IRS Issues Deadline Relief for Texas Victims of Winter Storms

The IRS has issued a news release announcing the postponement of certain tax-related deadlines for Texas winter storm victims. The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on February 11. The entire state of Texas is included in this relief. Additionally, taxpayers in other locations will automatically be added to this relief if the disaster area is further expanded.

In addition to extending certain tax filing and tax payment deadlines, the relief includes completion of many time-sensitive, tax-related acts described in IRS Revenue Procedure 2018-58 and Treasury Regulation 301.7508A-1(c)(1), which include filing Form 5500 for retirement plans, completing rollovers, making retirement plan loan payments, etc.

Affected taxpayers with a covered deadline on or after February 11, 2021, and on or before June 15, 2021, will have until June 15, 2021 to complete the act(s). “Affected taxpayer” automatically includes anyone who resides or has a business located within the designated disaster area. Those who reside or have a business located outside the identified disaster area, but have been affected by the disaster, may contact the IRS at 866-562-5227 to request the relief.

Retirement Spotlight: Missing Participants – Prevention is the Best Cure

When employers start a retirement plan, they may ask who should be eligible to participate, what kind of contributions should be made, and how and when can employees access their account balances? Unfortunately, many employers don’t consider how to handle missing participants’ account balances—or more importantly—how to prevent losing track of participants in the first place.

The DOL did provide guidance for locating missing participants in 2014 with the issuance of Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) 2014-01. Although FAB 2014-01 is helpful, it deals mainly with terminated defined contribution plans.

In January 2021, the DOL released three pieces of new guidance: Missing Participants – Best Practices for Pension Plans, Compliance Assistance Release No. 2021-01, and FAB 2021-01. The first piece in this package gives practical guidance on concerns to watch out for and actions to consider. The second piece sheds some light on the DOL investigative process for defined benefit plans. And the third piece gives temporary enforcement relief for terminating defined contribution plans that transfer missing participant benefits to the PBGC. This article will focus on the main points of this guidance and the steps that a plan fiduciary (typically the employer) can take to address concerns related to missing and unresponsive participants.

Tips for Reducing Missing Participant Issues

The DOL’s Missing Participants – Best Practices for Pension Plans identifies practical steps that plan fiduciaries can take to resolve problems created by missing participants. Plan fiduciaries should determine which reasonable, cost-effective practices will yield the best results considering the circumstances—such as the amount of accrued benefits and the cost of various search methods.

  • Maintain accurate census information. Although plan fiduciaries may obtain accurate contact information for new employees, there may be little follow-up afterwards. This often leads to inaccurate contact information, which makes it harder to distribute plan assets once the participant incurs a distributable event. The DOL lists several steps that fiduciaries can take to help ensure that participants’ information is up-to-date.
    • Periodically contact current participants, retired participants, and beneficiaries to verify that the correct contact information is on file. This information may include individuals’ home and business phone numbers and addresses, social media contact information, and emergency contact information.
    • Provide a contact information change request form when sending out other plan communications. Use these communications to encourage participants to notify the plan fiduciary when there is a change in contact information.
    • Offer a secure online portal that participants can use to update their contact information. In addition to offering an online portal, have messages or prompts appear when individuals log into the plan’s website. These messages or prompts should be linked to the online portal and should ask participants and beneficiaries to verify their contact information.
    • Identify uncashed checks and undeliverable mail or email. Once these items are identified, consider how to address and prevent these occurrences in the future.
    • During a merger, acquisition, or the hiring of a new record keeper, ensure that relevant employment records are provided to appropriate parties.

In addition to taking these steps, plan fiduciaries should also continually monitor census information and promptly correct any errors.

