Tag Archive for: SIMPLE IRA

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The Dos and Don’ts of Aggregating Required Minimum Distributions

“I have a 72-year-old client who is retired.  He has numerous retirement savings arrangements, including a Roth IRA, multiple traditional IRAs, a SEP IRA and a 401(k) plan. 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 (RLC) 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 an advisor in Minnesota is representative of a common question involving required minimum distributions (RMDs) from retirement plans.

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), 457, defined contribution and defined benefit 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 retirement plan, he or she must satisfy the RMD from each plan separately.

With respect to your client’s IRAs, however, there are special RMD “aggregation rules” that apply to individuals with multiple IRAs. Under the IRA RMD rules, IRA owners can 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 inherited 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. RMDs from inherited Roth IRAs that an individual holds as a beneficiary of the same decedent may be aggregated, considering only those inherited Roth IRAs owned as a beneficiary of the same decedent.

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 an individual holds as an employee (and not a beneficiary) 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

In most cases, individuals who are over age 72 are required to take RMDs from their tax-favored retirement accounts on an annual basis. There is some ability to aggregate RMDs for IRAs and 403(b)s, but one must be careful to apply the rules for RMD aggregation correctly. Failure to take an RMD when required could subject the recipient to a sizeable penalty (i.e., 50 percent of the amount not taken).

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Don’t Forget About the Benefits of a Qualified Charitable Distribution for 2022

“I have an 84-year-old client with a multi-million dollar IRA.  As you can well image, his required minimum distribution (RMD) for the year is quite large. Do you have any suggestions on how he might reduce the tax impact of such a large RMD?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center (RLC) 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 Illinois is representative of a common inquiry related to charitable giving.

Highlights of the Discussion

  • Yes, the first idea that comes to mind is making a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) by December 31, 2022. 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.”(The IRA owner cannot have received the amount.) 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.
  • What are the benefits of making a QCD? Generally, IRA owners must include any distributions of pre-tax amounts from their IRAs in their taxable income for the year. A QCD
    • Is excludable from taxable income (up to $100,000),
    • May count towards the individual’s RMD for the year,
    • May lower taxable income enough for the person to avoid paying additional Medicare premiums and
    • Is a philanthropic way to support a favored charity.
  • Note that making a QCD does not entitle the individual to an additional itemized tax deduction for a charitable contribution.*
  • 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 steps 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 age 70 ½ and over, including those with inactive SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, should be aware of the benefits of directing QCDs to their favorite charitable organizations.

* 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

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2021 Qualified Charitable Distributions from IRAs

“The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019 changed the age for taking requirement minimum distributions (RMDs) to age 72.  Did it also change the age for making Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)?”

 

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center (RLC) 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 Alabama is representative of a common inquiry related to charitable giving.

Highlights of the Discussion

  • No, the SECURE Act did not change the eligibility age for making a QCD; it remains at 70½. So, any “eligible IRA owner or beneficiary” (defined below) can make a QCD up to $100,000 for 2021 by December 31, 2021.  The contributor must keep records to prove the amount of the QCD  (see Substantiation Requirements in IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions).
  • Those who make QCDs before reaching age 72 will not have the added benefit of counting them towards their RMDs, but the QCDs still will be excludable from taxable income and go towards supporting good causes. Because a QCD reduces taxable income, other potential benefits may result, for example, a person may be able to avoid paying higher Medicare premiums. Note that for those who make both QCDs and deductible IRA contributions[1] in the same year may need to limit the portion of a QCD that is excluded from income.
  • An eligible IRA owner or beneficiary for QCD purposes is a person who has attained age 70½ 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).
  • A QCD is any otherwise taxable distribution (up to $100,000 per year) that an eligible person 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.
  • 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 Tax Exempt Organization Search, which can help taxpayers identify organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. Note that a QCD contributor would not be entitled to an additional itemized tax deduction for a charitable contribution when making a QCD.
  • 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).
  • There are other charitable giving options aside from QCDs. For example, the Consolidated Appropriations Act extended two temporary tax changes through the end of 2021 to encourage charitable giving by individuals (see Covid Tax Tip 2021-143). They include 1) a limited deduction (up to $600 for married couples) for charitable cash contributions for individuals who do not itemize deductions; and 2) a deduction of up to 100 percent of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income for certain charitable cash contributions (if properly elected on their 2021 Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR) by those who itemize their deductions.
  • As one can see, the options for charitable giving are many and can be confusing, making consultation with a tax professional a recommended course of action.

Conclusion

Eligible traditional and Roth 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.  Law changes and extensions have enhanced other giving options, making professional tax advice essential when making a gifting decision.

 

[1] The SECURE Act also eliminated the maximum age limit for making traditional IRA contributions.

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Deadlines to deposit elective deferrals

“I get confused by the various deposit deadlines for employee salary deferrals. Can you summarize them for me, please?” 

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center (RLC) 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 North Carolina is representative of a common inquiry related to depositing employee salary deferrals.  

