EJReynolds – Cybersecurity Commitment

Trust your retirement plan development as well as your personal data with the retirement experts.

We often hear of data breaches with major corporations, even some whose main function is to protect your identity. How can you be sure your data is safe? EJReynolds would like to share with you the measures we take to safeguard the information we collect. Our cutting-edge cybersecurity commitment gives you the comfort and peace of mind that your information is always safe and secure.

How does EJReynolds handle and protect your personal information?

Our state-of-the-art cybersecurity program stems from our core principles of trust, integrity and ethics. We collect only the information necessary to enable us to consistently deliver the best products and services for our clients. We have implemented security standards and processes to ensure that access to client information is limited to your EJReynolds Plan Consultant.

Our Best Practice Cybersecurity Protocols Include:

–    Secure File Sharing with Citrix ShareFile©

EJReynolds’ secure file sharing link provides a safe and secure way to transmit sensitive information online. This assures that files are sent and received with bank-level encryption. You will be required to register through ShareFile’s one-time enrollment process to send and receive files securely.

–    Networks Are Secured with State-Of-The-Art Advanced Firewall Security

EJReynolds’ Firewall Security system protects our computer network from being attacked online by hackers, worms, viruses, etc. It is designed to stop unauthorized access to the EJReynolds computer systems.

–    Internal Networks Are Completely Protected with Industry Leading Threat Protection

Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) helps to protect our organization from malicious attacks by:

  • Scanning email attachments for malware
  • Scanning web addresses (URLs) in email messages and office documents
  • Identifying and blocking malicious files in online libraries
  • Checking email messages for unauthorized spoofing
  • Detecting attempts to impersonate users or organization’s custom domains

    –    Two-factor Authentication

EJReynolds implemented programs that require our Plan Consultants to use a two-factor authentication to protect our clients’ sensitive information. Once an EJReynolds employee logs into an account and enters their password, they receive a code via text or email at a pre-determined address. This code must be entered in a certain amount of time in order to access the account. This helps to ensure that any unauthorized attempts at drafts, distribution requests or other identity theft tricks are halted immediately.

–     Ongoing Training

Along with monthly training on the latest rules and regulations in the retirement plan area, each EJReynolds employee is required to complete a Phish Threat Security Awareness Training. Since the hackers are constantly changing their game, so must our defenses.

Our commitment to your security is just one more reason to trust your retirement planning to EJReynolds.

Solo (k) Plans

Are you a Small Business Owner? Are you Self-Employed? The same retirement plan options available to companies with 10, 20 or 200 employees are also available for your business. Many Small Business Owners may be more familiar with a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA. With a SEP you can deduct up to 25% of your earned income. However, it may make sense to look at a one-participant 401(k) plan. This combines a traditional employee retirement savings plan with a small business profit-sharing plan. This may make for a larger overall deduction comparable to the same earned income.

Contribution limits in a one-participant 401(k) plan – The business owner wears two hats in a 401(k) plan: employee and employer. The owner can contribute both:

  • Elective deferrals which reduce compensation (“earned income” in the case of a self-employed individual) up to the annual contribution limit:
    • $19,000 in 2019 ($19,500 in 2020), or $25,000 in 2019 ($26,000 in 2020) if age 50 or over; plus
  • Employer contributions up to:
    • 25% of compensation, as defined by the plan, with special calculations for sole-proprietor and partnership entities

Total contributions to a participant’s account, not counting catch-up contributions for those age 50 and over, cannot exceed the lessor of: 100% of compensation, or $56,000 for 2019; ($57,000 for 2020). In addition, the 401(k) limit on elective deferrals is an individual, calendar year limit, not a limit for each plan. If a business owner is also employed by another company and participates in its 401(k) plan, the total of all elective deferrals cannot exceed the annual contribution limit.

Contribution limits for self-employed individuals – If the business entity is a sole-proprietor or partnership, a special computation must be made to determine the maximum employer contribution. When calculating the contribution, it is a circular calculation. Compensation, or “earned income,” is the net earnings from self-employment after deducting both your share of the employer allocation and one-half of your self-employment tax.

