuturePlan by Ascensus.

Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Pension Strategies provides customized qualified retirement plan consulting, design, and administration for small- to medium-sized businesses. The firm’s high-caliber team works closely with clients and advisors to develop creative solutions and meet evolving goals via progressive thinking, exceptional service, and professional teamwork.

“Among other things, Pension Strategies is known throughout the industry for its in-depth knowledge base, commitment to service, and responsive solutions,” says Jerry Bramlett, head of FuturePlan by Ascensus. “I’m pleased to welcome their associates and the experience, expertise, and leadership they bring to FuturePlan by Ascensus.”

“At Pension Strategies, we take the time to listen to clients’ personal and business objectives in order to provide solutions that can meet their needs,” says S. Jill Hastings, Pension Strategies’ chief executive officer. “We look forward to continuing to offer clients the highest level of professional, personal service as part of FuturePlan by Ascensus.”

Arizona is a very important market for us; acquiring Pension Strategies enables our continued expansion that was started with the opening of Ascensus’ Tucson office in 2017,” states Raghav Nandagopal, Ascensus’ executive vice president of corporate development and M&A. “Specifically, the Phoenix area is primed for tremendous growth in terms of retirement services—we are delighted to have Pension Strategies, a well-run business with a strong management team, to be a critical part of Ascensus’ geographic expansion into this location.”

 

About FuturePlan by Ascensus
FuturePlan by Ascensus is the nation’s largest retirement TPA, combining high-touch local service with the strength and security of an industry leader. A business division of Ascensus, FuturePlan by Ascensus’ dedicated team serves more than 38,000 retirement plan sponsors in over 40 locations across the country. For more information, visit futureplan.com.

 

About Ascensus
Ascensus is the largest independent recordkeeping services provider, third-party administrator, and government savings facilitator in the United States. The firm delivers technology and expertise to help millions of people save for what matters most—retirement, education, and healthcare. For more information about Ascensus, visit ascensus.com. View career opportunities at careers.ascensus.com.


IRS Posts Updated Yield Curves and Segment Rates for Defined Benefit Plans

The IRS has issued Notice 2019-35, guidance on factors used in certain defined benefit (DB) pension plan minimum funding and present value calculations. Updates include the corporate bond monthly yield curve, spot segment rates used under Internal Revenue Code Section (IRC Sec.) 417(e)(3), and the 24-month average segment rates under IRC Sec. 430(h)(2).

In addition, the notice provides interest rate guidance pertaining to 30-year Treasury securities under IRC Sec. 417(e)(3)(A)(ii)(II), as well as the 30-year Treasury weighted average rate under IRC Sec. 431(c)(6)(E)(ii)(I).

IRC Sec. 417 contains definitions and special rules for minimum survivor annuity requirements in DB plans. IRC Sec. 430 addresses minimum funding standards for single-employer defined benefit plans. IRC Sec. 431 addresses minimum funding standards for multiemployer plans.


Chard Snyder Recognized by WEX Health for Outstanding Achievement at Annual WEX Health SPARK Conference

Earns Partner Excellence Award for Progressive Healthcare Solutions 

MASON, OH — Chard Snyder, a third-party administrator of employee benefit solutions and wholly owned subsidiary of Ascensus, has been honored by WEX Health with a 2018 Partner Excellence Award for outstanding business achievements. The employee benefit solutions provider received the Solution Visionary Award at the annual WEX Health SPARK Conference held recently in Miami Beach, Florida.

Chard Snyder was selected for the award because of its significant accomplishments in defining the future of healthcare consumerism, creating progressive solutions to improve healthcare experiences for employers and their employees.

“Chard Snyder rivals the best of the best,” said Jeff Young, President of WEX Health. “They offer benefit services and plans that help employers provide opportunities for their team members – opportunities that empower employees to spend, save, and manage the money they work so hard for in more productive and valuable ways.”

“We are honored to receive recognition from WEX Health again this year,” said Chard Snyder President Barb Yearout. “The Chard Snyder team works hard every day to provide personal and flexible benefit solutions to make life easier for our clients and plan participants.”

“Our collaboration with best-in-class partners like WEX enables us to offer forward-thinking, easy-to-use solutions supported by smart technology and a dedicated personal team,” concluded Yearout.

The Excellence Awards, established in 2008, are presented yearly and recognize WEX Health Partners that have achieved extraordinary notable accomplishments. Chard Snyder has been a WEX Health partner since 2005.

About Chard Snyder

As a national third-party administrator of employee benefit solutions, Chard Snyder serves nearly 1,500 employers in 40 states across the U.S. Chard Snyder administers savings and spending accounts (FSA, HSA, HRA, commuter benefits), benefit continuation services (COBRA; retiree, direct and other billing) and FMLA leave, and provides plan document services. Founded in 1988 by Ken Chard and Joy Snyder, the company employs 180 team members today. Chard Snyder is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ascensus and the anchor of its Health division. Visit chard-snyder.com or call 833.212.1988 to learn more.

