Thought Leadership

Insights and announcements from our subject matter experts and Ascensus leadership team

Washington Pulse: RETIRE Act Promotes Electronic Delivery of Retirement Plan Information

Tax reform legislation grabbed the headlines at the close of 2017. But another year-end bill could significantly change how retirement plans deliver participant and beneficiary communications. The Receiving Electronic Statements To Improve Retiree Earnings (RETIRE) Act would allow plan administrators to use electronic delivery as the default delivery method for virtually any required plan document. Participants and beneficiaries could still opt to receive paper copies of this information.

The bipartisan legislation (H.R. 4610) is sponsored by Representative (Rep.) Phil Roe (R-TN) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), along with 26 Republican and Democratic cosponsors. It was previously introduced in 2015. Electronic-delivery proponents point out that consumers are increasingly handling their financial affairs online: they are more savvy with new technology, and many actually prefer to communicate and transact electronically.

Proponents also expect that electronic delivery will cost far less than printing and mailing paper notices, and these savings could be passed on to participants and beneficiaries. Electronic delivery could also reduce paper waste, create more efficient data storage, and provide greater security.

System Requirements for Using E-Delivery

To use electronic delivery as the default method for providing plan documentation, plan administrators must adhere to these requirements in the RETIRE Act.

  • The system for providing documents must be “designed to result in effective access to the document by the participant, beneficiary, or other specified individual through electronic means.” This can be done through
    • direct delivery of material to the recipient’s electronic address;
    • posting material to a website or other repository to which the recipient has access, if the plan administrator also provides a proper notice of the posting; or
    • “other electronic means reasonably calculated to ensure actual receipt” by the intended recipient.
  • The system must permit the recipient to
    • select from the various electronic methods that the employer makes available,
    • modify that selection at any time, and
    • elect to begin receiving paper versions at no additional direct cost.
  • The system must protect the confidentiality of personal information relating to the recipient’s accounts.

Additional Requirements

While the RETIRE Act streamlines administration through electronic delivery, it also requires safeguards to protect the recipient.

  • Plan administrators must provide a paper notice each year that describes the recipient’s
    • current method of receiving plan notifications, and
    • right to change the method at any time (or to receive free paper versions) and how to make the change.
  • The electronically delivered documents must
    • be provided in a way that reflects the original document (e.g., readability and content), and
    • inform the recipient of the document’s significance.

Effective Date and Plans Types Affected

The opportunity for retirement plans to deliver information electronically under the RETIRE Act method would become effective for plan years starting in 2019 and would apply to retirement plans governed by Title I of ERISA—generally described as “qualified plans”—and to 457 plans.

Conclusion

Plan administrators can currently deliver required plan notices and other information electronically. But the existing methods leave much to be desired: the detailed requirements can place big barriers on the path toward more efficient delivery. So the RETIRE Act would be a step in the right direction, balancing the importance of plan participants and beneficiaries getting important information with the need for employers to save time and money.

Click here to view a printable version.


Steve Christenson Explains What Advisors Should Know About HSAs

In a recent video interview​ with PLANADVISER, Steve Christenson explains what financial advisors should know about health savings accounts (HSAs). As the HSA market experiences continuous growth, advisors are looking for the opportunity to incorporate health savings accounts into their practices. “Advisors actually still have a great opportunity to get in, because what we’ve found isabout 1 out of 5 financial organizations actually offer HSAs, so it’s still overall a market that is growing,” notes Christenson.


Retirement Spotlight: How Tax Reform Changed IRA Recharacterizations

The recent tax reform bill made a few changes to IRAs and retirement plans. You may have heard rumblings about one of them involving IRA recharacterizations. The change, which took effect January 1, 2018, reduces the scenarios in which IRA owners may choose to recharacterize a contribution. To help you understand and prepare for this change, let’s take a closer look at both the old and new recharacterization rules.

Old Recharacterization Rules

The recharacterization rules generally allowed you to “undo” certain transactions. You could recharacterize a contribution for any reason as long as it was completed by your tax return due date, plus extensions.

Before January 1, 2018, you could recharacterize a

  1. regular Traditional IRA contribution to a Roth IRA,
  2. regular Roth IRA contribution to a Traditional IRA,
  3. conversion of Traditional or SIMPLE IRA assets back to the original type of IRA, and
  4. retirement plan-to-Roth IRA rollover to a Traditional IRA.

New Recharacterization Rules

Under the new rules, your list of recharacterization options has been trimmed from four to two.

As of January 1, 2018, scenarios 3 and 4 (shown above) do not apply. You may no longer recharacterize a Roth IRA conversion, from any source. It is now a one-way transaction without an “undo” feature.

Options 1 and 2 remain unchanged. You can continue to recharacterize a regular current year IRA contribution by your tax return due date, plus extensions.

The new rules are clear about conversions and retirement plan-to-Roth IRA rollovers that occur in 2018—they cannot be recharacterized. But whether conversions and retirement plan rollovers completed in 2017 can be recharacterized in 2018 is unanswered in the new rules. Ascensus contacted an IRS representative who said that IRS was aware of this issue and that conversions and retirement plan rollovers completed in 2017 may be recharacterized in 2018.

Going Forward

If you are considering a conversion or retirement plan-to-Roth IRA rollover, you’ll want to carefully consider the new recharacterization restrictions. If you completed a conversion or retirement plan-to-Roth IRA rollover in 2017 and wish to recharacterize it in 2018, note that the IRS’ comments were provided in an unofficial, verbal conversation. As a result, you should consider talking to your tax or financial professional beforehand.


Washington Pulse: Rep. Neal Proposes Enhancements to Auto Enrollment, RMD, Lifetime Income, and Other Retirement Plan Rules

Representative (Rep.) Richard Neal (D-MA), Ranking Democrat on the influential House Ways and Means Committee, has introduced the Retirement Plan Simplification and Enhancement Act  of 2017 (RPSEA). The legislation would significantly modify current rules for individual retirement arrangements (IRAs) and employer-sponsored retirement plans. The bill aims to expand retirement plan coverage, preserve retirement income, and simplify retirement plan rules.

