Benefits Law Update

A blog from the attorneys of Verrill

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COVID-19 Vaccination Incentive Programs: Additional Guidance and Some Comfort

Earlier today the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released guidance confirming that employers may offer incentives to employees who voluntarily obtain a COVID-19 vaccination. The guidance (available here ) appears as an update to earlier technical guidance issued by the EEOC and also offers new information regarding an...
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ARPA Premium Subsidy: Long-Awaited Details Finally Arrive

The IRS recently issued Notice 2021-31 , which provides much sought-after detail regarding the contours and operation of the temporary premium subsidy for COBRA continuation coverage available through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). As enacted on March 11, the basic mechanics of the COBRA premium subsidy...
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IRS Notice 2021-26 Clarifies Taxation of Dependent Care Assistance Programs

On May 10, 2021, the IRS issued Notice 2021-26 , which provides guidance regarding the taxation of dependent care assistance benefits provided through a Code Section 125 cafeteria plan, available in tax years ending in 2021 and 2022 due to the application of certain temporary pandemic relief provisions relating...
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Understanding Your Fiduciary Responsibilities Under ERISA: A Webinar

Employers have long understood the importance of fiduciary compliance with respect to 401(k) plans and other retirement plans subject to ERISA, and most have sound processes and governance structures in place to ensure the fulfillment of their fiduciary duties. Many employers, however, do not apply the same level of...
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Pension Plan Mortality Table Litigation – What’s Next?

The first major settlement of a lawsuit challenging the mortality assumptions used to calculate pension plan benefits was announced earlier this year. According to court filings in Cruz v. Raytheon Company , the settlement will be worth about $59.2 million to more than 10,000 retirees and surviving spouses in...
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ESG Ping-Pong®

The recent regulatory back-and-forth over the investment of ERISA-governed retirement plan assets based on environmental, social, and corporate governance (“ESG”) factors has demonstrated that ESG investing will remain under an intense spotlight for some time to come, and the rules can change quickly. As a result, investment fiduciaries should...
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Identifying Plan Assets in ERISA Health & Welfare Plans

Last month, we advised readers of this blog to consider efforts to formalize the fiduciary governance of their health and welfare benefit plans. In that post , we described some of the reasons that employers have historically paid more attention to fiduciary compliance for retirement plans than health and...
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Webinar: The Effect of COVID-19 on Employee Benefit Plans – Making Sense of the Abundance of New Legislation and Guidance

Join us on Thursday, March 18 for the next segment in the virtual series that comprises Verrill’s 2021 Employment Law Annual Update! For this segment, employee benefits attorneys Karen Hartford, Bill Jewett, and Chris Lockman will examine the various relief provided by legislation, regulatory action, and agency guidance intended...
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Order of Benefit Deductions from Employee Pay

From time to time we field questions about the order in which deductions for various employee benefits ( e.g. , 401(k) plan elective deferrals and insurance premiums for welfare benefit plan benefits) should be taken from an employee’s pay. The questions range from whether ERISA mandates a specific order...
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Partial Plan Terminations – An Update

In our April 2020 post , we detailed how employee layoffs can cause a qualified retirement plan to undergo a “partial termination,” resulting in required 100% vesting of the affected employees’ benefits. As 2020 drew to a close, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to affect many businesses, Congress enacted...
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DOL Guidance on Missing Pension Plan Participants - Part II

On January 18, we published a blog post regarding new Department of Labor (“DOL”) guidance on missing plan participants. That post is available here , and describes the DOL’s guidance on Missing Participants - Best Practices for Pension Plans (“Best Practices”). This blog post addresses two other pieces of...
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DOL Guidance on Missing Pension Plan Participants

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) has undertaken a nationwide compliance initiative to ensure that retirement plan participants receive the benefits that they were promised when they reach their retirement age. To that end, the DOL recently issued three pieces of guidance – (i) Missing Participants - Best Practices for...
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Reporting Deferred Compensation on Form 990

Tax-exempt organizations often provide deferred compensation to their officers, key employees, and most highly compensated employees. Like current compensation payable to such employees, deferred compensation must be reported annually on Form 990, Schedule J. For the most part, Schedule J is straightforward. However, it is not always obvious how...
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Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 Includes Flexible Spending Account Relief

