Employee Benefits Update October/November 2018

This issue’s topics include:

Why target date fund oversight matters

Money management giant Vanguard began tracking the popularity of funds with professionally managed allocations — primarily target date funds (TDFs) — in 2003. Over the years, the organization has reported a steady growth of their prevalence in defined contribution retirement plans. As of the end of 2017, 58% of participants invested in a TDF, and Vanguard projects that number will hit 77% by 2022. This article discusses the reasons behind the TDF explosion, and a short sidebar covers some tips from the Department of Labor.

Read More

Investment option overload?

A cautionary tale from Yale University

When it comes to defined contribution plan investment options, giving participants an abundance of choices can backfire. Yale University recently dodged a bullet in this regard when it beat back — at least initially — a class action lawsuit accusing the institution of an ERISA breach. This article discusses why the case is instructive for plan sponsors.
Vellali et al v. Yale, Civil No. 3:16–cv–1345 (AWT), 03/30/2018

Read More

Pointing to agenda analysis of chart for investing and planning

Investing in HSAs for long-term retirement goals

Retirement plans are about saving for the cost of living in ― retirement. And typically one significant expense for retirees is medical bills. Actuaries at Fidelity Investments estimate that a typical 65-year-old couple retiring in 2018 will incur $280,000 in combined out-of-pocket health expenses during their retirement, excluding the cost of long-term care. This brief article discusses Health Savings Accounts, when employers can offer them to participants and why participants may be interested in them.

Read More

New IRS preapproved plan regime takes effect

Last year, in Revenue Procedure 2017-41, the IRS announced a new regulatory regime for defined contribution plans. The regime was issued to encourage employers with individually designed plans to convert to the preapproved format. This article discusses what employers should know going forward to meet the October 1, 2018, deadline for prospective submitters of “preapproved” defined contribution plan documents.

Read More

Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for October and November.

Read More

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our Employee Benefit Plan Services, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

LinkedIn button to join Insero's Employee Benefit Plan Resources Group on LinkedIn

Employee Benefits Update August/September 2018

This issue’s topics include:

Charging plan expenses to participants correctly

Shaving a few basis points off plan participants’ annual returns on their retirement plan accounts can put a significant dent in their asset accumulations by the time they’re ready to retire. For that reason, the question of which plan expenses are charged to participants, and which must be borne by the plan sponsor, is a critical issue to resolve correctly. Improperly allocating expenses to participants could be a serious fiduciary breach. This article summarizes the difference between administrative and settlor functions and which can be charged as plan expenses.

Read More

Keep your eye on the ball

Plan forfeitures must match plan document

It’s a routine matter for employees to forfeit retirement plan benefits. Even so, plan sponsors can’t afford to become blasé about it; ERISA demands more than an “easy come, easy go” attitude about the matter. This article reviews how plans can forfeit benefits and when benefits are forfeited. A short sidebar covers what plans can do with forfeited funds.

Read More

New rules affect disability benefit claim denials in retirement plans

Retirement plans (or other ERISA-regulated benefits, including nonqualified “top hat” plans) containing a disability benefit are affected by the new DOL rules that took effect in April 2018. The new regulations, in the works since 2015, pertain to disability claims and the processes governing appeals of a denial of disability benefits. This article reminds sponsors of 401(k) plans and defined benefit pension plans with disability benefits that they have until the end of this year to amend their plans to reflect the new rules.

Read More

Do you know what to do with an SOC report?

Service organization control (SOC) reports come in several varieties. They generally pertain to service organizations, like retirement plan recordkeepers or third party administrators (TPAs). The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) determines the scope of each SOC report. This short article reviews the types of SOCs and the reason for their use.

Read More

Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for September.

Read More

notebook planning, person writing

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our Employee Benefit Plan Services, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

LinkedIn button to join Insero's Employee Benefit Plan Resources Group on LinkedIn

Employee Benefits Update June/July 2018

This issue’s topics include:

Is your retirement plan successful?

Which criteria tell the real story
Do retirement plans do the job of preparing participants for retirement? And how do employers benchmark their plan’s performance? This article takes a closer look at what criteria to use when benchmarking a plan’s performance, and ways to communicate with participants and keep them on track toward retirement. A short sidebar summarizes a recent report on participants’ retirement readiness.

Read More

Plan documents: Be proactive to defuse possible landmines

Sometimes overseeing a retirement plan might feel like navigating a minefield. With proper precautions, however, plan sponsors can get through safely. Case in point: Making sure plans operate consistently with their plan documents. This article discusses ERISA requirements and various applicable documents that can be considered plan documents.

Read More

Stem plan leakage by upgrading your 401(k) loan rules and practices

“Plan leakage” refers to participants allowing their account balances to shrink, because of either loans or hardship withdrawals. Plan loans don’t always result in permanent leakage when they’re repaid, but they still can have adverse long-term consequences for participants. This article reviews how plan loans cause leakage, why plans allow loans, and how employers can help plug the leaks.

