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[Guidance Overview] DOL Issues Final Rule on Disability Benefit Claims and Appeals
"Employers should update all relevant disability benefit plan documents, SPDs, claims forms, denial letters and related systems to comply with the changes to the final requirements for claims and appeals by the effective date. Employers also might want to discuss with legal counsel the possibility of adding details about any contractual limitation periods on claims to all ERISA-covered plans, SPDs and denial letters, as the DOL seems to be taking the position that the requirement is not limited to disability claims." (Willis Towers Watson)

[Guidance Overview] DOL Publishes Final Regs on Disability Claims and Appeals Procedures (PDF)
"The final rule revises and strengthens the current rules primarily by adopting certain procedural protections and safeguards for disability benefit claims that are currently applicable to claims for group health benefits pursuant to the [ACA]." (United Actuarial Services, Inc.)

[Official Guidance] PBGC Interest Rate Summary, January 2017
"In response to feedback from practitioners and plan participants, PBGC reorganized and enhanced the material included in this monthly summary.... [This report provides], in one place, a summary of current interest rates that relate to various calculations required under Title IV of ERISA. PBGC posts this summary each month, as soon as all of the new information is available." [Chart includes January 2017 rates for ERISA 4022 Lump Sum Interest Rates and Variable-Rate Premiums, as well as Q1 Rates for ERISA 4044 Annuities, Late Premium Payments, and Late Withdrawal Liability.] (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation [PBGC])

Another Question is Answered in the Who's the Employer Q&A Column
"After the release of Rev. Proc. 2017-4, is it possible to receive a ruling on whether two particular companies constitute an affiliated service group?" (BenefitsLink)

When Plan Sponsors Select Service Providers, Trust Trumps Fees
"Know your value proposition and communicate it clearly in your marketing, mission statement, and in meetings with clients.... Offer group meetings for the Plan Sponsors' employees.... Don't shy away from discussing your compensation.... Discuss any needs you have of your client to properly advise them ... Get a list of their priorities ... and offer a broad plan in which you can emphasize these priorities." (TriStar Pension Consulting)

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Validity of Forum Selection Clauses in ERISA Plans
"The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 17 ended a yearlong legal challenge to the enforceability of a forum selection clause in an ERISA-governed benefit plan, when the court denied the plaintiff's petition for writ of certiorari. The petitioner unsuccessfully opposed transfer, moved for retransfer and twice sought review of the Eighth Circuit before filing her petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court." (Greensfelder)

[Guidance Overview] IRS OKs Use of Forfeitures as QNEC/QMAC/Safe Harbor Contributions (PDF)
"The proposed regulations [issued on January 18, 2017] would be effective for taxable years beginning on or after publication in final form. However, IRS states that taxpayers may rely on the proposed regulations for earlier periods. If the final regulations are more restrictive than the proposed changes, the final rule will be applied prospectively.... Plan sponsors and their recordkeepers may wish to ensure that current document language supports current operations or, if forfeitures are not currently utilized, revise plans accordingly taking into account this 'new' flexibility." (Conduent)

How to Make Your 401(k) or 403(b) Plan a Litigation Target
"[1] Adopt an Investment Policy Statement, then never consult it again.... [2] Don't benchmark your fees or do periodic RFPs.... [3] Load your investment menu with proprietary funds.... [4] Try to do everything in house.... [5] Enter into a revenue sharing arrangement, then fail to monitor payments.... [6] Use multiple recordkeepers and providers.... [7] Set it and forget it, because nobody is complaining.... [8] Don't hold regular committee meetings." (Cohen & Buckmann, P.C.)

