IRS Guidance

Final Regulations Issued for Offset Retirement Plan Loan Rollovers

The IRS has issued final regulations implementing a provision of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that permits an extended period—beyond 60 days—to roll over the proceeds of certain retirement plan loans that are offset and treated as distributions. This guidance was issued in proposed form on August 20, 2020, followed by a 45-day comment period. Publication as final in the Federal Register is pending.

Specifically, a qualified plan loan offset (QPLO) is a plan loan in good standing that is offset as a result of plan termination or a participant’s failure to meet loan repayment terms due to severance from employment. Under such circumstances, the amount of the offset loan can be rolled over to an IRA or another employer-sponsored retirement plan as late as the participant’s tax return deadline—including extensions—for the tax year when the loan was offset.

A plan loan that is offset for other reasons, such as for a failure to meet required payments while still employed, is not a QPLO and does not qualify for the extended rollover period. The final regulations provide details and examples to help in making such determinations.

The IRS notes that it has responded to commenter suggestions and set the final regulations’ applicability coincident with loans that are offset on or after January 1, 2021, rather than immediately upon publication in the Federal Register.  As a result, required reporting of QPLOs on Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., will first apply to 2021 reporting years, the information returns for which are provided to participants and to the IRS in 2022. These final regulations can, however, be applied by taxpayers and information return filers as of the August 20, 2020, date when they were published in proposed form in the Federal Register.


Retirement Spotlight: IRS Releases New Escheatment Guidance

Handling unclaimed account balances has always challenged plan administrators and financial organizations. Even some government-approved options—such as rolling over plan assets to an IRA—can create difficulties when distributing missing or unresponsive individuals’ account balances. Escheating (i.e., reverting) assets to a state’s unclaimed property fund is also an option—especially for smaller account balances—but it’s usually considered a last-ditch effort by plan administrators and financial organizations who have tried but failed to locate missing account owners and their beneficiaries.

In January 2019, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a GAO 19-88 report that found reporting and withholding inconsistencies among plan administrators who escheated plan assets to a state’s unclaimed property fund. The GAO found that some plan administrators withheld taxes on escheated plan assets, but others did not. The GAO also found that administrators could benefit from additional guidance on reporting escheated assets and on whether individuals could later roll over escheated amounts to an IRA.

In response to the GAO’s recommendations, in October 2020 the IRS issued Revenue Ruling (Rev. Rul.) 2020-24 and Revenue Procedure (Rev. Proc.) 2020-46. This guidance builds on previous pronouncements in Rev. Proc. 2016-47, which provided self-certification procedures for rollovers, Rev. Rul. 2018-17, which explained how financial organizations should report escheated IRA assets, and Rev. Rul. 2019-19, which laid out reporting and withholding requirements for uncashed checks.

This Retirement Spotlight summarizes Rev. Rul. 2020-24 and Rev. Proc. 2020-46 and explains how they interact with other IRS and Department of Labor (DOL) guidance.

 

Highlights of Rev. Rul. 2020-24

In Rev. Rul. 2020-24, the IRS provides the following escheatment example and determines that the distribution is subject to withholding and reporting requirements.

  • A 401(a) qualified retirement plan administrator escheats an individual’s $900 account balance to a state unclaimed property fund. (This amount is beneath the $1,000 threshold that would require an automatic rollover to an IRA.)
  • The account does not include employer securities, nondeductible employee contributions, designated Roth amounts, or accident or health plan benefits.
  • The plan administrator does not have a withholding election on file for this individual.

Withholding Requirements – The IRS states that the $900 distribution is a “designated distribution” and is subject to the withholding requirements under Internal Revenue Code Section (IRC Sec.) 3405. A designated distribution is defined as any taxable payment from a deferred compensation plan (which is broadly defined), an IRA, or a commercial annuity. The IRS also notes that the following payments are not considered designated distributions.