Highlights of the Discussion

The following table summarizes the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) deferral deposit deadlines for various plan types.

Plan Type Deadline Citation
Small 401(k) Plan

A plan with fewer than 100 participants

 

Safe Harbor Rule: The plan sponsor has seven business days following the day on which such amounts were withheld to deposit them to the plan. DOL Reg. 2510-3-102(a)(2)

 

Large 401(k) Plan

A plan with 100 or more participants

The plan sponsor must deposit deferrals as soon as they can be reasonably segregated from the employer’s assets, but not later than 15 business days following the month the deferrals are withheld from the participants’ pay. DOL Reg. 2510-3-102(a)(1) and (b)(1)

 

Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees of Small Employers (SIMPLE) IRA Deferrals must be deposited within 30 days after the end of the month in which the amounts would otherwise have been payable to the employee. DOL Reg. 2510.3-102(b)(2)

 

Salary Reduction Simplified Employee Pension (SAR-SEP)

An IRA-based plan with 25 or fewer employees.

Safe Harbor Rule: The plan sponsor has seven business days following the day on which such amounts were withheld to deposit them to the plan. DOL Reg. 2510-3-102(a)(2)

 

Conclusion

The DOL’s top compliance concern is the timely deposit of employee salary deferrals to their respective plans. Plan sponsors and service providers must ensure policies and procedures are in place to ensure deferral deposit deadlines are met.

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When SIMPLE IRA plans are not so simple Part II the 100-employee limit

“My client maintains a SIMPLE IRA plan for his small business. He is planning to expand and hire more employees. What happens to the SIMPLE IRA plan if his payroll grows to more than 100 workers?”

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 Minnesota is representative of a common inquiry related to savings incentive match plans for employees (SIMPLE) IRA plans.

Highlights of the Discussion

Among the employer eligibility rules for maintaining a SIMPLE IRA plan is the “100 employee limit.” In general, an employer may maintain a SIMPLE IRA plan if the business has 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&As B1 and B2].

The IRS provides for a two-year grace period for employers who had 100 or fewer employees, but then grew to exceed the 100-employee limit. An employer that maintains a SIMPLE IRA plan is treated as satisfying the 100-employee limitation for the two calendar years immediately following the calendar year for which it last satisfied the 100-employee limitation, except in the case of a merger or acquisition. If the failure to satisfy the 100-employee limitation is due to an acquisition, disposition or similar transaction involving the employer, then the grace period runs through the end of the year following the year of acquisition or similar transaction. (See When SIMPLE IRA plans aren’t so simple Part 1 for additional guidance on acquisitions involving SIMPLE IRA plans.)

EXAMPLE 1

At the beginning of 2019, Company A employs 75 workers for which it maintains a SIMPLE IRA plan. In response to an expanding client base and increasing demand for products, Company A hires 27 new, full-time workers in July of 2019. Assuming a constant work force and constant salaries, Company A may maintain its SIMPLE IRA plan through 2021. (2019 is considered an eligible year, because eligibility is based on the preceding year. Therefore, the two years immediately following the last eligible year are 2020 and 2021.)

EXAMPLE 2

Assume the same facts as in Example 1, except in 2019 Company A acquires Company B and its 27 full-time workers. Assuming a constant work force and constant salaries, Company A may maintain its SIMPLE IRA plan through 2020. [The grace period runs from 2019 (the year of acquisition) through the end of the year following the year of acquisition.]

Conclusion

Sponsors of SIMPLE IRA plans must understand the ins and outs of the 100-employee limit for eligibility in order to avoid creating excess contributions. The 100-employee limit comes with a grace period that can be tricky to apply.

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When SIMPLE IRA plans aren’t so simple Part 1 Mergers and Acquisitions

Following an acquisition, can a business owner continue to offer both a SIMPLE IRA and a 401(k) plan at the same time?

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 Texas is representative of a common inquiry related to savings incentive match plans for employees (SIMPLE) IRA plans. The advisor explained: “A CPA that I network with had a small business client that maintained a SIMPLE IRA plan. The CPA’s client purchased another business in 2018 via a stock acquisition. The acquired business brought with it a 401(k) plan.”

Highlights of the Discussion

Because of the circumstance (i.e., an acquisition) an exception to the “exclusive plan rule” for SIMPLE IRA plans applies.  Among the employer eligibility rules for maintaining a SIMPLE IRA plan is the exclusive plan rule. In general, a single employer may not maintain a SIMPLE IRA plan in the same calendar year it maintains any other type of qualified retirement plan.[1]

In the situation noted above, the merger of the two businesses results in one employer with two plans (a 401(k) and SIMPLE IRA plan) during the same calendar year. Fortunately, a temporary exception to the exclusive plan rule is available. The temporary exception allows the merged businesses to maintain another plan in addition to the SIMPLE IRA plan during the year of merger or acquisition, and the following year as long as, only the original participants continue in the SIMPLE IRA plan (See Q&A B-3(2) of IRS Notice 98-4).