2017 Retirement Policy Recommendations (PDF)
14 pages. Discusses 12 recommendations in three broad categories: [1] Correcting the retirement policy mistakes of the past eight years (definition of a fiduciary, state-based retirement plans, and Form 5500); [2] Promoting private sector innovation (Multiemployer Pension Reform Act, open MEPs, nondiscrimination testing for frozen plans, PBGC premiums, notice requirements, electronic delivery, and the required minimum distribution rules); [3] Recommendations for the long-term (tax reform, multiemployer pension reform, and Social Security)." (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

[Official Guidance] Text of PBGC Interest Rate Update for Benefits Payable in Terminated Single-Employer Plans, February 2017
"The February 2017 interest assumptions under the benefit payments regulation will be 1.25 percent for the period during which a benefit is in pay status and 4.00 percent during any years preceding the benefit's placement in pay status. In comparison with the interest assumptions in effect for January 2017, these interest assumptions are unchanged." (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation [PBGC])

Retirement Accounts in a Second or Later Marriage: The Fun Begins
"The two primary lessons learned: Update beneficiary designations, considering state treatment if community property is involved.... Request that the beneficiary execute a qualified disclaimer." (EisnerAmper)

[Guidance Overview] PBGC Sticks Its Head Out of the Water and Issues RFI Regarding Hybrid (Two-Pool) Multiemployer Pension Plans
"The PBGC in its RFI is particularly interested in learning about the terms and conditions that apply to new and existing employers that enter into hybrid arrangements, including alternative benefit schedules, special withdrawal and mass withdrawal payment terms, alternative withdrawal liability arrangements, and the pros and cons of such hybrid arrangements for participants and the PBGC as the insurer of multiemployer plans." (Seyfarth Shaw LLP)

Should You Get Your Company's 401(k) from a PEO?
"[R]easons that you should talk to an independent 401(k) advisor and benchmark your [professional employer organization's] 401(k) offering against market-leading options: Understanding your 401(k) fees.... Reducing your costs.... Recordkeeping and fund independence.... Ongoing compliance monitoring.... Employee education and advice." (ForUsAll)

[Guidance Overview] DOL's Final Rule Modifies ERISA Disability Claim Regulations
"Addressing conflicts of interest, the final rule requires decisions regarding hiring, compensation, termination, or promotion of persons involved in making claim decisions not be based on the likelihood the individual will support denial of benefits.... The final rule expanded the definition of 'adverse benefit determination' to include 'any rescission of disability coverage,' including 'cancellation or discontinuance of coverage that has a retroactive effect.' " (Womble Carlyle)

[Guidance Overview] 2017 Key Administrative Dates and Deadlines for Calendar-Year Multiemployer Defined Benefit Plans (PDF)
3-page chart of key administrative dates and deadlines during 2017 for multiemployer defined benefit retirement plans subject to ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code, including Form 5500, Zone Certification, Notice of Endangered or Critical Status, Zone Surcharge, and more. (Milliman)

[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Proposed Regs: Definitions of Qualified Matching Contributions and Qualified Nonelective Contributions
11 pages. "This document contains proposed amendments to the definitions of qualified matching contributions (QMACs) and qualified nonelective contributions (QNECs) under regulations relating to certain qualified retirement plans that contain cash or deferred arrangements under section 401(k) or that provide for matching contributions or employee contributions under section 401(m). Under these regulations, employer contributions to a plan would be able to qualify as QMACs or QNECs if they satisfy applicable nonforfeitability and distribution requirements at the time they are allocated to participants' accounts, but need not meet these requirements when they are contributed to the plan." (Internal Revenue Service [IRS])

[Guidance Overview] PBGC Requests Information About 'Two-Pool' Alternative Method for Allocating Withdrawal Liability for Multiemployer Plans
"Comments must be received on or before February 21, 2017, to be assured of consideration.... PBGC is asking for answers to questions about the possibility that more plans will request approval of two-pool methods in the future, the nature of the relief granted employers transitioning to the new pool, other alternatives the trustees considered, the risk of loss to participants and the PBGC created by the two-pool arrangement, and what factors PBGC should take into consideration in assessing such risks." (Cheiron)

Plan Terminations: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (PDF)
"You know the termination process can be lengthy, time consuming, and costly. There are multiple notices to be sent, forms to file, and annuities to purchase. You know your actuary, trust custodian, attorney, trustee, and investment advisor will assist with many of the tasks, but as plan administrator what can you do to be prepared?" (Milliman)