Read More

Using targeted education to narrow the gender gap in retirement savings

In employment settings in which women save less for retirement than men, an aggressive educational program can help to narrow the gap. This short article highlights a recent study from the Center for Retirement Research that looked at an initiative in Wisconsin to close a retirement saving gender gap among state employees.

Read More

Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for June and July.

Read More

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our Employee Benefit Plan Services, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

LinkedIn button to join Insero's Employee Benefit Plan Resources Group on LinkedIn

Employee Benefits Update April/May 2018

This issue’s topics include:

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act gives ― and takes away

While early drafts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act proposed significant changes to qualified retirement plans, the version that passed has minimal impact on them. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) did make some notable adjustments to the tax treatment of other types of employee compensation and benefits, for both employers and employees. Here’s a closer look at how corporate compensation and family and medical leave tax incentives are affected. A short sidebar discusses the TCJA’s impact on employee achievement awards, moving expenses and transportation fringe benefits.

Read More

Green Tax Reform Binder with information on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

Cash balance plans growing at a double-digit clip

The hybrid pension design known as the cash balance plan is on a roll. An analysis of the most recent IRS Form 5500 filings available reveals a 17% jump in the number of cash balance plans in 2015, while 401(k) plan formation growth was a meager 3%. This article examines which businesses may be interested in this type of plan.

Read More

Interpretation or statutory violation?

Why it matters when deciding remedies
Do ERISA plan participants who believe a plan has treated them unjustly have to exhaust their administrative remedies before filing an action in court? Last year, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals joined all but two other circuits in finding that plan participants don’t have to do so. This article examines the split between the circuits and the Sixth Circuit’s conclusion.
Hitchcock, et al. v. Cumberland Univ., et al., No. 16-5942 (6th Cir. 2017).

Read More

DOL increases scrutiny of defined benefit plans

Defined benefit plan sponsors might be facing tighter scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Last year the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration ramped up pension audit operations in its Philadelphia office, and later decided to do so elsewhere, the agency announced at an ERISA Advisory Council meeting. This short article highlights what the DOL is focusing on in their audits.

Read More

Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for April and May.

Read More

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our Employee Benefit Plan Services, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

LinkedIn button to join Insero's Employee Benefit Plan Resources Group on LinkedIn

Employee Benefits Update February/March 2018

This issue’s topics include:

Identity theft threat puts plan participants and sponsors at risk

News of commercial database hackings involving millions of people’s personal information seems commonplace. While many of these stories focus on bank and credit card accounts, many plan sponsors and participants don’t realize that 401(k) plan assets may be at risk — which can be a problem not only for participants, but sponsors as well. While no sponsor wants to see participants sustain financial hits, this article covers when, depending on how a cybertheft unfolds, sponsors could be left holding the bag. A sidebar offers tips for avoiding being a victim of fraud.

Read More

Fiduciary rule’s tortured path to implementation

What this means for plan sponsors
Controversy, complicated legal wrangling and legislative maneuvering have been swirling around the Department of Labor’s “fiduciary rule” governing financial advice given to retirement plan participants. Delays, modifications, phased effective dates, and the involvement of the Securities and Exchange Commission have left confusion and headaches in their wake. This article briefly reviews what plan sponsors need to know.

Read More

Tax cut law a mixed bag for retirement plan sponsors

Despite early indications that Congress was prepared to do much more, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that was passed in December largely left retirement plans unscathed, save for changes pertaining to plan loans and IRA conversions. This article reviews areas that are affected, as well as what could be ahead.

Read More

2017 vs. 2018 retirement plan limits

This chart contains updated retirement plan limits for 2018.

Read More

Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for February through April.

Read More

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our service offerings, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

LinkedIn RBG-01-01

Employee Benefits Update: Year End 2017

This issue’s topics include:

Deciding what to do with orphaned 401(k) plan accounts

Sponsors of qualified retirement plans with orphan accounts need to consider whether such accounts are a problem. This article examines the state of orphan accounts and why the way plans charge administrative fees can help determine whether it’s beneficial to keep them in the plan. A short sidebar discusses the plan sponsor’s fiduciary duty to all plan participants, whether they’re active employees, former employees who have moved on to other jobs, retirees or beneficiaries.

Read More

How high can you go?

Participants willing to accept higher default deferral rates

It’s generally accepted that a 3% deferral rate won’t get many employees where they need to be financially as they approach retirement. Most employees will need a figure closer to 10%, yet 3% has traditionally been the most common default deferral rate used by plans that auto-enroll participants. This article highlights why this is changing.

Read More

Reimbursement road map for sponsor services

When retirement plan sponsors perform administrative services on behalf of the plan, they can be reimbursed by the plan for those services. This brief article examines why meticulous expense documentation is essential and reviews a recent case on the subject.

