Tag Archives: pension smoothing

Expiring smoothing provisions may require cash calls to fund pensions beginning in 2021

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, enacted on November 2, 2015, extended the pension smoothing provisions provided in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act to the 2020 plan year. Absent another law to further extend the pension smoothing provisions, we expect plan funding targets to increase at greater speed than the levels experienced in recent years beginning in the 2021 plan year. This projected increase in funding target liability, absent an offsetting increase in plan assets, is likely to deteriorate a plan’s funded status. As a result, we expect corresponding increases in otherwise required minimum funding contributions. Even plans that have experienced funding holidays for the last several years could see a cash contribution required in the 2021 plan year.

There are several ways to plan now to mitigate large increases in cash contribution requirements beginning in 2021. The first way is to start making level funding contributions prospective from the 2018 plan year. Ideally, if a plan can fund the expected funding shortfall before the 2024 plan year, the year when the segment rate relief corridor fully expires, then minimum required contributions for future years would just be the plan’s target normal cost (assuming future expected asset returns are achieved). However, there is a risk of funding more than necessary. If overall actual asset performance is better than expected and corporate bond rates rise higher than expected, a plan that is well funded now is more likely to become fully funded before the 2024 plan year and may find itself having already made more contributions than necessary. However, the funding ratio will still be better than simply funding the minimum required contribution.

Another way to avoid minimum required contributions is to voluntarily reduce funding balances to eliminate funding shortfalls. Another consideration would be to decrease liability exposure by purchasing annuities or having lump-sum window offerings.

If no action is taken until 2021, plan sponsors should expect hefty increases in minimum funding requirements.

HATFA-14 provides opportunities to reduce 2013 and/or 2014 cash contributions and 2014 PBGC premiums

Herman-TimThe recently enacted Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 (HATFA-14) provides opportunities for plan sponsors to reduce cash contributions and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) premiums. For the approaches that involve contributions for the 2013 plan year, prompt action is needed to ensure the applicable funding requirements are satisfied. For calendar year plans, the final date to designate cash contributions and/or add excess contributions to the prefunding balance for the 2013 plan year is September 15, 2014.

HATFA-14 opportunities
1. Reduce cash contributions required for the 2013 plan year.
• Plan sponsors may optionally revise the 2013 actuarial valuation (absent an election to opt out of the HATFA-14 relief for 2013).
• With the use of the higher interest rates for the cash funding valuation, the minimum required contribution may be lower.

2. Reduce cash contributions required for the 2013 and 2014 plan years.
• Plan sponsors may optionally revise the 2013 actuarial valuation (absent an election to opt out of the HATFA-14 relief for 2013).
• Plan sponsors are required to revise the 2014 actuarial valuation.
• With the use of the higher interest rates for the cash funding valuations, the total minimum required contributions (combined 2013 and 2014 plan years) may be lower.

3. Reduce 2014 PBGC variable rate premiums.
• Revise the 2013 actuarial valuation to reduce the minimum funding requirements for the 2013 plan year.
• Revise the 2014 actuarial valuation to reduce the minimum funding requirements for the 2014 plan year.
• Confirm that contributions are sufficient to satisfy both 2013 and 2014 minimum funding requirements.
• Designate some or all of the cash contributions previously used for the 2014 plan year as receivable contributions for the 2013 plan year.
• This reduces the unfunded liability for PBGC variable rate premium.

4. Manage credit balances for 2013 and 2014 plan years.
• Revise the 2013 actuarial valuation to reduce the minimum funding requirements for the 2013 plan year.
• Revise the 2014 actuarial valuation to reduce the minimum funding requirements for the 2014 plan year.
• Confirm that contributions are sufficient to satisfy both 2013 and 2014 minimum funding requirements.
• Create and use credit balances to optimize the plan sponsor’s use of cash.

Some plan sponsors may decide forgo the opportunities provided by HATFA-14. One example is a plan sponsor with planned cash contributions to reach a specified funding threshold. These plan sponsors will still need to revise the 2014 actuarial valuation to reduce the minimum funding requirements for the 2014 plan year (required). However, they may elect to opt out of the HATFA-14 relief for 2013 and satisfy 2013 plan year minimum funding requirements by making contributions based on the 2013 actuarial valuation results prepared under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) rates.

