The University of California made news when it announced that it has found a way to apply the collective trust rules in such a way to make just such an offering to its 403(b) plan. The downside to this is that it still does not “crack the nut” to make CIT’s available on a bulk basis as 81-100 trusts for unrelated employers. But it still is an interesting tool. It appears they could have done the following. Make sure you have a copy of your US Code handy (or at least you’ve pulled up the Cornell’s on-line US Code tool). Its complicated.
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One of the more difficult rules that the IRS has imposed on the 403(b) market in recent years is the complete ban on issuing determination letters on individually designed 403(b) plan documents, under any circumstance. But buried in Rev Proc 2017-41 is something we have been looking for in the 403(b) space, which actually would help alleviate some of the concerns document drafters have with these long-standing plans.
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The complex nature of handling 403(b) plans-and, in particular, the unique manner in which the fiduciary rules apply to them-make these plans uniquely suited to customized fiduciary services. It is well beyond the skill set of many 501(c)(3) organizations to make sense of their often complicated 403(b) programs, and to put them into some kind of sensical order. This must be done all the while applying a number of rules intended for the 401(k) market (with their centralized recordkeeping systems) in a plan which may have significant assets held by multiple vendors under a variety of contracts with differing terms.
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The 403(b) limitation year is determined on a person by person basis, it is not a plan wide rule. Only the individual can change the limitation year, and only for its contracts. To change the year, the individual must attach a statement to his or her income tax return filed for the taxable year in which the change is made. To change a plan’s limitation year, the administrator would need each employee to make that 1040 filing.
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The IRS decided to handle this “best guess” period by announcing that any 403(b) document could be corrected under a new, special 403(b) Remedial Amendment Program, by that new RAP’s end date. It announced that the beginning of the RAP was the required adoption date for 403(b) plan documents (generally, January 1, 2010). The end of the RAP would be announced once the IRS approves its first set of pre-approved 403(b) documents. Once those first pre-approved documents are released, the IRS promised to announce the “end date.” It has now done that, with Rev Proc 2017-18 announcement of March 31, 2020 as the end of the RAP-which also suggest that the pre-approved documents will be released by that date.

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We may know what is a “Qualified Church Controlled Organization” (which we refer to as QCCOs), and even what a “Non-Qualified Church Controlled Organization (or Non-QCCO), but nothing ever defines just what qualifies as a “church.” In the 403(b) world we often refer to them as “steeple churches,” but that seems just to beg the question as well.
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There is a potential impact of the 403(b) University Lawsuits on the ability of 401(k) plans to maintain self-directed brokerage accounts. These 403(b) plans, with their wide variety of investments which are subject only to the control of the participants, are essentially structured in the same manner as SBDAs (without many of the security law protections that are given 403(b) participants). Should the plaintiffs succeed in their calms that it was imprudent to permit employees the ability to invest in a wide range of securities without fiduciary oversight, this may well be the death knell of SBDAs.
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How do you audit a 403(b) in-kind distribution? There is no financial transaction, no cash changes hands, there is no change in investments. It really is only a nominal change in the records of the insurer. Yet, somehow, GAAP requires that the “transaction” be verified. There is no answer, yet, to this question, which means the industries (that is, auditors, insurers, and lawyers) will be pressed for finding a standardized approach for bringing audit certainty to this process. It even becomes a bigger issue than 403(b)s: QLACs and other distributed annuity contracts are all able to be distributed as “in-kind” distributions from 401(a) plans as well, and there is no acceptable “recordkeeping” method to audit.
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As in all things 403(b), it seems, retirement rules of generally applicability take unusual twists when applied to 403(b)plans. The DOL’s fiduciary rule is not saved from that same problem. A close look reveals interesting twists in the manner in which the rule affects (or doesn’t at all!) 403(b) plans, which simply do not apply to other participant directed defined contribution plans.
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