One of the more curious results of the failure of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 to amend 403(b)(11) to provide for the same hardship relief that was granted to 401(k) plans is that the “hardship” distribution of QNECs and QMACs aren’t really hardship distributions.

This has a very real practical and operational effect.
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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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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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One of the more intractable issues with which ERISA 403(b) plans sponsors must deal with every year arises from the “policy loans” issued by insurance carriers under the 403(b) annuity contracts held under the plans. There is simply no good way to report these loans on the Form 5500, and the newly proposed Form 5500 changes do not address this ongoing issue.
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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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In what appears to be one of the first reported appeals court cases involving school district liability under state law related to a wrongfully administered 403(b) plan a Wisconsin court found was that an action alleging a failure to exercise ordinary care in the administration of a 403(b) plan, if proven, could be a fiduciary breach under state law. This breach then may entitle the participants relief in state court.
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The QLAC seems to be in the 403(b) “sweet spot”, considering that 403(b) annuities were originally designed to provide lifetime income in the first place. However, as with all things 403(b), however, there are a few unusual twists when trying to put a QLAC in a 403(b) arrangement. Here are a few of the things to consider
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