Monday, April 30, 2012

New proposed regulations could mean changes for employee retirement plans

Employee Benefit News:

By Sally Doubet King & Carolyn M. Trenda
April 23, 2012
Seal of the United States Department of the Tr...
Seal of the United States Department of the Treasury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
... For several months, the Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor have been exploring ways to provide “income-stream” options for more retirement plan participants. The agencies have focused on finding a balance between lump-sum cash distributions (which provide liquidity) and lifetime-income options.
This past February, the Treasury and the IRS released two proposed regulations, and the IRS issued two revenue rulings, that provide different strategies for achieving such a balance. Here, we go over two:
Logo of the Internal Revenue Service
Logo of the Internal Revenue Service (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
- A longevity annuity option, providing an annuity that begins at an advanced age under a defined contribution plan.
- A deferred annuity option from a defined contribution plan.
Longevity annuity option under defined contribution plan
To address the concern that retirees may outlive their savings, especially where the only retirement plan distribution received by the retiree is a lump sum from a defined contribution plan, the guidance package includes a proposed regulation that introduces a new concept, the “qualified longevity annuity contract." Such a contract would provide a stream of income commencing at an advanced age, such as 80 or 85, and would continue as long as the individual lives. ...

Under the proposed regulation, if a plan offered a QLAC, the QLAC would be disregarded in determining RMDs. Therefore, a participant would not need to commence distributions from the QLAC before the age selected under the QLAC contract.
Also under the proposed regulation, a QLAC would be an annuity contract purchased from an insurance company for a plan participant that satisfies each of the following requirements:
- Premiums for the contract satisfy a specific dollar limitation and percentage of assets limitation, i.e., the lesser of $100,000... or 25% of the account balance.
The contract provides that distributions must commence not later than a specified annuity starting date, and that annuity starting date cannot be later than the first day of the month coincident with or next following the participant’s attainment of age 85. ...
The contract does not make available any commutation benefit, cash surrender right or other similar feature.
There are no benefits provided under the contract after the death of the employee, other than a life annuity payable to a designated beneficiary.
The contract, when issued, states that it is intended to be a QLAC.
Additionally, issuers of QLACs are subject to certain reporting and disclosure requirements.
QLACs could also be provided under 403(b) plans and traditional IRAs, but not under 457(b) plans, defined benefit plans or Roth IRAs.
Note: Similar to the proposed regulation on partial annuity distributions, the new guidance on QLACs would be effective for contracts purchased after the publication date of a final regulation; in the interim, plans cannot rely on the proposed regulation.
Deferred annuities from defined contribution plans
The final piece of guidance is Revenue Ruling 2012-3. This ruling describes how the qualified joint-and-survivor annuity (QJSA) and qualified pre-retirement survivor annuity (QPSA) requirements in Code Sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply when a deferred annuity contract is purchased under a defined contribution plan.
The ruling provides three examples that illustrate different deferred annuity design alternatives, each with different conditions: a revocable annuity, a fixed annuity and a fixed annuity with an election not to pay amounts attributable to matching contributions under the annuity contract in the event the participant dies prior to the annuity starting date. The ruling then provides an analysis of how each alternative would necessitate certain plan terms, including compliance with QJSA and QPSA notice, waiver and consent requirements.
The ruling clarifies that where the plan separately accounts for the deferred annuity contract, the remainder of the plan is not subject to the QJSA and QPSA requirements.
Future considerations
Employers may wish to provide comments to the Treasury on either or both of the proposed regulations; these comments must be provided by May 3, 2012. In addition, plan sponsors interested in the new options should evaluate how the options could be integrated into current plan design and communicated to participants.
For more information, contact Partner Sally Doubet King at            (312) 849-3684 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (312) 849-3684      end_of_the_skype_highlighting       or and Associate Carolyn M. Trenda at             (312) 849-8130 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (312) 849-8130      end_of_the_skype_highlighting       or at the law offices of McGuireWoodds LLP.

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