California State Pension Costs Doubled After Rate Increases
"State payments to CalPERS next fiscal year are expected to total $6 billion, nearly double the $3.2 billion paid six years ago before a wave of employer rate increases.... [S]tate payments to CalSTRS for the fiscal year beginning in July are expected to be $2.8 billion, nearly double the $1.5 billion paid three years ago when a rate increase began. Meanwhile, what had been the fastest-growing annual retirement cost in the budget, retiree health care for state workers, only increased by about half during the last six years, going from $1.5 billion in fiscal 2011 to $2.2 billion next year." (Calpensions)

2017 Key Administrative Dates and Deadlines for Calendar-Year DC Plans (PDF)
4-page chart of key administrative dates and deadlines during 2017 for defined contribution retirement plans subject to ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code, such as Form 5300 (Cycle A plans), corrective distributions, quarterly benefit statements, annual benefit statements, money purchase plans contribution deadline, safe harbor notices, automatic enrollment notices, notice to terminated vested employees, QDIA notices, discretionary plan amendments, and 42 more. (Milliman)

Mid-Sized Pension Plans: How to Get Back on Track (PDF)
"[M]any DB plan sponsors have yet to formally develop a goal for their retirement programs, nor have they designed a road map for getting there.... Rather than focus on an uncontrollable market environment, designing and implementing a sound fiduciary process can help alleviate market-related concerns by putting you back in control, while helping realign your plan with its intended purpose." (Portfolio Evaluations, Inc.)

[Guidance Overview] Proposed New IRS Mortality Table May Impact Plan Funding and Benefit Payments (PDF)
"[P]lan sponsors may want to consider taking the following steps in the coming months: [1] Review updated projections of minimum funding and PBGC premium requirements taking into account the proposed mortality table. [2] Evaluate whether the sponsor might be eligible to use a substitute mortality table, and whether doing so would result in savings. [3] Determine the potential impact of the new tables on possible de-risking strategies. [4] Consider how this may impact ongoing plan administration and benefit distribution calculations after the IRS issues the new Code section 417(e) table for minimum lump sum distribution purposes[.]" (Groom Law Group)

[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Publication 915: Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits, for Use in Preparing 2016 Returns (PDF)
30 pages, dated Dec. 30, 2016. "This publication explains the federal income tax rules for social security benefits and equivalent tier 1 railroad retirement benefits.... This publication covers ... [1] Whether any of your benefits are taxable. [2] How much is taxable. [3] How to report taxable benefits. [4] How to treat lump-sum benefit payments. [5] Deductions related to your benefits, including a deduction or credit you can claim if your repayments are more than your gross benefits." (Internal Revenue Service [IRS], Social Security Administration [SSA], and U.S. Railroad Retirement Board [RRB])

[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Publication 575: Pension and Annuity Income, for Use in Preparing 2016 Returns (PDF)
43 pages, dated Jan. 4, 2017. "This publication discusses the tax treatment of distributions you receive from pension and annuity plans and also shows you how to report the income on your federal income tax return. How these distributions are taxed depends on whether they are periodic payments (amounts received as an annuity) that are paid at regular intervals over several years or nonperiodic payments (amounts not received as an annuity)." (Internal Revenue Service [IRS])

[Official Guidance] Text of DOL Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustments for 2017
48 pages. "This final rule sets forth the Department's 2017 annual adjustments for inflation to its civil monetary penalties, effective January 13, 2017." (Employee Benefits Security Administration [EBSA], U.S. Department of Labor [DOL])

[Official Guidance] Text of PBGC Monthly Interest Rate Statement, January 2017
"The immediate interest rate for valuing lump sum payments for the month of February 2017 is 1.25% and the deferred interest rate I1 is 4.00%, I2 is 4.00%, and I3 is 4.00%.... The select and ultimate interest rates for valuing annuity benefits in single-employer plans and multiemployer plans for the month of February 2017 are 1.87% for the first 20 years following the date of plan termination, and 2.37% thereafter." (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation [PBGC])