Let’s use this situation as an example. The ownership change occurred in 2018. The SIMPLE IRA plan can be maintained in 2018 and through 2019, along with the 401(k) plan, without running afoul of the exclusive plan rule. Before 2020, however, either the SIMPLE IRA plan or the 401(k) must be terminated.

Conclusion

Acquisitions and mergers involving multiple retirement plans can complicate SIMPLE IRA plan operations due to the exclusive plan rule. It is important to be aware of the transition rule in these scenarios.

[1] Another plan would include a defined benefit, defined contribution, 401(k), 403(a) annuity, 403(b),  a governmental plan other than a 457(b) plan, or a SEP plan.

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Retirement Savings Tax Credit

“What contributions are eligible for the retirement savings tax credit?”

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 an advisor in Oklahoma is representative of a common inquiry regarding available tax credits for retirement contributions.

Highlights of Discussion

IRA owners and retirement plan participants (including self-employed individuals) may qualify for a retirement savings contribution tax credit. Details of the credit appear in IRS Publication 590-A and here Saver’s Credit.

The credit

  • Equals an amount up to 50%, 20% or 10% of the taxpayer’s retirement plan or IRA contributions up to $2,000 ($4,000 if married filing jointly), depending on adjusted gross income (as reported on Form 1040, 1040A or 1040NR);
  • Relates to contributions taxpayers make to their traditional and/or Roth IRAs, or elective deferrals to a 401(k) or similar workplace retirement plan; and
  • Is claimed by a taxpayer on Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions.

Contributors can claim the Saver’s Credit for personal contributions (including voluntary after-tax contributions) made to

  • A traditional or Roth IRA;
  • 401(k),
  • Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA,
  • Salary Reduction Simplified Employee Pension (SARSEP) IRA,
  • 403(b) or
  • Governmental 457(b) plan.

In general, the contribution tax credit is available to individuals who

1) Are age 18 or older;

2) Not a full-time student;

3) Not claimed as a dependent on another person’s return; and

4) Have income below a certain level.

2018 Saver’s Credit Income Levels

Credit Rate Married Filing Jointly Head of Household All Other Filers*
50% of your contribution AGI not more than $38,000 AGI not more than $28,500 AGI not more than $19,000
20% of your contribution $38,001 – $41,000 $28,501 – $30,750 $19,001 – $20,500
10% of your contribution $41,001 – $63,000 $30,751 – $47,250 $20,501 – $31,500

*Single, married filing separately, or qualifying widow(er)

The IRS has a handy on-line “interview” that taxpayers may use to determine whether they are eligible for the credit.

Conclusion

Every deduction and tax credit counts these days. Many IRA owners and plan participants may be unaware of the retirement plan related tax credits for which they may qualify.

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Rollovers to SIMPLE IRAs

“Can my client roll over money to her SIMPLE 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, 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 California is representative of a common inquiry related to savings incentive match plans for employees (SIMPLE) IRA rollovers.

Highlights of the Discussion

As of 2016, (or December 18, 2015, to be more precise), SIMPLE IRAs can receive rollovers from traditional IRAs and simplified employee pension (SEP) IRAs, as well as from eligible employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k), 403(b), or governmental 457(b) plans, as long as it has been two years since the individual first participated in the SIMPLE IRA plan. So, if your client has owned her SIMPLE IRA for two years, then she can roll over money into it from another eligible plan. SIMPLE IRAs still may not accept rollovers from Roth IRAs or designated Roth accounts within 401(k) plans.

Prior to 2016, a SIMPLE IRA plan could only accept rollover contributions from another SIMPLE IRA plan. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, effective December 18, 2015, allowed greater portability between SIMPLE IRAs and other plan types by broadening the retirement plans that are eligible for rollover to a SIMPLE IRA.

The restrictions on rollovers from a SIMPLE IRA during the first two-years of participation have remained constant. Under both prior and current law, during the initial two-year period, a SIMPLE IRA owner may only move assets between SIMPLE IRAs via a trustee-to-trustee transfer.  If, during the initial two-year period, a SIMPLE IRA owner transfers or rolls over assets to an IRA or plan that is not a SIMPLE IRA, then the IRS treats the payment as a distribution from the SIMPLE IRA. The SIMPLE IRA owner must include the amount in his or her taxable income. On top of that, a 25 percent additional early distribution penalty tax applies to the amount, unless the taxpayer qualifies for an exception under IRC 72(t).

SIMPLE IRA assets may never be rolled over to a designated Roth account in a 401(k) plan and vice versa.

For a handy reminder of what retirement assets can roll where and when, please link to the IRS’s Rollover Chart.

Conclusion

The rules regarding rollovers to SIMPLE IRAs changed after December 18, 2015, allowing more freedom to move eligible retirement assets into a SIMPLE IRA. The restrictions on rollovers from a SIMPLE IRA during the first two-years of participation have remained constant.

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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.

 

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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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