  • Wages
  • Payments to a nonresident alien or corporation
  • Dividends on employer securities

Because the $900 designated distribution is considered an eligible rollover distribution, the plan administrator must withhold 20 percent ($180) for federal income taxes.

Reporting Requirements The IRS ruling verifies that plan administrators must report this type of distribution on IRS Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc. Although the escheated assets are being paid to the state’s unclaimed property fund, the plan administrator must report the $900 distribution amount in Box 1, Gross distribution, and the $180 federal withholding amount is reported in Box 4, Federal Income tax withheld. While Rev. Rul. 2018-17 verifies that financial organizations should report escheated IRA assets under the missing individual’s name and Social Security number, Rev. Rul. 2020-24 is silent on this issue. Additional guidance may be needed.

Transition Relief Although many plan administrators already follow the withholding and reporting requirements described in Rev. Rul. 2020-24, the IRS is providing a transition period for those who need time to prepare. Plan administrators must comply with this guidance by the earlier of 1) the first payment date that occurs on or after January 1, 2022, or 2) the date it becomes “reasonably practicable” to comply.

 

Highlights of Rev. Proc. 2020-46

IRC Secs. 402(c)(3)(B) and 408(d)(3)(I) authorize a waiver of the 60-day rollover requirement in certain circumstances, such as when a financial organization makes a mistake or if a family member dies or becomes seriously ill. Previous IRS guidance (Rev. Proc. 2016-47) included a sample letter that may be provided to a plan administrator or financial institution to identify the reason for extending the normal 60-day period in order to complete an otherwise eligible rollover.

Rev. Proc. 2020-46 modifies Rev. Proc. 2016-47 by adding another reason to the self-certification letter: “a distribution was made to a state unclaimed property fund.” So individuals who recover escheated retirement plan assets can use this self-certification to document their rolling over such assets to an eligible plan. Self-certification applies only to the waiver of the 60-day rollover rule, so individuals cannot use this process on a distribution that is otherwise ineligible for rollover treatment, such as a required minimum distribution (RMD). Rev. Procs. 2020-46 and 2016-47 apply to eligible rollovers from 401(a) plans, 403(a) and 403(b) annuity plans, governmental 457(b) plans, and IRAs.

 

Key Takeaways

This latest IRS guidance should be evaluated in light of existing DOL guidance. The DOL considers escheatment a less desirable option and believes that ERISA preempts state escheatment laws for active retirement plans. The DOL makes its position clear in Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) 2014-1, which addresses fiduciary duties with respect to missing participants of terminated retirement plans. In FAB 2014-1, the DOL indicates that plan administrators should roll over unclaimed balances to an IRA when possible. As a last resort, plan administrators of terminated retirement plans may escheat any unclaimed balances to a state’s unclaimed property fund. Although the DOL has not issued any guidance for active retirement plans, escheatment may still be an option for ineligible rollover distributions, such as RMDs.

Some in the industry have asked for additional guidance on missing plan participants (such as a safe harbor for retirement plans with missing participants). Although the DOL has yet to release additional guidance, the IRS has included missing participant guidance in its 2020-2021 Priority Guidance Plan. Congress has also recently introduced legislation that proposes to create a national online “lost and found” database to connect individuals with unclaimed retirement account benefits.

Meanwhile, escheatment is a viable option only after pursuing all reasonable steps to locate a missing or unresponsive plan participant or IRA owner. The IRS’s guidance addresses how to withhold and report on escheated assets, but it doesn’t address whether or when escheatment should be used. Questions also remain on how to treat escheated assets once they’re rolled over to an eligible plan. For example, consider an individual who recovered escheated assets and rolled them over to an IRA. Would the assets be taxed when distributed from the IRA, or would they be considered basis in the IRA? If the assets are treated as after-tax basis, how would the IRA owner document this? And those considering escheatment should be aware of the substantial variation in rules from state to state.

Although questions remain, plan administrators who escheat plan assets should ensure that their systems are set up to apply the correct withholding amount and to report the distribution properly. Ascensus will continue to follow any new guidance as it is released. Visit ascensus.com for the latest developments.

