Defined benefit plan
Industry & Regulatory NewsIRS Proposes Update to Mortality Tables Used for DB Plans
May 3, 2022 - The Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service have released proposed regulations to update the mortality tables that are used to calculate minimum required contributions for single-employer defined benefit pension plans. The regulations are proposed to be first effective for plan years beginning in 2023.
Comments must be received by June 9, 2022. A public hearing on these proposed regulations has been scheduled for June 28, 2022. The regulations will be reviewed, and additional details provided as warranted.
Industry & Regulatory NewsDOL Launches Roundtable Discussions on Retirement
The Department of Labor (DOL) has kicked off what is to be a series of roundtable discussions on how to improve retirement security for workers. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the Secretary’s representative for pensions and retirement, joined several state officials, trade group representatives, educators, and others in New York City to review current retirement security policies.
In the coming months, Kennedy Townsend will host similar discussions around the country to promote retirement security reform and open a dialogue between various stakeholders. Topics of focus will include encouraging automatic enrollment, improving portability of benefits as workers move from job to job, and leveraging affordable lifetime income options.
Industry & Regulatory NewsIRS Issues Yield Curves and Segment Rates for DB Plan Calculations
The IRS has issued Notice 2022-16, which contains updated guidance on factors used in certain defined benefit (DB) pension plan minimum funding and present value calculations. Updates include the corporate bond monthly yield curve, the corresponding spot segment rates for April used under Internal Revenue Code Section (IRC Sec.) 417(e)(3), and the 24-month average segment rates under IRC Sec. 430(h)(2). IRC Sec. 417 contains definitions and special rules for minimum survivor annuity requirements in DB plans. IRC Sec. 430 addresses minimum funding standards for single-employer DB plans.
Industry & Regulatory NewsHouse Passes Retirement Reform Proposal
The House of Representatives has passed the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2022 (which lawmakers are coining SECURE 2.0) by a 414-5 vote. H.R. 2954 was first introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) in October 2020, and subsequently amended by the Ways and Means Committee last year. The bill now includes provisions from the Retirement Improvement and Savings Enhancement (RISE) Act that came out of the House Education and Labor Committee last November.
Several key provisions are highlighted below.
- Requires automatic enrollment of eligible employees in 401(k) and 403(b) plans with certain exceptions and grandfathering provisions
- Enhances the three-year small retirement plan start-up credit, with a maximum credit of 100 percent (vs. the current 50 percent) for employers with no more than 50 employees, and phasing out for employers that have between 51 and 100 employees
- Provides a new credit for employer contributions to defined contribution plans of up to $1,000 per employee
- Enhances the saver’s credit by replacing the three-tier formula with a single 50 percent credit percentage on contributions up to $2,000, with phase outs beginning at certain AGI thresholds
- Increases the age for required minimum distributions (RMDs) from age 72 to age 73 in 2023, then age 74 in 2030, and finally age 75 in 2033
- Increases the catch-up contribution limit for plan participants who have attained ages 62-64 to $10,000 ($5,000 for SIMPLE plans)
- Clarifies pooled employer plan (PEP) trustee duties by indicating that any fiduciary of a pooled employer plan may be responsible for collecting contributions
- Permits 403(b) plans to participate in multiple employer plan (MEP) arrangements, including PEPs
- Reduces from three years to two years the period of service requirement for long-term, part-time workers, and disregards pre-2021 service for vesting purposes
- Reduces excise tax from 50 percent to 25 percent for failures to take RMDs, and further reduces tax to 10 percent if an RMD from an IRA is corrected within a certain time frame
- Establishes a national online “lost and found” database to connect individuals with unclaimed retirement account benefits
- Increases the cash-out limit from $5,000 to $7,000
- Requires defined contribution plan sponsors to provide paper benefit statements at least once annually, unless a participant elects otherwise
- Allows employers to permit employees to elect Roth treatment of both employee and employer contributions to SIMPLE and SEP plans
- Requires catch-up contributions made to a 401(k), 403(b), or 457(b) plan to be made on a Roth basis
- Permits defined contribution plan sponsors to provide participants with the option of receiving match contributions on a Roth basis
Additional proposals include the following.
- Requires the IRS to promote the saver’s credit
- Permits 403(b) plans to invest in collective investment trusts
- Provides for indexing of IRA catch-up contributions
- Permits certain student loan repayments to qualify for employer retirement plan matching contributions
- Allows a small employer joining a MEP or PEP arrangement to potentially claim a small plan start-up credit during the first three years of the MEP/PEP arrangement’s existence
- Provides a new small employer tax credit for enhanced plan eligibility for military spouses
- Permits immediate de minimis financial incentives, in addition to a matching contribution, to individuals for contributing to a retirement plan
- Enhances options for correcting employee salary deferral errors
- Defers tax for certain sales of employer stock to an employee stock ownership plan sponsored by an S Corporation
- Expands securities treated as publicly traded in the case of employee stock ownership plans
- Removes RMD barriers for life annuities by updating applicable actuarial test
- Reforms qualifying longevity annuity contract rules by repealing 25 percent limit for premiums and addressing spousal survivor rights after a divorce
- Directs agencies to review reporting and disclosure requirements and report to Congress
- Exempts defined contribution plans from sending otherwise required notices to certain individuals who are eligible but do not participate in the plan
- Expands failures eligible for self-correction under the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System
- Eliminates “first day of the month” deferral election requirement for governmental 457(b) plans
- Expands types of distributions that can be considered IRA qualified charitable distributions and excluded from income
- Adds private sector firefighters to those qualified public safety employees eligible for distribution penalty exception at age 50
- Excludes certain disability-related first responder retirement payments from income after retirement age
- Clarifies the statute of limitations for taxes on prohibited transactions with regard to IRAs to include the date such return would have been due
- Allows otherwise excludable employees from a defined contribution plan to be excluded from determination of whether top-heavy requirements are met
- Limits repayment of qualified birth or adoption distributions to three years
- Permits participants to self-certify that deemed hardship distribution conditions are met in certain circumstances
- Permits participants who self-certify that they have experienced domestic abuse to withdraw the lesser of $10,000 or 50 percent of their account without being subject to the 10 percent early distribution penalty tax. The funds could be repaid to the plan over three years.
- Makes changes to stock attribution rules under family attribution for coverage and nondiscrimination testing
- Permits discretionary amendments that increase benefits to participants to be adopted by the due date of the employer’s tax return
- Permits new 401(k) plans established after the end of the taxable year but before the employer’s tax filing date to receive elective deferrals up to the due date of the employee’s tax return for the initial year when they are sponsored by sole proprietors and single-member LLCs
- Limits only the portion of an IRA used in a prohibited transaction to be treated as distributed, as opposed to current rules disqualifying and treating the entire IRA as distributed
- Directs the DOL to review pension risk transfer interpretive bulletin relative to conditions for discharging defined benefit plan liabilities
The legislation also includes minor technical corrections to the SECURE Act. One such correction clarifies that defined benefit plan participants other than 5 percent owners who retire after the year they turn 70½ are entitled to actuarial adjustment for the period in which they do not receive distributions. Plan amendments would be required by the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2024 (2026 for governmental and collectively bargained plans), and would extend these new deadlines to the SECURE Act, CARES Act, and the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act.
The bill will now head to the Senate for consideration. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) who chairs the Senate HELP committee indicated that she and ranking member Senator Burr intend to advance companion legislation later in the spring.
Industry & Regulatory NewsWashington Pulse: U.S. House Passes Significant Retirement Bill
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2022 (SSRA) by a 414-5 vote on March 29, 2022. H.R. 2954 (also commonly referred to as “SECURE 2.0”) contains over 50 retirement plan provisions—nearly double the number as the original Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019. The U.S. Senate is expected to take up a similar bipartisan bill later this year, which could result in the need for a conference committee to reconcile differences between the two bills.
Industry & Regulatory NewsComment Period for Prohibited Transaction Exemption Guidance Extended
The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefit Security Administration has announced the extension of the public comment period for proposed amendments to procedures governing the filing and processing of prohibited transaction exemption applications. The comment period was initially set to expire on April 14, 2022, but has been extended an additional 45 days through May 29, 2022.
The agency has received multiple requests from interested parties to grant additional time to develop and submit comments. Details of the proposal were previously announced and can be found here.
Industry & Regulatory NewsPBGC Issues Interest Rate Assumptions for DB Plans
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has issued updated interest rate assumptions for benefit payments in terminating single-employer defined benefit (DB) pension plans. Specifically, these interest assumptions are for benefit payments with valuation dates in the second quarter of 2022, and apply to plans insured by PBGC.
