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Safe Harbor Validation of Rollovers

“What responsibility does a plan sponsor have in validating whether an incoming rollover contribution is legitimate?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, Social Security and Medicare. We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business. A recent call with a financial advisor from Texas is representative of a common inquiry related to rollover contributions.

Highlights of Discussion

A qualified retirement plan isn’t required to accept rollover contributions from other plans or IRAs, but if it does under the terms of its governing plan document, the incoming assets must consist of valid rollover amounts. In order for the plan to retain its tax-preferred status, the plan sponsor must reasonably conclude that an amount is a valid rollover contribution as defined in Treasury Regulation Section (Treas. Reg. §) 1.401(a)(31)–1, Q&A–14(b)(2) and retain documentation. The IRS has provided examples of what would constitute proof of a valid rollover, including safe harbor options detailed in IRS Revenue Ruling 2014-9 .

Historically, plan sponsors followed the guidance of Treas. Reg. 1.401(a)(31)-1, Q&A-14(b)(2) for acceptable forms of documentation, which include a participant providing the sponsor of the receiving plan with a letter from the plan sponsor of the distributing plan that states the distributing plan has received a determination letter from the IRS or that the plan, to the best of the sponsor’s knowledge, is qualified. Further guidance from IRS Form 5310, Application for Determination for Terminating Plan, states a sponsor  who is filing this form is required to “… submit proof that any rollovers or asset transfers received were from a qualified plan or IRA.” The instructions to the form indicate that a copy of the distributing plan’s determination letter and timely interim amendments is one example of acceptable proof.

For an indirect rollover where a plan participant has received the assets from a distributing plan or IRA and, within 60-days, rolls over the amount to the receiving plan the individual can certify that the distribution is eligible for rollover and was received not more than 60 days before the date of the rollover. Many plans use a type of standard rollover certification form for this purpose. If the rollover contribution is late, the plan sponsor can accept the contribution if the individual has a waiver from the IRS or self-certifies under Revenue Procedure 2016-47.

In addition to the methods listed in the regulations, IRS Revenue Ruling 2014-9 provides additional streamlined safe harbor due diligence procedures described below that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, will allow the sponsor of the plan receiving the rollover to reasonably conclude that the amount is a valid rollover contribution.

Plan-to-Plan Rollovers

The sponsor of the receiving plan can confirm the previous employer’s plan is intended to be qualified by looking up the plan on the DOL’s EFAST2 website. If Code 3C appears on the plan’s most recent Form 5500 filing, then the plan IS NOT intended to be qualified under IRC Code §§ 401, 403, or 408, indicating that a distribution from the plan would not be eligible for rollover.

If the receiving plan receives a check made payable to the trustee of the plan for the benefit of the participant from the trustee of another qualified plan, it is reasonable for the receiving plan sponsor to conclude that the plan that initiated the rollover determined the distribution is an eligible rollover distribution.

IRA-to-Plan Rollovers

When a receiving plan gets a check that is made payable to the trustee of the plan from the trustee of an IRA for the benefit of an employee, the recipient plan administrator may reasonably conclude that the source of the funds is a traditional IRA and not an inherited IRA and, therefore, eligible for rollover.

Keep copies of documentation

As proof rollover amounts were valid, plan sponsors should keep copies of the following items:

  • Checks or check stubs with identifying information;
  • Confirmations of wire or other electronic transfers; and
  • Participant certifications.

Special considerations for RMDs

Required minimum distributions (RMDs) are not eligible rollover distributions. A qualified plan is responsible for ensuring that any RMDs are paid to plan participants. Therefore, the IRS has indicated it is reasonable for the receiving plan to conclude that the distributing plan has already paid to the participant any RMDs and remaining amounts are eligible for rollover.

In contrast, IRA trustees and custodians are not responsible for automatically distributing RMDs to IRA owners. Therefore, a plan sponsor may not reasonably conclude that an IRA rollover consists only of eligible rollover funds. The plan administrator should seek additional documentation to confirm that the IRA owner has satisfied any RMD that may be due.

Conclusion

When rollovers to a qualified plan are permitted, plan sponsors must ensure such incoming amounts are, indeed, eligible for roll over. Validation can be done through employee certification of the source of the funds for a 60-day rollover; verification of the payment source (via information on the incoming rollover check or wire transfer) from the participant’s IRA or former plan; or, if the funds are from a plan, looking up that plan’s Form 5500 filing for assurance that the plan is intended to be a qualified plan.