  • Create good communication procedures. The DOL suggests that plan fiduciaries take the following steps to ensure that participants are fully informed of their rights and benefits under the plan.
    • When sending correspondence to participants, include the plan sponsor’s name within the communication, and if delivered by mail, on the envelope that it’s delivered in. Clearly state why the participant is receiving the information. Plan fiduciaries should also ensure that their non-English-speaking participants get help in interpreting the correspondence.
    • Provide specific communications to new employees and to participants who are retiring or leaving the company. These communications should stress the importance of providing correct contact information. For example, the communications should explain that this information helps determine when participants can receive their benefits and what amount they’re eligible to receive.
    • Inform participants about their options to consolidate accounts from other employer plans and IRAs.
    • Make it easy for participants to ask questions about their plan benefits by explaining how to access the plan sponsor’s toll-free phone number and website.
  • Use reliable, extensive search methods. Sometimes, despite having good communication and audit procedures in place, plan fiduciaries lose track of their participants. When this happens, plan fiduciaries need to demonstrate that they’ve regularly taken sufficient measures to locate the missing individual, including these DOL-approved search methods.
    • Search all employer records (e.g., payroll records or group health plan records) for more accurate contact information, including email addresses, phone numbers, and social media.
    • Ask the participant’s beneficiaries, emergency contacts, or former colleagues for updated contact information.
    • Try to locate the participant through free online search engines, public databases, social media, commercial locator services, certified mail, or private delivery services.
    • Add participants to pension registries, such as the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits, and publicize the registries (e.g., through email or newsletters) to current and former employees and union members.
  • Document steps taken to locate missing individuals. To help with compliance, plan fiduciaries should adopt clear, concise policies—and follow them. And they should document everything they do to locate the missing participant. For example, fiduciaries may develop a checklist of search methods that captures the result of each attempt to find a participant. Plan fiduciaries that use third-party administrators (TPAs) should identify and remedy any communication or recordkeeping concerns and should ensure that the TPA is performing all services that it has agreed to perform.

The DOL emphasizes that, when missing participants’ assets are forfeited under the terms of the plan, plan fiduciaries must still keep records of these participants’ accounts in order to distribute their benefits when due.

Issues the DOL Looks for During an Investigation

Several years ago, the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration’s Regional Offices started a compliance initiative called the “Terminated Vested Participants Project (TVPP).” While this project is aimed at identifying defined benefit plan compliance problems, the DOL may look for similar problems in defined contribution plans. Similar fiduciary obligations apply regardless of the plan type. The Compliance Assistance Release No. 2021-01 (the second piece of the DOL’s guidance package) explains which types of noncompliance may cause the DOL to investigate a defined benefit plan. The DOL also explains that this guidance will help ensure a consistent investigative process for TVPP audits. For example, the DOL considers certain problems (such as missing or incorrect data, undeliverable mail, or uncashed benefit checks) “red flags” that could hint at more serious systemic failures. This guidance may help plan fiduciaries develop a checklist to formalize procedures that help keep track of participants.

  • Reasons for defined benefit plan investigations. The DOL may investigate a plan that appears to have systemic administration problems—especially those related to plan distributions and terminated participants’ vested benefits. Such problems increase with business bankruptcies or with mergers or acquisitions that result in the loss of participant data.
  • Information the DOL may ask for during an investigation. Once a defined benefit plan investigation starts, the DOL will typically seek documents that
    • relate to the plan’s distribution requirements;
    • contain demographic and participant information, such as actuarial reports, participants’ contact information, and employment status; and
    • describe communication and locating procedures: specifically, how the plan fiduciary communicates to individuals who are entitled to benefits and how internal policies dictate the steps taken to locate missing or unresponsive terminated participants.
  • Errors the DOL looks for during an investigation. Inadequate procedures, especially those used to identify and contact missing participants and their beneficiaries, will likely be on the DOL’s radar. For example, when reviewing plan communications, the DOL may examine whether the fiduciary repeatedly sends communications to a known “bad address” without seeking the correct address. Incomplete census data, including the use of placeholders (such as 01/01/1900 birth dates or “John Doe participants”) may also indicate procedural deficiencies.

Once the DOL completes the investigation, it will work with the plan fiduciary to correct any identified issues.