Note: The IRS Publication 560 provides rate tables and worksheets for figuring your allowable contribution rate and tax deduction for your 401(k) plan contributions.

Testing in a one-participant 401(k) plan – A business owner with no common-law employees doesn’t need to perform nondiscrimination testing for the plan, since there are no employees who could have received benefits under the plan. The no-testing advantage vanishes if the employer hires employees. If the business hires employees, the plan must satisfy all coverage and non-discrimination requirements as any other 401(k) plan, once they become eligible.

Note: The Plan Document should be flexible enough to protect the employer if employees are hired in the future.

Reporting Requirements (Form 5500) – If plan assets exceed $250,000 at the end of a plan year, the plan will be required to file a Form 5500-EZ, or Form 5500-SF until the plan is terminated and all assets are disbursed.  A one-participant 401(k) plan with fewer assets is exempt from the annual filing requirement. When determining the $250,000 threshold, all plans of the entity are considered; if you sponsor more than one plan, the filing requirement starts when the sum of the assets combined in all plans exceeds $250,000 at year-end.

Note: Failure to file Form 5500 when required can result in substantial penalties on audit.

Most Small Business Owners are familiar with a SEP IRA. Planning for retirement with a 401(k) plan can offer a great degree of flexibility. The basics start with a 401(k) plan; and adding a defined benefit pension plan can greatly increase the potential tax deduction available to a successful business owner. Whether you are adopting a plan for the first time, or have one that needs cleaning up, EJReynolds is here to help.

New 2020 IRS Retirement Plan Limits Announced

The Internal Revenue Service publishes, on a yearly basis, certain Pension Plan Limitations for the coming year.  We have outlined the most commonly applied limits for your reference.

 

Maximum Defined Contribution Annual Additions Limit: 

 

In a Defined Contribution Plan, which includes Profit Sharing and 401(k) Plans, the Internal Revenue Code sets limits on contributions made to a participant’s account.  The Code uses the term “annual additions” which represents both employee and employer contributions as well as reallocated forfeitures.  Effective January 1, 2020, the annual dollar limit for defined contribution plans increases to the lesser of 100% of compensation or $57,000.

 

Maximum Defined Benefit Limit:

 

Ultimate benefit that may be funded for at retirement.  Effective January 1, 2020, the annual dollar benefit under a defined benefit pension plan increases to the lesser of 100% of compensation or $230,000.

Annual Compensation Limit:

Effective January 1, 2020, the annual compensation limit increases to $285,000.

Compensation in excess of the limit will be disregarded for all computation purposes.

Key Employee defined for Top Heavy determination:

  1. A 5% owner, without regard to compensation, or
  2. 1% owner whose annual compensation is over $150,000, or
  3. Officers with annual compensation in excess of $185,000.

Highly Compensated Employee (HCE) defined for 401(k) / 401(m) testing:

  1. A 5% owner of an Employer or an Affiliate in the current or the immediately preceding plan year, or
  2. Any employee earning more than $125,000 in 2019 ($130,000 for 2020)
  3. Constructive ownership rules apply attributing ownership to spouses and lineal ascendants and descendants (parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren) of the owner in both of the above employee definitions.

Maximum Limit on 401(k) Elective Deferral Contributions:

A participant’s elective deferral contributions under all 401(k) plans in which he or she participates during any taxable year increases to $19,500 for the 2020 Calendar Year. 401(k) plans may permit participants who have reached age 50 by the end of the plan year to make annual catch-up contributions once the annual dollar limit or a plan-imposed limit on elective deferrals has been reached.  For calendar year 2020, the limit increases to $6,500.

