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Correcting governmental 457(b) plans

“Does the IRS have a correction program that covers 457(b) plans for governmental employers under the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS)?”

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, stock options, and 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 Ohio is representative of a common inquiry related to correcting 457(b) plan errors.

Highlights of the Discussion

Effectively, yes. The two avenues of correction for governmental 457(b) plans are 1) self correction (without a submission); and 2) voluntary compliance (VC) with a formal submission. The IRS accepts VC submissions for governmental plans on a provisional basis under standards that are similar to EPCRS, but that are, technically, outside of the correction system. Qualifying governmental entities are listed in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) § 457(e)(1)(A), and include a

  • State;
  • Political subdivision of a state (e.g., a county, city, town, township, village or school district); and
  • Any agency or instrumentality of a state or political subdivision of a state.

Sponsors of governmental 457(b) plans may self-correct their plans without a formal IRS submission if they did not comply with the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) or regulations in some way. A sponsor has until the first day of the plan year that begins more than 180 days after the IRS notifies it of the failure (IRC Section 457(b)(6) and Treasury Regulation Section 1.457-9(a)). Considering the amount of time governmental entities have to self-correct plan errors, they may not need to make voluntary submissions to the IRS under the following procedures.

The IRS will accept VC submissions for some errors related to 457(b) plans for governmental employers (see Section 4.09 of Revenue Procedure 2016-51 through 2018 and Section 4.09 of Revenue Procedures 2018-52 effective January 1, 2019.) Note, however, the IRS, generally, will not address any issues 1) related to the form of a written 457(b) plan document; nor 2) problems associated with top-hat[1] plans of tax-exempt entities. However, the IRS may consider a submission where, for example, the top hat plan was erroneously established to benefit the entity’s nonhighly compensated employees and the plan has been operated in a manner that is similar to a qualified plan.

The IRS’s VC unit retains complete discretion to accept or

or reject any requests for correction approval. If accepted, VC will issue a special closing agreement.

The steps to voluntary correction are

  1. Complete IRS Form 8950, Application for Voluntary Correction Program (VCP).
  2. Compose a cover letter that describes the problem and includes a proposed solution.
  3. Mail both the form and cover letter to the address listed in the instructions to Form 8950.

Sponsors will receive IRS Letter 5265 acknowledging the submission along with a control number for reference.

Conclusion

The IRS has two avenues of correction for governmental 457(b) plans: self correction without a submission; and voluntary compliance with a submission. Sponsors can refer to IRS Form 8950 and its instructions, along with Revenue Procedure 2016-51 through 2018, and 2018-52 beginning in 2019 for complete details.

 

[1] Nongovernmental 457(b) “Top Hat” plans must limit participation to groups of highly compensated employees or groups of executives, managers, directors or officers. The plan may not cover rank-and-file employees.

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Deferral election timing for the self employed

“Several of my clients are self-employed and have 401(k) plans. What is the date by which a self-employed individual must make his or her salary deferral election?”

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, stock options, and 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 Nevada is representative of a common inquiry related to 401(k) plan salary deferral elections.

Highlights of the Discussion

Special rules regarding salary deferral elections apply to self-employed individuals (e.g., sole proprietors or partners). They must make their cash or deferred elections no later than the last day of their tax year (e.g., by December 31, 2018, for a 2018 calendar tax year). The timing is connected to when the individual’s compensation is “deemed currently available” [see Treasury Regulation Section (Treas. Reg. §) 1.401(k)-1(a)(6)(iii)].

Often a self-employed individual’s actual compensation for the year is not determined until he or she completes his or her tax return, which, in most cases, is after the end of the partnership or individual’s taxable year. However, the IRS deems a partner’s compensation to be currently available on the last day of the partnership taxable year and a sole proprietor’s compensation to be currently available on the last day of the individual’s taxable year. Therefore, a self-employed individual must make a written election to defer compensation by the last day of the taxable year associated with the partnership or sole proprietorship.

EXAMPLE

A partner can make a cash or deferred election for a year’s compensation any time before (but not after) the last day of the year, even though the partner takes draws against his/her expected share of partnership income throughout the year.

There are also special rules that address when salary deferrals for self-employed individuals are treated as made to the plan (versus when they may actually be made). Treas. Reg. §1.401(k)-2(a)(4)(ii) states that an elective contribution made on behalf of a partner or sole proprietor is treated as allocated to the individual’s plan account as of the last day of the partnership or sole proprietorship’s taxable year.

With respect to the DOL’s deferral deposit deadline, deferrals for self-employed individuals must be deposited as soon as they can be reasonably segregated from the business’s general assets. The DOL’s safe harbor for plans with fewer than 100 employees also applies. Therefore, as long as the deferrals are transmitted within seven business days after the amounts are separated from the business’s assets, the contributions are deemed timely made.

From the IRS’ tax perspective, in no event can the deferrals be deposited after the deadline for filing the business’s tax return, plus extensions.

Conclusion

With respect to making a salary deferral election, a self-employed individual must do so no later than the last day of his or her tax year. The election should be documented in writing for proof in the event the plan later undergoes an audit. Therefore, those self-employed individuals following a calendar tax year must be sure to execute their written deferral elections by December 31, 2018!

© Copyright 2019 Retirement Learning Center, all rights reserved
golden eggs
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What is a Long-Term Incentive Plan?

“My client says she has a Long-Term Incentive Plan (LTIP). What is an LTIP, and is it a type of qualified retirement 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, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, stock options, and 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 New York is representative of a common inquiry related to compensation programs.

Highlights of the Discussion

A Long-Term Incentive Plan or LTIP is a type of compensation incentive program designed to reward executives for achieving the sponsoring company’s strategic objectives while maximizing shareholder value. It in not an IRC Sec. 401(a) qualified retirement plan [e.g., profit sharing or 401(k)], but rather, a way of compensating executives for reaching specified company performance goals.

An LTIP may be one components of a senior executive’s pay package, which may include:

  • Base salary;
  • Performance based annual incentive (e.g. annual bonus);
  • Performance based long-term incentive;
  • Benefits (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Workers Compensation, and Unemployment Insurance, life and health insurance, 401(k), defined benefit, nonqualified deferred compensation plans, etc.);
  • Executive perquisites or “perks” (e.g., drivers to and from work, convenient parking, installation of home communications systems, financial planning, use of company airplanes for personal travel, etc.) and/or
  • Contingent Payments (e.g., payments to executives in the case of involuntary termination resulting from a merger or acquisition).

According to the Center for Executive Compensation, an LTIP can take the form of stock-based compensation, such as stock options, restricted stock, performance shares, cash, or stock-settled performance units. Usually, LTIPs are a mix of types of equity and may include a cash component. The performance period for an LTIP typically runs between three and five years. The executive does not receive any pay from the incentive program until the end of the performance period and the performance measure is met. Long-term incentive goals vary by company but the most prevalent are focused on Total Shareholder Return (TSR), operational measures such as earnings per share and return measures, such as return on assets.

Conclusion

An LTIP is a general name for a type of compensation for executives, the form of which may vary, depending on the company’s specific pay program. An LTIP can have material impact on an investment client’s overall finances. Therefore, reviewing the documentation associated with such arrangements and understanding their impact can go a long way to achieving a client’s goal of financial wellness.

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