 

Although the 2017 session of Congress has come to an end, the proposals made in this bill have support among both Democrats and Republicans. Given this fact—and the common-sense nature of the bill’s provisions—there is a good possibility that Congress could act upon this legislation or elements of it in 2018. Following are some of RPSEA’s significant provisions.

 

Changes for Both IRAs and Employer Plans  

Some parts of RPSEA deal exclusively with employer plans. Other elements—like those below—would affect those who save for retirement in either an IRA or an employer plan.

 

Rollovers

  • Nonspouse beneficiary indirect rollovers: nonspouse beneficiaries of IRAs or employer plans could move assets by indirect (60-day) rollover, rather than only by plan-to-IRA direct rollovers or IRA-to-IRA direct transfers.

 

  • Nonspouse beneficiary rollovers to employer plans: a nonspouse beneficiary could directly roll over inherited employer plan assets to an employer plan in which the beneficiary is a participating employee. These inherited rollover assets would continue to be distributed under the beneficiary payout rules.

 

Required Payouts

  • No RMDs for certain individuals: retirement assets in IRAs and employer plans would be exempt from required minimum distributions (RMDs) until an individual’s aggregate balance exceeds $250,000.

 

  • Increased RMD age: the age when Traditional and SIMPLE IRA owners and retirees and certain owners in employer plans must begin distribution would increase in steps from age 70 ½ to age 73 by the year 2029, and increase thereafter as changes in life expectancy may warrant.

 

  • Qualifying longevity annuity contract (QLAC) enhancement: longevity annuities begin payout at an advanced age, and are excluded from RMD requirements. Amounts used to purchase such annuities would no longer be limited to 25 percent of retirement assets and the current $125,000 limit would be raised to $200,000, indexed.

 

  • Lifetime income streams: to encourage greater use of lifetime income investments, RMD rules would be modified to accommodate annuities that offer accelerating distribution options, including lump-sum payments.

 

Contributions and Credits

  • Saver’s credit and simplified tax filing: taxpayers eligible for the saver’s credit for IRA contributions and deferrals made to an employer plan could claim this credit on Form 1040-EZ, Income Tax Return for Single and Joint Filers With No Dependents, rather than only on the longer Form 1040, S. Individual Income Tax Return.

 

Employer Plan and IRA Corrections

  • More self-correcting for employer plans: the IRS’ Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS) correction program would be expanded to allow more self-correction options and to include IRAs; changes would include certain RMD, loan, and rollover failures.

 

  • Grace period for automatic-enrollment failures: employers whose deferral plans have automatic-enrollment or automatic-escalation features would have 9½ months after the end of the plan year to correct failures related to enrolling or increasing employee elective deferrals.

 

  • New 401(k) safe harbor plan correction option: 401(k) safe harbor plans that use the nonelective contribution formula could correct certain excess contributions by increasing the standard safe harbor nonelective contribution from three percent to four percent.

 

Traditional IRA Provisions

Individuals with earned income would be allowed to make Traditional IRA contributions after age 70-½ (as with Roth IRAs).

 

Employer Plan Provisions

The goal of simplifying rules for establishing and maintaining employer retirement plans has been an elusive one, despite widespread agreement that doing so will lead to greater financial security for workers in retirement. Rep. Neal’s bill includes a number of items aimed at simplifying employer plan provisions.

 

Automatic Enrollment

  • Encourage higher employee deferral rates: the legislation would eliminate the current 10 percent cap on automatically-increased deferral rates of employees who are automatically enrolled in a plan.

 

  • Simplify notice requirements: the Treasury Department would be required to issue regulations, or other guidance, simplifying the timing for providing notices to automatically-enrolled employees; in particular, in plans that permit immediate participation, or that have multiple payroll systems.

 

Eligibility and Coverage

  • Covering less-than-fulltime workers: employees who work for three consecutive years with at least 500 hours of service each year would be allowed in an employer plan, but would be excluded from coverage, top-heavy, and nondiscrimination testing.

 

Incentive to allow early plan entry: When determining the top-heavy status of any of its plans, an employer may exclude participants who have not yet met the minimum age and service requirements (age 21 and 1 year of service) if the employer satisfies the top-heavy minimum contribution separately for those participants.

 

Miscellaneous Plan Administration

  • More time to set up a plan: most retirement plans must be established by the last day of the business year, though they can be funded later. The deadline for establishing a plan would be extended to the business’ tax return deadline, including filing extensions.

 

  • Simplified reporting and disclosure: the legislation directs the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor, as well as the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, to study and report to Congress on opportunities to standardize, consolidate, simplify, and improve reporting and disclosure requirements that apply to retirement plans.

 

  • Adoption, amending of Safe Harbor 401(k) plans: a 401(k) plan could adopt safe harbor status for a plan year as late as the deadline for distributing excess contributions for such year and without having given a prior-year notice, if the plan provides a nonelective safe harbor contribution to participants.

 

  • Simplifying 403(b) plan termination: participants in a terminating 403(b) plan could distribute their 403(b) custodial account in-kind and still retain their 403(b) account’s tax-deferred nature if the 403(b) rules continue to be followed.

 

RPSEA Proposes More Aggressive 401(k) Design

Automatic-enrollment and automatic-increase features in 401(k)-type retirement plans are widely considered important in leading workers to save more, and to be better-prepared for a financially secure retirement. Rep. Neal’s bill builds on existing safe harbor plan designs with the Secured Deferral Arrangement (SDA). Like existing safe harbor designs, an SDA would be exempt from nondiscrimination and top-heavy testing if no other employer contributions are made. Its features include the following.

  • Automatic enrollment beginning at a minimum of 6 percent—but not more than 10 percent—allowing opt-out at any time.
  • No 10 percent cap on automatically-increasing deferral rates.
  • A graduated employer match on deferrals, equaling 4½ percent for those who defer at least 10 percent of pay (but no match on deferrals above 10 percent).

 

Conclusion

Many on both sides of the political aisle are likely to support some—if not all—of its provisions. But with the 2017 session of the 115th Congress having come to an end, further progress on changes like these will have to await the arrival of the 2018 session.  As always, Ascensus will continue to monitor any and all legislation that could have an effect on IRAs, employer plans, and other tax-advantaged savings arrangements. Visit www.Ascensus.com for the latest developments.