Maximum Limit on SIMPLE 401(k) or SIMPLE IRA Deferral Contributions:

A participant’s elective deferral contributions under a SIMPLE 401(k) plan or SIMPLE IRA account in which he or she participates during the year is increased to $13,500 for the 2020 Calendar Year. Participants who have reached age 50 by the end of the plan year to make annual catch-up contributions once the annual dollar limit or a plan-imposed limit on elective deferrals has been reached.  For calendar year 2020, the limit remains at $3,000.

Taxable Wage Base:

The Taxable Wage Base for 2020 increases to $137,700.

Please call us with any questions you may have. To print out the 2019 plan limit EJReynolds report, click here.

Hiring an Advisor for your company’s 401(k) Plan

Hiring the right advisor for your company’s 401(k) retirement plan is one of the most critical decisions you will ever make as a Plan Sponsor.

 

Contrary to popular view, the main purpose for hiring a retirement Plan Advisor is not to pick stocks and funds or chase the highest rate of returns. It is the knowledge of process by which investments are selected and fiduciary standards are put into practice that makes good 401(k) advisors indispensable.

 

You will be choosing your closest and most trusted ally to protect the best interests of your plan’s participants, and therefore, to manage your monumental fiduciary liability as a Plan Sponsor.

 

Minimize your risk

 

The right Plan Advisor candidate has the comprehensive background and team to minimize the risk of huge losses, including individual out-of-pocket penalties, arising from:

  • Lawsuits.
  • Accusations of mishandling.
  • ERISA and Department of Labor audits and investigations.
  • Penalties for noncompliance.

 

The top five reasons Plan Sponsors hire 401(k) Advisors

 

At the end of the day, what you want to assess is how well your advisor will help you:

  • Offload or limit your fiduciary liabilities.
  • Understand your fiduciary responsibilities.
  • Help your plan participants understand their options, benefits and how to make changes.
  • Help your plan stay updated and comply with government regulations
  • Help you structure a solid plan and adhere to it, as mandated by law.

 

Highest fiduciary comfort zone – ERISA 3(38)

 

Your 401(k) Plan Advisor can be a broker or a registered investment adviser, but brokers are not on the hook to be a fiduciary to you unless their boss (the broker-dealer) allows them to accept that liability. The safest comfort zone for a Plan Sponsor is to bring in a registered investment manager qualified under ERISA regulations 3(38). Because 3(38) investment managers assume discretion and control of plan investments, they will assume nearly all fiduciary liability in this regard.

 

Get it in writing

 

In either case, you will want your potential advisors to spell out exactly their fiduciary levels, whether they will assume a 3(38) role, a co-fiduciary role, a fiduciary role under 3(21), either full-scope or limited-scope, or any combination, under an ERISA benefits plan.

 

Interview questions for potential 401(k) Retirement Advisors

 

Here is a checklist of some interview questions you might want to ask:

  • How often do you hold regular meetings with Plan Sponsors?
  • How would you help develop or review our Investment Policy Statement (IPS)?
  • How often would you check that our investment options line up with our IPS?
  • How will you provide investment education for plan participants?
  • How would you help us meet new 408(b)(2) fee disclosure rules?
  • How often do you review fees of the Plan’s fund managers?
  • What process do you have for disclosing management fees to participants?
  • What is your process for ensuring investment fees are “reasonable” as mandated?
  • Who are your other service providers that would work with us?
  • What would be the exact level of the provider fiduciary responsibilities/liabilities?
  • What are your policies for handling rollovers brought by previous plan participants?
  • What expertise do you or your providers have on ERISA and plan administration?
  • There are so many fund share classes, how do you evaluate them for different plans?
  • Would you bring in a Third Party Administrator (TPA)?
  • Would the TPA provide mostly basic administrative services, or do they possess

more specific expertise, such as analyzing plan designs to save taxes for highly

compensated employees?

  • Would the fees for the TPA’s services be fair and reasonable per mandates?

