regulatory updates

IRS Issues More CARES Act Eligibility and Plan Loan Guidance

The IRS has issued Notice 2020-50, providing additional guidance on several aspects of the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, legislation enacted in March of this year in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A “qualified individual” who has experienced health or financial effects from the COVID-19 pandemic is eligible for certain retirement plan distribution, penalty exemption, plan loan and loan repayment, taxation, and repayment benefits.

Qualified Individual Further Defined

Initial guidance defines a “qualified individual” as

  • an individual (or the spouse or dependent of the individual) who is diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease or the SARS-CoV-2 virus in an approved test; or
  • an individual who experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, being furloughed or laid off or having work hours reduced due to such virus or disease, being unable to work due to lack of child care due to such virus or disease, closing or reduced hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to such virus or disease, or other factors as determined by the Treasury Secretary.

Notice 2020-50 adds new circumstances to the definition of “qualified individual.”

  • An individual who has experienced a reduction in pay (or self-employment income) due to COVID-19, or has had a job offer rescinded or a start date for a job delayed due to COVID-19.
  • A person whose spouse or a member of her household has
    • been quarantined, furloughed or laid off, or had work hours reduced due to COVID-19;
    • been unable to work because of a lack of childcare due to COVID-19,
    • had a reduction in pay (or self-employment income) due to COVID-19; or
    • had a job offer rescinded or a start date for a job delayed due to COVID-19.
  • A person whose spouse or a member of her household has experienced the closing or a reduction of hours of their business due to COVID-19.

For purposes of applying these additional factors, a member of the individual’s household is someone who shares the individual’s principal residence.

CARES Act Loans

Notice 2020-50 provides examples of how to apply the special plan loan provisions of the CARES Act, and includes a safe harbor method. In addition, the Treasury Department and IRS recognize that there may be additional reasonable ways to administer loan repayments under the CARES Act.

This guidance is being further analyzed, and additional details will be shared.

FuturePlan ERISA Team

Defined Benefit Plan

Defined Contribution Plan

IRS Guidance

DOL Seeks Comments for Future PEP/MEP Guidance

The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has released a pre-publication version of a request-for-information (RFI) seeking public comments on issues pertinent to pooled employer plans (PEPs) and multiple employer plan (MEPs).

This initiative follows enactment in December 2019 of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, some provisions of which were intended to enhance the ability of multiple entities to join together in a single retirement plan, and—if certain conditions were met—be treated as a single employer, allowing potential administrative efficiencies and cost savings. The SECURE Act established statutory conditions for the establishment of new affiliations to be known as PEPs, which would require the designation of a “pooled plan provider” that would be a fiduciary of the PEP. 

Issues that EBSA anticipates could include the “possible parties, business models, and conflicts of interest that … will be involved in the formation and ongoing operation of PEPs,” according to an EBSA news release. EBSA is also seeking “information on similar issues involving multiple employer plans sponsored by employer groups or associations or professional employer organizations.” 

The comments received could shape potential future EBSA guidance on the operation of these arrangements, including whether EBSA should propose a new prohibited transaction class exemption.

The RFI contains instructions for submitting comments and is scheduled to be published in tomorrow’s Federal Register.

FuturePlan ERISA Team

Defined Contribution Plan

DOL

Paycheck Protection Program Revised Interim Final Rule Issued

Scheduled for publication in next Tuesday’s Federal Register is a Small Business Administration (SBA) interim final rule on the agency’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This guidance is being issued in response to enactment on June 5 of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020, legislation that made enhancements to this SBA loan program intended to help small employers meet payroll and other expenses as they deal with the economic effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

If certain conditions are met, PPP loans can be forgiven and treated as a grant. Payroll expenses can include not only wages and salary, but also employer contributions to defined contribution and defined benefit retirement plans, as well as providing group health care coverage, including payment of insurance premiums.

The SBA issued a previous interim final rule in April 2020 to provide guidance in implementing PPP. But with the program changes made by the June 5 legislation, that April rule no longer reflects certain important features of PPP as it now exists, requiring the issuance of a new interim final rule. These important PPP changes include the following.

  • Extends from 8 to 24 weeks from a loan’s origination the period in which expenses paid with a PPP loan could be eligible for loan forgiveness (not to extend beyond December 31, 2020)
  • Reduces from 75 percent to 60 percent the portion of a loan that must be used for payroll expenses (vs. overhead, etc.) and remain fully eligible for loan forgiveness
  • Extends from 2 to 5 years the period for loan repayment for borrowed amounts that are not forgiven (applies to loans made on or after June 5, 2020)
  • Allows a borrower who received a PPP loan before enactment of the June 5 legislation to elect that the covered period run for 8 (vs. 24) weeks

The SBA notes that this interim final rule is effective without advance notice and public comment because of its time sensitivity and specific authorization by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the legislation that created the PPP lending program. Nonetheless, comments are invited and must be submitted within 30 days of the guidance’s publication in the Federal Register.

FuturePlan ERISA Team

Defined Benefit Plan

Defined Contribution Plan

Legislative updates

President Signs Paycheck Protection Program Extension Legislation

President Trump signed into law Friday, June 5, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020, legislation that the Senate approved Wednesday night. The legislation extends elements of and makes certain other adjustments to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This Small Business Administration lending program was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to help small employers meet payroll and other expenses as businesses and the nation deal with the economic effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Importantly, if certain conditions are met, PPP loans can be forgiven and treated as a grant. Payroll expenses can include employer contributions to defined contribution and defined benefit retirement plans, as well as providing group health care coverage, including payment of insurance premiums.

Among its provisions, this legislation will have the following effects.

  • Extends from 8 to 24 weeks from the time of loan origination the period in which expenses paid with a PPP loan could be eligible for loan forgiveness (not to extend beyond December 31, 2020)
  • Reduces from 75 percent to 60 percent the portion of a loan that must be used for payroll expenses (vs. overhead, etc.) and remain eligible for loan forgiveness
  • Extends from 2 to 5 years the period for loan repayment for borrowed amounts not forgiven
  • Provides no impediment to loan forgiveness for the documented inability to hire similarly qualified placement employees or to rehire former employees
  • Allows a borrower who received a PPP loan before enactment of this legislation to elect that the covered period run for 8 (vs. 24) weeks

FuturePlan ERISA Team

Defined Benefit Plan

Legislative updates

Defined Contribution Plan

Senate Passes Paycheck Protection Program Extension, Legislation Awaits President’s Signature

On Wednesday night, the U.S. Senate approved by voice vote H.R. 7010, the House-passed Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020. The legislation extends elements of and makes certain other adjustments to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This Small Business Administration lending program was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, to help small employers meet payroll and other expenses as businesses and the nation deal with the economic effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Importantly, if certain conditions are met, PPP loans can be forgiven and treated as a grant. Payroll expenses can include employer contributions to defined contribution and defined benefit retirement plans, as well as providing group health care coverage, including payment of insurance premiums.

Among its provisions, the legislation now presented to President Trump—who is expected to sign it into law—would have the following effects.

  • Extend from 8 to 24 weeks from the time of loan origination the period in which expenses paid with a PPP loan could be eligible for loan forgiveness (not to extend beyond December 31, 2020) 
  • Reduce from 75% to 60% the portion of a loan that must be used for payroll expenses (vs overhead, etc.) and remain eligible for loan forgiveness
  • Extend from 2 to 5 years the period for loan repayment for borrowed amounts not forgive
  • The documented inability to hire similarly qualified placement employees or to rehire former employees will not be an impediment to loan forgiveness
  • A borrower who received a PPP loan before enactment of this legislation may elect that the covered period run for 8 (vs 24) weeks

FuturePlan ERISA Team

Defined Benefit Plan

Defined Contribution Plan

Legislative updates

DOL Addresses Private Equity as a Plan Investment

The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) today released an Information Letter addressing the issue of including private equity investments—which are not publicly traded securities—among investment options available in certain individual account (401(k)-type) defined contribution (DC) plans.

EBSA’s letter indicates that such plans could potentially include funds with a private equity component. But the EBSA pointed out that there are significant differences between such DC plans and professionally managed defined benefit (DB) plans, wherein retirement benefits are based on known formulas. EBSA’s letter describes in detail considerations that a plan fiduciary should take into account when determining whether it is prudent to include such an investment component in an individual account DC plan, especially if a private equity investment will be a component of a plan’s qualified default investment alternative (QDIA).

2020 Relief for Certain Consent Requirements

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today issued Notice 2020-42, in which the IRS provides temporary relief from the physical presence requirements for certain elections that are made by participants and beneficiaries in qualified retirement plans and other tax-favored retirement arrangements. This includes signatures of those making an election that ordinarily would need to be witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative or notary public, including spousal consent and certain forms of distribution from retirement plans.

The guidance is being issued in consideration of business shutdowns and social distancing in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The IRS notes that it is intended to facilitate the payment of coronavirus-related distributions and plan loans to qualified individuals, as permitted by the CARES Act.