Washington Pulse: President to Sign Tax Reform; IRAs, Qualified Plans, 529s, and Other Savings Arrangements Impacted

On December 20, 2017, the House and Senate passed H.R. 1, the final tax reform bill (the Bill). The Bill will soon be signed into law by President Trump, resulting in fulfillment of one of the GOP’s major 2016 campaign promises. The Bill will affect retirement and other tax-advantaged savings arrangements and, in some cases, will become effective as soon as it is signed. Highlights of the changes made to savings arrangements and their effective dates are described below. In addition, Ascensus has prepared a comparison chart showing the differences between the current rules, the original House and Senate proposals, and the new rules provided in the Bill.

Changes to IRAs, Education Savings, and ABLE Arrangements

Recharacterizing Roth IRA Conversions Eliminated

The Bill eliminates a taxpayer’s ability to recharacterize a conversion to a Roth IRA. As a result, converting non-Roth IRA assets or rolling over employer plan assets to a Roth IRA will be a one-way process. Annual contributions to a Roth IRA can still be recharacterized as Traditional IRA contributions for the same tax year and vice versa. (Effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017.)

Slower Cost-of-Living Adjustments for IRAs, HSAs, Archer MSAs, and the Saver’s Credit

The Bill will change the method for calculating adjustments for inflation so that they will occur less frequently than under the current formula. This will apply to IRA, HSA, Archer MSA, and saver’s credit-related adjustments. Annual limitations associated with employer-sponsored retirement plans will generally not be affected. (Effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017.)

529 Plans and ABLE Accounts

The Bill makes the following changes to 529 plans and Achieving Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts.

  • 529 plan assets (up to $10,000 annually) can be used for elementary and secondary school tuition expenses, in addition to those qualified post-secondary education expenses allowed under current law. (Effective for 529 plan distributions made after December 31, 2017.)
  • 529 plan assets can be rolled over to ABLE accounts for special-needs individuals, in amounts up to the annual ABLE contribution limit (e.g., $14,000 for 2017); such rollovers would offset other contributions to that ABLE account for the year. (Effective for 529 plan distributions made after the date of enactment, and rollovers before January 1, 2026.)
  • An ABLE account beneficiary (the special-needs individual) can contribute his earned income even if his contribution, when added to contributions made by others, results in overall contributions above the annual ABLE contribution limit. The ABLE account beneficiary’s contribution amount will be limited to the lesser of his income or the federal single-person poverty limit. The ABLE account beneficiary, or a person acting on his behalf, will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the additional contribution limit. The additional contribution will be unavailable if the ABLE account beneficiary made deferral contributions to a 401(k), 403(b), or governmental 457(b) plan. (Effective for tax years beginning after the date of enactment, and contributions before January 1, 2026.)
  • ABLE account contributions made by the ABLE account beneficiary will be eligible for the saver’s credit. (Effective for taxable years beginning after the date of enactment, and contributions before January 1, 2026.)

Provisions Applying to Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans

Rollover of Offset Retirement Plan Loans

The Bill extends the 60-day period for rolling over the amount of an “offset” to a plan loan to the tax filing deadline, including extensions, for the tax year in which the offset/distribution occurs. The extension applies to offsets as a result of plan termination or severance from employment. (Effective for loan offsets treated as distributed in tax years beginning after 2017.)

Casualty Loss Provision Could Affect Plan Hardship Distributions

The Bill no longer allows a deduction for casualty losses unless a taxpayer suffering the casualty loss is located in a presidentially-declared disaster area. Deductible casualty losses are also among the “safe harbor” conditions for hardship distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans under existing Treasury regulations. Unless those regulations are rewritten, casualty losses experienced by certain plan participants may no longer meet the safe harbor condition commonly used in the granting of certain hardship distributions. (Effective for losses incurred in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026.)

Taxation of Pass-Through Income

The Bill generally provides owners of businesses that result in pass-through income (e.g., partnerships, s-corporations) with a deduction up to 20 percent of business income. Generous pass-through income tax rules could potentially create a disincentive for employers to establish or maintain retirement plans. But analysis of the new rule suggests that concerns about a disincentive have been minimized or eliminated compared to more generous formulas. (Effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017.)

Tax-Advantaged Savings Arrangements in General

Special Relief for 2016 Disaster Areas

The Bill grants retirement plan-related relief to eligible victims of any 2016 presidentially-declared disaster. This relief is basically retroactive and includes the following.

  • Qualifying distributions of up to $100,000 from employer-sponsored retirement plans and IRAs before age 59½ will not be subject to the 10 percent early distribution penalty tax.
  • Repayment of qualifying distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans and IRAs can be made within three years.
  • Distributions not repaid will generally be taxed ratably over a three-year period, unless electing otherwise.
  • Otherwise-mandatory withholding will be waived for qualifying distributions.
  • Delayed amendment deadlines for employers that grant the relief but without enabling plan provisions; plans can be amended to add such provisions by the end of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2018.

(Effective as of the date of enactment, and applicable to distributions on or after January 1, 2016, and before January 1, 2018.)

Items Eliminated From Prior Senate and House Bills

The following items were among provisions in earlier versions of the House and Senate bills, but subsequently removed either before passage, or by the conference committee that resolved differences between the House and Senate bills.

  • Relaxation of hardship distributions to include qualified nonelective contributions (QNECs), qualified matching contributions (QMACs), and earnings on these and employee deferrals.
  • Alignment of annual and catch-up deferral contributions among 401(k), 403(b), and governmental 457(b) plans.
  • Alignment of the in-service distribution eligibility age of 59½ as an option for all plans.
  • Adding the assessment of a 10 percent early distribution penalty tax to distributions from governmental 457(b) plans.
  • Creation of a safe harbor formula for employers to determine “independent contractor” vs. “employee” status.
  • Creation of a nondiscrimination testing safe harbor for certain defined benefit pension plans closed to new participants.
  • Creation of a simplified tax return form for taxpayers age 65 and older.