 

Evaluate your Advisor’s resources

 

The field of investments is full of licenses and certifications. Some advisors are simply insurance licensed, and some have passed the “Series 6” exam that is administered by FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), which allows the individual to register as a limited representative, and sell mutual funds and variable annuities. Still others have passed FINRA’s “Series 7” exam for general securities, stocks and bonds. More experience financial advisors may obtain the CFP or Certified Financial Planner designation, the AIF, or Accredited Investment Fiduciary designation, or the QPFC, or Qualified Plan Financial Consultant designation. It is a rare and valuable asset to have financial expertise and knowledge of ERISA in the same advisor. That said, a good advisor does not have to be an expert in all things ERISA, as long as they are professionally respected by their peers and consulting long enough to have built relationships with or employ providers who are qualified experts.

 

It is invaluable when a conversation arises about how to handle your unique, more complex situations and your advisor can quickly and confidentially call on a trusted ERISA attorney, TPA or Auditor to weigh in for informed decision making.

 

Summary: Hiring the right 401(k) Plan Advisor helps plan sponsors sleep at night

 

Picking stocks is a valuable skill, but not the most crucial area for Plan Sponsors to evaluate a candidate for Advisor. There are many good tools and guides for prudent investing, and most employees today opt to choose their own investment mix within your plan’s options. It is the protection of all involved from potentially catastrophic fiduciary liability that should be the guiding light for finding the best 401(k) advisor for your company’s retirement plan.

 

For more information on how the right advisor will benefit you as a fiduciary and your responsibilities as a fiduciary of a retirement plan, read our recent articles, Are you a Fiduciary, (https://ejreynoldsinc.com/are-you-a-fiduciary/) Fiduciary Responsibilities for Benefit Plans Under ERISA (https://ejreynoldsinc.com/?s=Fiduciary+Responsibilities+for+Benefit+Plans+under+ERISA), and Types of ERISA Fiduciaries (https://ejreynoldsinc.com/types-of-erisa-fiduciaries/).

Missing Participants in Retirement Plans

Missing participants in retirement plans can be a burden for plan sponsors. If actions are not taken to locate the participants and payout the benefits, potential (unintended) consequences can include:

  • Increased plan administration costs
  • Plan compliance issues, e.g. failure to follow the terms of the plan for mandatory distributions, required minimum distributions, death benefits, etc.
  • Potential for small plan filers (generally, plans with less than 100 participants) to become large plan filers (generally, plans with 100 or more participants), subject to a costly annual plan audit requirement
  • Complications with winding down a plan upon plan termination
  • Potential fiduciary risks

What steps should plan sponsors follow to locate missing participants?

DOL guidance outlines the steps plan sponsors should take to locate missing participants. The guidance is specifically for terminating defined contribution plans; however, it would be reasonable to apply this guidance for active plans as well.

  1. Certified Mail. Send notification to the participant or beneficiary via certified mail to the last known address.
  2. Other Employer Records. Review other employer records, such as group health plans, for current contact information.
  3. Participant’s Plan Beneficiary. Contact the participant’s beneficiary to request updated contact information (if there are privacy concerns, the DOL suggests the plan sponsor ask the beneficiary to forward a letter to the participant).
  4. Free Electronic Search Tools. Use free electronic search tools to attempt to locate the participant such as those for public records (e.g. licenses, mortgages, real estate taxes), obituaries, and social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

If the plan sponsor follows the steps outlined above but is still unsuccessful in locating the missing participant, the plan sponsor must consider whether additional steps are necessary after considering the cost of the search option (if being paid from the participant’s account) as well as the size of the participant’s account balance. The DOL states further search efforts may include commercial locater services, credit reporting agencies, information brokers, investigation databases and similar services that involve a fee.

IMPORTANT: The DOL notes failure to take such steps would be a violation of the plan sponsor’s obligation of prudence and loyalty to plan participants and beneficiaries. Strictly speaking, the plan sponsor must follow these steps to locate missing participants – it is mandatory

What if the participant cannot be found after using all available search options?

For active plans, it may be possible to rollover the missing participant’s balance to an IRA if (1) provided for under the terms of the plan, (2) the participant’s balance is less than $5,000, and (3) the plan sponsor has sufficient information regarding the participant to be able to facilitate the rollover. If the participant’s balance is $5,000 or more, this generally is not an option.

