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Can I Deduct a Bonus for Tax Purposes if I Don’t Know Who Will Get it?

The IRS recently released Revenue Ruling 2011-29 clarifying the deductibility of bonuses. The question posed in the Ruling was:

“Can I deduct a bonus in the current tax year if I know how much I will pay in bonuses by the end of the year, even if I don’t know who will get them until next year?”

The Facts: The more detailed facts are as follows:

A company (we’ll call it “X” to protect the innocent) uses an accrual method of accounting for federal tax purposes. X pays bonuses to a group of employees pursuant to a program that defines the terms and conditions under which the bonuses are paid for a taxable year. X communicates the general terms of the bonus program to employees when they become eligible and whenever the program is changed.

Under the program, bonuses are paid to X’s employees for services performed during the taxable year. The minimum aggregate amount of bonuses payable under the program to X’s employees as a group is determinable either (a) through a formula that is fixed prior to the end of the year, taking into account financial results as of the end of that year, or (b) through other corporate action, such as a resolution of X’s Board or Compensation Committee, made before the end of the taxable year, that fixes the total bonuses payable to the employees as a group. To be eligible for a bonus, an employee must perform services during the taxable year and be employed

If It Isn’t Written Down, It Didn’t Happen

If It Isn’t Written Down, It Didn’t Happen

November 8, 2011

Authored by: benefitsbclp

 

We’ve all heard the old adage, advising us to record our thoughts and actions, lest they become lost to obscurity. In EP Quality Assurance Bulletin 2012-1, released November 2, the IRS reminds us of the importance of documentation with regard to the qualified plans in our lives. The Bulletin, entitled “Verification of Prior Plan Documents in the Absence of a Determination Letter,” provides IRS determination letter specialists with updated guidance on verification that retirement plans have been timely amended for prior legislation.

If you are filing your plan during the second remedial amendment cycle and you already have a d-letter covering the first cycle, you need to include all good-faith and interim amendments adopted after your first cycle submission.  In addition, you should include any discretionary amendments adopted since the issue date of the d-letter. However, if you are filing for a plan that does not yet have a d-letter, all amendments going back to the beginning of the EGTRRA amendment cycle should be included in your submission.

If a specialist determines that verification of compliance with additional laws beyond the cycles described above is warranted, he or she may expand the inquiry with managerial approval. This is where it could get tricky for plan sponsors. What if plan documentation cannot be produced? In the Bulletin, the IRS provides that if pre-GUST documentation is necessary (but the plan documents are missing), specialists should secure other evidence from the employer, including a prior d-letter, board

Compliance with ERISA Fee Disclosure Rules Considered Consistent with SEC Mutual Fund Advertising Rules

The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued a “no action letter” on October 26, 2011 indicating that issuing disclosures compliant with the Department of Labor (“DOL”) participant fee disclosure rules will not be considered inconsistent with the SEC Rule 482 advertising requirements that apply to mutual funds.

Participant Fee Disclosure Rule – DOL Regulation Section 2550.404a-5 requires plan administrators of participant-directed individual account plans to disclose, among other things, plan and investment-related information. Initial disclosures are not required until 2012. The performance data required to be disclosed in the regulation must be presented in a chart or other comparative format. Generally, the chart must include the average annual total return of the fund for the one-, five, and ten-calendar year periods ending on the date of the most recently completed calendar year. The DOL regulation also requires certain other disclosures, but, with respect to a money market fund, does not require inclusion of the fund’s most recent yield.

SEC Rule 482 – This SEC rule requires advertisements and other sales materials for certain mutual funds to include, among other disclosures, uniformly calculated performance information. In general, the rule requires performance data to be current as of the most recent calendar quarter ending prior to the publication of the advertisement (or sooner if the advertisement is provided telephonically or through an Internet site). An advertisement for a money market fund must also include a quotation of the fund’s current yield.

Problem – Comments submitted in response to the

2012 Qualified Plan Limits – YAY!

2012 Qualified Plan Limits – YAY!

October 24, 2011

Authored by: benefitsbclp

 Last week, the IRS issued a press release announcing its 2012 cost-of-living adjustments for retirement plans. The chart below reflects the qualified plan limits for calendar years 2009-2012.