 

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


Washington Pulse: IRS Issues Final Life Expectancy Regulations

On November 12, 2020, the IRS published final regulations updating life expectancy tables that are used for required minimum distributions (RMDs) and for other purposes. These new tables reflect an increase in life expectancies since the last tables were issued nearly 20 years ago. Although the updated tables do not apply until distribution years beginning in 2022, financial professionals should learn how the new life expectancy figures may affect their clients and should assess how their administrative systems will accommodate the changes.

 

Background

Two years ago, President Trump issued Executive Order 13847, which (among other things) directed the IRS to examine the life expectancy tables and to “determine whether they should be updated to reflect current mortality data and whether such updates should be made annually or on another periodic basis.” On November 8, 2019, the IRS published proposed regulations in response to the executive order. The IRS received numerous comments, but the only substantial change made in creating the final regulations was pushing back the applicability date to the 2022 calendar year.

Internal Revenue Code Section (IRC Sec.) 401(a)(9) and associated RMD regulations require “employees” to begin distributing their accumulated retirement assets by their required beginning date. (In this article, we will use the term “employee” because that is the term found in the Internal Revenue Code. It includes qualified plan participants, IRA owners, and all those who must take RMDs (e.g., beneficiaries).) The RMD rules help ensure that employees start taking distributions, and they permit payments over their life expectancy to avoid outliving their retirement savings. The IRS life expectancy tables determine the distribution period over which defined contribution-type retirement plans must be paid. The regulations specifically apply to RMDs taken from

  • qualified trusts (such as a 401(k) trust);
  • individual retirement accounts and annuities described in IRC Secs. 408(a) and (b);
  • eligible deferred compensation plans under IRC Sec. 457; and
  • IRC Secs.403(a) and §403(b) annuity contracts, custodial accounts, and retirement income accounts.

The life expectancy tables determine the distribution period for RMDs. The final regulations revise the three life expectancy tables found in Treasury Regulation (Treas. Reg.) 1.401(a)(9)-9. The Uniform Lifetime Table is used to determine the distribution period for those employees who must take RMDs during their lifetime. This table begins at age 72, which is the age at which RMDs must first be calculated under the SECURE Act rules. The distribution periods listed are simply the joint life expectancy of the employee at a certain age and a beneficiary who is exactly 10 years younger. Years ago, the IRS simplified the RMD process by allowing all employees—regardless of their beneficiary’s actual age—to use the Uniform Lifetime Table.

The Joint and Last Survivor Table reflects the life expectancy of two individuals. The ages in the table range from 0 to 120 years, and it shows the likely number of years that at least one of the two individuals will live. Despite listing all combinations of ages up to 120, this table is used in the RMD context for one purpose: to determine the distribution period for an employee who has named the spouse as the sole designated beneficiary—when the spouse is more than 10 years younger than the employee. This allows the employee to calculate the RMD using a longer life expectancy than under the Uniform Lifetime Table, resulting in a smaller RMD.

The third life expectancy table, the Single Life Table, is required in several situations. Perhaps the most common use is for determining the distribution period that a beneficiary must use when an employee dies. For example, assume that an IRA owner dies this year at age 75 and has named his 70-year-old sister as the sole beneficiary. Next year, his sister will determine her distribution period using the Single Life Table. The life expectancy for a (now) 71-year-old is 16.3 years under the current table.

The tables are also used for “substantially equal periodic payments” under IRC Sec. 72(t)(2)(A)(iv). The Internal Revenue Code contains an exception to the 10 percent early distribution penalty tax for certain pre-59½ distributions. Payments must be properly structured using the life expectancy tables contained in the regulations—and they must continue for at least five years and until the recipient reaches age 59½. This payment stream permits access to retirement funds while also preventing excessive fund depletion. The details of setting up such equal periodic payments are found in Revenue Ruling 2002-62, which the IRS expects to update to reflect the changes in the final life expectancy regulations.

