Retirement Spotlight

Retirement Spotlight – Potential Challenges to the DOL’s Conflicted Advice Rule?

April 21, 2016 – Following a contentious rulemaking process, the DOL announced its final “conflict-of-interest” rule on April 6, 2016. After two written comment periods and several days of public hearings, the DOL made substantial changes to the proposed rule to accommodate the feedback it received.


The fact that both proponents and opponents of the guidance have some issues with the final product is an indication that the DOL may have found some common ground. What remains to be seen, though, is the legislative and legal action that opponents might initiate in their continued attempts to derail the rule.


Read our ERISA team’s Retirement Spotlight for commentary on potential challenges to the rule.

Retirement Spotlight – The DOL’s Fiduciary Regulation—It’s Here!

April 14, 2016 The Department of Labor (DOL) has released the long-anticipated final regulation that defines when investment advice provided for a fee is a fiduciary act.

The final regulation is clearly intended to unify all advisors under the higher standard of a fiduciary in order to protect retirement savers from potentially biased advice and reduce costs. As such, firms and advisors should carefully evaluate their business practices and compare them to the new rules.

Read the Retirement Spotlight for a full review of the regulations and their potential impact on advisors.

Ascensus Stands Ready to Assist Financial Professionals and Broker-Dealers with New DOL Fiduciary Regulations

Service provider will make it easy for financial professionals and broker-dealers to abide by new rules


Dresher, Pennsylvania–April 14, 2016Ascensus, the nation’s largest independent retirement plan and college savings services provider, is pleased to announce the development of a product offering that will provide much-needed simplicity and support for financial professionals and broker-dealers looking to comply with the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) new fiduciary regulations that were announced on April 6, 2016. (See Ascensus’ April 2016 Retirement Spotlight for more information about the regulations.)


“We’ve been watching the developments surrounding the new fiduciary regulations with great interest, and we understand the challenges faced by financial professionals and broker-dealers,” says Todd Berghuis, Ascensus’ senior vice president of ERISA. “Now that the regulations have been finalized, we can move forward with providing them with the guidance they need.”


Ascensus has long been a leader in providing a fee-based platform for Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) that offers flexibility for financial professionals looking to evolve their business model on a full-time, fee-for-service basis. The company is carefully studying the new regulations and will tailor its commission-based solution to be in line with them. Enhancements are scheduled to be available in the third quarter of 2016, and will be designed to ensure level compensation and a layer of additional fiduciary protection related to the management of a client’s investment lineup.


“Our product platform is designed to help financial professionals and broker-dealers comply with the new fiduciary regulations while minimizing disruption to their businesses,” states Steven Schweitzer, senior vice president of Ascensus’ Strategic Business Support Services. “Our ability to leverage technology and automation to ensure level compensation while offering an open-architecture investment platform and the flexibility to work within a desired business model makes Ascensus the easy choice for financial professionals and broker-dealers who want to comply with and thrive under the new standards.”


While financial professionals and broker-dealers may have had knowledge of various drafts of the new regulations, Ascensus anticipates that they will nevertheless be seeking assistance with the final guidelines as the new rules are reviewed and clarification from the DOL is provided prior to becoming effective.


“We’ve been working with financial professionals and broker-dealers to make sure that they’re comfortable with the new rules and the support we will provide them,” states Kathleen Connelly, Ascensus’ executive vice president of Client Services. “The ability to offer them a comprehensive product platform along with access to our ERISA experts will allow them to feel confident that they are adhering to the new standards as they service their clients.”


About Ascensus
Ascensus is the largest independent retirement and college savings services provider in the United States, helping over 6 million Americans save for the future. With more than 35 years of experience, the firm partners with financial institutions to offer tailored solutions that meet the needs of financial professionals, employers, and individuals. Ascensus specializes in recordkeeping, administrative, and program management services, supporting over 40,000 retirement plans and over 3.4 million 529 college savings accounts. It also administers more than 1.5 million IRAs and health savings accounts and is home to one of the largest ERISA consulting teams in the country. For more information about Ascensus, visit


View career opportunities at or on LinkedIn at For the latest company news, follow @AscensusInc on Twitter.

Retirement Spotlight republished by Employee Benefit News

ERISA Retirement Attorney Jessica Reynolds’ recent Retirement Spotlight article on the proper classification of independent contractors was republished in the March 2016 print edition of Employee Benefit News. The article, titled “Classify workers ahead of tax season,” reviews the guidelines of the IRS’ Fair Labor Standards Act which was issued in order to offer clarfication as to which employees can truly be classified as “independent.” Read more here.