Don’t Forget About the PBGC

DOL regulations provide a safe harbor both to plan fiduciaries of terminating defined contribution plans and to qualified termination administrators (QTAs) of abandoned plans. This safe harbor generally permits plan fiduciaries and QTAs to roll over missing participants’ and beneficiaries’ assets to an IRA. And in certain cases, the assets can be placed in a federally insured bank account or a state’s unclaimed property fund.

In December 2017, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) created a new program for terminating defined contribution plans. This program allows fiduciaries of terminating defined contribution plans to transfer missing participants’ and beneficiaries’ assets to the PBGC. This option helps plan fiduciaries complete the termination process—while making the plan assets accessible to missing individuals.

The DOL envisions expanding the safe harbor to include the transfer of missing individuals’ assets to the PBGC. FAB 2021-01 (the third piece of the DOL’s guidance package) states that, pending the expansion of the safe harbor, the DOL will not penalize plan fiduciaries of terminating defined contribution plans or QTAs of abandoned plans if they transfer plan assets to the PBGC. This temporary DOL policy provides another option when handling abandoned assets. Before transferring plan assets, however, the plan fiduciary or QTA must take all necessary steps to identify and locate the missing individual.

The DOL released FAB 2021-01 in part because it believes that the coronavirus pandemic may make it harder for plan fiduciaries and QTAs to stay in contact with former employees and their beneficiaries. Transferring assets to the PBGC could be a reasonable alternative to moving plan assets to an IRA, transferring the assets to a federally insured bank account, or escheating the account to the state.

The Takeaway

Plan fiduciaries should develop, document, and regularly review procedures that integrate best practices relative to missing participants. Taking decisive steps now may help prevent problems later—and may ensure that plan participants and their beneficiaries receive their proper benefits.

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Retirement Spotlight: IRS Aims to Clarify 60-Day Postponement Rule for Federally Declared Disasters

At the end of 2019, the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) was amended to create a mandatory 60-day postponement for certain federal tax-related deadlines in the event of a disaster. This new provision was designed to ensure that affected taxpayers would have guaranteed relief while recovering from a natural disaster or other emergency. But this measure didn’t seem to affect how the IRS had already been responding to such events. In fact, the new law created some ambiguity. In an effort to address this uncertainty, the IRS has released proposed regulations. These regulations provide more information about

  • what time-sensitive tax acts are covered;
  • how the 60-day postponement is determined; and
  • how the phrase, “federally declared disaster,” is defined for purposes of this 60-day period.

These regulations make it clear that the practical applicability of the automatic 60-day rule still ultimately depends on the IRS’s granting of deadline relief when disasters happen. And because the IRS has already been doing this—typically granting more than 60 days—there may not be a noticeable change.

60-Day Postponement Rule

The mandatory 60-day postponement rule was added (as IRC Sec. 7508A(d)) by the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2019. (This act was part of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, which also contained the SECURE Act.) It requires the IRS to automatically postpone for 60 days certain time-sensitive, federal tax-related deadlines—including those related to retirement savings plans—in response to federally declared disasters that occur on or after December 21, 2019.

The rule applies to taxpayers

  • who reside in or were injured or killed in a disaster area,
  • who have principal places of business in the disaster area,
  • who are relief workers providing assistance in a disaster area, or
  • whose tax records necessary to meet a tax deadline are located in a disaster area.

The IRS already had the authority under IRC Sec. 7508A to extend certain tax-related deadlines for up to one year in response to presidentially declared disasters or terroristic or military actions. The IRS typically makes disaster declarations through news releases, describing the counties affected and the length of the deadline postponement. Extensions typically are 120 days. Some are less. But the 60-day postponement rule ensures at least a minimum time to complete the acts covered by the guidance.

Time-Sensitive Tax Acts

The 60-day postponement statute contains a list of specific time-sensitive, tax-related acts. Those that pertain to retirement plans are

  • making IRA or retirement plan contributions,
  • removing excess IRA contributions,
  • recharacterizing IRA contributions, and
  • completing rollovers.