Alternatively, if provided for under the terms of the plan document, it is permissible to forfeit a missing participant’s (or beneficiary’s) balance provided the balance will be restored in the event the participant (or beneficiary) is later located.

Both options discussed above are optional provisions, so it is important to review the terms of the plan document. If the plan doesn’t include either (or both) provisions, it generally would be permissible to amend the plan to include such features.

Note: Different rules apply to terminating plans since all plan assets must be distributed within a reasonable period following plan termination. For example, one of the available options is to roll the balance of a missing (or unresponsive) participant to an IRA, even if their balance exceeds $5,000.

Can’t we just withhold 100% in taxes and submit to the IRS?

No. The DOL specifically points out that, although this is a practice used by some plan sponsors, this is not acceptable because there is no guarantee the participant will receive their benefits.

To learn more about how to deal with missing participants in your retirement plan, let the experts at EJReynolds help you understand all of the options available to you or your company. For more information, please contact us today.

Your fiduciary responsibility regarding payment of plan fees from plan assets

In general, the fees associated with on-going administration of a retirement plan may be paid from plan assets provided they are necessary and reasonable. Certain expenses known as “settlor” expenses, however, cannot be paid for from plan assets.

What is considered to be reasonable?

The Department of Labor (DOL) requires (1) the expense is reasonable in light of the services provided; (2) the service is necessary; (3) the arrangement can be terminated without penalty (this doesn’t mean there can be a termination fee, though); and (4) the service provider has provided certain required disclosures regarding their fees and services prior to entering into the arrangement.

What are “settlor” expenses?

These are expenses that must be paid for by the employer because they are associated with the employer’s functions as a settlor of the plan trust.

Is there a simple way to determine whether a particular expense is a settlor expense?

Not really. Unfortunately, the DOL has not issued comprehensive guidance on this front, but they have issued some guidance. That said, there are two basic questions that should be considered:

  1. Is the expense necessary for the on-going administration of the plan?
  2. Is the expense discretionary and who does it primarily benefit?

In other words, if the expense is reasonable and relates to the normal operation of the plan, the expense may be paid for by the plan. If, on the other hand, the expense is discretionary and primarily benefits the employer, it would generally be considered a settlor expense.

What are examples of expenses that can be paid for by a plan?

  • Annual administration, recordkeeping, compliance testing, and Form 5500 preparation
  • Annual plan audit fees (large plan filers)
  • Investment management, advisory, trustee and custodial fees
  • Participant education, enrollment materials and required notices and disclosures
  • Required plan amendments and restatements
  • Fidelity bond
  • IRS determination letter filing fee
  • Participant distribution and loan fees
  • QDRO review

What are examples of expenses that cannot be paid for by a plan?

  • Plan design studies and projections (these primarily benefit the employer and are viewed as a settlor expense by the DOL)
  • Initial plan document, discretionary amendments and discretionary restatements (the DOL appears to view these as settlor expenses, even though the plan document is required as a matter of plan qualification)
  • Fees associated with the decision by an employer to terminate a plan
  • Fees and expenses related to plan corrections made under available IRS and DOL programs
  • Fees and expenses related to filing a late Form 5500 under the delinquent filer program

Are the rules different if the fee will be paid from the forfeiture account?

No. Amounts held in a plan forfeiture account are plan assets; the same rules apply.

Note: Some plans use “ERISA budget accounts” or “revenue holding accounts” to accept revenue sharing payments from plan investment providers and pay plan expenses. It is our view that these accounts generally should be treated in the same manner as any other plan asset.

How can eligible expenses be charged to plan participants?

Plan-level expenses may be charged (1) in proportion to participant account balances, (2) as a flat fee to participant accounts, or (3) some combination of both methods. In addition, certain plan fees may be paid for by the plan through the plan’s investment vehicles and are reflected as a reduction in investment returns.