Ascensus Retirement Spotlight featured on BenefitsLink

The latest edition of Ascensus’ Retirement Spotlight, written by ERISA Retirement Attorney Jessica Reynolds, was featured in the BenefitsLink daily newsletter on January 26. The article discusses a guidance issued by the D.O.L. offering clarification on the definition of an “independent contractor.” Worker complaints and lawsuits alleging improper classification of workers are continuing and employers are spending significant time and expense defending them. The guidance, issued in July, describes the “economic realities test” developed from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to assist employers in properly classifying workers.

Retirement Spotlight – Reminder Regarding Department of Labor Guidance on Independent Contractors

Independent Contractor Misclassification

The Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division issued Administrative Interpretation No. 2015-1 in July, 2015, noting what the agency calls “misclassification of employees as independent contractors.” The issue is relevant in the retirement industry given the fact that independent contractors may establish employer-sponsored retirement plans, while employees may not. The issue of whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor is not a new one, and there is a lengthy history of litigation in U.S. courts involving businesses that have mislabeled workers as independent contractors in order to limit their eligibility for employer-provided benefits, overtime pay, etc.


Read this full edition of Ascensus’ Retirement Spotlight here.

Tax/Budget Legislation Enacted With Retirement Effects

December 21, 2015 – President Obama signed into law H.R. 2029 on December 18, 2015, which is combined tax extender and federal budget legislation. (See the “Retirement Spotlight” article posted to our newsroom here for details.)


Briefly, this legislation does the following.


  • The IRA qualified charitable distribution (QCD) option is extended for 2015 and is made permanent.
  • Rollovers to savings incentive match plan for employees of small employers (SIMPLE) IRAs from non-Roth IRAs, qualified retirement plans, IRC Sec. 403(b) plans, and governmental 457(b) plans will be permitted after the initial SIMPLE IRA two-year period. This is effective on the date of enactment (December 18, 2015).
  • Airline bankruptcy settlement payments eligible for rollover to IRAs will now include settlements occurring within the 180-day period beginning on the date of enactment (December 18, 2015).
  • The definition of “qualified public safety employee” for purposes of the age-50 exemption from the 10 percent additional tax on early distributions from governmental retirement plans has been expanded to include nuclear materials couriers, U.S. Capitol police, Supreme Court police, and diplomatic security special agents. This is effective for distributions after December 31, 2015.
  • The legislation creates a Form 1099-series safe harbor for de minimis errors. An error of $100 or less on the amount of a distribution or an error of $25 or less on a withholding amount does not need to be corrected by issuing a revised Form 1099-R, 1099-SA, or 1099-Q, unless requested by the taxpayer. This change applies to forms required to be filed after December 31, 2016 (2016 and later tax year forms).
  • Computer technology and equipment is a qualified higher education expense for Coverdell education savings account (ESAs) distributions. This is effective for distributions made after December 31, 2014. (Such computer expenses already were qualified elementary and secondary expenses for ESA distributions.)

Retirement Spotlight – Tax Bill Makes IRA Qualified Charitable Distribution Option Permanent

Tax Bill Makes IRA Qualified Charitable Distribution Option Permanent

After numerous temporary extensions since 2006, Congress has made permanent the IRA qualified charitable distribution (QCD) option for taxpayers age 70 ½ or older. This option allows a qualifying taxpayer to donate up to $100,000 per year of IRA assets tax-free to qualifying charitable organizations. The bill has now gone to President Obama for signature and enactment.

Read this full edition of Ascensus’ Retirement Spotlight here.

Retirement Spotlight – DOL/IRS to make reporting of compliance information on 5500-series forms optional for 2015

DOL/IRS will make reporting of compliance information on 5500-series forms optional for 2015

The Department of Labor and the IRS have announced that certain plan compliance and trustee/custodian information proposed to be required on 2015 plan year Forms 5500 will instead be optional for 2015 plan years. Form 5500-SUP, issued for the first time in draft form in March of 2015, has not yet been officially released by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB). It is not clear whether it will be released for 2015 reporting, but if so – in those limited circumstances where it would be used – the compliance questions it contains would similarly be optional.

Read this full edition of Ascensus’ Retirement Spotlight here.