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IRAs, SEPs, SIMPLEs and Qualified Charitable Distributions

 

My client has a simplified employee pension (SEP) IRA through his place of employment. He’s wondering if he can make a tax-free, qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from his SEP IRA?

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs and qualified retirement plans. We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business. A recent call with an advisor in South Dakota is representative of a common inquiry involving charitable IRA distributions.

Highlights of Discussion

A QCD is any otherwise taxable distribution (up to $100,000 per year) that an “eligible IRA owner or beneficiary” directly transfers to a “qualifying charitable organization.” QCDs were a temporary provision in the Pension Protection Act of 2006.  After years of provisional annual extensions, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 reinstated and made permanent QCDs for 2015 and beyond.

With tax rates dropping in 2018 as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, taxpayers may get more “bang for their bucks” on their 2017 tax returns by completing a QCD by December 31, 2017.

Generally, IRA owners must include any distributions of pre-tax amounts from their IRAs in their taxable income for the year. Aside from the benevolent aspect of making a QCD, a QCD is excludable from taxable income, plus it may count towards the individual’s required minimum distribution (RMD) for the year, and may lower taxable income enough for the person to avoid paying additional Medicare premiums. Note that he or she would not be entitled to an additional itemized tax deduction for a charitable contribution when making a QCD. (Apart from a QCD, IRA owners who take taxable IRA distributions and donate them to charitable organizations may be eligible to deduct such amounts on their tax returns for the year if they itemize deductions (Schedule A of Form 1040). See IRS Tax Topic 506 and IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions for more information.)

An eligible IRA owner or beneficiary for QCD purposes is a person who has actually attained age 70 ½ or older, and has assets in traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, or “inactiveSEP IRAs or savings incentive match plans for employees (SIMPLE) IRAs. Inactive means there are no ongoing employer contributions to the SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA. A SEP IRA or a SIMPLE IRA is treated as ongoing if the sponsoring employer makes an employer contribution for the plan year ending with or within the IRA owner’s taxable year in which the charitable contribution would be made (see IRS Notice 2007-7, Q&A 36).

Generally, qualifying charitable organizations include those described in §170(b)(1)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) (e.g., churches, educational organizations, hospitals and medical facilities, foundations, etc.) other than supporting organizations described in IRC § 509(a)(3) or donor advised funds that are described in IRC § 4966(d)(2). The IRS has a handy online tool Exempt Organization Select Check, which can help taxpayers identify organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.

Where an individual has made nondeductible contributions to his or her traditional IRAs, a special rule treats amounts distributed to charities as coming first from taxable funds, instead of proportionately from taxable and nontaxable funds, as would be the case with regular distributions.

Be aware there are special IRS Form 1040 reporting instructions that apply to QCDs.

Section IX of IRS Notice 2007-7 contains additional compliance details regarding QCDs. For example, QCDs are not subject to federal tax withholding because an IRA owner that requests such a distribution is deemed to have elected out of withholding under IRC § 3405(a)(2) (see IRS Notice 2007-7, Q&A 40 ).

Conclusion

Eligible IRA owners and beneficiaries, including those with inactive SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, should be aware of the benefits of directing QCDs to their favorite charitable organizations.

 

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What is the formula for calculating an RMD?

What is the formula for calculating required minimum distributions (RMDs); and is it the same for IRAs as it is for qualified retirement plans?

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs and qualified retirement plans. We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.  A recent call with a financial advisor in New York is representative of a question we commonly receive related to RMDs.

For retirement plan participants and traditional IRA owners [including owners of simplified employee pension (SEP) and savings incentive match plans for employees (SIMPLE) IRAs] there is a common formula for calculating RMDs that applies to both IRAs and retirement plans:

Prior year-end account balance ÷ life expectancy = RMD

However, the definition of “prior year-end account balance” is different for IRAs than it is for qualified retirement plans. Note that an RMD for an IRA may not be satisfied from a retirement plan and vice versa.

For IRAs, the prior year-end account balance is the IRA balance on December 31 of the year before the distribution year (e.g., use the December 31, 2016, IRA balance for a 2017 RMD). Adjust this IRA balance by adding to the IRA balance any

  • Outstanding rollovers taken within the last 60 days of a year and rolled over after the first of the following year;
  • Outstanding transfers taken in one year and completed in the following year; and
  • Recharacterized conversions along with the net income attributable to the December 31 balance for the year in which the conversion occurred. (See Treasury Regulation Section 1.408-8, Q&As 6-8.)

