As part of the proposed federal fiscal year 2014 budget, President Obama included a cap on the amount of retirement savings an individual could accumulate in tax-deferred retirement plans. The total accumulation amount for an individual includes all qualified tax-deferred savings plans such as traditional defined benefit (DB), cash balance, money purchase, profit sharing, 401(k), and 403(b) plans, as well as funded governmental 457(b) arrangements and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), both traditional and Roth.
The proposal is most likely a result of the presidential campaign last year, during which it was reported that Governor Mitt Romney had qualified accounts in excess of $100 million. However, the administration’s budget proposal would not tax accumulated accounts in excess of the cap. If the accumulated accounts exceed the cap, the individual would not be allowed to make future deferrals or receive any future employer contributions under any retirement plan.
The proposal would essentially cap tax-advantaged retirement plans to an amount necessary to provide the maximum annuity permitted under a defined benefit plan. The current limit is $205,000 payable annually at age 62. The annual annuity amount would be increased by a cost of living adjustment.
After converting the annuity to a present value using current interest rates, the total accumulation amount is approximately $3.0 million to $3.4 million. Because of the current low interest rate environment, that total accumulation amount is inflated. If interest rates return to a historical level, the maximum accumulated amount could be as low as $2.2 million to $2.4 million for an individual age 62.
No real details are available on how account values would be reported or how the cap would be calculated. There is a concern small business owners could eliminate their retirement plans if they were at the accumulated cap, because they would not receive the benefit of tax-deferred treatment. As a result, retirement savings vehicles for many rank and file employees could be eliminated. As an alternative, consideration could be taken to limit only employee deferrals under the proposal or a portion of employer-provided contributions, allowing small business owners some incentive to keep their retirement plans.
Under the proposal, it is estimated that the accumulation cap would result in approximately $9 billion in additional federal tax revenue over the next 10 years beginning October 1, 2013. On the flip side, it has not been determined how much tax revenue would be lost in future years as a result of smaller account balances for these taxpayers. All distributions from qualified retirement plans (other than Roth accounts) are taxed at distribution.
It will be interesting to see if this proposal will gain traction with lawmakers.