About Ascensus

Ascensus is the largest independent recordkeeping services provider, third-party administrator, and government savings facilitator in the United States. The firm delivers technology and expertise to help millions of people save for what matters most—retirement, education, and healthcare. For more information about Ascensus, visit ascensus.com. View career opportunities at careers.ascensus.com.

 

 

 


Legacy IRA Act Would Increase Tax-Free IRA Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)

Senator Kevin Cramer (R-SD) has introduced the Legacy IRA Act (S. 1257), a bill that would significantly increase the maximum IRA qualified charitable distribution (QCD) now available to certain federal taxpayers. Under current law, taxpayers age 70½ or older can withdraw from an IRA and contribute tax-free up to $100,000 per year if such amounts are given directly to certain qualified charitable entities. The donor cannot retain authority or control over the disposition or use of the donated assets. A qualified charity is generally an entity that a taxpayer of any age can make tax-deductible contributions to. The difference is that an IRA QCD is 100% excludable from taxable income, rather than partially deductible, as are charitable donations in general.

Senator Cramer’s bill would do the following.

  • Raise the taxpayer QCD limit for any tax year from $100,000 to $400,000
  • Limit the qualifying QCD amount paid to any single recipient to $100,000 per year
  • Treat IRA amounts donated to charitable remainder trusts, unitrusts, and charitable gift annuities (collectively called split-interest entities) as QCD-eligible
  • Grant QCD eligibility for split-interest donations at age 65, rather than age 70½

This bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration; no action has yet been taken by that committee.


Senators Portman, Cardin Add Their Bill to the Retirement Legislation Mix

If there were any doubts that enhancing retirement saving opportunity is a high congressional priority, one need not look beyond immediate events for evidence. In a week when the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on retirement security, and the House of Representatives is preparing to begin consideration of comprehensive retirement legislation, two familiar senators are re-introducing their own bill with similar purpose.

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) have renewed a legislative partnership that began more than two decades ago as congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives, before both were elected to the U.S. Senate. The Retirement Security and Savings Act of 2019 is a re-introduction of legislation the senators introduced in December 2018, during the final days of the 115th Congress. Limited changes have been made to that legislation, whose provisions include the following.

  • Create a new automatic-enrollment/automatic-escalation safe harbor for 401(k)-type plans, with higher contribution levels
  • Enhance the small employer tax credit for establishing a retirement plan
  • Provide a small employer tax credit for implementing automatic enrollment
  • Provide an employer tax credit for implementing automatic employee re-enrollment every three years
  • Simplify participant notices in automatic-enrollment type plans
  • Liberalize the Saver’s credit for contributions to employer plans and IRAs, and make it refundable and payable to a retirement account
  • Require that certain long-term, less-than-fulltime employees be allowed to participate in deferral-type retirement plans, but apply nondiscrimination benefits testing and top-heavy testing separately to such employees
  • Allow nonspouse retirement account beneficiaries to do indirect (60-day) rollovers to beneficiary IRAs
  • Exempt small aggregate retirement balances ($100,000 or less) in IRAs or defined contribution plans from required minimum distributions (RMDs); the 2019 version does not apply to beneficiaries
  • Increase the RMD age in stages to age 75
  • Reduce the excise tax for RMD failures from 50% to 25%
  • Reduce—under certain circumstances—the excise tax for IRA excess contributions from 6% to 3%

Student Loan Repayment Bill Is Re-Introduced

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has re-introduced the Retirement Parity for Student Loans Act, a bill intended to allow employers to make contributions to 401(k), 403(b), and SIMPLE IRA plans in amounts that have a matching relationship to an employee’s student loan debt repayments.

The legislation was previously introduced in December 2018, in the last days of the 115th Congress. Though the conditions are not identical, the legislation may in part be a response to a 2018 IRS private letter ruling on an employer request to make retirement plan contributions based on employees having made student loan debt repayments.

Some of the bill’s key provisions are as follows.

  • Only employees’ higher education loan repayments (not loans for private secondary or elementary expenses) would qualify for such employer contributions.
  • Employer contributions matched to employee student loan debt repayments could not exceed the annual deferral limit appropriate to the employer’s plan (e.g., 401(k) vs. SIMPLE IRA plan deferral limit), reduced by such employee’s elective deferrals into the retirement plan; all amounts together must not exceed the employee’s compensation.
  • Only employees eligible to defer into the employer’s retirement plan may receive student loan matching contributions.
  • All employees who are eligible to receive retirement plan matching contributions must be eligible to receive student loan matching contributions.
  • For purposes of satisfying nondiscrimination requirements in providing retirement plan benefits, rights, and features, those who have no student loan debt—and, therefore, would not receive student loan matching contributions—would not be considered as having been denied a benefit, right, or feature.
  • The Secretary of the Treasury would be directed to issue regulations governing such arrangements.
  • As proposed, the legislation would be effective for 2020 and later years (plan year was not specified).

 

 


Retirement Spotlight: IRS Provides Welcome Relief From High VCP Fees

The retirement industry received a gift on April 19, 2019: Revenue Procedure (Rev. Proc.) 2019-19. This revenue procedure updates the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS) by expanding the availability of self-correction options for more kinds of plan failures. The IRS anticipates that this expanded guidance will increase plan compliance and reduce some costs for employers.