 

Type of Limitation

 

2012

 

2011 

 

2010

 

2009

         

Elective Deferrals (401(k) and 403(b); not including adjustments and catch-ups)

$17,000

$16,500

$16,500

$16,500 

457(b)(2) and 457(c)(1) Limits (not including catch-ups)

$17,000

$16,500

$16,500

$16,500

Section 414(v) Catch-Up Deferrals to 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), or SARSEP Plans (1)

$5,500

$5,500

$5,500 

$5,500 

SIMPLE 401(k) or regular SIMPLE plans, Catch-Up Deferrals

$2,500

$2,500

$2,500

$2,500 

415 limit for Defined Benefit Plans

$200,000

$195,000

$195,000 

$195,000 

415 limit for Defined Contribution Plans

$50,000

$49,000 

$49,000 

$49,000

Annual Compensation Limit

$250,000

$245,000

$245,000 

$245,000

Annual Compensation Limit for Grandfathered Participants in Governmental Plans Which Followed 401(a)(17) Limits (With Indexing) on July 1, 1993

 

$375,000

 

$360,000

 

$360,000

 

$360,000

Letters From Your Friends at the IRS About Your Form 5500

Letters From Your Friends at the IRS About Your Form 5500

October 20, 2011

Authored by: benefitsbclp

The IRS Employee Plans Compliance Unit recently announced that they would be sending letters to plan sponsors whose Form 5500 filings were six to nine months late. From our experience, these letters are usually sent because there was a simple error, such as transposed numbers in the employer’s EIN or failing to mark a final return filed in a prior year as the “Final Return/Report.” Most often, a corrected copy of the Form 5500 will suffice to make the IRS go away for this purpose. A failure to respond to a compliance check letter could result in an audit referral to the IRS’s Employee Plans Examinations or the Department of Labor (“DoL”).

If an employer discovers a simple error, such as those noted above, whether via a letter from the IRS or otherwise, we generally recommend that the employer file an amended return with the DoL processing center coupled with an explanation detailing the error being corrected. The IRS and DoL are not always able to coordinate as efficiently as we or they would like, so sending a revised return to the IRS does not necessarily mean that the DoL has received it. The employer could be contacted separately by the DoL for the same reason the IRS contacted them, even after the IRS has notice of the corrected filing. Admittedly, filing an amended return does not always alleviate this additional hassle, but it has the potential to head it off at the pass and it makes dealing

Special Action Items for October

Special Action Items for October

October 13, 2011

Authored by: benefitsbclp

This is a brief reminder on common time-sensitive matters. We distribute these by email every month. If you would like to be added to the list, please comment below or email one of us. If you have questions, please call one of us. Thanks very much.

DEADLINES

Only a few days left to comply with these deadlines:

  • October 15, 2011 is the last day that a calendar-year plan can be corrected by amendment and in operation to address failure of the minimum coverage requirements of Code Section 410(b) and the general nondiscrimination requirements of Code Section 401(a)(4) in 2010. Has your plan received these tests from the plan’s recordkeeper?
  • 2011 third-quarter contributions to defined benefit plans must be made by October 15, 2011.
  • Calendar-year defined benefit plans with 100 or more participants are required to submit online premium filings to the PBGC by October 17, 2011. Special rules apply for new plans and plans with changed plan years. Click here for instructions.
  • For calendar-year plans that filed for an extension through Form 5558 by August 1, 2011, the 2010 Form 5500 must be filed by October 17, 2011.
  • The due date for the Form 5500 of a direct filing entity, such as a master trust, is 9? months after the end of the DFE’s fiscal year. For a direct filing entity with a calendar fiscal year, the filing deadline for the 2010 Form 5500 is October 17, 2011.

Other upcoming filing deadlines:

Third Circuit Update: 401(k) Plan Includes Reasonable Investment Options, Directed Trustee Not A Fiduciary

The Third Circuit recently issued a decision in Renfro v. Unisys Corporation, affirming dismissal of the claims brought against Unisys defendants in a 401(k) plan “excessive fee case.” The court specifically affirmed dismissal of the breach of fiduciary claims brought by of a putative class of participants in a 401(k) defined contribution plan on account of the fact that the Unisys 401(k) plan’s mix and range of investment options was reasonable. Since the court affirmed dismissal of the complaint, it declined to rule on whether the Unisys defendants were entitled to summary judgment on the ERISA Section 404(c) defense. One clear implication of the decision is that there is nothing wrong with offering “higher priced” retail mutual funds in a 401(k) plan. The Third Circuit also affirmed dismissal of the Fidelity defendants since Fidelity was not a fiduciary with respect to the selection and retention of investment options in Unisys’s 401(k) plan.

The opinion was authored by Judge Scirica and is online available at: http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/102447p.pdf.

What Does Growing Wheat Have to do with Health Reform?

What Does Growing Wheat Have to do with Health Reform?

October 5, 2011

Authored by: benefitsbclp

I get a lot of clients, family members, friends, acquaintances, and random strangers who find out I’m a lawyer asking me what I think is going to happen to the health reform law when the lower court decisions are reviewed by the Supreme Court. Fortunately, unlike the various real estate, estate planning, or tort questions I get asked (mostly by family), this is a subject that I actually know a little about.(1) I am not a Constitutional Law expert, but it was one of my favorite classes in law school.

My personal opinion is that I do not think it or any part of it will be struck down. Others disagree, but they are forgetting that health reform has everything to do with growing wheat.(2)

Back in the 1930’s, FDR kept pushing New Deal reforms through Congress. When the laws were challenged before the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court struck many of them down on the grounds that Congress did not have the authority to enact such laws. FDR threatened to increase the size of the Supreme Court(3) and nominate friendly justices who would uphold the reforms and magically we received Wickard v. Filburn.(4)

In Wickard, an Ohio farmer, Roscoe Filburn, was challenging part of the Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1938.(5) The Act purported to regulate how much of Roscoe’s farm could be devoted to wheat production. Roscoe planted and harvested significantly more than he was allotted under the Act. He argued that the additional wheat was for his personal

Is Prime + 1% a Reasonable Interest Rate for Qualified Plan Loans?

Is Prime + 1% a Reasonable Interest Rate for Qualified Plan Loans?

September 26, 2011

Authored by: benefitsbclp

In a phone forum held on September 12, 2011, Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) officials were reported by BNA Pension and Benefits Daily in a September 13, 2011 article by Florence Olsen as indicating that the Prime rate + 1% may not be a reasonable interest rate under the Internal Revenue Code prohibited transaction rules which apply to loans from qualified plans. For corrections and audit purposes, the IRS may be looking to the Prime rate + 2%. In recent years, plan administrators typically set the interest rate for plan loans as the Prime rate + 1% in effect on the first of the month during which the loan is originated (or a similar set date). If a participant can not secure a loan in the open market with an interest rate of Prime + 1%, the IRS official indicated that the Prime rate + 2% may be a more appropriate measurement of a reasonable interest rate.

A qualified plan loan is distinctly different than a loan obtained on the open market. Repayments are generally secured through payroll withholding and transmitted by the employer directly to the plan. In addition, the collateral for the loan is secure since it’s the participant’s own account balance in the plan. Therefore, the source of loan repayment and the collateral are likely to be more secure in the context of a qualified plan loan than a loan obtained in the open market. Arguably, these factors weigh in favor of a lower

New York Marriage Equality and Benefits – Part 2

New York Marriage Equality and Benefits – Part 2

September 8, 2011

Authored by: benefitsbclp

Last week we looked at the implications of New York’s Marriage Equality Act (“Act”) upon the tax treatment of employer-provided health care benefits for same-sex married couples in New York. Today we’ll consider how the Act affects the administration of family and medical leave, HIPAA special enrollment rights and health care continuation coverage under COBRA and New York’s “mini-COBRA” law.

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