Read More

Why adding a Roth 401(k) option could boost employee savings

A decade after they first became available, Roth 401(k) plans are now offered by many employers. Employees are also getting on board — particularly the younger ones — even without fully understanding how they work. This article looks at the pluses and minuses of Roth 401(k)s compared to traditional 401(k)s and Roth IRAs and reviews some data that highlights how employees are reacting to the Roth 401(k) option.

Read More

Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key year-end tax reporting deadlines.

Read More

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our service offerings, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

LinkedIn RBG-01-01

Employee Benefits Update: February/March 2017

This issue’s topics include:

Get your fiduciary house in order
DOL’s newest regulations require plan sponsor action

The majority of the U.S. Department of Labor’s complex regulations mandating fiduciary status for individuals dealing with retirement investment decision-making involve investment advisors. But the regulations, which are scheduled to take effect on April 10, 2017, also require plan sponsors to take certain steps. Remember, plan sponsors are always the fiduciary, and the regulations expand the definition of fiduciary status. A sidebar discusses the distinction between investment education and investment recommendations or advice.

Read More

Who’s to blame?
Court equitably apportions fiduciary misdeeds

When a fiduciary breach occurs, some fiduciaries may be more culpable than others. And when that’s the case, the court can order those parties to indemnify other fiduciaries who were, despite their technical status as fiduciaries, without blame. This article summarizes a recent case of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit where the court equitably apportioned relief in a fiduciary duty setting.

Read More

Hardship withdrawal programs require strict administration

While not required, most 401(k) plans offer a hardship withdrawal option. The IRS recently updated its guidance on how plan sponsors can remedy errors in the administration of hardship withdrawals. This article highlights the basics of hardship withdrawals and how to correct mistakes when administering a hardship withdrawal program.

Read More

2016 vs. 2017 retirement plan limits

This chart contains updated retirement plan limits for 2017.

Read More

Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for February through April.

Read More

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our service offerings, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

LinkedIn RBG-01-01

Employee Benefits Update: Year End 2016

This issue’s topics include:

Using eligibility rules to control plan enrollment

Plan sponsors have more flexibility than they may realize when it comes to setting eligibility rules for 401(k) plan participants. Even though ERISA sets many rules for eligibility, plan sponsors have leeway to meet the demands of the employment market. This article offers some thoughts for plan sponsors to consider when determining plan enrollment.

Read More

Too many investment options may increase litigation risk

Giving plan participants a wide range of investment options is a good thing — but only to a point. That’s one of multiple allegations in recent class action lawsuits filed against several prominent universities. This article reviews recent litigation, and offers a cautionary note for plan sponsors who offer a high number of investment options.

Read More

Where’s Waldo?
Locating missing plan participants

It’s not uncommon for previously active employed plan participants to fall off the radar screen. They include retirees and former employees that move away without informing the plan administrator. Before anyone realizes it, they become “lost” participants. This article sets out the steps to take when dealing with these participants.

Read More

IRS permits high-earner Roth IRA rollover opportunity

As highly compensated employee (HCE) 401(k) plan participants approach retirement, a potentially useful tax-efficient IRA rollover technique may be a valuable savings tool. This brief article reviews IRS rules about how HCEs can allocate both pretax and after-tax employee contribution 401(k) assets between standard and Roth IRAs.

Read More

Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for December and January.

Read More

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our service offerings, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

LinkedIn RBG-01-01

Employee Benefits Update: October/November 2016

This issue’s topics include:

Small employers on notice
Fiduciary focus important for any size employer

One recent lawsuit alleging fiduciary duty violations caught the attention of many in the employee benefits business not because of the nature of the charges, but instead because it involved a small employer. A string of large employers have faced similar charges and ultimately compensated participants. Even though the plaintiffs later withdrew their complaint, this article examines why the filing of this case matters. A sidebar offers several methods of allocating recordkeeping fees equitably among participants.

Damberg et al v. LaMettry’s Collision Inc., 0:16-cv-01335 (Minn. D.C. 2016)

Read More

IRS places high priority on retirement plan internal controls

When IRS examiners check under the hood of many retirement plans, they often find a lack of sufficient internal controls. The consequences can be severe — even if an IRS audit doesn’t turn up any other problems. The worst-case scenario? Theft of plan assets that is financially damaging to participants and your company, and can also lead to plan disqualification. This article highlights the importance of internal controls for both retirement plan sponsors and their service providers.

Read More

Fair Labor Standards Act update
New employee exempt status threshold rules affect retirement plans

Changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that take effect December 1 could have implications for retirement plans. The changes affect what forms of compensation businesses use to calculate employer contributions to their qualified retirement plans and determine highly compensated employee (HCE) status. This article reviews the new exemption rules and how they affect retirement plans.