[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Notice 2017-13: Update for Weighted Average Interest Rates, Yield Curves and Segment Rates, January 2017 (PDF)
"This notice provides guidance on the corporate bond monthly yield curve, the corresponding spot segment rates used under Section 417(e)(3), and the 24-month average segment rates under Section 430(h)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code. In addition, this notice provides guidance as to the interest rate on 30-year Treasury securities under Section 417(e)(3)(A)(ii)(II) as in effect for plan years beginning before 2008 and the 30-year Treasury weighted average rate under Section 431(c)(6)(E)(ii)(I)." (Internal Revenue Service [IRS])

[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Form 5434 and Instructions: Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries Application for Enrollment (PDF)
Rev. Jan. 2017. "You should not complete Form 5434 until you have satisfied the qualifying experience in section 901.12(b), the basic actuarial knowledge requirement in section 901.12(c), and the pension actuarial knowledge requirement in section 901.12(d)." [Also see Form 5434-A, Application for Renewal of Enrollment, rev. Feb. 2017.] (Internal Revenue Service [IRS])

ESOP Loans: Internal vs. External
"Having separate loan transaction documents allows the Plan Sponsor more repayment and refinancing flexibility.... In addition, the company can have a much shorter loan term on the external loan in order to remove debt from the company's books and, in a seller financed transaction, pay off a selling shareholder without impacting the share allocation in the ESOP. It is common, for example, to see internal ESOP loans with terms of 15 to 30 years while external loans have terms of 5 to 7 years." (Blue Ridge ESOP Associates)

Another Question is Answered in the Who's the Employer Q&A Column
"Which of these three corporations are controlled groups? (Both sons are over 20. There are no options, rights of first refusal, or other transfer restrictions.) Corp. A is owned 50% by Dad, 25% by son One, and 25% by son Two. Corp. B is 100% owned by son One. Corp. C is 50% owned by Dad, and 50% by son One. Corp. D (as with Corp. C) is 50% owned by Dad, and 50% by son One." (BenefitsLink)

[Guidance Overview] IRS Summary and Audit Indicators: 403(b) Universal Availability Requirement
Updated Jan. 11, 2017. "A common error occurs when employees, working less than full-time, are automatically excluded from making elective deferrals under the 403(b) plan. A plan that wants to apply the statutory exclusion for part-time employment must determine eligibility for the 403(b) elective deferrals based on whether the employee is reasonably expected to normally work less than 20 hours per week and has actually never worked more than 1,000 hours in the applicable 12-month period." (Internal Revenue Service [IRS])

Understanding the Internal Controls Needed by a Retirement Plan
"Reviewing controls helps auditors understand the processes in place to administer each retirement plan and design the audit strategy to address any identified control weaknesses. Controls at the plan sponsor are important because they may help prevent mistakes in plan administration." (Belfint Lyons & Shuman, CPAs)

Controlled Group Liability Early Warning Program, Premiums, and Other PBGC Developments Affecting Plan Sponsors (PDF)
"This memo provides a summary of [1] a recent court decision rejecting PBGC's attempts to expand the types of entities liable for termination liabilities, [2] PBGC's recent guidance on its Early Warning Program, [3] the Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate's 2016 report, and [4] changes to the premium filing instructions." (Groom Law Group)

IRS Proposes New Mortality Rates (PDF)
"The proposed regulations would increase funding requirements and PBGC premiums beginning in 2018 for single-employer plans. In addition, the regulations would likely result in higher single sum distributions which primarily impact plans with lump sum distribution options. The direct impact on multiemployer and governmental pension plans is minimal; however, the new mortality rates will put additional pressure on these plan sponsors to ensure the mortality rates used for funding and accounting purposes are best estimate assumptions." (Ekon Benefits)

[Guidance Overview] DOL Finalizes Disability Claims Procedure Rules (PDF)
"The DOL has finalized regulations that will change the procedures ERISA plans must follow in adjudicating claims for benefits conditioned on a determination of disability, including claims for disability retirement benefits. The final rules, which generally follow the proposed regulations, add a requirement that notices of an adverse benefit determination on review set out specific information about plan-mandated deadlines for bringing lawsuits under ERISA." (Conduent)

Traits of the Best Small Business 401(k) Providers
"They treat 401k plans like a service, not a product ... They don't make promises they can't keep ... They don't just ask for your trust; they earn it ... Their fees match their value." (Employee Fiduciary)

