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BCLP Benefits 3Q Review: IRS, DOL, & PBGC Guidance

In this edition of our newsletter, we have summarized key third quarter guidance from the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. As we look back on the third quarter of 2020, there has been a noticeable shift at the federal level from a focus on guidance related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Congressional response in the first half of the year to a return to executing the regulatory agendas of the federal agencies and the priorities of President Trump’s administration. Despite this shift, federal agencies have continued to issue new, amended, or extended COVID-19 guidance as the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to evolve. We have, therefore, included both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 guidance in this newsletter and group the summaries by these categories.

Read the full newsletter by clicking here.

If you have any questions about a topic included in this newsletter, please contact a member of our Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group.

Unraveling U.S. Retirement Savings – How a Global Pandemic Threatens to Undo Decades of Planning

With the economy in a free-fall and the U.S. government scrambling to create a financial safety net for citizens, giving access to tax-qualified retirement savings was a natural piece of Congress’ plan to loosen the grip on needed funds.  And yet, plan sponsors should pause before adopting the new in-service withdrawal and loan options wholesale.  The options made available under the CARES Act are permissive, not required.  Implementing a thoughtful, needs-based, COVID-19 withdrawal/loan policy could protect employees’ financial security for decades to come.

Plan sponsors can adopt an incremental approach to COVID-19 in-service withdrawals or loans, and should consider doing so in the interest of helping participants not decimate hard-won savings in a panic.

What Options do Plan Sponsors Have?

COVID-WithdrawalsThe CARES Act allows a new category of withdrawals, COVID-19 Distributions, which allows participants to take a withdrawal of the lesser of 100% of their vested account balance or $100K, anytime between January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020, if they satisfy certain requirements. Click here to read our summary of the CARES Act withdrawal rules.

Plan sponsors can design a COVID-19 withdrawal program within the parameters of the CARES Act without allowing the full $100K withdrawal at once – or at all.  The statute does not require that a plan go from 0 to 100!  Further, while the new law allows plan administrators to rely on the representation of participants that they qualify for the in-service withdrawals, plan sponsors can impose any reasonable substantiation

COVID-19: Mid-Year Changes to 401(k) Plans

U.S. employers looking to reduce operating costs in the short term in response to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may seek to reduce or suspend their matching or nonelective contributions in their 401(k) plan. The following summarizes the key issues facing employers in making the determination to suspend or reduce safe-harbor contributions.

Suspending or Reducing Employer Contributions in Non-Safe-harbor Plans

Discretionary employer matching and nonelective contributions generally may be immediately suspended or reduced through appropriate corporation action.  Employers should consider the following in connection with a suspension or reduction of employer contributions:

  • Does the Plan have Discretionary Employer Contributions?

If the plan does not include provisions setting out a formula or specific amount of employer contributions, the board simply needs to take action to change the amount of the employer matching contribution, which could include suspending the contribution until the board takes further action.

  • Does The Plan have a Set Formula for Determining Matching or Nonelective Contributions?

If the retirement plan or related documents set out a formula for determining the employer contributions (that is, the amount of the contributions are “hard-wired” into the plan), the plan will need to be amended to change the formula.  Companies may also consider removing specific formulas entirely and replacing them with provisions stating that the amount of the employer nonelective or matching contributions is discretionary and will be determining by the board from time to time.

  • When may the Reduction or

Employer Shared Responsibility Payments May Have No Statute of Limitations

In Chief Counsel Memorandum 20200801F, released on February 21, 2020, the IRS established its position that no statute of limitations applies to employer shared responsibility payments that may be assessed under Section 4980H of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”).  This IRS internal guidance should serve as a warning for applicable large employers that non-compliance with the Affordable Care Act’s employer shared responsibility rules can result in significant penalties that may be assessed at any time in the future.