Read More

Hybrid pension plan interest credit rule amendment deadline nears

The deadline for hybrid pension sponsors to adopt plan amendments bringing them into compliance with key provisions of final IRS hybrid plan regulations is fast approaching: January 1, 2017 (2019 for collectively bargained plans). This article reviews the deadline for transitional amendments to satisfy the regulations’ market rate-of-return rule.

Read More

Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for October and November.

Read More

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our service offerings, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

LinkedIn RBG-01-01

What are you forgetting?

Reviewing commonly overlooked fiduciary duties

Although retirement plan fiduciaries take their jobs seriously, it can be hard to cover all the bases. That’s understandable, considering the broad scope of fiduciary responsibility as well as the dynamic nature of the retirement plan designs, investment management and legal interpretations of fiduciary duty. Some common pitfalls include failing to identify the plan’s fiduciaries, insufficiently training fiduciaries and spending too much time on inappropriate investments.

Don't forget!

Knowing your fiduciaries

Do you know the identities of all your plan fiduciaries? Fiduciaries should know who else carries the responsibilities. Having fiduciary status — and the liability associated with the role — is a powerful motivator to pay careful attention to the management of the retirement plan. However, the scope of your fiduciary duty varies according to the role taken. Let’s take a closer look at the types of plan fiduciaries:

Named fiduciaries. ERISA requires the existence of named fiduciaries. The plan document identifies the corporate entity or individual serving as the named fiduciary. If they aren’t immediately identified, the plan document will set the requirements for naming them. The named fiduciary can designate and give instructions to plan trustees.

Plan trustees. These are people who have exclusive authority and discretion to manage and control the plan assets. The trustee can be subject to the direction of a named fiduciary. These plan fiduciaries have a broad scope of responsibility.

Board of directors and committee members. ERISA considers individuals — typically the corporate board of directors, who choose plan trustees and administrative committee members — fiduciaries. The scope of their fiduciary duty focuses on how they fulfill that specific function, and not on everything that happens with the plan itself. The law also sees as fiduciaries people who exercise discretion in key decisions about plan administration, including members of an administrative committee, if such a committee exists.

Investment advisors. The named fiduciary can appoint one or more investment managers for the plan’s assets. People or firms who manage plan assets are plan fiduciaries. However, individuals employed by third party service providers can fall into different fiduciary categories. The investment manager who has complete discretion over plan asset investments (known as an ERISA 3(38) fiduciary) has the greatest fiduciary responsibility.

In contrast, a corporation or individual who offers investment advice, but doesn’t actually call the shots (an ERISA 3(21) fiduciary), has a lesser fiduciary responsibility. The advice can be about investments or the selection of the investment manager.

Service providers. If you use service providers, be sure the service agreement clearly specifies when a service provider is acting in a fiduciary capacity.

Anyone who exercises discretionary authority over any vital facet of plan operations falls under a catch-all category of a “functional fiduciary.”

Training your fiduciaries

Given the crucial role fiduciaries play, they must be properly trained for the role. This is a step that’s often neglected and can be of particular concern for company employees who don’t have full-time jobs related to running the plan.

Failing to properly train fiduciaries to carry out their roles may represent a fiduciary breach on the part of the other fiduciaries responsible for selecting them. The U.S. Department of Labor is known to focus on this when it reviews a plan’s operations. Also, have named fiduciaries (such as individually named trustees or members of plan committees) accept in writing their role as a fiduciary.

Providing proper insurance

A sometimes overlooked task includes properly protecting your plan’s fiduciaries against costly litigation and penalties with insurance designed for this purpose. Companies generally cover fiduciaries who also serve as corporate directors or officers through directors and officers or employment practices insurance policies. These generally don’t extend to fiduciary breaches.

And remember, ERISA fidelity bonds protect the plan’s assets from theft or fraud, not from fiduciary breaches. ERISA requires a fidelity bond, but not fiduciary liability insurance. However, given that anyone who is a fiduciary is personally liable for any violation of their fiduciary duties, you should have fiduciary liability coverage, often called an ERISA rider.

Focusing on the wrong investments

Stock market volatility and speculation about changes in Federal Reserve policies (and their resulting financial market impact) can lead plan fiduciaries to rely on retirement fund investment alternatives that focus on narrow sectors and strategies. This can divert fiduciaries’ attention from the investment options where most of their participants are parking the majority of their retirement savings: stable value and target date funds (TDFs).

Neglecting the big picture

Ultimately, retirement plans should prepare employees for retirement. How well that’s accomplished is often referred to as participant “outcomes.” Fiduciaries with broad responsibility for plans that ignore the big picture ultimately are failing participants, and possibly making themselves vulnerable to a charge of neglecting their fiduciary duties. Reviewing the common mistakes regularly can help you avoid making them.

Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our service offerings, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

LinkedIn RBG-01-01