Top 10 Employee Benefits New Year's Resolutions for 2017
"[1] Fiduciary, Know Thyself.... [2] Look over your service providers' shoulders.... [3] Resolve to improve your plan governance.... [4] Wrap yourself in the protective cloak of procedurally prudent process.... [5] And add a protective layer of fiduciary insurance.... [6] Calendar reporting and disclosure requirements.... [7] Keep an eye on Twitter (yes, really).... [8] Or at least keep an eye on D.C. ... [9] Keep the other eye on the courts, particularly on fee litigation.... [10] And if you have one eye left, keep it on government enforcement action." (Benefits Bryan Cave)

[Guidance Overview] PBGC Expands Scope of Early Warning Program (PDF)
"Historically, Early Warning Program cases have been opened because of a specific transaction of concern to PBGC.... Under the new basis for possible action, an employer facing financial challenges may be surprised to find itself the target of an Early Warning Program investigation -- and possibly an Early Warning Program demand -- even in the absence of a specific transaction." (Keightley & Ashner LLP, via Bloomberg BNA Pension & Benefits Daily)

Leasing Property Isn't 'Automatic' Trade or Business for PBGC Liability; Asset Purchasers Generally Not Liable Either
"[The court] clarified the definition of 'trade or business,' and distinguished the statutory schemes for withdrawal liability for multiemployer plans and termination liability for single-employer plans. The court held that PBGC could not collect single-employer termination liabilities from [1] an irrevocable trust established by the founder of Findlay Industries, Inc. because the trust was not a 'trade or business,' or [2] companies that purchased assets from Findlay." [PBGC v. Findlay Industries, Inc., No. 15-1421 (N.D. Ohio Dec. 29, 2016)] (Reed Smith LLP)

[Guidance Overview] PR Treasury Issues New Rules and Procedures for Qualification of Retirement Plans
"Circular Letter of Tax Policy (CLTP) 16-08 repeals and leaves without effect most of the guidance provided by Circular Letters of Internal Revenue No. 11-10 of December 16, 2011 and No. 13-02 of May 28, 2013, except certain rules regarding the qualification of retirement plans covering Puerto Rico employees on January 1, 2011.... CLTP 16-08 provides a new list of Qualification Amendments that will require a plan to seek for a new qualification letter.... The application for a qualification letter must now include [certain] additional items of information: ... CLTP 16-08 changes the deadline to request qualification letters." (McConnell Valdes)

Proposed Mortality Table Updates Slated for 2018
"The IRS has released proposed regulations on applicable mortality tables to be used by defined benefit plans subject to ERISA to determine minimum funding requirements beginning with 2018 plan years.... Tables reflecting static projections of longevity improvement would still be permitted, as would combined annuitant/nonannuitant (small plan) versions of the tables. Updated rules for substitute, plan-specific mortality tables are also proposed, which would permit the use of tables reflecting partially credible experience for plans that are too small to have fully credible experience." (Conduent)

Just Say 'Ask TD Ameritrade' -- Investment Firms Launch Apps for Amazon Alexa
"While mobile apps and robo-advisors have been increasing trends among investment firms, TD Ameritrade is only the second to produce a ['skill,' an app that runs on Alexa-enabled Amazon devices] ... Fidelity launched a skill just in time for the holiday season of 2015, with two releases to increase usability this year.... The ease of access makes it a convenient way for investors to remain updated on the market while multi-tasking." (Corporate Insight)

Innovation in Participant Education
"[O]nly 12% of approximately 1,500 respondents indicated that they accessed educational content on their participant site in the past 12 months; however, 43% said educational articles and 39% said education videos about retirement planning and investing were either extremely or very important elements of a participant site.... 65% stated having access to a retirement income projection tool is at least 'very important,' despite only 23% having used one in the previous 12 months. This disparity may point to a lack of engagement with the plan, and therefore a lack of awareness that these resources exist for free on the participant site. It likely also points to a lack of engaging educational content[.]" (Corporate Insight)