Next Steps

In the context of tax-advantaged savings arrangements, and by comparison to some of the drastic changes that were initially being considered by Congress (e.g., limiting pretax elective deferrals to employer-sponsored retirement plans), the result is a positive one. As is always the case with tax law changes, questions will arise no matter how straightforward some changes seem on the surface. Ascensus will continue to monitor any and all developments resulting from tax reform pertaining to IRAs, employer-sponsored retirement plans, and other tax-advantaged savings arrangements. Visit www.Ascensus.com for the latest developments.

 

 


Washington Pulse: Automatic Retirement Plan Act Proposes Mandatory Retirement Plans

Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), the ranking democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, recently introduced the Automatic Retirement Plan Act of 2017 (ARPA). The bill, if enacted, would have significant retirement savings plan implications. ARPA is a step beyond Rep. Neal’s past legislative efforts, which have included introducing bills to require employers with no retirement plan to establish automatic enrollment IRA programs.

ARPA would require many employers to maintain an automatic contribution (AC) plan. An AC plan is a 401(k) or 403(b) plan that would be subject to new rules, all of which are intended to expand the number of workers who have access to, and are enrolled in, employer-sponsored deferral plans.

In addition to requiring AC plans, ARPA would enhance employers’ ability to participate in multiple employer plans (MEPs), limit formation of new state-sponsored automatic-enrollment IRA programs, and propose certain other miscellaneous retirement plan provisions.

Highlights of AC Plan Provisions

Employer Mandate

All employers ­— except those with 10 or fewer employees, those in business less than three years, and governmental and church employers — would be required to maintain AC plans for their employees beginning in 2020 (2022 for employers with 100 or fewer employees earning at least $5000 in the prior year). Employers who fail to maintain an AC plan would generally be assessed a $10 per employee-per-day penalty.

Qualified plans, 403(b) plans, simplified employee pension (SEP) plans and savings incentive match plan for employees of small employers (SIMPLE) IRA plans in existence on the date ARPA is signed into law and that have been maintained for at least one year would generally be considered “grandfathered” AC plans. Grandfathered AC plans could continue to be maintained, as is, for six years from the date of enactment (eight years for employers with 100 or fewer employees earning at least $5000 in the prior year). After such period the relaxed eligibility rules and the prohibition against unreasonable fees (both described below) that apply to AC plans would apply to grandfathered AC plans.

General AC Plan Requirements

AC plans would generally be required to

  • include all part time and full time employees—except employees under age 21, nonresident alien and seasonal employees, certain union employees, and employees employed less than one month;
  • include automatic-enrollment beginning with a minimum deferral of six percent (but no more than 10 percent) and include automatic increases;
  • invest plan assets in a QDIA in the absence of a participant investment election; and
  • permit participants to elect to receive at least 50 percent of their account balance in the form of a distribution that guarantees them lifetime income.

The bill would also prohibit charging unreasonable fees to participants because they have small account balances or because the employer was required to establish an AC plan.

Special Rules for Deferral Only AC Plans

AC plans that permit only elective deferrals would be

  • required to limit elective deferrals to $8,000 annually ($9,000 for participants age 50 and older),
  • exempt from ADP testing,
  • treated as not being top-heavy, and
  • eligible—no matter how many employees an employer has—to file Form 5500-SF, Short Form Annual Return/Report of Small Employee Benefit Plan.

ARPA’s Multiple Employer Plan (MEP) Provisions

Until now, regulatory requirements have prevented many employers from taking advantage of the economies of scale offered by MEPs. ARPA would broaden employers’ ability to join together in such plans (called “pooled employer plans” or “PEPs” in the bill), and provide the following.

  • A common ownership or common business purpose would not be required to participate.
  • One employer’s compliance failure would not jeopardize the entire plan.
  • The IRS/Treasury Department would provide a model plan document for such arrangements.
  • The IRS would provide guidance on a common plan administrator’s (pooled plan provider’s) duties.
  • Small employers participating in such PEP arrangements would not be considered fiduciaries.

State Automatic IRA Plan Preemption

ARPA would limit future expansion of state-sponsored automatic IRA plans. Specifically, IRA-based automatic-enrollment plans established by states for private sector workers could continue in operation if their statutes were enacted before enactment of ARPA. Plans established under state statutes enacted after ARPA, or pre-ARPA plans that are later materially changed, would be preempted, and such states’ employers would not be bound by such state laws.

Miscellaneous ARPA Provisions

ARPA makes numerous proposed changes to several other rules. These changes are also designed to expand coverage, encourage automatic contribution features and promote lifetime income features. The most significant changes include the following.

  • The start-up tax credit of up to $500 annually for three years that is available to certain small employers that establish a plan would increase to up to $5,000 annually, for as many as five years. The credit would cover 100 percent of costs for qualifying employers with 25 or fewer employees and 50 percent of plan costs for qualifying employers with more than 25 employees but not more than 100 employees.
  • A small employer maintaining an AC plan (excluding a grandfathered AC plan) plan could claim a $500 credit during a five-year period that begins with plan adoption.
  • The Saver’s Credit would be required to be contributed directly to a Roth IRA or designated Roth account within a plan.
  • The IRS would be authorized to require additional Form 5500 reporting designed to help it determine the effect of nondiscrimination safe harbors on contributions for rank and file employees.
  • 401(k) qualified automatic contribution arrangements could be designed to automatically increase elective deferrals more rapidly, and rise above 10 percent.
  • All safe harbor 401(k) plans could provide a matching contribution on elective deferrals above six percent.
  • Plans that cease to offer lifetime income or managed-account investments would be allowed to offer a direct rollover option for such investments.

Conclusion

Rep. Neal has long been an active and avid supporter of enhancing retirement saving opportunities, as demonstrated by numerous past bills introduced during his tenure in Congress. As for immediate prospects for ARPA, there is little time left in the 2017 congressional session, and with Congress preoccupied with tax reform Rep. Neal and those who support his legislation will likely be looking to consider it during 2018. Ascensus will continue to monitor this legislation. Visit www.Ascensus.com for the latest developments.


Washington Pulse: Senate Passes Tax Reform; Savings Arrangements Impacted

The race to enact comprehensive tax reform in 2017 is closer to the finish line with the December 1, 2017, Senate passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It remains to be seen whether there is enough momentum for tax reform to be finished this year. The changes to savings arrangements that are included in the bill would affect forms, documents, and operations if the provisions become law. The major savings related changes included in the bill are described below.