 

A Step in the Right Direction

Expanding the options available through the IRS’s Self-Correction Program (SCP) will benefit employers that face increased fees if they correct plan failures under the Voluntary Correction Program (VCP). Under the VCP, an employer submits an application for correction to the IRS, and—if approved—has assurance that the failure will not result in greater sanctions or plan disqualification.

In January 2018, the IRS announced a new VCP fee structure based on plan assets, rather than on the number of plan participants. This fee structure eliminated several exceptions—including amendment or loan failures—that used to carry a fixed or reduced general fee. As a result, many employers face significantly higher fees to correct operational failures under the VCP. But the IRS also allows more employers to fix plan failures through self-correction, perhaps as a result of the vigorous criticism about higher fees.

 

New Plan Failures Available for Self-Correction

The SCP process requires that employers follow specific IRS correction steps. If properly completed and documented, the SCP gives employers assurance of plan compliance. But with the SCP, the IRS neither reviews the employer’s actions nor issues a “compliance statement,” which documents the IRS’s approval.  Rev. Proc. 2019-19 expands self-correction in three primary areas: plan document failures, operational failures, and loan failures.

 

Plan Document Failures
The revised procedure allows employers to self-correct many plan document failures—other than the initial failure to adopt a qualified plan or 403(b) plan document timely—as long as the plan has a favorable letter at the time of correction. The EPCRS generally considers plan document failures as “significant” failures. So to qualify for self-correction, an employer needs to correct the failure by the end of the second plan year following the year the failure occurred.

 

Operational Failures
The EPCRS now allows employers to retroactively amend their plans when they have failed to follow the terms of their plan documents. Through this process, an employer can conform the terms of the plan document to the way the employer actually ran the plan. Employers can retroactively amend these operational failures if they meet the following three conditions.

  • The plan amendment would result in an increase of a benefit, right, or feature.
  • The increase in the benefit, right, or feature applies to all eligible employees.
  • The increase in the benefit, right, or feature is permitted under the Internal Revenue Code and satisfies the EPCRS general correction principles.

As with plan document failures, employers must amend their plans for significant operational failures by the end of the second plan year following the year that the failure occurred.

 

Loan Failures
Employers may now self-correct a defaulted loan by 1) requiring the participant to make a corrective payment, 2) re-amortizing the outstanding balance of the loan, or 3) dictating some combination of these two options. Previously, employers could use these options only when filing through the VCP. The revised revenue procedure also allows an employer to

  • report a deemed loan distribution on Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., in the year of the SCP correction (instead of for the year in which the failure occurred);
  • obtain after-the-fact spousal consent if the employer failed to obtain spousal consent at the time of the plan loan; and
  • retroactively amend the plan for exceeding the number of outstanding loans specified in the document.

Although the EPCRS has greatly expanded the availability of self-correction for loan failures, some restrictions do apply. According to Rev. Proc. 2019-19, the Department of Labor (DOL) will provide a no-action letter only to those employers who correct loan default failures through the VCP. Employers concerned about receiving the DOL’s no-action letter may wish to spend the additional time and money required to correct the failure under the VCP.

Another restriction applies to failures arising from loans that violate the statutory loan provisions. This includes loans that exceed the maximum loan limit, loans that exceed the maximum repayment period, and loans that were not subject to level amortization. These types of loan failures do not qualify for self-correction.

 

More Guidance to Come?

While Rev. Proc. 2019-19 provides employers with additional self-correction options, more clarification is needed. The IRS has indicated that it may provide additional examples of insignificant operational failures in the Correcting Plan Errors section of its website. Ascensus will continue to monitor the IRS’s website for new guidance. Watch Ascensus.com News for any significant developments that may emerge.

 

Click here for a printable version of this issue of the Retirement Spotlight.

 

 

 


IRS Reveals Plans to Enable Electronic Filing of Form 5500-EZ

The IRS has informally revealed that it intends to enable owner-only retirement plans to file Form 5500-EZ electronically through the web-based EFAST2 Electronic Filing System. Form 5500-EZ, Annual Return/Report of One-Participant Retirement Plan or a Foreign Plan (form title revised to reflect foreign plans) is a simplified plan return that can be filed by sole proprietors and spouses or partners and spouses that have no common law employees.

At present, however, Form 5500-EZ can only be filed with the IRS in hard copy form. Employers that wish to file electronically must submit their plan information on Form 5500-SF, Short Form Annual Return/Report of Small Employee Benefit Plan. This form is longer than Form 5500-EZ.

In a May 7 Federal Register posting requesting continued authority to gather information on Form 5500 series forms, the IRS noted that it “…plans to make the Form 5500-EZ available on the EFAST2 system for direct electronic filing instead of using Form 5500-SF.” The IRS further indicates that paper filing of Form 5500-EZ still will be possible after the electronic filing option is in place. No proposed timing for the electronic filing option was revealed.