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SEP and SIMPLE IRA Plans and ERISA Fidelity Bonds

“Do SEP and SIMPLE IRA Plans Require an ERISA Fidelity Bond?”

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 Florida is representative of a common inquiry related to savings incentive match plans for employees (SIMPLE) IRA plans and simplified employee pension (SEP) plans.

Highlights of Discussion

Generally, yes, but this is a great question with a multi-layered answer depending on the individuals and/or entities that handle the assets of these plans. ERISA Section 412 requires that every fiduciary of an employee benefit plan and every person who handles funds or other property of such a plan be bonded in order to protect the assets of the plan against the risk of loss due to fraud or dishonesty. For this purpose, SEP and SIMPLE IRA plans are considered employee benefit plans. The DOL further explained (albeit somewhat vaguely) its position on the matter in Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) 2008-4, Q&A 16. With regard to having a fidelity bond, the DOL states: “There is no specific exemption … for SEP or SIMPLE IRA retirement plans. Such plans are generally structured in such a way, however, that if any person does “handle” funds or other property of such plans that person will fall under one of ERISA’s financial institution exemptions” (See DOL Reg. §§ 2580.412-27 and 28).

The logic here is that, typically, employees establish their SIMPLE IRAs and SEP IRAs at banks, trust companies or insurance providers, and such institutions are exempt from the bonding requirement provided they are subject to supervision or examination by federal or state regulators and meet certain financial requirements. The Pension Protection Act added an exemption to the ERISA bonding requirement for entities registered as broker/dealers under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 if the broker/dealer is subject to the fidelity bond requirements of a self-regulatory organization. Consequently, the employees of qualified financial institutions that hold SEP IRA and SIMPLE IRA plan assets need not be covered by an ERISA fidelity bond.

However, there is no exemption from the ERISA bonding requirement for the fiduciaries of employers who handle SEP and SIMPLE IRA plan assets prior to the assets being held in their respective IRAs. When do SEP and SIMPLE IRA contributions become plan assets? In the case of salary reduction (SAR) SEP and SIMPLE IRA employee salary deferrals, such amounts become plan assets as of the earliest date on which they can reasonably be segregated from the employer’s general assets (DOL Reg. 2510.3-102). In contrast, employer contributions generally become plan assets only when the contributions actually have been made to the plan (FAB 2008-01 and Advisory Opinion 1993-14A).

Court cases provide evidence that this is indeed how the DOL enforces the bonding requirement for SAR-SEP and SIMPLE IRA plans. In Chao v. Smith, Civil Action No. 1:06CV0051, the employer failed to remit employee contributions to a SIMPLE IRA plan. In addition to restoring the salary deferrals to the plan, as part of the settlement the employer was required to secure a fidelity bond and keep it active throughout the life of the plan “as required by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.”  Similarly, in Chao v. Harman, Civil Action Number 4:07cv11772,  the DOL sued business executives and trustees of a firm’s SIMPLE IRA plan in Jackson, Michigan, for failing to forward employee contributions to workers’ accounts and obtain a fidelity bond. Finally, the DOL sued an employer with a SAR-SEP plan for mishandling of employee deferrals and lack of a fidelity bond (Chao v. Gary Raykhinshteyn, Civil Action No. 01-60056).

In each case, the DOL made a point to state employers with similar problems who are not yet the subject of an investigation may be eligible to participate in the DOL’s Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP) to correct the errors and avoid enforcement actions and civil penalties as well as any applicable excise taxes.

Since some form of employer contribution is required with a SIMPLE IRA plan, employers who fail to make these contributions have an IRS operational failure and may have the ability to correct the error by following the applicable provisions of the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System in Revenue Procedure 2016-51.

Conclusion

While the DOL offers exemptions from the ERISA fidelity bonding requirement to qualified financial institutions that hold SEP and SIMPLE IRA assets, the agency requires employers who sponsor SEP or SIMPLE IRA plans and other plan fiduciaries who handle plan assets to be covered by an ERISA fidelity bond to prevent against loss as a result of fraud and/or dishonesty.

 

© Copyright 2018 Retirement Learning Center, all rights reserved
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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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SIMPLE IRA Plan Annual Notices

What are the annual notice requirements for a SIMPLE IRA plan?

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 New Hampshire is representative  of a common inquiry involving SIMPLE IRA plans.

Highlights of Discussion

By November 1 of each year, an employer that sponsors a SIMPLE IRA plan must provide eligible employees with two important notices:

  1. the Summary Description; and
  2. the Annual Deferral Notice (IRS Notice 98-4).

The Summary Description must include the following information:

  1. The name and address of the employer and the trustee or custodian;
  2. The requirements for eligibility for participation;
  3. The benefits provided with respect to the arrangement;
  4. The time and method of making employee elections with respect to the arrangement; and
  5. The procedures for, and effects of, withdrawals (including rollovers) from the arrangement.

If a plan sponsor established the SIMPLE IRA plan using either IRS Form 5305-SIMPLE or 5304-SIMPLE , he or she can fulfill the Summary Description requirement by providing eligible employees completed copies of pages one and two of those forms. If a plan sponsor used a prototype SIMPLE IRA plan document, then the information is obtained from the forms vendor.

The Annual Deferral Notice must include the following information:

  1. The employee’s opportunity to make or change a salary deferral choice under the SIMPLE IRA plan;
  2. The employee’s ability to select a financial institution that will serve as trustee of the employee’s SIMPLE IRA, if applicable;
  3. The plan sponsor’s decision to make either matching contributions or nonelective contributions and the amount; and
  4. Written notice that an employee can transfer his or her balance without cost or penalty if he or she is using a designated financial institution.