Changes to IRAs, Education Savings, and ABLE Arrangements

IRA Recharacterizations Eliminated

Under current law, a Roth IRA contribution can generally be recharacterized as a Traditional IRA contribution for the same tax year if done by the following October 15 (six months following the April 15 tax filing deadline). The reverse—recharacterizing a Traditional IRA contribution to a Roth IRA—can also be done. Furthermore, those who convert Traditional or SIMPLE IRA assets or roll over pretax employer plan assets to a Roth IRA can recharacterize their conversions or rollovers.

A recharacterization is commonly done to align IRA contributions with taxpayer eligibility, as well as personal tax objectives. Under the Senate bill, the ability to change the nature of a Traditional or Roth IRA contribution, or to undo a Roth IRA conversion or employer plan rollover, would be eliminated.

The stated purpose of this provision is to prevent “gaming the system” by timing a conversion to coincide with a drop in account value, thereby reducing the tax obligation for such conversion. This provision is also contained in the House version of the tax reform bill. (Effective beginning with 2018 tax years.)                                                                                                                                                                              

Slower Cost-of-Living Adjustments for IRAs, HSAs, Archer MSAs, and the Saver Credit

Many of the annual dollar limitations that apply to IRAs—such as the maximum contribution amount—are adjusted periodically for inflation. The same is true for a taxpayer’s income-based eligibility to receive the “saver credit” for contributions to IRAs or deferrals to employer retirement plans.

The Senate bill would change the method for calculating annual adjustments so that they would occur less frequently than under the current formula. Annual limitations associated with employer retirement plans would generally not be affected, but IRA, HSA, Archer MSA, and saver credit-related adjustments would be. (Effective beginning with 2018 tax years.)                                         

529 Plans and ABLE Accounts

  • 529 plan assets could be rolled over to Achieving Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts for special-needs individuals, in amounts up to the annual ABLE contribution limit (e.g., $14,000 for 2017); such rollovers would offset other contributions to that ABLE account for the year. (Effective for 529 distributions after the date of enactment, and before 2026 tax years.)
  • 529 plan assets could be used for elementary and secondary school tuition expenses and expenses for homeschooling, in addition to those qualified post-secondary education expenses allowed under current law.
  • An ABLE account beneficiary (the special-needs individual) could contribute his earned income even if his contribution, when added to contributions made by others, resulted in overall contributions above the annual ABLE contribution limit. The ABLE account beneficiary’s contribution amount would be limited to the lesser of his income or the federal single-person poverty limit. The ABLE account beneficiary, or a person acting on his behalf, would be responsible for ensuring compliance with the additional contribution limit.

The additional contribution would be unavailable if the ABLE account beneficiary made deferral contributions to a 401(k), 403(b), or governmental 457(b) plan. (Effective for taxable years after the date of enactment, and before 2026 tax years.) 

  • ABLE account contributions made by the ABLE account beneficiary would be eligible for the saver credit. (Effective for contributions after the date of enactment, and before 2026 tax years.)

Provisions Applying to Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans
The following provisions in the Senate bill apply to employer-sponsored retirement plans.  

Rollover of Offset Retirement Plan Loans

If a retirement plan loan has not been fully repaid when a participant leaves employment, or a plan is terminated, the outstanding balance is typically “offset” against the participant’s account balance, and becomes taxable. The outstanding loan can be rolled over within 60 days.

The Senate bill would extend that 60-day period to the tax filing deadline, including extensions, for the tax year in which the offset/distribution takes place. This provision is also contained in the House version of the bill. (Applies to loan offsets in 2018 and later tax years.) 

Hardship Distributions Expanded

The following changes to the hardship distribution rules are contained in the Senate bill. (Effective beginning with 2018 plan years.)

  • Hardship distributions could include not only employee deferral contributions (current law), but also an employer’s qualified nonelective contributions (QNECs) and qualified matching contributions (QMACs)—and earnings on all three contribution types.
  • Available plan loans would not have to be taken before a hardship distribution is granted.

Taxation of Pass-Through Income

The Senate bill addresses the taxation of businesses structured in a manner that generates pass-through income, such as S-corporations, by proposing an income tax deduction of an amount that may be as high as 23 percent of taxable income reduced by capital gain. Generous pass-through income taxation could potentially create a disincentive for some employers to establish or maintain retirement plans, though it is not clear that the Senate bill would lead to that result.

Tax-Advantaged Savings Arrangements in General

Special Relief for 2016 Disaster Areas

This provision would grant retirement plan related relief to eligible victims for any 2016 presidentially-declared disaster event. This relief is of a magnitude normally associated with special federal legislation, such as that recently enacted in 2017 for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The relief would extend well beyond the frequently-granted ability to complete certain time-sensitive tax-related acts on a delayed basis in disaster circumstances. The relief granted to2016 federally-declared disaster area victims would include the following.

  • Qualifying distributions of up to $100,000 from employer plans and IRAs before age 59½ would not be subject to the 10 percent additional penalty tax.
  • Qualifying distributions from employer plans without enabling plan provisions if plans are amended to add such provisions by the end of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2018.
  • Repayment of qualifying distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans and IRAs within three years.
  • Ratable taxation over a three-year period for distributions not repaid.
  • Waiver of mandatory withholding from qualifying distributions.

(Effective on date of enactment and applicable to distributions on or after January 1, 2016, and before January 1, 2018.)

Items Removed From Original Senate Bill 

The following items were included in the proposed Senate bill but subsequently removed and excluded from the Senate-passed tax reform bill.

  • Alignment of annual and catch-up deferral contributions to 401(k), 403(b), and governmental 457(b) plans.
  • Alignment of the age 59½ eligibility requirement for employer plan in-service distributions.
  • Assessment of a 10 percent penalty tax for early distributions from 457(b) plans.
  • Safe harbor formula for employers to determine “independent contractor” vs. “employee” status.
  • Simplified tax return form for taxpayers age 65 and older.

Next Steps

The next step in the tax reform process will be a conference committee process by which alignment of Senate and House bills must take place. Before a bill can be signed into law by President Trump, the House and Senate must agree on identical bill text. While much progress has been made, there is clearly a lot more work to do before tax reform becomes a reality. Ascensus will continue to closely monitor the process and provide additional details as they become available. Visit www.Ascensus.com for the latest developments.