For retirement plans, the prior year-end account balance is the retirement plan balance as of the last valuation date in the year before the distribution year. Adjust this amount by

  • Adding any contributions or forfeitures allocated to the account after the valuation date, but made during the valuation year; and
  • Subtracting any distributions made in the valuation year that occurred after the valuation date.

Furthermore, do not include the value of any qualifying longevity annuity contract (QLAC) that is held under the plan if purchased on or after July 2, 2014. (See Treasury Regulation Section 1.401(a)(9)-5, Q&A 3).

The life expectancy an account owner (either an IRA owner or retirement plan participant) uses to calculate his or her RMD is based on one of two tables provided by the IRS for this purpose. These tables can be found in Treas. Reg. 1.401(a)(9)-9 or in IRS Publication 590-B, Appendix B.  Most retirement account owners will use the Uniform Lifetime Table to determine RMDs during their lifetimes.

The Uniform Lifetime Table provides a joint life expectancy figure that is equivalent to the hypothetical joint life expectancy of the retirement account owner and a second individual who is 10 years younger. As previously stated, most retirement account owners will use the Uniform Lifetime Table, even if they have no named beneficiary.

The one exception to using the Uniform Lifetime Table applies if a retirement account owner has a spouse beneficiary who is more than 10 years younger than he or she. In this situation, the retirement account owner will use the Joint and Last Survivor Table. The result of using the actual joint life expectancy of the account owner and his or her spouse beneficiary who is more than 10 years younger is a smaller RMD for the individual.

Conclusion

While the formula for calculating an RMD from either an IRA or retirement plan appears simple on the surface, attention must be paid to the specific definitions for the numerator and denominator in order to arrive at the true minimum amount that must be distributed.

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December 2017 IRA and Retirement Plan Deadlines

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs and qualified retirement plans.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business. A recent call with an advisor in California is representative  of a common inquiry involving December deadlines.

Highlights of Discussion

There are several IRA and retirement-plan related deadlines that occur in December as summarized next.

December 1, 2017 Deadline for calendar-year plans to provide plan participants with safe harbor, qualified default investment alternative (QDIA) and automatic enrollment notices.
December 15, 2017 ERISA extended deadline for distributing the Summary Annual Report to plan participants (for plans that filed Form 5500 with an extension)
December 29, 2017* Deadline for IRA owners and retirement plan participants to satisfying their second and subsequent years’ required minimum distributions for 2017
Deadline for making qualified nonelective contributions or qualified matching contributions to correct failed actual deferral percentage (ADP) or actual contribution percentage (ACP) tests in the previous plan year for plans using the current-year testing method
Deadline for removing an ADP or ACP excess contribution for the prior plan year with a 10% excess tax in order to avoid an IRS correction program
Deadline to complete a 2017 Roth IRA conversion or designated Roth in-plan conversion
Deadline to amend an existing 401(k) plan to a safe harbor design for 2018
Deadline to amend a 401(k) safe harbor plan to remove safe harbor status for 2018
Deadline to amend plan for discretionary changes implemented during the 2017 plan year

*Generally, December 31st.  However, December 31, 2017, falls on a Sunday.

Conclusion

December is a busy month for IRA and retirement-plan related deadlines. Have you marked your calendar?

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Can NUA in employer stock count towards an RMD?

“Can the portion of a distribution from a 401(k) plan that takes advantage of NUA tax treatment be used to satisfy the receiving participant’s RMD for the year?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs and qualified retirement plans.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business. A recent call with an advisor in Colorado is representative of a common inquiry involving net unrealized appreciation (NUA) and required minimum distributions (RMDs).

Highlights of discussion

  • Yes— amounts excluded from income at the point of distribution, such as NUA on employer securities, are amounts a plan participant may count toward satisfying an RMD under Internal Revenue Code Section (IRC §) 401(a)(9). (NUA is eventually included in the participant’s income as taxable long-term capital gains when the employer securities are eventually sold.)
  • According to Treas. Reg. 1.401(a)(9)-5, Q&A 9, with a few, limited exceptions, all amounts distributed from a qualified plan are amounts that are taken into account in determining whether an RMD is satisfied for a participant, regardless of whether the amount is includible in income.
  • For example, amounts that are excluded from income as recovery of “investment in the contract under IRC§ 72” (i.e., after-tax contributions) are taken into account for purposes of determining whether an RMD is satisfied for a year. Similarly, amounts excluded from income as NUA on employer securities are counted towards satisfying an RMD of the participant.
  • The following amounts are not taken into account in determining whether a participant’s RMD is satisfied for the year:
  1. Amounts returned to a participant to correct plan excesses;
  2. Loans treated as deemed distributions;
  3. The cost of life insurance coverage (i.e., PS 58 costs);
  4. Dividends on employer securities; and
  5. Other similar amounts as deemed by the IRS and published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin from time to time.