Participant-level fees (e.g. distribution and loan fees) are typically charged directly to participant accounts.

Does the plan document need to provide that expenses can be paid for from the plan?

Generally, yes, and most plans do allow for eligible expenses to be paid for from plan assets. The plan should also state that fees may be paid for from the forfeiture account, if desired.

Does it make sense to charge eligible expenses to a plan?

It really depends on the plan and the goals and objectives of the plan sponsor. If the plan pays (whether directly or indirectly through plan investments), overall investment performance is reduced, and this can make a big difference over time. For plans of closely-held businesses, it often makes more sense for the employer to pay the expenses (they are deductible). It is much more common in large plans for the plan participants to bear most (if not all) of the related costs.

If eligible expenses are paid for by the plan, are there any required disclosures?

Yes. There are disclosure rules that apply for both plan service providers and plan participants (in participant-directed plans).

Note: Whether a particular fee or expense may be paid for by a plan is a fiduciary decision. Plan fiduciaries are charged to act prudently and in the best interest of plan participants. If a fee is charged improperly, the fiduciary(s) may be held liable so plan sponsors should exercise due care when determining whether it is appropriate for a plan to pay for a given expense.

 

Mid-Year Amendments for Safe Harbor Plans

For many years the IRS did not permit mid-year changes to Safe Harbor 401(k) plans except under very limited circumstances. In 2016, the IRS issued Notice 2016-16 relaxing the rules providing sponsors of Safe Harbor 401(k) plans with much greater flexibility throughout the year. The guidance does contain a short list of changes that are specifically prohibited, but many changes are permissible provided certain conditions are satisfied.

Which changes are permissible?

In general, most changes that would be permissible mid-year in a traditional 401(k) plan can be made in a Safe Harbor plan as long as the necessary requirements are met.

What are the requirements for amending a Safe Harbor plan mid-year?

If a permissible amendment results in a change to the information provided in the Safe Harbor notice, an updated notice must be provided within a reasonable period prior to the effective date of the change. For this purpose, the IRS considers the timing requirement to be satisfied if the updated notice is provided at least 30 (but no more than 90) days prior to the change.

In situations where it is not practical to provide the notice prior to effective date of the change (e.g. the plan is being amended retroactively as the first day of the plan year to provide for an additional match), the updated Safe Harbor notice must be provided as soon as possible but no later than 30 days after the date the amendment is adopted.

In either case, participants must also be provided the opportunity to change their deferral elections for a reasonable period of time following receipt of the updated Safe Harbor notice.

What if the change does not impact the information provided in the Safe Harbor notice?

If the change does not impact the information required to be provided in the Safe Harbor notice, there is no requirement to provide an updated notice or to provide participants with an opportunity to make changes to their deferral elections.

Keep in mind, however, the plan would generally be required to provide participants with either a Summary of Material Modifications or an updated Summary Plan Description.

Which changes are specifically prohibited mid-year?

  • Any change that would reduce the number of participants who are currently eligible to receive Safe Harbor contributions
  • Changing the type of Safe Harbor plan (e.g. changing from a traditional Safe Harbor plan to a qualified automatic contribution arrangement)
  • Increasing the number of years required to become vested in Safe Harbor contributions under a qualified automatic contribution arrangement
  • A mid-year change to add or modify the formula used to calculate matching contributions (or related plan compensation) or a mid-year change to permit discretionary matching contributions, unless certain additional conditions are satisfied

 

What are the conditions for making changes to matching contributions?

In order to increase Safe Harbor matching contributions (or to add or modify a fixed or discretionary matching contribution), the amendment must be adopted at least 3 months prior to the plan year, must be retroactive as of the first day of the plan year, and, the necessary notice and deferral opportunity requirements must be met.

Can a plan change from a Safe Harbor match to a 3% Safe Harbor nonelective contribution mid-year?

No. This is not permissible under the notice or regulations. This type of change could only be made as of the first day of the following plan year.