GAO Report: Improved Guidance Could Help Retirement Account Owners Understand the Risks of Investing in Unconventional Assets
56 pages. "GAO examined: [1] what is known about the prevalence of accounts that invest in unconventional assets; [2] how these accounts are managed; and [3] what challenges are associated with administering these retirement accounts.... GAO is making three recommendations to the [IRS] to, among other things, improve guidance for account owners with unconventional assets on monitoring for ongoing federal tax liability and to clarify how to determine the fair market value of hard-to-value unconventional assets." [GAO-17-102, published Dec. 8, 2016, released Jan. 9, 2017] (U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAO])

[Guidance Overview] DOL Finalizes Disability Benefit Plan Claims Regs
"The finalized regulations require: Independence and impartiality in decision-making ... Improved disclosure ... Rights to review and respond to new information or new rationale before final decision ... Disclosure of any contractual limitations period in denial notices ... Deemed exhaustion of claims and appeals processes ... Retroactive rescissions of coverage are appealable ... 'Culturally and linguistically appropriate' notices." (Trucker Huss)

[Guidance Overview] Missing Participants: Gone But Not Forgotten
"On September 20, 2016, the PBGC issued proposed regulations expanding its missing participants program ... Certain modifications made in the proposed PBGC regulations may help further guide plan sponsors of ongoing plans on how to deal with missing participants. Though the current and proposed guidance applies only to terminated plans, it would seem prudent from a fiduciary standpoint to rely on similar principles, where applicable, when faced with missing participants in ongoing plans." (Trucker Huss)

Using Interactive 'Nutrition Labels' for Financial Products to Assist Decision Making for Long-term Saving (PDF)
29 pages. "[The authors] developed an interactive information label to assist consumers with retirement saving decision-making.... 450 users [were exposed] to one of four user interface conditions in a retirement saving simulator where they made 35 yearly decisions under changing circumstances. [The authors] found significantly better ability of users to reach their goals with the information label. Furthermore, users who interacted with the label made better decisions than those who were presented with a static information label. Lastly, [they] found the label particularly effective in helping novice savers." (Junius Gunaratne and Oded Nov, New York University)

Six Steps to a 401(k) Plan That's Ready for 2017
"[1] Think about whether you need to make any changes to your plan for 2017.... [2] [M]ake sure any amendments made in 2016 are signed properly and timely.... [3] Ensure your 2016 committee meeting minutes are organized and schedule your 2017 meetings.... [4] Consider whether an authority matrix or other delegation of authority to the right people would make things easier -- and more compliant.... [5] Decide whether you need to do an RFP in 2017 for any third-party provider.... [6] Make sure your payroll system is set up for the new compensation and contribution limits." (Warner Norcross & Judd LLP)

IRS Mortality Tables -- Finally!
"Sponsors can expect a 3 to 5% increase in minimum funding liabilities. Depending on the Plan's funding level, this could cause a spike in required contributions.... Plans with AFTAPs just above 80% or 60% could fall below these levels and be subject to restrictions on lump sum distributions.... Underfunded plans that are below the variable cap will see their PBGC premiums increase." (P-Solve LLC)

[Guidance Overview] New ERISA Disability Rules Look to Level Playing Field for All
"Besides requiring an explanation for disagreement with treating doctor opinions, the regulations speak to situations where the Social Security Administration issues an award of disability benefits while the benefit plan reaches a contrary determination. Although no deference to a favorable Social Security determination is required, the regulations obligate benefit plans to provide "a more detailed justification [for reaching a different conclusion] ... in a case where the SSA definitions were functionally equivalent to those under the plan." (DeBofsky & Associates, P.C.)

