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Posts Tagged ‘Social Security’

COLAs for retirement, Social Security, and health benefits for 2015

October 31st, 2014 No comments

With the release of the September 2014 Consumer Price Index (CPI) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have announced cost-of-living adjusted (COLA) figures for Social Security and retirement plan benefits, respectively, for 2015. The 2015 adjusted figures for high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) included in this Client Action Bulletin were released by the IRS earlier this year and are provided here for convenience.

The end of SSA letter-forwarding service poses an obstacle for plan sponsors

August 12th, 2014 No comments

The termination by the Social Security Administration (SSA) of its letter-forwarding service creates a hindrance for retirement plan sponsors. The service allowed sponsors to mail letters trying to locate missing participants regarding their benefits as required under ERISA.

In the latest issue of Milliman’s DB Digest, Alexandra Moen addresses the implications sponsors face in fulfilling their ERISA obligations. Here is an excerpt:

ERISA, IRS, SSA, and DOL regulations have consistently emphasized “reasonable methods” when attempting to locate participants. The SSA and IRS letter-forwarding services have historically provided fiduciaries great confidence that all appropriate steps had been taken. Free Internet search sites and social media can be unreliable and inaccurate. Are these methods “reasonable” if they fail to locate a participant? Several questions regarding these government agency announcements remain, but it seems certain that plan sponsors will now have to put more time, money, and effort into these required searches for plan participants and beneficiaries.

Many plan documents do not include wording about participants who are unable to be located. It is permissible to forfeit the benefit after all reasonable means have been exhausted, as long as the benefit would be reinstated if the participant makes a claim for it. Plan sponsors may also wish to consider adding wording to the Summary Plan Description or website telling the participant of their responsibility to inform the plan of address changes, especially if their benefit could be forfeited.

To read more DB Digest articles, click here.

Regulatory roundup

August 11th, 2014 No comments

More retirement-related regulatory news for plan sponsors, including links to detailed information.

Social Security published article on two benefits provisions
A new article published by the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses health and retirement study data to investigate the effects of the SSA’s Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) on Social Security benefits received by households. The provisions reduce benefits for individuals or the dependents of individuals whose work histories include jobs for which they were entitled to a pension and were not subject to Social Security payroll taxes (“noncovered” employment).

To read the entire article, click here.

IRS updates FAQ on 403(b) preapproved plan program remedial amendment period
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has updated a frequently asked question (FAQ) regarding the 403(b) preapproved plan program remedial amendment period. According to the IRS, by adopting a 403(b) preapproved plan by the deadline (to be established and announced by the IRS), the program allows an eligible employer to retroactively correct defects in the form of its written 403(b) plan back to the first day of the plan’s remedial amendment period, which is the later of: January 1, 2010, or the plan’s effective date.

The employer’s adoption of a preapproved 403(b) plan that has a favorable opinion of advisory letter automatically corrects any defects in its prior written 403(b) plan, but not defects in any documents incorporated by reference into the prior plan). Interim amendments are not required for a plan to be eligible for this remedial amendment period.

403(b) plans sponsors who didn’t adopt a written plan before December 31, 2009, can use the 403(b) Voluntary Program Submission Kit to correct this error.

The IRS also indicated that at this time it does not anticipate opening a determination letter program for individually designed 403(b) plans.

For more information, click here.

IRS updates guide to common qualified plan requirements
The IRS has recently updated its web page on common qualified retirement plan requirements. The list highlights some of the more important plan requirements to help employers in implementing practices, procedures, and internal controls to monitor plan operations.

For more information, click here.

JCT releases estimates of federal tax expenditures for fiscal years 2014-2018
The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) has released its latest summary of federal tax expenditures entitled “Estimates of federal tax expenditures for fiscal years 2014-2018” (JCX-97-14). The JCT says that the employer health exclusion will cost the government $785.1 billion in forgone revenue from 2014 to 2018 and that the next exclusion of defined contribution plans will cost $399 billion.

To download a copy of the report, click here.

IRS updates posting on Voluntary Correction Program fee schedule and Form 8951
The IRS has updated its web page in regards to the Voluntary Correction Program (VCP) fee schedule and Form 8951 (Compliance Fee for Application for Voluntary Correction Program [VCP]).

To access Form 8951, click here.
To view the updated VCP fee schedule page, click here.

Regulatory roundup

August 4th, 2014 No comments

More retirement-related regulatory news for plan sponsors, including links to detailed information.

IRS private letter ruling on lump sum window for those in pay status will not violate MDR
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released a private letter ruling (PLR 201431034) stating that a lump sum window for participants in pay status will not violate minimum distribution requirements (MDR).

According to the PLR:

Under the amendment, the Covered Individuals would have a specified limited window period of no more than 180 days during which they could elect to receive in lieu of their current annuity what Company A represents is the actuarial present value of their remaining benefits under the aforementioned Plans, in the form of a single lump sum payment. The window period may consist of multiple phases, such as an opt-in phase during which Covered Individuals would have the opportunity to proceed through the remainder of the window program and an election phase during which Covered Individuals could elect to receive, in lieu of their current annuity, the actuarial present value of their remaining annuity payments in the form of an immediate lump sum, and the extent the law requires, a qualified joint and survivor annuity (including a single annuity for retirees who are not married), or a qualified optional survivor annuity.

To read the entire private letter ruling, click here.

Social Security trustees retain projected year of trust fund reserve depletion
The Social Security Board of Trustees recently released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2033, unchanged from last year, with 77% of benefits still payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund will become depleted in 2016, also unchanged from last year’s estimate, with 81% of benefits still payable.

To read the entire report, click here.

PBGC creates online resource guide on choosing between lump sum or annuity
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) recently created an online resource that provides information to assist with “Making a choice: Lump sum or annuity?”

The new resource page allows the public to get some insight on key questions that should be answered when making this important decision and offers other hypothetical scenarios.

To read the entire guide, click here.

401(k) plans: Improvements can be made to better protect participants in managed accounts
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued the report “401(k) plans: Improvements can be made to better protect participants in managed accounts.” The report reviews eight managed account providers that represented an estimated 95% of the industry involved in defined contribution plans in 2013, showing that the providers varied in how they structured managed accounts, including the services they offered and their reported fiduciary roles.

To read the entire report, click here.

IRS posts three FAQs regarding EGTRRA determination letter program for preapproved plans
The IRS has posted three new frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA) determination letter program for preapproved plans.

Question #4: “If I file a determination letter application for my pre-approved defined benefit plan by April 30, 2012, and the Service determines that additional remedial amendments are needed, will I have time to adopt the amendments?”
Question #6: “I am an adopter of a volume submitter plan and I wish to make certain changes to the pre-approved document. When I file a determination letter application, must I incorporate these changes in the pre-approved plan document or may I make the changes as separate amendments to the plan?”
Question #8: “I am filing Form 5310 to terminate my EGTRRA-approved M&P or volume submitter plan. Must I include copies of interim amendments with my application?”

Regulatory roundup

June 23rd, 2014 No comments

More retirement-related regulatory news for plan sponsors, including links to detailed information.

Social Security Administration defines policy for same-sex married couples
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has published new instructions that allow the agency to process more claims in which entitlement or eligibility is affected by a same-sex relationship. These instructions come in response to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. vs. Windsor, which found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

This latest policy development lets the agency recognize some nonmarital legal relationships as marriages for determining entitlement to benefits. These instructions also allow Social Security to begin processing many claims in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages or nonmarital legal relationships.

For more information, click here.

GASB’s OPEB proposals and related resources
The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has published two proposed statements intended to significantly improve financial reporting by state and local governments of other post-employment benefits (OPEB), such as retiree health insurance. The GASB also published a third exposure draft that would establish requirements for pensions and pension plans that are outside the scope of the pension standards the GASB released in 2012.

To download the three exposure drafts, click here.

FASB issues guidance on stock compensation
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has issued Update No. 2014-12, guidance intended for companies that award stock compensation that hinges on a performance target being met and allows vesting if the covered employee isn’t working when the target is hit.

The guidance is to be effective for annual periods and interim periods within those annual periods starting after December 15, 2015, according to the FASB. The rules prescribe the same effective date for private and public business entities.

To learn more about the FASB guidance, click here.

Thanks again, identity thieves!

January 10th, 2014 No comments

Benbow-DavidOnce again, the bad deeds of a few are making it more difficult for many honest people to do their jobs. Remember the Social Security Death Index? It was a free and extremely useful site that allowed you to look up people and determine if and when they had died. A nice thing to know if you happen to pay pension benefits for life.