 

The Transition Rule

The one provision that will likely create the most activity—and questions—is the final regulation’s “transition rule.” The IRS states that this rule is “designed to recognize that the general population has longer life expectancies than the life expectancies set forth in the formerly applicable Treas. Reg. 1.401(a)(9)-9.” The transition rule allows a beneficiary who has already locked into a life expectancy for RMD payouts to use a “one-time reset” to take advantage of the longer life expectancies in the new tables. This situation occurs when the employee died before January 1, 2021, and the beneficiary was using the old life expectancy tables to determine the RMD. Starting in 2022, the beneficiary’s RMD is based on the new tables, using the age for which the life expectancy was originally determined. An example may help.

Example: Frank died at age 80 in 2018. Frank’s nonspouse beneficiary, Rose, was 75 in the year he died. In 2019, the distribution period that Rose must use is 12.7 (the single life expectancy of a 76-year-old). For her distribution in 2021, Rose reduces that figure to 10.7 years: one year for 2020 and one year for 2021. Normally, Rose would then reduce her distribution period by one more year for 2022, to 9.7. But the transition rule permits Rose to reset her distribution period based on the new tables. Rose still uses her age in the year following Frank’s death, but she simply replaces the old life expectancy, 12.7, with the new one, which is 14.1. She then reduces that figure one year for each subsequent distribution year (2020, 2021, and 2022) to arrive at 11.1 instead of 9.7 (under the old tables).

Although this transition rule makes only incremental decreases in the amount that beneficiaries must distribute, this reset provides some relief for those who wish to distribute the smallest amount required in order to preserve assets. On the other hand, redetermining the distribution periods for beneficiaries who had commenced required distributions before 2022 will entail additional effort by financial organizations, plan administrators, and other advisers.

Note: The proposed regulations seemed to limit the circumstances under which a beneficiary could use the one-time reset. This apparent limitation was likely unintentional. But the final regulations revised the transition rule wording enough to verify a more expansive interpretation of the rule. So irrespective of how a beneficiary came to use the old Single Life Table, the new table can now be used. For those required to use “nonrecalculation” (by reducing the life expectancy by one year for each successive distribution year), the starting age remains the same. Spouse beneficiaries, who may use the “recalculation” method, simply start using the new tables in 2022.

 

Key Takeaways

The final regulations are nearly identical to the proposed regulations. While these new regulations are straightforward, there are still some important points to remember.

  • The new tables apply for distribution calendar years beginning on or after January 1, 2022.
  • The transition rule allows certain beneficiaries a one-time reset to use the longer life expectancies.
  • The IRS expects to review these tables every 10 years (or when new mortality studies are published).
  • The final regulations will require a significant number of individual RMD payout redeterminations.
  • Software platform providers and others may face sizeable programming tasks.

 

Looking Ahead

Fortunately, the IRS heeded commenters’ requests and delayed the final regulations’ applicability date to 2022. This will allow more time for all affected parties to integrate the new tables into their processes. The IRS will also release guidance regarding SECURE Act provisions, such as the rule that replaces certain beneficiary life expectancy payments with a requirement to deplete beneficiary accounts after 10 years. As guidance is released, rely on Ascensus to monitor developments and to publish helpful analysis.

 

 

Click here for a printable version of this issue of the Washington Pulse.


IRS Seeks Comments on Spousal, Annuity Rights for In-Kind 403(b) Distributions of Terminating Plans

The IRS has issued Notice 2020-80, which requests comments on spousal and annuity rights that may potentially apply to 403(b) custodial accounts that are distributed to participants in-kind upon termination of a 403(b) plan.

The request in Notice 2020-80 was issued in conjunction with IRS Revenue Ruling (Rev. Rul.) 2020-23, which describes the status and tax treatment of in-kind distributions to participants of 403(b) custodial accounts in the event of a plan termination. Rev. Rul. 2020-23 states that if such custodial accounts comply with certain conditions after an in-kind distribution, they will retain their tax-deferred status as 403(b) custodial accounts until such time as the assets are paid out of the account to the participant or a beneficiary.

Notice 2020-80 points out that, while 403(b) plans in general are not subject to the annuity and spousal rights provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, those 403(b) plans that are subject to ERISA requirements—e.g., plans providing employer contributions—must comply with parallel annuity and spousal rights provisions of ERISA Section 205.

Notice 2020-80 specifically requests comments on the following.

  • Information on current practices with respect to termination of ERISA-governed 403(b) plans that are funded through custodial accounts.
  • Administrative or other burdens that might be associated with annuity or spousal rights when applied to such in-kind distributions.
  • Timing for applying a requirement that protects annuity or spousal rights, such as, upon a plan’s termination versus when an account is ultimately distributed.
  • Whether—as an alternative to in-kind distribution—custodial accounts of terminating 403(b) plans subject to spousal and annuity requirements should instead be forwarded to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation defined contribution plan missing participants program.
  • Transition relief that could aid in protecting spousal and annuity rights of terminating 403(b) plans funded through custodial accounts.

Comments in response to Notice 2020-80’s request must be received by the IRS on or before February 3, 2021, preferably submitted by electronic means.


Updated Life Expectancy Tables Published

Today’s Federal Register includes IRS final regulations providing updated life expectancy tables. These tables are to be used when calculating required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRAs and other tax-qualified retirement savings arrangements, such as 401(k) plans. Those affected will include IRA owners, plan participants, beneficiaries, and employer-sponsored retirement plan administrators.

These final regulations take effect today, with publication in the Federal Register, but the life expectancy tables they contain will not be used for calculations until distribution calendar years beginning January 1, 2022.

The purpose of these new life expectancy and distribution tables is to ensure that future required payments from retirement savings arrangements better reflect actual life expectancies of those who receive such payments.


IRS Issues Updated Life Expectancy and Distribution Tables for Determining RMDs

The IRS has issued a pre-publication version of final regulations containing guidance and life expectancy tables to be used in the calculation of required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRAs and other tax-qualified retirement savings arrangements, such as 401(k) plans. Those affected will include IRA owners, plan participants, beneficiaries, and employer-sponsored retirement plan administrators.

These final regulations will take effect on the date of their publication in the Federal Register, and the life expectancy tables they contain are to be used for calculations for distribution calendar years beginning January 1, 2022. The purpose for providing these updated life expectancy and distribution tables is to ensure that future required payments from retirement savings arrangements better reflect actual life expectancies of those who receive such payments.


IRS Issues Guidance on In-Kind Distribution of 403(b) Custodial Accounts of Terminating 403(b) Plans

The IRS has issued Revenue Ruling (Rev.Rul.) 2020-23, which describes the status and tax treatment of certain 403(b)(7) custodial accounts belonging to participants or beneficiaries of terminating 403(b) plans. Briefly, Rev. Rul. 2020-23 states that if such in-kind-distributed custodial accounts comply with the conditions in this guidance, they will retain their tax-deferred status as 403(b) custodial accounts, until such time as the assets they contain are actually paid out to the participant or beneficiary to whom they belong.


IRS Announces Louisiana Hurricane-Related Deadline Extensions

The IRS has issued Announcement LA-2020-05, which describes the postponement of deadlines for victims of Hurricane Delta, damage from which began on October 6, 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 Treasury Regulation 301.7508A-1(c)(1), which include filing Form 5500 for retirement plans, completing rollovers, making retirement plan loan payments, etc.

The parishes included in the relief include Acadia, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis, and Vermilion. Taxpayers in other locations will automatically be added to the relief if the disaster area is further expanded.

Affected taxpayers with a covered deadline occurring on or after October 6, 2020, and on or before February 16, 2021, will have until February 16, 2021, to complete the act. “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 hurricane, may contact the IRS at 866-562-5227 to request the relief.