Under this relief, for 2020 distributions, live audio-video technologies may be used to facilitate remote notarization if meeting other election requirements and if this is consistent with state laws governing notarization. Also for 2020, for certain plan elections that must be witnessed by a plan representative, witnessing may be accomplished by live audio-video technology, but only if certain access, security, review, and confirmation conditions are met.

Washington Pulse: More Options for Delivering Retirement Plan Disclosures

Nearly seven months after releasing proposed regulations, the Department of Labor (DOL) has released final regulations on default electronic delivery of retirement plan disclosures.

FuturePlan ERISA Team

DOL

Defined Contribution Plan

Washington Pulse

IRS Provides Welcome Deadline Relief for Savings Arrangement Reporting, Limited Additional Extensions

On May 28, 2020, the IRS issued limited additional relief that extends deadlines for certain time-sensitive actions related to tax-advantaged savings arrangements. Most awaited was an extension for providing information returns for IRAs, health savings accounts (HSAs), Archer medical savings accounts (MSAs), and Coverdell education savings accounts (ESAs). These information returns are Form 5498, IRA Contribution Information, Form 5498-SA, HSA, Archer MSA, or Medicare Advantage MSA Information, and Form 5498- ESA, Coverdell ESA Contribution Information.

Deadlines for providing these information returns to the IRS and to account owners had previously been extended by IRS Notice 2020-23 through July 15, 2020, in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The deadline for annual contributions to these accounts was also extended to July 15, 2020. This presented custodial organizations and service providers to these accounts with the dilemma of reporting contributions that could be received as late as the deadline for their reporting.

Notice 2020-35 now provides a six-week window after the July 15, 2020, contribution deadlines in which organizations can prepare and provide these information returns to the IRS and to account owners.

Other Deadlines Not Extended

Notice 2020-23 extended many other deadlines to July 15, 2020, including completing rollovers, making retirement plan loan payments, filing Form 5500, Annual Return, Report of Employee Benefit Plan, as well as numerous others. These deadlines are not extended by the latest guidance in Notice 2020-35.

Extensions Granted by Notice 2020-35

The following are among the limited number of deadlines extended by Notice 2020-35.

  • Providing Form 5498-series information returns for IRAs, ESAs, HSAs, and MSAs. (Providing these information returns after August, 31, 2020, will be subject to IRS penalty, which will be calculated from September 1, 2020, through the date the information returns are actually provided.)
  • Close of the 403(b) plan remedial amendment period remains at June 30, 2020, this guidance making official an earlier IRS website announcement.
  • Adoption by a defined benefit pension plan of a pre-approved plan document, filing a request for a determination letter under the second six-year cycle, or certain other actions with respect to disqualifying provisions have a deadline of July 31, 2020.

Notice 2020-35 also extends to July 15, 2020 (not August 31), several items not previously granted extensions. These include the following.

  • Application for a funding waiver by a defined benefit pension plan that is not a multi-employer (union) plan.
  • Filing IRS Form 5330, Return of Excise Taxes Related to Employee Benefit Plans, and paying these excise taxes.

FuturePlan ERISA Team

Defined Benefit Plan

HSA

IRA

IRS

IRS Guidance

House Passes Bill to Expand Paycheck Protection Program

The U.S. House of Representatives passed by a 417-1 margin on Thursday, May 28, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020. This legislation would modify certain core terms of this Small Business Administration (SBA) emergency lending program. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020. Under the program, qualifying small businesses may apply for loans from the SBA to retain employees on their payrolls, and—especially attractive to business owners—the loans are forgiven if certain conditions are met.

As provided in the CARES Act, PPP loans taken to cover 8 weeks of program-eligible expenses can be forgiven (no repayment required). Although mortgage, rent, and other business expenses are included, to be eligible for forgiveness, 75 percent of a loan amount must—under current rules—be used for employee payroll expenses. Certain employee benefits, including defined contribution and defined benefit plan employer contributions, health insurance benefits (including premium payments), and certain employee leave benefits can be considered payroll expenses.

Today’s House-passed legislation would extend the 8-week period to 24 weeks, and would change the 75 percent payroll requirement to 60 percent.

The legislation would also relax certain loan forgiveness provisions in recognition that an employer may be unable to rehire some former employees or to find similarly qualified employees. Loan amounts not forgiven could be repaid over a period of 5 years instead of 2 years as under current rules.

Members of the U.S. Senate have been discussing a similar bill, one said to expand the 8-week period to 16, not 24 weeks. If the Senate is unable to pass its version of PPP revisions this week, which seems likely, its bill could be taken up when the Senate returns to Washington, D.C., next week.

FuturePlan ERISA Team

COVID-19

Defined Benefit Plan

Defined Contribution Plan

IRA

Legislative updates

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