But security concerns caused the free lookup service to be taken offline. Searches can now be conducted for $10 each or an unlimited subscription to the “Death Master File” can be purchased for $995. For most pension administrators, the price tag is too steep (unless you’re aware that a few groups used their unlimited subscriptions to provide free lookup services again), but an identity thief can get enough information from the Death Master File for it to be a very profitable business model.

This situation caught the eye of U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who related the story of a child who died just before her 5th birthday, only to have her identity stolen from the Death Master File and used to file for a bogus tax refund. This led to a line item in the budget deal that was signed last month calling for further restrictions to the Death Master File.

The U.S. Commerce Department, which administers the Death Master File, has been tasked to create a process to certify individuals with legitimate needs for the file within three months. Meanwhile, all the pension administrators, insurance companies, and genealogy buffs who use the information legitimately can look forward to navigating the new certification process, and the identity thieves can figure out how to steal the identity of someone who’s already been certified.

Regulatory roundup

August 12th, 2013 No comments

More retirement-related regulatory news for plan sponsors, including links to detailed information.

DOL requests approval to conduct focus groups and survey regarding pension benefit statements
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is requesting the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) approval of an information collection request (ICR) titled, “Focus Groups and Survey Regarding Pension Benefit Statements.”

ERISA, section 105(a), requires an ERISA-covered individual account plan administrator to furnish periodic benefit statements to participants and beneficiaries. This new ICR seeks OMB approval to conduct a survey and an experiment on participants in an existing household American Life Panel (ALP) via the Internet and to conduct four focus groups of non-panel members. The survey and focus groups would explore whether information contained in sample benefit statements can be presented in a way that improves recipients’ understanding of the statements and helps them better plan for retirement. Specifically, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) would collect data through four focus groups that will pretest the model benefits statements, each containing slightly different information, and conduct a survey of 2,900 ALP respondents.

Interested parties are encouraged to send comments to the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within 30 days of publication of this notice in the Federal Register. The notice was published on August 9.

To read the entire notice, click here.

SSA now processing some retirement spouse claims/paying benefits for same-sex couples
Carolyn W. Colvin, acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA), issued a statement indicating that Social Security is now processing some retirement spouse claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due.

To read the entire press release, click here.

IRS updates FAQs on designated Roth accounts in retirement plans
The IRS has updated its web page on designated Roth accounts. These frequently asked questions (FAQ) and answers provide general information and should not be cited as any type of legal authority. They provide responses to general inquiries. Because these answers do not apply to every situation, yours may require additional research. The answers are based on the final regulations Designated Roth Contributions to Cash or Deferred Arrangements Under Section 401(k) and Designated Roth Accounts Under Section 402A.

To view the updated web page, click here.

SSA analysis: Pension plan participation among married couples; both DB and DC
A recent article presents descriptive statistics on the overall participation in employer-provided pension plans by plan type among married couples over a decade, from 1998 to 2009. The private sector’s pension environment during this period was characterized by a continued shift from traditional defined benefit (DB) pensions to defined contribution (DC) retirement accounts.

This decade saw a rising prevalence of employers “freezing” their DB plans while also establishing new DC plans or increasing the employer match to current DC retirement plans and thus shifting the risks and responsibilities for retirement from employers to employees. Furthermore, the 2006 Pension Protection Act, which permitted employers to automatically enroll their employees into DC plans, is likely to have had an impact on this trend. In addition, during the global financial crisis of 2007 to 2009, the decline in the financial markets led to sharp declines in retirement account balances, whereas the drastic increase in unemployment led to decreases in participation and contributions to DC plans and increases in loan activities from those accounts.

These changes revealed more clearly some of the causes that may derail employees in DC plans from accumulating sufficient funds for retirement. Finally, the decade was a period when women’s labor force participation declined particularly among unmarried women, those with no children, and women with more than 16 years of education, which is likely to translate into lower participation in pension plans.

To read the entire analysis, click here.

Regulatory roundup

July 23rd, 2013 No comments

More retirement-related regulatory news for plan sponsors, including links to detailed information.

Social Security Administration working on DOMA implications to Social Security benefits
The president has directed the attorney general to work with other members of his cabinet to review the recent Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and determine its impact on federal benefit programs—including benefits administered by Social Security—to ensure swift and smooth implementation.

To read the news release issued by the Social Security Administration, click here.

PBGC requests OMB approval of information collection of multiemployer plan data
The Pension Protection Act of 2006 (Pub. L. No. 109-280), or PPA, requires the actuary of a multiemployer plan in effect on July 16, 2006, to certify the plan’s status within certain zones established under PPA to the plan’s trustees and the Secretary of the Treasury within 90 days after the beginning of each plan year.

The certification must state whether or not the plan meets any of the tests to be considered in critical or endangered status, whether a plan already is in critical or endangered status, or whether the plan is progressing as scheduled toward the applicable statutory target for improved funding. Plans in endangered and critical status are restricted with respect to the types of actions they may take and the types of amendments they may adopt, as well as required to follow special rules during the adoption period of collective bargaining agreements.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is researching the effects of potential changes to its multiemployer program. The PBGC’s objective is to quantify the effect of potential policy proposals on multiemployer plans that are or could enter critical status with respect to projected dates of insolvency, amount of financial assistance that PBGC would be required to provide, and the benefit changes plan participants would experience.

To assist in this research, PBGC is requesting that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approve an information collection request of multiemployer pension plans, their actuarial service providers, and their stakeholders, including unions and relevant professional and trade organizations.

Read the entire Request for OMB Approval at the Federal Register.

IRS Notices (CP216F, -G, or -H) – Application of Time Extension to File an Employee Plan Return
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has updated its posting on Notices (CP216F, -G, or -H) – Application of Extension of Time to File an Employee Plan Return. The web posting, in the form of questions and answers, provides guidance to:

• What is a CP216F, -G, or -H notice?
• Why are CP216F, -G, or -H notices generated?
• If customers receive a CP216G can they resubmit the EP Extension with the missing signature to get the extension approved?
• What should the customer do if a CP216H is received?
• Is there any recourse to being subject to the late filing penalties?

IRS posts sample automatic enrollment and default investment notice
Although this sample notice is designed for use in satisfying the qualified automatic contribution arrangement (QACA) and eligible automatic contribution arrangement (EACA) notice requirements, and the notice requirements under ERISA sections 404(c)(5) and 514(e)(3), plan sponsors may also find the sample notice to be helpful in drafting an employee explanation for an automatic contribution arrangement that is neither a QACA nor an EACA.

To read the entire notice, click here.

IRS answers: How much salary can be deferred by those eligible for more than one retirement plan?
The amount you can contribute to retirement plans is your individual limit each calendar year no matter how many plans in which you participate. This limit must be aggregated for these plan types:

• 401(k)
• 403(b)
• SIMPLE plans (SIMPLE IRA and SIMPLE 401[k] plans)
• SARSEP

If you’re eligible to defer to a 457(b) plan, you have a separate limit that includes both employee and employer contributions.

Make sure you don’t exceed your individual limit. If you do and the excess isn’t returned by April 15 of the next year, you could be subject to double taxation:

• Once in the year you deferred your salary
• Again when you receive a distribution

For more information, click here.

IRS provides links to fixing common plan mistakes
The IRS has updated its website to provide links to information for fixing common plan mistakes. Links to more information include:

403(b) plans
403(b) Plans with Operational Failures
Available correction methods may depend on when the failure occurred.

ADP/ACP
Not Correcting ADP/ACP Mistakes Timely
How to fix a 401(k) plan’s failure to timely satisfy ADP or ACP tests.

Amendments
Failure to Timely Adopt Interim Amendments
How to fix a failure to adopt interim amendments on time.

Help! I Missed the April 30 Deadline for Signing My Defined Contribution Plan
How to fix the failure to adopt an EGTRRA plan on time (for adopters of preapproved defined contribution plans).

Help! I Missed the April 30 Deadline for Signing My Defined Benefit Plan
How to fix the failure to adopt an EGTRRA plan on time (for adopters of preapproved defined benefit plans)

Nonamender Failures and the Voluntary Correction Program (VCP)
Overview of types of late amendment failures and relief available under the VCP.

IRS updates FAQs for enrolled actuaries
The IRS has updated its 11 frequently asked questions (FAQs) for enrolled actuaries. For example, one may find answers to the following questions:

• How do I update my address or other contact information?
• How can I find out whether a practitioner is an enrolled actuary in good standing with the Joint Board?
• How do I obtain my Joint Board examination answer sheet?

To access the FAQ, click here.

GAO report: Retirement security, challenges, and prospects for employees of small businesses
This testimony describes 1) the challenges small employers face in helping ensure that their workers secure retirement income, and 2) types of multiemployer plans (MEPs) and their potential to address these challenges. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) drew from its previous reports related to small employer challenges in establishing and maintaining a retirement plan and recent work on MEPs issued from March 2012 through September 2012.

To read the entire report, click here.

Regulatory roundup

June 11th, 2013 No comments

More retirement-related regulatory news for plan sponsors, including links to detailed information.

DOL/SSA/CMS jointly launch online retirement toolkit
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced the launch of an online toolkit to help workers identify key issues related to retirement planning. The DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration developed the toolkit in cooperation with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CSM) to help workers understand important decisions related to employment-based plans, Social Security, and Medicare.

For more information, click here.

SEC issues proposed rule on money market fund reform; Amendments to form PF
The Securities and Exchange Commission is proposing two alternatives for amending rules that govern money market mutual funds (or “money market funds”) under the Investment Company Act of 1940. The two alternatives are designed to address money market funds’ susceptibility to heavy redemptions, to improve their ability to manage and mitigate potential contagion from such redemptions, and to increase the transparency of their risks, while preserving, as much as possible, the benefits of money market funds.

The first alternative proposal would require money market funds to sell and redeem shares based on the current market-based value of the securities in their underlying portfolios, rounded to the fourth decimal place (e.g., $1.0000), i.e., transact at a “floating” net asset value per share (NAV).

The second alternative proposal would require money market funds to impose a liquidity fee (unless the fund’s board determines that it is not in the best interest of the fund) if a fund’s liquidity levels fell below a specified threshold and would permit the funds to suspend redemptions temporarily, i.e., to “gate” the fund under the same circumstances. Under this proposal, either alternative could be adopted by itself or in a combination of the two alternatives.

Comments are due 90 days after publication in the Federal Register.

For a prepublished copy of the proposed rule, click here.

Regulatory roundup

June 5th, 2013 No comments

More retirement-related regulatory news for plan sponsors, including links to detailed information.

GAO: Social Security’s long-term strategy needed to address key management challenges
According to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Social Security Administration (SSA) will experience management challenges in four key areas over the next decade.

Human capital. SSA has not updated its succession plan since 2006 although the agency faces an ongoing retirement wave and hiring freeze which will make it difficult to respond to growing workload demands.
Disability program issues. SSA faces ongoing challenges incorporating a more modern concept of disability into its programs, while balancing competing needs to reduce backlogs of initial and appealed claims and ensure program integrity.
Information technology (IT). SSA has made strides in modernizing its IT systems to address growing workload demands, but faces challenges with these modernization efforts and correcting internal weaknesses in information security.
Physical infrastructure. SSA is moving toward centralized facilities management, but the agency lacks a proactive approach to evaluating its office structure that will identify potential efficiencies, such as consolidating offices.

To read the entire GAO report, click here.

Social Security and Medicare trustees report for 2013
The U.S. Social Security Board of Trustees has released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined assets of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2033, unchanged from last year, with 77% of benefits still payable at that time. The Disability Insurance Trust Fund will become depleted in 2016, also unchanged from last year’s estimate, with 80% of benefits still payable.

To read the entire report, click here.

The Medicare Trustees has projected that the trust fund that finances Medicare’s hospital insurance coverage will remain solvent until 2026, two years beyond what was projected in last year’s report.

A number of factors have contributed to the improved outlook, including lower-than-expected Part A spending in 2012, and lower projected Medicare Advantage program costs. Recent data from the Medicare Advantage program indicate that certain provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will help reduce the growth of spending in this program by more than was previously projected. Partially offsetting these lower spending projections are somewhat lower projected levels of tax revenue.

The benefits of this slower growth accrue to both taxpayers and beneficiaries. For example, although the Part B premium for 2014 will not be determined until later this year, the preliminary estimate in the report indicates that it will remain unchanged from the 2013 premium.

Read the entire report here.

CBO report: The distribution of major tax expenditures in the individual income tax system
A number of exclusions, deductions, preferential rates, and credits in the U.S. federal tax system cause revenues to be much lower than they would be otherwise for any given structure of tax rates. Some of those provisions—in both the individual and corporate income tax systems—are termed “tax expenditures” because they resemble federal spending by providing financial assistance to specific activities, entities, or groups of people. Tax expenditures, like traditional forms of federal spending, contribute to the federal budget deficit; influence how people work, save, and invest; and affect the distribution of income.

A report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) examines how 10 of the largest tax expenditures in the individual income tax system in 2013 are distributed among households with different amounts of income.

To read the CBO entire report, click here.