The proposed regulations point to other time-sensitive acts—specified under IRC Sec. 7508, Treasury Regulations, and IRS Revenue Procedure 2018-58—such as filing IRS Form 5500 for retirement plans and making retirement plan loan payments. Thus, the proposed regulations do not limit the mandatory 60-day postponement to only those acts listed in new IRC Sec. 7508A(d). Instead, they reinforce the IRS’s discretion in identifying which tax-related acts will be postponed.

So, despite the seemingly automatic nature of the new 60-day extension, individuals must still wait for the IRS to grant relief that applies to a specific disaster and to a specific area. If the IRS decides not to postpone a time-sensitive act, the 60-day postponement statute simply doesn’t apply. On the other hand (for disasters with incident dates), if the IRS postpones an act, the postponement must be for at least 60 days.

60-Day Postponement Period

The mandatory 60-day postponement period generally begins on the earliest “incident date” specified in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster declaration and ends on the date that is 60 days after the latest incident date. For example, consider a hurricane battering a coastal state for several days. FEMA announces a disaster declaration that is approved by the president. It specifies the earliest incident date for the affected counties as August 15 and the latest incident date (when the flooding ends) as August 19. The deadline postponement begins on August 15 and ends 60 days from August 19.

Under the 60-day postponement statute, however, it is unclear how the 60-day period is calculated when the disaster declaration either does not contain an incident end date or does not contain any incident dates. This happened with the president’s March 13, 2020, emergency coronavirus declaration: no incident date was specified, and no latest incident date has yet been determined. The proposed regulations simply state that in such a case no mandatory postponement period applies. Rather, the IRS will determine the postponement period—under its discretionary authority under IRC Sec. 7508A(a)—not to exceed one year.

Federally Declared Disaster

The 60-day postponement statute uses the phrases “disaster area” and “federally declared disaster” and cites the definitions found in IRC Sec. 165(i)(5). There, “federally declared disaster” is defined as ‘‘any disaster subsequently determined by the President of the United States to warrant assistance by the Federal Government under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.’’ But the words “federally declared disaster” are not used in the Stafford Act. Instead, the Stafford Act uses the terms ‘‘emergency,’’ ‘‘major disaster,’’ and ‘‘disaster (used to refer to both emergencies and major disasters).”

This language difference between IRC Sec. 165(i)(5) and the Stafford Act has led to some misunderstanding. For this reason, the IRS has also amended the regulations under IRC Sec. 165 to clarify that the term “federally declared disaster” includes references to both “major disaster” and “emergency,” as defined in the Stafford Act.

The Takeaway

The IRS is accepting comments on all aspects of the proposed regulations before they are adopted as final. Written or electronic comments and requests for a public hearing must be received by March 15, 2021.These regulations—when made final—may clarify the interplay between the new mandatory 60-day postponement rule and existing disaster relief. But practically, not much is likely to change. The IRS will continue to exercise its considerable authority to postpone tax-related deadlines. Postponements will generally continue to exceed 60 days. And individuals will still rely on the IRS to identify which disasters and tax-related items will qualify for deadline postponement.

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Public Hearing Announced for Proposed Regulations on Postponements Due to Federally Declared Disasters

Published in the Federal Register is an IRS notice of public hearing on proposed regulations for automatic 60-day postponement of certain deadlines following federally declared disasters. (The proposed regulations were published January 13, 2021, in the Federal Register.)

The public hearing is scheduled for March 23, 2021. Oral comments at the hearing can be made by telephone. Speakers outlines must be received by the IRS by March 15, 2021. The notice contains details on how to submit outlines and to receive an agenda prepared by the IRS. If no outlines are received, the hearing will be cancelled.

The tax-related acts covered by these proposed regulations are defined in Internal Revenue Code Section 7508A. This is the authority historically cited for postponement of deadlines in cases of local or regional disaster declarations. These postponements typically have a duration of as much as 120 days, though some are less. The new proposed regulations would create an automatic 60-day postponement in cases of federally declared disasters, ensuring that there would be at least 60 days to complete the tax-related acts covered by the guidance.