Conclusion                                                   

The IRS is clear that NUA on employer securities is a distribution amount that a plan participant may count toward satisfying his or her RMD for the year.

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Aggregating RMDs

My client, who is retired, has a Roth IRA, multiple traditional IRAs and a 401(k) plan, and is over age 70 ½.  Can a distribution from his 401(k) plan satisfy all RMDs that he is obliged to take for the year?

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs and qualified retirement plans. We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

Highlights of Discussion

    • No, your client may not use the RMD due from his 401(k) plan to satisfy the RMDs due from his IRAs (and vice versa). He must satisfy them independently from one another.
    • Participants in retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans, are not allowed to aggregate their RMDs [Treasury Regulation 1.409(a)(9)-8, Q&A 1]. If an employee participates in more than one qualified retirement plan, he or she must satisfy the RMD from each plan separately.
    • However, there are special RMD “aggregation rules” that apply to individuals with multiple traditional IRAs, as explained next.
    • The IRA RMD rules allow IRA owners to independently calculate the RMDs that are due from each IRA they own directly (including savings incentive match plan for employees (SIMPLE IRAs, simplified employee pension (SEP) IRAs and traditional IRAs), total the amounts, and take the aggregate RMD amount from an IRA (or IRAs) of their choosing that they own directly (Treasury Regulation 1.408-8, Q&A 9).
    • RMDs from IRAs that an individual holds as a beneficiary of the same decedent may be distributed under these rules for aggregation, considering only those IRAs owned as a beneficiary of the same decedent.
    • Roth IRA owners are not subject to the RMD rules but, upon death, their beneficiaries would be required to commence RMDs.
    • 403(b) participants have RMD aggregation rules as well. A 403(b) plan participant must determine the RMD amount due from each 403(b) contract separately, but he or she may total the amounts and take the aggregate RMD amount from any one or more of the individual 403(b) contracts.  However, only amounts in 403(b) contracts that a individual holds as an employee may be aggregated. Amounts in 403(b) contracts that an individual holds as a beneficiary of the same decedent may be aggregated [Treasury Regulation 1.403(b)-6(e)(7)].

Conclusion

Individuals who are over age 70 ½, generally, are required to take RMDs from their tax-favored retirement accounts on an annual basis. There is some ability to pool certain accounts for RMD purposes, but the RMD aggregation rules are complex. Therefore, the guidance of a financial professional is suggested.

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RMDs and More than 5 Percent Owners

“My client’s 401(k) plan allows participants who are not five-percent owners of the company to delay taking their RMDs until after they retire. How is ‘five-percent owner’ defined for RMD purposes?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs and qualified retirement plans. We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

Highlights of Discussion

•The IRS requires those who are considered “five-percent owners” of the employer to begin their RMD no later than April 1 of the calendar year following the year in which they attain age 70½. For example, if a five-percent owner turns age 70 ½ in 2016, he or she must begin RMDs by April 1, 2017.

•For RMD purposes, a five-percent owner is an employee who is a five-percent owner [as defined in Internal Revenue Section (IRC §416) with respect to the plan year ending in the calendar year in which the employee attains age 70 ½ [Treasury Regulation §1.401(a)(9)-2, Q&A-2(c)].

•Under IRC §416(i)(1)(B)(I), the term “five-percent owner” means the following:

•If the employer is a corporation, any person who owns (or is considered as owning within the meaning of IRC § 318) more than five-percent of the outstanding stock of the corporation or stock possessing more than five-percent of the total combined voting power of all stock of the corporation, or

•If the employer is not a corporation, any person who owns more than five-percent of the capital or profits interest in the employer.

•A person might be a more than five-percent owner through “constructive ownership.” The IRS outlines its constructive ownership rules in IRC § 318. Generally, an individual shall be considered as owning the stock owned, directly or indirectly, by or for his spouse, and his children, grandchildren, and parents.

Conclusion

401(k) plan participants who are more than five-percent owners of the business sponsoring the plan must begin their RMDs no later than April 1 of the year following their age 70 ½ year. Constructive ownership rules could cause a plan participant to be considered a more than five-percent owner for RMD purposes.

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