Effective Retirement Plan Communications
"[M]ore should be done to put participants at ease and thereby motivate them to better prepare for life after work.... [1] Don't sugar coat the issue of risk but instead make it known that no product is free of uncertainty; [2] Emphasize that calculations are based on assumptions; [3] Hold 'educational sessions that explain to participants why arriving at the assumptions involves a lot of crystal ball gazing' ... and [4] Supply 'gap analyses that show participants how many years they can expect to receive their targeted inflation-adjusted incomes at their current contribution rates.' " (Pension Risk Matters)

Big Players Pan Proposed Modifications to Form 5500
"Industry participants say the proposed rules offer some improvements, but they add the DOL must perform a better cost-benefit analysis, hold public hearings and reconsider some recommendations.... Some organizations said the DOL proposals didn't go far enough.... However, many large organizations and companies didn't mince words in their criticism." (Pensions & Investments)

Text of Comment Letters to DOL on Proposed Revision of Form 5500 and Schedules
These letters were submitted in response to DOL's request for comments on proposed revisions to Form 5500 and its schedules, and to proposed changes to the regulations pertaining to them. Deadline for submission of comment letters was Dec. 5, 2016. (Employee Benefits Security Administration [EBSA], U.S. Department of Labor [DOL])

2017 Premium Filing Instructions Updated by PBGC
"The guidance outlines how plan sponsors must use the My Plan Administration Account portal to electronically submit premium filings in accordance with PBGC's regulations.... The PBGC document further provides instructions for each data element that must be reported.... According to PBGC, the filing requirements for 2017 are almost identical to the filing requirements for 2016." (PLANSPONSOR)

[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Publication 4810: Specifications for Electronic Filing of Form 8955-SSA, Annual Registration Statement Identifying Separated Participants with Deferred Vested Benefits (PDF)
52 pages, revised Jan. 2017. "The purpose of this publication is to provide the specifications for electronically filing Form 8955-SSA, Annual Registration Statement Identifying Separated Participants With Deferred Vested Benefits, with the [IRS]. This publication must be used to prepare current and prior year Form 8955-SSAs. Generally, the boxes on the paper forms do correspond with the fields used for the electronic record; however, if the form and field instructions do not match, the guidance in this publication supersedes the form instructions." (Internal Revenue Service [IRS])

[Official Guidance] Text of 2017 PBGC Premium Payment Instructions (PDF)
61 pages. "This document provides information for plans paying premiums for plan years beginning in 2017, including instructions for each data element that must be reported. If you are filing for a previous year, you must follow the instructions for that year ... If you are amending a filing for a plan year that did not begin in 2017, the rules in this document do not apply. You must follow the instructions and regulations applicable for that plan year." (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation [PBGC])

[Guidance Overview] New Disability Claim Procedures Require Strict Compliance
"If a plan violates any of the rules for disability claims, the claim is deemed denied without the exercise of discretionary authority. This gives the claimant the right to file a lawsuit without further delay and will allow a court to decide the merits of the claim de novo, without any deference to the fiduciary who violated the rules.... A copy of any internal rules and guidelines the plan relied upon must now be affirmatively provided without request to the claimant (or otherwise a statement that such materials do not exist)." (Greensfelder)

[Guidance Overview] IRS Issues Guidance on Safe Harbor Provision for De Minimis Reporting Errors
"Notice 2017-9 contains the requirements for a payee statement or information return recipient to make an election to not have the safe harbor exemption apply. An election to not apply the safe harbor makes the payer subject to penalties, even if the error is de minimis. The safe harbor exemption applies to certain information returns filed with the IRS and payee statements furnished to taxpayers, including Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., Form 5498, IRA Contribution Information, and Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement." (Ascensus)

[Guidance Overview] Puerto Rico Treasury Announces Qualified Retirement Plan Limits for 2017
"For plans qualified in Puerto Rico and for those plans dual qualified in the United States and Puerto Rico, only the limits on annual benefits, annual contributions, and plan compensation have changed for 2017." (Haynes and Boone, LLP)

[Guidance Overview] DOL Issues Final Regs on Handling Disability-Related Claims
"[T]he Final Rule states that administrators of disability plans: (i) must provide more detail in adverse benefit decision letters (for both initial claim letters and appeal denial letters); (ii) adopt certain additional criteria to ensure independence and impartiality in the decision-making process; (iii) treat most rescissions as adverse benefit determinations; (iv) allow claimants to go directly to court if the claims procedures of the plan does not strictly comply with the requirements of the Final Rule; and (v) make disability claims subject to the same 'culturally and linguistically appropriate' rules as group health plan claims." (Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP)