Lifetime Income from Defined Contribution continues to gain traction, which means that those tasked with administering these programs really need to start paying attention to the details of how its done. This also means understanding how the Joint & Survivor Annuity rules-rules which many have spent a career avoiding in 401(k) plans- operate. This then means understanding how Revenue Ruling 2012-03 actually works.
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Treasury nailed it (or, as our eldest son is fond of saying, they just "friggin’" nailed it).

With just a relatively short regulation and a Revenue Ruling, Treasury simply and in a very straightforward way laid out the definitive structure for defined contribution plans (like 401(k) plans) to start providing lifetime income in a market friendly manner. The two pieces of guidance dealing with DB plans which were issued at the same time are very useful, but the meat of the matter is the critical guidance given under the proposed RMD regulation and the spousal consent Revenue Ruling, 2012-3.
 
The seminal guidance doesn’t answer all the questions, but it does creates the structure, and a context, in which other questions-both from the tax and the ERISA side-can be meaningfully addressed.  Amazingly, it is also structured in such a manner to accommodate both straight life annuities and the living benefit products as well (like the GLWB).
 
I had criticized IRS and Treasury in the past for what I had viewed as the less than thoughtful way in which they were addressing (and not addressing) critical lifetime income issues. The new releases change all of that, and–the more I look at it-in a pretty startling way. I’m not sure I have ever seen so much stuffed into so little a regulatory space.
 
I particularly like the proposed QLAC (“qualified lifetime annuity contract”): its an everyman’s rule. It is nonforfeitable (many argued that it be otherwise), and it is simply designed for meaningful use by the rank and file. Other, more exotic, annuities with living benefits and the like (which are generally geared for the high net worth participant) still can be used for lifetime income as 2012-3 Contracts, but they just won’t get the beneficial QLAC treatment under the RMD rule. There’s really no sane policy reason to incent those products, as such would actually serve as a disincentive to guaranteed lifetime income. 
 
I’d like to share with you some of my initial thoughts on just what the proposed QLAC reg and Rev Rul 2012-3 did. Discussion and further study may shift some of these, but for now:
 
 
 


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