In addition to extending certain tax filing and tax payment deadlines, the postponements addressed in this guidance include completion of the many time-sensitive, tax-related acts described in IRS Revenue Procedure 2018-58 and Treasury Regulation 301.7508A-1(c)(1), which include filing Form 5500 for retirement plans, completing rollovers, making retirement plan loan payments, etc.

2021 Could See More Retirement and Health Legislation

Despite political partisanship that has marked much of the 116th Congress in 2019 and 2020, there have been some notable exceptions with bipartisan outcomes. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019 proved that cooperation is a possibility. That legislation, enacted in December 2019, made significant enhancements to tax-advantaged savings arrangements.

Enactment of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020 was a unified response to the pandemic that has disrupted many Americans’ lives in both economic and health terms. And, in December 2020, Congress was able to put aside differences in crafting legislation combining additional pandemic relief with needed last-minute federal agency appropriations.

What 2021 will bring is yet to be determined. The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives narrowed in the 2020 general election, and control of the U.S. Senate shifted to Democratic control by the narrowest of margins. A Democrat also now resides in the White House. His legislative agenda has yet to be revealed in detail, but—based on campaign messaging—may include the broadly-defined goal of “equalizing benefits across the income scale.”  This ambition aside, it can be difficult for any president to accomplish legislative objectives with such a narrowly divided Congress.

Unless, that is, these objectives align with those of a majority of lawmakers. Fortunately, tax-advantaged savings legislation has a history of being able to gather bipartisan support. It has win-win dimensions that tend to unify, rather than divide.  For this reason, there is optimism that one or more savings-focused bills could be enacted in 2021. Several introduced during the past two years will likely be re-introduced in the 117th Congress.

Securing a Strong Retirement Act

This legislation—called SECURE 2.0 by some, in reference to 2019’s SECURE legislation—is a further example of bipartisanship. It is jointly sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Representative (Rep.) Richard Neal (D-MA)— and GOP Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX). Due to the prominence of these sponsors, the legislation is considered to have favorable prospects. It includes the following provisions.

  • Require employers—with exceptions for certain new and small businesses—to establish an automatic enrollment deferral-type retirement plan, such as a savings incentive match plan for employees of small employers (SIMPLE) IRA plan.

  • Provide an enhanced small employer plan start-up tax credit for such new plans.

  • Enhance the “saver’s credit” for IRA contributions and for deferral-type employer plan contributions, such as those made to a SIMPLE IRA plan.

  • Exempt up to $100,000 of accumulated IRA and employer-sponsored retirement plan assets from required minimum distribution (RMD) calculations.

  • Increase the RMD onset age from 72 to 75.

  • Reduce penalties for RMD failures.

  • Provide a second (age 60), higher IRA catch-up contribution limit.

  • Index IRA catch-up contributions for inflation.

  • Increase the limit for IRA and retirement plan assets that are exempt from RMD calculations under qualifying longevity annuity contract (QLAC) rules.

  • Reduce certain IRA error penalties and permit more self-correction.

  • Permit matching contributions, e.g., to SIMPLE IRAs—based on student loan payments.

Automatic IRA Act

It is widely accepted that up to 40 percent of American workers do not have access to a workplace retirement plan. A concept that dates back more than a decade proposes universal, automatic saving to an IRA through a worker’s place of employment, if no other retirement plan is available. This is the concept embodied in the Automatic IRA Act, legislation that has been introduced in several previous sessions of Congress.

In the absence of action at the federal level, many states have acted on their own to establish automatic IRA-based saving programs, which—while beneficial for those who are covered—has left geographic gaps, and a patchwork with differing program rules. A uniform national automatic IRA program could close these gaps and address differences.

  • Employers in business less than 2 years or employing fewer than 10 employees would be exempt.

  • Employees would be automatically enrolled and contributions withheld from pay, but they would be able to opt out.

  • Accounts would be Roth IRAs unless a Traditional IRA was elected.

  • Contributions would likely begin at 3 percent of pay, but with latitude to range between 2 percent and 6 percent.

  • Investments would include balanced, principal preservation, and target-date funds, as well as guaranteed insurance contracts.

 Past sponsors of automatic IRA legislation have included Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

HSA Enhancements

Affordable health insurance for Americans continues to be an extremely challenging goal. One increasingly common option—an alternative to the comprehensive “major medical” health insurance model—is a high deductible health insurance plan linked to a savings and spending account known as a health savings account, or HSA.

This approach is intended to offer a path to lower health insurance premiums, and to allow individuals to save in a tax-advantaged manner for expenses that are below their health plan deductible, and for co-pay amounts they owe. What initially began as a temporary test program under medical savings account (MSA) nomenclature later evolved into the HSA we know today.

With many U.S. employers offering employees an HSA-based program as one—or perhaps the only—health insurance option, much focus has been on how the HSA might be tweaked to improve its usefulness. Following are some of the proposed HSA modifications, a composite of provisions from several bills introduced in the 116th Congress. Some, or all, could be proposed again in the 117th Congress that has just been sworn in.

  • Increase maximum annual HSA contributions; some have proposed doubling the limits.

  • Expand the treatments for which a plan’s high deductible need not be met before benefits commence, such as chronic care services and more medications, including nonprescription drugs.

  • Permit care at onsite employer or retail clinics without forfeiting HSA contribution eligibility.

  • Treat costs of participating in a fixed-fee primary care arrangement as HSA-eligible expenses.

  • Allow coverage of offspring under a parent’s HSA-compatible health plan to age 26; would mirror the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

  • Define ACA bronze-level and certain catastrophic health insurance plans as HSA-compatible.

  • Treat a defined portion of HSA accumulations spent for “fitness and health” as HSA-eligible expenses.

  • Allow a fixed amount from health flexible spending accounts (health FSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) remaining at year’s end to be rolled over to an HSA.

  • Allow Medicare-eligible individuals enrolled only in Part A (Medicare-provided hospital care) to remain HSA contribution-eligible.

Other Legislative Ambitions

Beyond the possibilities noted above, other initiatives that may be in play in the 117th Congress could include getting closer to universal availability of 401(k)-type workplace retirement plans and addressing the solvency of under-funded defined benefit pension plans. These could be more contentious, carrying as they might the stigmas of “mandate,” and “bailout,” both of which draw resistance from a substantial number of lawmakers.

Stay tuned for more details on proposed legislation and regulatory updates that stand to impact the savings plan landscape. In the meantime, check out our latest analysis on industry and regulatory news here on

IRS Proposes Regulations for Automatic Deadline Postponements for Federally Declared Disasters

The IRS has released a pre-publication version of proposed regulations that would create an automatic 60-day postponement of deadlines for certain time-sensitive, tax-related acts in circumstances of federally-declared disasters.

The tax-related acts covered by this guidance are defined in Internal Revenue Code Section 7508A. This is the authority that historically has been cited for postponement of deadlines in cases of localized disaster declarations. Such localized relief is announced by the IRS in news release form, describing the area affected—generally on a county-by-county basis—and describing the length of the deadline postponements.

These individually designated postponements may have a duration of as much as 120 days. Some are less. The new proposed regulations would create an automatic 60-day postponement in cases of federally declared disasters, ensuring that there would be at least 60 days to complete the tax-related acts covered by the guidance. The proposed regulations also define what that term “federally-declared disaster” will mean for purposes of this 60-day period.

In addition to extending certain tax filing and tax payment deadlines, the postponements addressed in this guidance include completion of the many time-sensitive, tax-related acts described in IRS Revenue Procedure 2018-58 and Treasury Regulation 301.7508A-1(c)(1), which include filing Form 5500 for retirement plans, completing rollovers, making retirement plan loan payments, etc.

A period of 60 days for submitting comments on the guidance, or to request a public hearing, will begin upon publication in the Federal Register.

Paycheck Protection Program to Re-Open Next Week

The Department of Treasury and Small Business Administration have jointly announced the reopening of the Paycheck Protection Program the week of January 11. Community financial institutions will begin offering First Draw PPP Loans Monday, January 11, and Second Draw PPP Loans starting Wednesday, January 13. Loans will be available to all participating lenders soon after.