Did the IRS provide any example of permissible amendments?

Yes. IRS Notice 2016-16 provides several examples of permissible amendments including the following:

  • An amendment to increase the Safe Harbor nonelective contribution from 3% to 4% for future contributions
  • An amendment made prior to 3 months before the end of the plan year to increase the Safe Harbor matching contribution from 4% to 5% and to change the period for calculating match from a payroll period to plan year basis retroactively
  • An amendment to add an age 59 ½ in-service distribution feature

Can a plan be amended to reduce or suspend Safe Harbor contributions mid-year?

It depends. This is addressed under the Safe Harbor regulations. A Safe Harbor plan may only be amended mid-year to reduce or suspend Safe Harbor contributions if (1) the employer is operating at an “economic loss”, or (2) the annual Safe Harbor notice included a statement indicating that the plan could be amended to remove or suspend Safe Harbor contributions during the plan year. Additional procedural requirements must also be satisfied, and the plan essentially reverts to a traditional 401(k) plan for the plan year.

Can a Safe Harbor plan be terminated mid-year?

Yes. This is also addressed under the regulations. In general, Safe Harbor contributions must be made through the date the plan is terminated, and other conditions must be satisfied. Unless the plan termination is due to a “substantial business hardship”, or as a result of a company merger or acquisition transaction, the plan would lose its Safe Harbor status for the final plan year (i.e. the plan would be subject to ADP/ACP testing, top heavy requirements, etc.)

What changes can only be made as of the beginning of a plan year?

While many changes can be made mid-year, certain changes can only be made as of the first day of the following plan year, and the amendment must be adopted prior to the first day of the plan year. Examples of such amendments include:

  • Adding a Safe Harbor provision to an existing traditional 401(k) plan
  • Changing the plan’s Safe Harbor formula from a Safe Harbor nonelective contribution to a Safe Harbor match

How can I learn more?

Please call EJReynolds at 954.431.1774 or visit ejreynoldsinc.com

Deadline Approaching to Adopt a Safe Harbor 401(k) Plan for 2019!

Have you been talking with prospective clients about adopting a new 401(k) plan? If so, the deadline for adopting a safe harbor 401(k) plan for 2019 is fast approaching, so it would be a great time to schedule a follow-up conversation!

Safe harbor 401(k) plans are attractive for many employers (especially small employers) because they provide relief from certain plan testing requirements. Specifically, a safe harbor plan is generally exempt from ADP/ACP testing enabling the plan’s highly compensated employees to maximize elective deferrals, i.e. 401(k) deferrals/Roth contributions, without limitation. Safe harbor plans may also be exempt from the top-heavy requirements if certain conditions are met.

What is the deadline for adopting a safe harbor 401(k) plan?

In general, the deadline for adopting a new safe harbor 401(k) plan is October 1, 2019. There are, however, certain notice requirements that must be satisfied, and eligible employees must be provided a reasonable period of time to make their deferral elections. In a new plan, the rule is that all eligible employees must have at least three months to make elective deferrals under the plan, so planning ahead is key!

Are there limits on the amounts that can be deferred?

No. There are no restrictions (other than the normal limits) placed on the amounts that can be deferred during this three-month period. As a result, owners, key employees and any other participants would still have time to make elective deferrals of $19,000 (plus $6,000 for participants age 50 or older). This, of course, assumes they will have enough compensation to do so within this time period.

What are the contribution requirements?

The plan must make either a safe harbor matching or safe harbor nonelective contribution.

The basic safe harbor matching contribution formula is 100% on the first 3% of deferrals, plus 50% on the next 2% (maximum of 4% match). Alternatively, an enhanced safe harbor matching formula can be used, which is most commonly 100% on the first 4% of deferrals.

Safe harbor nonelective contributions must be at least 3% of each participant’s compensation, regardless of whether they elect to make deferrals.

Note that safe harbor contributions (match or nonelective) must be 100% vested, subject to the same distribution restrictions as elective deferrals, and cannot be subject to any allocation conditions, e.g. employment on the last day of the plan year.