Industry & Regulatory NewsDOL Issues Proposed Rule on Prohibited Transaction Exemption Procedures
The Department of Labor (DOL) has released a proposal that would supersede the Department’s existing procedure governing applications for exemptions from the prohibited transaction provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code. The Secretary of Labor is authorized to grant such exemptions and provide procedures for relief. Highlights of the proposal suggest substantially stricter standards and additional criteria for obtaining prohibited transaction relief, if implemented.
The DOL emphasizes that it will apply a high level of scrutiny to any retroactive exemption—including ensuring that no participants were harmed—and suggests contacting the agency before engaging in the transaction. Any information provided to the Office of Exemption Determinations, including during the pre-submission process, becomes part of an administrative record that is open for public inspection.
The DOL states that a previously issued exemption is not determinative of whether a future exemption would be approved under the same fact pattern. The DOL also proposes additional requirements in the application for exemption, several of which are highlighted below.
- The reason(s) for engaging in the exemption transaction
- Any material benefit that a party involved in the exemption transaction may receive because of the transaction
- The costs and benefits of the exemption transaction to the affected plan(s), participants, and beneficiaries—including quantification of those costs and benefits, if possible
- A detailed statement that describes possible alternatives to the exemption transaction and why the applicant did not pursue those alternatives
- A description of each conflict of interest or potential instance of self-dealing that would be permitted if the exemption is granted
- A statement that the transaction will be in the best interest of the plan and its participants and beneficiaries
- A statement that all compensation received, directly or indirectly, by a party involved in the exemption transaction will not exceed reasonable compensation within the meaning of ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code
- All statements made to the DOL, the plan, or, if applicable, the qualified independent fiduciary or qualified independent appraiser cannot be materially misleading at the time the statements are made
- A statement whether any prior transactions have occurred between the plan or plan sponsor and a party involved in the exemption transaction
The proposal modifies the definition of a qualified independent appraiser. It also addresses contractual obligations, prohibits indemnifications, and requires detailed information regarding relationships with any party or its affiliates (including past engagements) in an effort to determine independence. Similarly, the proposal expands requirements of qualified independent fiduciaries by prohibiting indemnifications, requiring fiduciary liability insurance sufficient to cover damages resulting by a breach of the independent fiduciary, and certifying that the exemption transaction complies with impartial conduct standards and the independent fiduciary has no conflicts of interest that could affect their judgement.
Under the proposal, applicants would have a duty to promptly notify the DOL of any material changes to representations made during the application process or after approval of the exemption, including disclosing whether a participating party in the exemption is the subject of an investigation or enforcement action. The changes would apply 90 days following receipt of a final rule in the Federal Register. Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted to the DOL by April 14, 2022.
Industry & Regulatory NewsIRS Updates Yield Curves and Segment Rates for DB Plan Calculations
The IRS has issued Notice 2022-14, which contains updated guidance on factors used in certain defined benefit (DB) pension plan minimum funding and present value calculations. Updates include the corporate bond monthly yield curve, the corresponding spot segment rates used under Internal Revenue Code Section (IRC Sec.) 417(e)(3), and the 24-month average segment rates under IRC Sec. 430(h)(2). IRC Sec. 417 contains definitions and special rules for minimum survivor annuity requirements in DB plans. IRC Sec. 430 addresses minimum funding standards for single-employer DB plans.
Industry & Regulatory NewsSEC Proposes ESG Reporting for Publicly Traded Companies
The SEC has issued a proposed rule that would require publicly traded companies to include certain climate-related disclosures in their registration statements and periodic reports, such as the annual Form 10-K.
The proposed rule would in part require disclosure about the following.
- The registrant’s governance of climate-related risks and relevant risk management processes.
- How any climate-related risks identified by the registrant have had or are likely to have a material impact on its business and consolidated financial statements.
- How any identified climate-related risks have affected or are likely to affect the registrant’s strategy, business model, and outlook.
- The impact of climate-related events (such as severe weather and other natural conditions) and transition activities on the line items of a registrant’s financial statements and estimates used in financial statements.
The rule would also require disclosures about direct greenhouse gas admissions and indirect emissions from purchased electricity or other forms of energy, as well as disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions from upstream and downstream activities in its value chain if material or if the registrant has set an emissions target. Accelerated filers would be required to include an attestation report from an independent attestation service provider covering emission disclosures.
A fact sheet provides an overview of requirements and the applicable phase-in period—depending on the type of registrant and type of emission disclosure required. The comment period will remain open for the longer of 1) 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, or 2) 60 days after the date of issuance and publication on sec.gov.