Washington Pulse: Tax Reform Proposal Would Impact Savings Arrangements

On November 2, 2017, the House Ways and Means Committee’s GOP leadership introduced the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The proposed legislation is generally intended to reduce individual and corporate tax rates and simplify income tax filings. It also makes changes that would affect the forms, documents, and operations of employer-sponsored retirement plans, IRAs, HSAs, education savings accounts, and other savings arrangements.

The Ways and Means Committee continues to make changes to the bill before the House of Representatives votes on it. The vote was expected to occur during the week of November 13, 2017, but may occur earlier. Meanwhile, the Senate is working on a tax reform bill of its own.

Although the legislative process is still ongoing, the following is a summary of the more significant provisions from the initial proposal that could become law and affect tax-favored savings arrangements. More subtle provisions (e.g., potential changes to the definition of compensation for certain plan purposes) continue to be analyzed.

 

Distribution and Loan Provisions in Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans

In-Service Distributions

Retirement plans generally have a minimum age requirement that participants must meet in order to withdraw plan assets while still employed. The minimum age requirement for these types of distributions (known as in-service distributions) varies between retirement plans, but age 59½ tends to be the most common. Pension plans and governmental 457(b) plans, however, are required to use higher age requirements (e.g., age 62). To encourage employees participating in those plans to continue working rather than retiring to access their retirement savings, the Ways and Means bill would reduce the minimum age requirement for those plans to age 59½.

This change would apply for plan years beginning after 2017.

Hardship Distributions

The current rules applicable to hardship distributions are complex and may complicate matters for participants experiencing financial difficulty. The Ways and Means bill would relax these rules for qualified retirement plans and 403(b) plans by

  • expanding hardship distributions to include qualified nonelective contributions (QNECs) and qualified matching contributions (QMACs)—and earnings on all contribution types removed,
  • not requiring participants to take plan loans before granting certain hardship distributions, and
  • not requiring elective deferral contributions to be suspended for six months after receiving certain hardship distributions.

These changes would apply for plan years beginning after 2017.

In addition to the changes noted above, the Ways and Means bill may affect a participant’s ability to qualify for a hardship distribution through a casualty loss. To determine whether a casualty loss and, therefore, a hardship exists, current regulations rely on a section of law that would be eliminated by the Ways and Means bill. It is unclear whether, in the absence of revised regulations, a participant would meet the conditions necessary to qualify for a hardship distribution based on a casualty loss.

This change would apply for tax years after 2017.

Rollover Period for Offset Plan Loans

Currently, if a loan from a qualified plan, 403(b) or governmental plan has not been fully repaid when a participant leaves employment, or a plan is terminated, the outstanding balance is “offset” against the participant’s account balance, and becomes taxable if not rolled over within 60 days. The Ways and Means bill would extend the 60-day period to a participant’s tax filing deadline (including extensions) for the tax year in which the offset occurs.

The change would apply for tax years after 2017.

 

Miscellaneous Provisions in Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans

Nondiscrimination Testing for Closed Defined Benefit Plans

Defined benefit (DB) plans that are closed to new participants may, eventually, chiefly benefit highly paid employees and lead to compliance testing failures. The Ways and Means bill would extend relief to certain plans by expanding the cross-testing of contributions to a defined contribution plan maintained in addition to a defined benefit plan. The objective of this provision is to allow closed DB plans to avoid having to be frozen or terminated.

This change would apply on the date of enactment.

Unrelated Business Taxable Income

In general, if an IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan holds assets that generate income unrelated to the plan, those revenues (known as unrelated business taxable income (UBTI)) will be subject to current-year taxation. Historically, it has been clear that IRAs and retirement plans of nongovernmental entities are subject to such annual taxation. The Ways and Means bill clarifies that retirement plans of governmental entities will also be subject to the UBTI rules.

This change would apply for tax years after 2017.

Pass-Through Income Rate

Under the Ways and Means bill, businesses structured in a manner that generates pass-through income (e.g., S-corporations) would be taxed at a 25 percent rate for “business income,” rather than the proposed maximum 20 percent corporate tax rate. Owner-employees would be taxed at individual income tax rates for “compensation.” In general, no more than 30 percent of revenues could be treated as business income and taxed at the favorable 25 percent rate, and at least 70 percent would be treated as compensation and taxed at the individual income tax rates.

Unduly generous pass-through taxation could potentially create a disincentive for employers to establish or maintain retirement plans for themselves and their employees. But the requirement to treat much of a business’ revenue as compensation—taxed at individual income tax rates—seems to limit this concern.

This provision would apply for tax years after 2017.

Taxation of Nonqualified Deferred Compensation  

Under current rules, nonqualified deferred compensation generally remains subject to creditor claims and business risk, and, when paid, is treated as compensation. The Ways and Means bill would tax such amounts when they are no longer subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture rather than when actually paid.

This provision generally would apply to tax years beginning after 2017, but is subject to certain transition rules.

 

Changes to IRAs, Health Savings Arrangements, and Education Savings Arrangements

Recharacterizations Eliminated

Under current law, a Traditional IRA contribution can be recharacterized as a Roth IRA contribution for the same tax year if done by the following October 15  (six-months following the IRA owner’s April 15 tax filing deadline). The reverse—recharacterizing a Roth IRA contribution to Traditional IRA—can also be done. In addition, IRA owners can recharacterize the conversion of Traditional IRA assets to a Roth IRA. Under the Ways and Means bill, the ability to change the nature of a Traditional or Roth IRA contribution, or to undo a Roth IRA conversion, would be eliminated. The elimination of recharacterizations is intended to prevent “gaming the system” to reduce a tax obligation.

This provision applies for tax years after 2017.

Coverdell Education Savings Account, 529 Plan Changes

Under current law, a distribution from a Coverdell education savings account (ESA) that is “contributed” to a 529 plan is considered a tax-free event for the ESA, but subject to the 529 plan’s maximum accumulation amount. Under the Ways and Means bill, contributions could no longer be made to ESAs. ESAs could remain open, however, with rollovers permitted between ESAs or from an ESA to a 529 plan. The bill would treat the ESA-to-529 plan asset movement as a rollover, not a 529 plan contribution.

