Benefit Communications in an Electronic World

With communication mediums like email, text, and IM’s becoming the standard in business industries worldwide, plan sponsors are becoming increasingly interested in abandoning paper processes for a more electronic means of communication with plan participants and beneficiaries. Since e-delivery is not an “all or nothing” prospect, this new approach presents itself as an accessible and easily implemented process with many advantages.

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Dealing with Uncashed Distribution Checks & Missing Participants

It is estimated that uncashed checks account for billions of dollars, representing a fortune of uncollected funds belonging to plan participants or beneficiaries that they are not able to use and also represent serious issues for fiduciaries.

Uncashed distribution checks occur when retirement plan participants fail to cash or deposit a distribution check from their defined contribution plan.

The uncashed checks issue is a problem that has gained the attention of the Department of Labor (DOL) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The DOL estimates that each year $15 million in retirement plan distribution checks go unclaimed because plan participants, or their beneficiaries, have failed to cash distribution checks. And it’s rapidly becoming a material issue for retirement plans.

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Rules and Taxation of 401(k) Plan Distributions

With today’s mobile workforce, many distributions are made before retirement because employees usually become eligible to receive distributions when they terminate employment. Distributions also become payable due to disability, death or a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). In addition, many 401(k) plans permit hardship withdrawals. Sometimes active participants are forced to take minimum distributions after reaching age 70½.

This newsletter will examine the rules and tax consequences associated with the various types of distributions from a 401(k) plan.

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Keeping Abreast of Plan Loan Rules

If you have a 401(k) plan, you’ve likely had participants ask about taking loans from their accounts. If you haven’t yet, it is only a matter of time. While the concept of taking a loan is pretty straightforward—you borrow money, you repay it with interest—there are some pretty detailed rules that govern loans in the retirement plan world.

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DOL Issues New Fiduciary Rule

On April 8, 2016 the Department of Labor (DOL) issued final guidance that greatly expands the types of retirement investment advice that will be subject to the fiduciary duty rules under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The so-called “conflict of interest” rule for retirement investments will have a significant effect on those who provide investment advice and sell investment products and services to retirement plans and IRAs. The central focus of the DOL guidance is to protect plan participants from conflicts of interest that could threaten their retirement savings.

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Fun with Forfeitures

Sooner or later, almost all 401(k) plans will face the “fun” of dealing with forfeitures. Just like every other plan-related operational item, there are specific rules that provide guidance on the “who, what, why, when and where” of using forfeitures.

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A Fresh Look at Your Form 5500 Filing

If your firm has a profit sharing plan, a 401(k) plan or some other tax-qualified retirement plan, then you have been given a Form 5500 to sign and file every year since your business adopted the plan. While the form looks like most other IRS forms, the information reported on the filing is automatically provided to the Department of Labor (DOL), the IRS and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) by the electronic system that captures the data. This system is known as the ERISA Filing Acceptance System (EFAST2) and is funded and managed by the DOL.

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Part-Time Employees in 401(k) Plans

Unfortunately, many 401(k) plan sponsors are under the misconception that all part-time employees can automatically be excluded from participation in their plans when, in fact, the Internal Revenue Code does not permit a plan to include a blanket exclusion of part-time employees.
This newsletter will describe the minimum service requirements for 401(k) plans and the effects of improperly excluding part-time employees.

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Determining Retirement Plan Compensation

When it comes to operating your retirement plan, determining the compensation that should be used for each participant can be really confusing. It seems like it should be simple, but the reality is quite different. In fact, the rules can be so confusing that using an incorrect definition of compensation is on the top ten list of mistakes the IRS sees in voluntary correction filings.

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Fee Disclosure

Nearly five years in the making, the Department of Labor (DOL) has published its long-awaited plan sponsor fee disclosure regulations under ERISA section 408(b)(2). With these new regulations taking effect on July 1, 2012, plan sponsors and service providers alike will be scrambling to prepare.

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