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (the “Act”) was signed into law on December 27, 2020. Buried within its 5,593 pages is some welcome flexibility relating to 2020 and 2021 health care and dependent care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). Specifically: Expanded Carry-Over or Grace Period Under the Act, health...
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Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation 2020 Year-End Client Advisory

Click here to view as a PDF . This Client Advisory highlights important developments in the law governing employee benefit plans over the past year. It offers insight into what these developments mean for employers and plan sponsors and previews developments we expect to see in 2021. The following...
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Target Date Funds: Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Eight years ago, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued “tips” for retirement plan fiduciaries to consider when selecting and monitoring target date retirement funds (“TDFs”). At the time, the DOL noted that TDFs were becoming “increasingly popular.” Who could have predicted how popular? Earlier this year, Barron’s magazine...
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December 31 Sunset of Safe Harbor Correction Method for Certain Elective Deferral Failures

A special IRS-approved correction method available for elective deferral failures in 401(k) and 403(b) plans with automatic contribution features will sunset on December 31, 2020, meaning it will not be available to correct elective deferral failures that begin after that date. It remains available, however, for a limited time...
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New IRS Guidance Will Help Facilitate 403(b) Plan Terminations

With the publication of Revenue Ruling 2020-23 , the IRS completed a cycle of helpful guidance regarding the termination of 403(b) plans that began with the publication of regulations under Code Section 403(b) in 2007. Revenue Ruling 2020-23, issued pursuant to a direction given to the Secretary of the...
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COVID-19 Extension Guidance Makes the Interplay Between COBRA and Medicare (a Bit) Trickier

The rules concerning the interplay between COBRA and Medicare are a frequent source of confusion for employers. The spike in retirements, layoffs, and furloughs attributable to the coronavirus pandemic has produced an environment where employers may be confronted with these rules more frequently. In addition, guidance extending certain COBRA...
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IRS announces 2021 plan limits

The IRS has announced adjusted benefit plan limits for 2021. These adjustments reflect inflation, and are important for administrators of employee retirement and health plans. The limit on 401(k) and 403(b) plan elective deferrals remains the same, at $19,500 for 2021, as does the limit on catch-up contributions, at...
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401(k) Plan Sponsors – Time to Focus on Compliance with the SECURE Act’s Eligibility and Vesting Rules for Long-Term, Part-Time Employees

As noted in our January 7, 2020 Client Advisory , the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the “SECURE Act”) requires 401(k) plans to allow certain long-term, part-time employees to make elective deferrals. The SECURE Act also mandates special vesting rules for such employees with...
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ERISA and COBRA Implications for EAPs and Wellness Programs

There is a growing trend for employers to provide employee assistance programs (“EAPs”) and wellness programs for the benefit of their employees. Typically, the employer pays for benefits under these programs out of its general assets. These programs are designed to reduce health care costs, reduce absences from work...
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Allocation of Medical Loss Ratio Rebates and Premium Refunds

One consequence of the current COVID-19 crisis for group health plans has been the significant reduction in employee preventive care and elective medical procedures as people shelter in place and socially distance. When group health plan premiums were established last year, the underwriters could not have foreseen 2020’s underutilization...
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DOL Proposed Regulation Highlights the Risks of ESG Investing for ERISA Fiduciaries

On June 23, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued a proposed regulation outlining the duties of an ERISA fiduciary when considering an investment that incorporates environmental, social, and corporate governance (“ESG”) factors. [1] Some believe that the DOL will likely move quickly to finalize the regulation before...
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A Chronology of COVID-19 Relief for ERISA Plans

This chronology traces the major ongoing relief provided by legislation, regulatory action, and other agency guidance to assist ERISA plan participants, fiduciaries, and sponsors during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through August 10, 2020. Superseded agency guidance is not included in the chronology. Terms/acronyms used: COVID-19 – Includes statutory and...
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Proposed Regulations Clarify Application of Excise Tax under Code Section 4960

Proposed Regulations published by the Treasury Department last month provide helpful clarifications regarding the application of the excise tax under Section 4960 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”). The content of the Proposed Regulations is generally consistent with the guidance provided early last year...
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IRS Allows Tax-Advantaged Leave Donation to COVID-19 Relief Organizations

Under new guidance, the IRS will give favorable tax treatment to employees who donate leave to COVID-19 relief organizations. In IRS Notice 2020-46 , the agency announced that employees who donate paid leave for contributions to certain organizations will not be taxed on the value of the donated leave...
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