In addition, up to $10,000 of 529 plan assets—currently usable only for post-secondary academic or vocational education—could be used annually for elementary or secondary (high school) tuition, or for costs associated with participation in a qualified apprenticeship program. A 529 plan could also be set up during pregnancy on behalf of an unborn child.

These provisions would apply to distributions and contributions after 2017.

HSA, MSA Changes

Under current law, individuals may deduct Archer medical savings account (MSA) contributions. Under the Ways and Means bill, taxpayers would no longer be eligible to deduct MSA contributions, nor would an employer contribution to an employee’s MSA be excluded from the employee’s taxable compensation. The bill merely simplifies the rules by consolidating two similar tax-favored accounts into a single account with more taxpayer-friendly rules.

In addition, the bill would clarify certain HSA comparable contribution and reporting requirements and would replace certain laws for health flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health reimbursement account (HRAs), and MSAs that had been relied upon to govern HSAs.

These provisions apply to tax years beginning after 2017.

 

Conclusion

The details in this Washington Pulse are based on the initial proposal from the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. That proposal is already being debated by the Ways and Means Committee and may change. In addition, the Senate is soon expected to introduce its tax reform proposal, leading to a conference committee process if the House and Senate bills differ. All of this, before the possibility of being signed into law. If Congress can get this done, it is expected that savings arrangements will be affected one way or another. Clearly, there is much more to come. Ascensus will continue to closely monitor this fast paced legislative process and provide additional details as they become available. Visit www.Ascensus.com for the latest developments.

 

 


Retirement Spotlight: 2017 Hurricane Disaster Relief Guidance for Employers with Retirement Plans

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Labor (DOL), and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), have extended many tax-related deadlines for hurricane victims in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Congress then passed the Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017 to provide additional relief. What this means to you, your plan, and your participants will vary, so you’ll want to be aware of a few key takeaways.

 

Qualified Hurricane Distributions

The legislation passed by Congress permits a special distribution type: “qualified hurricane distribution.” Individuals whose principal residence is within a presidentially declared disaster area affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, or Maria—and who have sustained an economic loss as a result—are eligible to request qualified hurricane distributions from their IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan (plan permitting).

Qualified hurricane distributions are distributions taken during a specified time period, described below.

HurricaneRelief AreaDistribution taken afterDistribution taken before
HarveyTexas8/23/20171/1/2019
IrmaFlorida, Georgia, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico9/4/20171/1/2019
MariaU.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Seminole Tribe of Florida9/16/20171/1/2019

Your plan is not required to allow qualified hurricane distributions. If you decide that your plan will allow qualified hurricane distributions, however, you should consult with your plan document provider to determine what action you must take. If you need to amend your plan document to allow qualified hurricane distributions, you must amend by the last day of the 2019 plan year.

 

Qualified Hurricane Distribution Relief Granted to Individuals

Designating a withdrawal request as a qualified hurricane distribution allows the individual to

  • withdraw amounts up to $100,000, aggregated across all IRAs and employer plans;
  • avoid mandatory 20 percent withholding on distributions from qualified plans, 403(b) plans, and governmental 457(b) plans;
  • pay taxes on the distribution ratably (equally) over three years, beginning in the tax year of the distribution, or elect to pay all taxes in current year;
  • avoid the 10 percent early distribution penalty tax;
  • repay the qualified hurricane distribution (as a rollover) into any eligible retirement vehicle within a three-year window starting on the day after the distribution is received; and
  • repay hardship distributions for the purchase or construction of a principal residence taken after August 23, 2017, if the purchase was cancelled due to hurricane events. Repayment must be completed by February 28, 2018, and can be made to any eligible retirement plan.

 

Hardship Distribution Relief

If you decide not to permit qualified hurricane distributions in your plan, you may still allow for other relief. Broader relief applies to individuals who live in, or have a business within, a presidentially declared disaster area. For instance, participants can now use disaster relief as a safe harbor hardship reason.

  • Even if your plan does not currently offer hardship distributions, you can permit hardship distributions for disaster relief immediately—if you amend your plan by the end of the 2018 plan year to allow for these distributions.
  • You do not need supporting documentation (e.g., spousal consent) before approving a hardship distribution, as long as you reasonably believe that you can obtain it. Then you must collect it as soon as practicable.
  • No six-month suspension of deferral contributions applies to disaster relief hardships.

 

Loan Relief Provided

For your plan participants who live in, or have a business within, one of the declared disaster areas, certain features of permissible loan programs have been relaxed.

  • Even if your plan does not currently offer loans, you can permit loans to provide disaster relief immediately and then amend your plan to allow for loans by the end of your 2018 plan year.
  • As with hardships, you can process loans without obtaining all of the supporting documentation first. But you must collect this information as soon as practicable.
  • The maximum loan amount for disaster-relief loans is raised to $100,000 (from $50,000), and participants can take loans in excess of 50 percent of their vested balance.
  • The borrower can delay loan repayments for one year, and does not need to include this period in the payment schedule. For example, a five-year loan repayment schedule could begin after the initial one-year delay.

 

Tax Deadline Extensions Granted

If you or your plan participants live in (or have a business within) one of the disaster areas, they may be eligible for extensions on deadlines that fall on or after the dates listed below. Click through the relief area name to see the full list of affected counties from www.fema.gov/disasters.

Hurricane  Relief Area Tax deadline
on or after
Deadline is
extended to
Harvey Texas   8/23/2017   1/31/2018
Irma Florida and Seminole Tribe of Florida   9/4/2017   1/31/2018
Irma U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico   9/5/2017   1/31/2018
Irma Georgia   9/7/2017   1/31/2018
Maria U.S. Virgin Islands   9/16/2017   1/31/2018
Maria Puerto Rico   9/17/2017   1/31/2018

Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plan Deadlines Extended

  • Employer contributions
  • Employer tax deduction
  • Employee contribution deposit timing (deferrals and loan payments), but must be deposited as soon as practicable
  • Form 5500 filing (IRS and DOL)
  • Loan repayments
  • Required beginning date and required minimum distributions
  • Removal of excess deferrals
  • Removal of ADP excess (no employer penalty applies)
  • Removal of ACP excess (no employer penalty applies)
  • Beneficiary disclaimer timing
  • End of 60-day rollover window
  • Blackout notices not given timely
  • Beneficiary disclaimer timing
  • IRS Employee Plan Compliance Resolution System two-year period for self-correcting significant failures

 

Additional PBGC Deadlines Extended for Defined Benefit Plans

  • Payment of PBGC insurance premiums
  • Filing termination notices
  • Completing the distribution of plan assets
  • Filing Form 501, Form 601, and reportable events notices
  • Filing of actuarial information for plans with funding waivers, missed contributions, or underfunding


IRA, HSA, and ESA Deadlines Extended

  • Regular contributions
  • Tax deduction
  • Recharacterizations
  • Forms 1099 and 5498 delivery
  • Required beginning date and required minimum distributions
  • 60-day rollover
  • SIMPLE IRA deposit timing, but must be deposited as soon as practicable
  • Timely removal of excess (with NIA)
  • Beneficiary disclaimer timing

 

Next Steps

The hurricane relief outlined above should help you and your affected participants in the wake of these recent disasters. But it is up to you whether you take full advantage of the available relief. Plans are not required to operate under the more generous hurricane provisions. But if your plan does, you should thoroughly document any changes to your plan in accordance with the existing rules and the requirements laid out in the relief itself.

Check back at Ascensus.com for updates on this and all retirement-related topics.

                                                   What is the right distribution type to use?

 

 Qualified
Hurricane
Distribution
Hardship
Distribution –
hurricane
reasons
Hardship
Distributions –
normal reasons
Distribution allowed if you live within
the disaster area and if you suffered an economic loss
            X          X  
Distribution allowed if your relative or lineal descendant lives within the
disaster area
           X  
Distribution allowed if your business
was within the disaster area
           X  
The limit on how much you can take for this distribution reason      $100,000 amounts eligible
for hardship
amounts eligible
for hardship
Distribution permitted without a regular (e.g., age 59½, hardship, normal retirement age) distribution trigger             X    
Distribution is considered eligible for rollover             X    
Distribution can be paid back into the plan or another plan             X Only if used to purchase a residence in the disaster area from 2/28/2017
to 9/21/2017
Only if used to purchase a residence in the disaster area from 2/28/2017
to 9/21/2017
Six-month deferral suspension applies                     X
Taxation on the distribution can be spread over three years instead of just in year of distribution             X    
Distribution subject to 10 percent early distribution penalty tax             X                X
Deadline for taking hurricane-related distributions        1/1/2019          1/31/2018              N/A

 


Washington Pulse: Hurricane Legislation Grants Retirement Plan Relief

Similar to its hurricane disaster response more than a decade ago, Congress has acted to give relief to victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Initial responses by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Labor (DOL), and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), extended many tax-related deadlines for hurricane victims. These actions are now followed by enactment of the Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017.

 

How Legislation Affects IRAs and Employer Plans

Under the provisions of the new law, “qualified hurricane distributions” from IRAs, qualified retirement plans, 403(b) plans, and governmental 457(b) plans are entitled to special tax treatment, as well as repayment options if the recipient so chooses. There are also provisions that apply specifically to loans from employer plans.

Employer plans are not required to offer qualified hurricane distributions or the relaxed loan parameters, but can elect to offer them.

 

Qualified Hurricane Distributions

Individuals with a principal residence within a presidentially-declared disaster area affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria may request qualified hurricane distributions from their IRAs or from their employer plans (plan permitting). Qualified hurricane distributions are those distributions taken during a specified time period, described below.

Hurricane Relief Area Distribution taken after Distribution taken before
Harvey Texas 8/23/2017 1/1/19
Irma Florida, Georgia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Seminole Tribe of Florida 9/4/2017 1/1/19
Maria U.S. Virgin Islands and  Puerto Rico 9/16/2017 1/1/19 


Qualified Hurricane Distribution Relief Granted to Individuals

Designating a withdrawal request as a qualified hurricane distribution allows an individual to

  • withdraw amounts up to $100,000, aggregated across all IRAs and employer plans;
  • avoid mandatory 20 percent withholding on distributions from qualified plans, 403(b) plans, and governmental 457(b) plans;
  • pay taxes on the distribution “ratably” (equally) over three years, beginning in the tax year of distribution, or elect to pay all taxes in the current year;
  • avoid the 10 percent early distribution penalty;
  • roll over the qualified hurricane distribution into any eligible IRA or employer plan, within a 3-year window, starting on the day after the distribution is received; and
  • repay hardship distributions for purchase or construction of a principal residence taken after August 23, 2017, if the purchase or building was cancelled because of hurricane events. Repayment must be completed by February 28, 2018, and can be made to any eligible IRA or employer plan.

Loan Relief

The new law also allows employer plans to relax the loan limitation for participants with a principal residence in the hurricane areas. If permitted, affected participants can request a loan from their 401(k) plan or other employer plan up to a maximum request of $100,000 instead of the standard $50,000 and the 50 percent-of-vested-account-balance limitation will not apply.

Plan loan payments for qualified individuals may be delayed up to one year, and the maximum five-year loan amortization period for nonmortgaged loans is similarly extended by one year.

What is Required

Plan sponsors must determine if they will permit qualified hurricane distributions and if they will allow the expanded loan provisions. They may need to prepare a document amendment. If an amendment is required, plans may retroactively amend for these features by the last day of the 2019 plan year. Plan sponsors must inform participants of their options under the hurricane relief provisions.

IRA and employer plan service providers should evaluate forms, systems, and workflow processes to support qualified hurricane distributions, loan exceptions, and potential repayment and rollovers. For example, the legislation states that the notice given to recipients of eligible rollover distributions need not be provided with a hurricane-related distribution but other distribution consent and notice requirements still apply.

Additional Guidance

Following enactment of the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief of 2005, subsequent IRS guidance provided details for interpreting that legislation. In the coming days or weeks, we expect similar agency guidance to further interpret the new law. Ascensus will monitor and provide additional details on Ascensus.com as new information is released.