IRS Forms 5305-SIMPLE and 5304-SIMPLE have model Annual Deferral Notices that a plan sponsor can use to satisfy this requirement.

If the employer fails to provide one or more of the required notices he or she is liable for a penalty of $50 per day until the notices are provided.

Notification failures of this sort may be eligible for correction under the IRS’ Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS).

Conclusion

Sponsors of SIMPLE IRA plans must ensure compliance with the annual notification requirements for eligible employees or, potentially, face IRS penalties.

 

© Copyright 2018 Retirement Learning Center, all rights reserved
IRA
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Setting Up a SIMPLE IRA Plan

“My client and I want to know if there is a deadline for establishing a SIMPLE IRA plan for 2017?”

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 New Mexico is representative of a common inquiry involving savings incentive match plans for employees (SIMPLE) IRA plans.

Highlights of discussion

  • Yes, there is. The general deadline for establishing a SIMPLE IRA plan for a given year is October 1. For example, the deadline for an eligible business owner to set up a SIMPLE IRA plan for 2017 is October 1, 2017.
  • There are two exceptions to the general rule. First, if the business comes into existence after October 1 of the year the SIMPLE IRA plan is desired, then the new business owner may still set up a SIMPLE IRA plan for the year, provided he or she does so as soon as administratively feasible after the start of the new business. Second, if a business has previously maintained a SIMPLE IRA plan, then it may only set up a new SIMPLE IRA plan effective on January 1 of the following year (e.g., set up the plan in 2017 with an effective date of January 1, 2018).
  • Businesses that are eligible to establish SIMPLE IRA plans are those that
  1. Do not maintain any other qualified retirement plans; and
  2. Have 100 or fewer employees who received at least $5,000 in compensation from the employer for the preceding year [IRC §408(p)(2)(c)(i) IRC §408(p)(2)(c)(i) and IRS Notice 98-4, Q&A B4 ].
  • The basic steps for establishing a SIMPLE IRA plan are
  1. Execute a written plan document (either a government Form 5304-SIMPLE or Form 5305-SIMPLE, or a prototype plan document from a mutual fund company, insurance company, bank or other qualified institution);
  2. Provide notice to employees; and
  3. Ensure each participant sets up a SIMPLE IRA to receive contributions.
  • Employees who are eligible to participate in a SIMPLE IRA plan are those who received at least $5,000 in compensation from the employer during any two preceding years, and are reasonably expected to receive at least $5,000 in compensation during the current year.Business owners who are interested in establishing SIMPLE IRA plans must be aware of the deadline to do so, and the additional steps involved to ensure a successful set up.

Conclusion

Business owners who are interested in establishing SIMPLE IRA plans must be aware of the deadline to do so, and the additional steps involved to ensure a successful and compliant set up.

© Copyright 2018 Retirement Learning Center, all rights reserved
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Participant in SIMPLE IRA and 401(k) with Separate Employers

Deferral limit involving SIMPLE IRA and 401(k) plans

“I have a client—over age 50—who participates in a savings incentive match plan for employees (SIMPLE) IRA plan with one of his employers and a 401(k) plan with a separate employer. How much can my client defer into the SIMPLE IRA plan and 401(k) plan?”

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

  • To determine the answer to your question your client must look at his overall Internal Revenue Code Section (IRC §) 402(g) employee salary deferral limit and the rule that limits employee salary deferrals to the SIMPLE IRA plan under IRC § 408(p)(2)(A)(ii).
  • For each tax year IRC §402(g) limits an individual’s overall employee salary deferrals combined across all eligible plans (e.g., deferrals made to a SIMPLE IRA plan and 401(k) plan) to a set amount. For 2016 and 2017, a person’s 402(g) limit is 100 percent of compensation up to a maximum of $18,000 if he or she is under age 50, and is $24,000 if he or she is age 50 or greater and making catch-up contributions.
  • The maximum amount that a SIMPLE IRA plan participant may defer into the SIMPLE IRA plan is limited to 100 percent of compensation up to a maximum of $12,500 for 2016 and 2017 or, if he or she is age 50 and over, to $15,500 (which includes catch-up contributions of $3,000).
  • Therefore, your client, being over age 50, could choose to make employee salary deferral contributions to the SIMPLE IRA plan in any amount as long as he does not exceed 100 percent of compensation up to $15,500. He could defer the balance of his 402(g) limit up to 100 percent of compensation up to $24,000 to the 401(k) plan IRS Publication 560 and IRS Notice 98-4, Q&A C-3.

 

EXAMPLE

Seth, age 53, participates in a SIMPLE IRA plan with Employer A and a 401(k) plan with Employer B.  Based on his compensation he decides to defer $15,500 to his SIMPLE IRA plan ($3,000 of which is considered a catch-up contribution).  In order to stay within his 402(g) annual limit across all eligible plans in which he participates, Seth may only defer up to $8,500 to his 401(k) plan.  Note that Seth’s overall 402(g) limit of $24,000 could be allocated as he wishes between the two plans, as long as his deferrals do not exceed $15,500 to the SIMPLE IRA plan.

 

Conclusion

An individual who participates in a SIMPLE IRA plan and a 401(k) plan of a different employer must look at his or her overall 402(g) employee salary deferral limit and the rule that limits employee salary deferrals to the SIMPLE IRA plan in order to determine the amount that can be deferred into each plan.

© Copyright 2018 Retirement Learning Center, all rights reserved