Cash savings opportunities under HATFA-14 will vary by a plan’s funded status, amount of credit balances available, etc. Also, different plan sponsors will have different goals and objectives regarding cash funding to the pension plan. Your Milliman consultant can help you review the opportunities that are available and decide on a course of action that is appropriate for your situation.

HATFA requires immediate action on 2013 defined benefit plan valuations

President Obama is expected to sign into law the recently passed Highway and Transportation Funding Act (HATFA). As enacted, single-employer and multiemployer defined benefit pension plan sponsors will see temporary reductions in minimum required contributions and may be able to avoid benefit restrictions. Because the new law as written applies retroactively to the 2013 plan year (absent an election to opt out), affected plan sponsors will have to make decisions soon, ideally equipped with yet-to-be published technical guidance from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

At a minimum, plan sponsors will need to quickly instruct their plan actuaries to redo the 2013 actuarial valuation calculations or formally elect to opt out.

In general, the new law modifies the 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act interest-rate corridors used by affected sponsors to determine their minimum funding liabilities. HATFA maintains a narrower corridor than MAP-21 for the 2013 to 2017 plan years and then phases in a wider corridor over four years beginning in 2018. A plan sponsor may elect, in writing, to retain its use of the MAP-21 interest-rate corridor only for the 2013 plan year; starting in 2014, use of the HATFA corridors by all plan sponsors is required.

Plan sponsors face a number of time-sensitive decisions and actions as a result of HATFA’s enactment. For example, absent an election to opt out, the narrower 2013 plan year interest-rate corridor will require a revised actuarial valuation. Plan sponsors will also have to revise their disclosures to reflect the HATFA changes in the next annual funding notices. As the HATFA change temporarily reduces the amount a sponsor must contribute and the tax deductions for those contributions, the employers’ taxable income could increase. And longer term, required pension plan contributions should increase after the temporary “smoothing” provision expires, depending on corporate bond interest rates and other factors at that time.

The HATFA provision does not affect multiemployer defined benefit pension plans nor Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) premiums. The pension-related provisions in HATFA also include changes for certain plan sponsors in bankruptcy, and companies subject to the rules of the Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB) will have to adjust their CASB recovery calculations. Cooperative/small employer charity plans will need to recalculate their plans’ full funding limits.

For additional information about HATFA’s pension provisions and assistance with exploring the short- and long-term pension funding options, please contact your Milliman consultant.

HATFA-14 and discount rates: The latest in “pension smoothing” provisions

Yu-LynnOn July 15, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 367-55 to approve H.R.5021, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act (HATFA-14), which provides funding for the Highway Trust Fund on a short-term basis (through May 2015). HATFA-14 also includes an extension of the “pension smoothing” provisions that had been adopted in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act. The bill would extend the MAP-21 funding stabilization provisions for five years (through 2020).

MAP-21 was enacted in July 2012. MAP-21 uses a 25-year average of a bond yield curve, which produces significantly higher rates than the 24-month average used before MAP-21. MAP-21 then imposes the minimum and maximum rate using a 10% corridor around these average rates. The corridor for determining the minimum and maximum rate expands 5% each year, ultimately reaching 30% by 2016.

HATFA-14 revises the minimum and maximum percentage ranges for a plan year as follows:

• 90% to 110% for 2012 through 2017
• 85% to 115% for 2018
• 80% to 120% for 2019
• 75% to 125% for 2020
• 70% to 130% for 2021 or later

The proposals relating to the applicable minimum and maximum rates are generally effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 2012. Under a special rule, an employer may elect, for any plan year beginning before January 1, 2014, not to have these proposals apply either (1) for all purposes for which the proposals would otherwise apply, or (2) solely for purposes of determining the plan’s adjusted funding target attainment percentage in applying the benefit restrictions for that year. A plan will not be treated as failing to meet the requirements of the anti-cutback rules solely by reason of an election under the special rule. By electing out in 2013, plans that have already prepared the 2013 Form 5500 will not be disrupted.

This is great news for plan sponsors who have short-term cash flow issues. Even though the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) variable rate premium calculation does not use rates under HATFA-14 relief, there was no PBGC premium increase in this bill, unlike MAP-21. Upon HATFA-14 being enacted, our first course of action will be to revisit 2013 plan year valuations. This should make for more exciting times in the world of pension funding!