The IRS bases its position on the fact that the information returns on Forms 1094-C and 1095-C do not provide sufficient information to calculate the tax liability due by an employer under Section 4980H of the Code.  In Beard v. Commissioner, 82 T.C. 766 (1984), aff’d 793 F.2d 139 (6th Cir. 1986), the tax court set forth a four-part test for determining whether a document is sufficient to start a statute of limitations under Section 6501 of the Code, with the first test requiring that the document include sufficient data to calculate the taxpayer’s tax liability.  In the IRS’s view, since neither Form 1094-C nor the Form 1095-C includes information with respect to an employee’s eligibility for a premium tax credit – which is necessary data for determining whether a Section 4980H penalty applies – an employer cannot know whether it has potential liability under Section 4980H at the time those forms are filed.  As a result, the IRS concluded that the statute of limitations

[UPDATED] New Year’s Resolution for 403(b) Plan Sponsors

[UPDATED] New Year’s Resolution for 403(b) Plan Sponsors

January 14, 2020

Authored by: Denise Erwin and Sarah Bhagwandin

UPDATE:

The IRS has posted the following information regarding extension of the deadlines for 403(b) plans a(see complete posting here).   The IRS is extending the last day of the initial remedial amendment period for Section 403(b) plans from March 31, 2020, to June 30, 2020. Plan sponsors now have until June 30, 2020, to update their pre-approved and individually designed 403(b) plan documents.

ORIGINAL POST:

Previously we posted on our blog about a deadline looming in the distance for 403(b) plan sponsors to adopt a pre-approved plan document.  Now that 2020 has arrived, the deadline is just around the corner and imminent action is required.

As you may know, if a plan sponsor retroactively adopts a pre-approved plan by the last day of the remedial amendment period on (3/31/2020), it will automatically be deemed to have corrected any form defects in the plan document it previously adopted and will be considered to be in compliance with applicable plan document requirements back to January 1, 2010.

This opportunity is important because although an individually designed plan can be amended to correct any form defects prior to the end of the remedial amendment period, the IRS has opted against establishing a determination letter program for 403(b) plans at this time.  As a result, adoption of a pre-approved plan document is the only way to obtain assurance from the IRS that a 403(b) plan document is fully compliant.

For more background and our suggested Action Steps, see our Read More

The CCPA: Employee Data Requirements May Be Delayed, But Do Not Appear to be Going Away

July 12, 2019

Categories

Action is currently underway to amend the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) to provide employers an additional year to comply with the CCPA with respect to employee data of California-based employees.

The California Senate Judiciary Committee has passed AB-25, an amendment to the CCPA that would delay most of the compliance obligations for employee data until January 1, 2021. Specifically, the amendment provides that employees are not “consumers” for most purposes of the statute until January 1, 2021.

If the legislature passes the bill, the CCPA will still apply to employers with California-based employees in the following ways, effective January 1, 2020:

  • Employees will be able to sue employers for a data breach involving their unencrypted data
  • Employers must provide a notice to employees describing the categories of employee information collected, used and disclosed by the employer.

While there have been many predictions that the CCPA would be amended to remove employee data from the requirements of the statute altogether, if the California state legislature approves the bill amending the CCPA, the effect will be to simply delay the compliance obligations for employers for a year.

For now the bill is with the Senate Appropriations Committee for hearing and another round of voting.  Assuming Appropriations votes to pass the bill, it will go to the Floor for a vote.  The Appropriations Committee has until August 30th to vote on bills.

Employer CCPA FAQs #9: May an employer become subject to the CCPA because of a corporate transaction?

As our series of FAQs regarding the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) continues we are examining the scope of the law’s jurisdiction.    These FAQs should help employers determine if they are required to comply with the CCPA and if so, what steps their HR professionals and IT departments should take to be in compliance.

As a reminder, the CCPA is a new privacy law that applies to data collected about California-based employees.   The CCPA will go into effect in early 2020, and employers who must comply should be addressing compliance obligations now.