Included in the announcement is new guidance that seeks to remove barriers for minority, underserved, veteran, and women-owned business, as well as interim final rules on amendments to the PPP and terms of Second Draw PPP Loans. Those available for a Second Draw PPP Loan generally include borrowers that

  • previously received a first draw PPP loan and will or have used the full amount only for authorized uses;
  • have no more than 300 employees; and
  • can demonstrate at least a 25 percent reduction in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020.

IRS Issues Deadline Relief for Mississippi Victims of Hurricane Zeta

The IRS has issued News Release MS-2021-01, announcing the postponement of certain tax-related deadlines for Mississippi victims of Hurricane Zeta, for hurricane-related events beginning October 28, 2020. In addition to extending certain tax filing and tax payment deadlines, the relief includes completion of many time-sensitive, tax-related acts described in IRS Revenue Procedure 2018-58 and Treasury Regulation 301.7508A-1(c)(1), which include filing Form 5500 for retirement plans, completing rollovers, making retirement plan loan payments, etc.

The area included in the relief at this time includes George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, and Stone counties. Taxpayers in other locations will automatically be added to the relief if the disaster area is further expanded.

Affected taxpayers with a covered deadline on or after October 28, 2020, and on or before March 1, 2021, will have until March 1, 2021, to complete the act(s). “Affected taxpayer” automatically includes anyone who resides or has a business located within the designated disaster area. Those who reside or have a business located outside the identified disaster area, but have been affected by the disaster, may contact the IRS at 866-562-5227 to request the relief.

IRS Releases 2021 Tax Year IRA and Retirement Plan Reporting Forms 1099-R, 5498

The IRS has posted at its website the 2021 tax year version of Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., and Form 5498, IRA Contribution Information. As the title implies, Form 1099-R is filed by financial organizations and service providers to report to account owners and the IRS distributions from tax-qualified retirement savings arrangements. Form 5498 more narrowly reports IRA-related information—including contributions to IRAs, SEP and SIMPLE IRA employer plans, end-of-year fair market values, rollovers, conversions, recharacterizations, etc.

Despite Some Confusion, December 30, 2020, Remains the Deadline for Special Tax Benefits of CARES Act Retirement Plan Distributions

Today is the last day for eligible taxpayers to take IRA and employer-sponsored retirement plan distributions that qualify for special tax benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This legislation was enacted in March 2020 as a response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. There has been some industry and media confusion over whether more recent pandemic relief legislation has provided an extended opportunity to qualify for such benefits, but it has not.

The following retirement plan-related CARES Act provisions apply to eligible coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs).

  • Exemption of up to $100,000 of retirement plan withdrawals from the 10% penalty tax for early withdrawals from retirement plans.
  • Three-year ratable taxation of such withdrawals, with a period of three tax years to return such withdrawal to a qualifying retirement account.

Just after Christmas, President Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021, which provided federal agency funding, limited additional coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic relief, and limited disaster relief. Among its provisions was the granting of the above-described tax benefits to victims of certain regional natural disasters, if such disaster events began  during the period beginning December 28, 2019, and the declaration ended within 60 days after CAA’s date of enactment, December 27, 2020. For those eligible for this new benefit, retirement account withdrawals may be made for up to 180 days after CAA’s enactment.

In March 2020, President Trump had declared that all 50 states would be considered disaster zones as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This appears to be the source of the recent confusion, and what some have believed to be the eligibility of all Americans to make retirement account withdrawals that qualify as CRDs and eligibility for these above-described tax benefits.

However, the CAA provision that may have contributed to the confusion actually excludes disasters that are declared solely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, President Trump’s COVID-19 disaster declaration of March 2020 covering the entire U.S. does not extend to all Americans the above-described tax benefits. (These individuals may, however, qualify for other benefits, such as extended deadlines for certain tax filings, and other tax-related transactions.)