For US employers who have not had to comply with the GDPR, the requirements of the CCPA will likely require a new analysis of the treatment of employee-data and implementation of updated or new data policies.  For employers with European operations, one key area of interest is the degree to which the CCPA aligns with the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).   Employers in compliance with the GDPR will likely already be familiar with many of the requirements of the CCPA – and with some assistance, should be able to bring their operations and policies into compliance with respect to California-based employees.

BCLP offers a complete compliance program to employers that includes a formal gap assessment as well as policies, procedures, and protocols to close identified gaps.  If you or your organization would like information on this compliance program or any other issue, please contact us or one of your other trusted BCLP attorneys.

Question #9: May

Employer CCPA FAQs #8: Does the CCPA apply to non-profit employers?

As our series of FAQs regarding the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) continues we are examining the scope of the law’s jurisdiction.    These FAQs should help employers determine if they are required to comply with the CCPA and if so, what steps their HR professionals and IT departments should take to be in compliance.

As a reminder, the CCPA is a new privacy law that applies to data collected about California-based employees.   The CCPA will go into effect in early 2020, and employers who must comply should be addressing compliance obligations now.

For US employers who have not had to comply with the GDPR, the requirements of the CCPA will likely require a new analysis of the treatment of employee-data and implementation of updated or new data policies.  For employers with European operations, one key area of interest is the degree to which the CCPA aligns with the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).   Employers in compliance with the GDPR will likely already be familiar with many of the requirements of the CCPA – and with some assistance, should be able to bring their operations and policies into compliance with respect to California-based employees.

BCLP offers a complete compliance program to employers that includes a formal gap assessment as well as policies, procedures, and protocols to close identified gaps.  If you or your organization would like information on this compliance program or any other issue, please contact us or one of your other trusted BCLP attorneys.

Question #8: Does

Employer CCPA FAQs #7: If an employer is based in California, will the CCPA requirements apply to all employee data held by the employer?

As our series of FAQs regarding the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) continues we are examining the scope of the law’s jurisdiction.    These FAQs should help employers determine if they are required to comply with the CCPA and if so, what steps their HR professionals and IT departments should take to be in compliance.

As a reminder, the CCPA is a new privacy law that applies to data collected about California-based employees.   The CCPA will go into effect in early 2020, and employers who must comply should be addressing compliance obligations now.

For US employers who have not had to comply with the GDPR, the requirements of the CCPA will likely require a new analysis of the treatment of employee-data and implementation of updated or new data policies.  For employers with European operations, one key area of interest is the degree to which the CCPA aligns with the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).   Employers in compliance with the GDPR will likely already be familiar with many of the requirements of the CCPA – and with some assistance, should be able to bring their operations and policies into compliance with respect to California-based employees.

BCLP offers a complete compliance program to employers that includes a formal gap assessment as well as policies, procedures, and protocols to close identified gaps.  If you or your organization would like information on this compliance program or any other issue, please contact us or one of your other trusted BCLP attorneys.

Question #7:  If an

Employer CCPA FAQs #6: Does an employer need to generate revenue in California in order for CCPA to apply?

As our series of FAQs regarding the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) continues we are examining the scope of the law’s jurisdiction.    These FAQs should help employers determine if they are required to comply with the CCPA and if so, what steps their HR professionals and IT departments should take to be in compliance.

As a reminder, the CCPA is a new privacy law that applies to data collected about California-based employees.   The CCPA will go into effect in early 2020, and employers who must comply should be addressing compliance obligations now.

For US employers who have not had to comply with the GDPR, the requirements of the CCPA will likely require a new analysis of the treatment of employee-data and implementation of updated or new data policies.  For employers with European operations, one key area of interest is the degree to which the CCPA aligns with the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).   Employers in compliance with the GDPR will likely already be familiar with many of the requirements of the CCPA – and with some assistance, should be able to bring their operations and policies into compliance with respect to California-based employees.

BCLP offers a complete compliance program to employers that includes a formal gap assessment as well as policies, procedures, and protocols to close identified gaps.  If you or your organization would like information on this compliance program or any other issue, please contact us or one of your other trusted BCLP attorneys.

Question #6: Does an employer need

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