Tax Credit Available for Small Employers

As an incentive to establish a new 401(k) plan, small employers (generally, businesses with no more than 100 employees) may be eligible to receive a tax credit of up to $500 (per year, for the first three years) to help defray the costs associated with establishing and maintaining a plan.

Which design is best?

One-size does not fit all. It really depends on the goals of the employer and demographics of the workforce. The good news is that we can assist you in determining what will work best for your clients after considering their unique needs! Please contact us to learn more.

Is Auto-Enrollment right for your company or organization?

Since the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), Automatic Enrollment features in 401(k) and 403(b) plans have increased in popularity for large and small employers alike. PPA added fiduciary protection for Plan Sponsors, as well as safeguards for employees with requirements for advanced notices and default investments. But what exactly is an Automatic Enrollment feature? Is it appropriate for your plan design? First, let’s look at the requirements, then we’ll look at the pros and cons. With the right knowledge and information, you can determine if the Automatic Enrollment feature is right for you.

Educating Participants and Auto-Enrollment Options

The basic tenet of an Automatic Enrollment feature is this; Employees do not participant in the 401(k) plan mainly because of apathy and lack of education. They don’t know how much to contribute, and they don’t know where to invest their funds. An Automatic Enrollment feature takes that decision away from the employee; the employee is automatically enrolled in the 401(k) or 403(b) plan at a default level and their contributions are invested in a default investment fund unless the employee proactively says no.

There are three types of automatic options to consider: Automatic Contribution Arrangement (ACA), Eligible Automatic Contribution Arrangement (EACA), and Qualified Automatic Contribution Arrangement (QACA).

Here’s a quick overview of each:

ACA – The most flexible design, where there is no minimum contribution rate or required auto-escalation. There is also no required employer contribution.  This design can be added to a plan at any time.

EACA – This design is like an ACA where there is no minimum contribution rate or required auto-escalation. There is also no required employer contribution.  However, an EACA must be in place as of the first day of a Plan year. Also, employees may have up to 90 days to request to receive the return of their employee deferrals, without incurring the tax penalty.

QACA – The least flexible design, where there is a minimum contribution rate, the employer must provide a specific matching contribution, and participants must be fully vested in this match within two years of service.  The QACA generally must be in place the entire year.  If done correctly, this design will automatically satisfy certain non-discrimination testing.  Also, employees may have up to 90 days to request to receive the return of their employee deferrals, without incurring the tax penalty.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Auto-Enrollment

The automatic enrollment feature isn’t a one size fits all and it isn’t the best choice for all companies and organizations, so look at these pros and cons before moving forward.

Benefits of auto-enrollment:

  • Employees will be more likely to participate, and contributions will increase – This can help when it is hard to get employees to take part in the enrollment process.
  • Employers may provide an automatic escalation feature where employees increase their contribution rate each year.
  • Employees will defer paying income tax on their contributions.
  • Employees are more likely to meet their retirement goals by participating immediately when they become eligible, rather than potentially waiting until later in their career.
  • Auto-enrollment may help the nondiscrimination testing results, while the QACA plan will exempt a plan from certain nondiscrimination testing requirements.

Possible drawbacks of auto-enrollment:

  • Setting the auto-enrollment contribution rate lower than a participant would have elected may negatively impact employee retirement savings goals, while setting it too high may cause employees to fully opt-out of the plan, negatively impacting both employee savings and overall participation.
  • Employees may become disengaged and wrongly believe their needed retirement savings will be taken care of with auto-enrollment. The defaulted investment option may not be appropriate for the employee based on their specific situation. As Plan Sponsors, companies should continue to provide retirement education programs to their employees through their plan’s investment advisor to address this potential pitfall.
  • There may be some added administrative time to incorporate and explain the automatic enrollment feature to employees, including the notice requirements for both the default or increasing deferral rate and the default investment option chosen by the employer.
  • Employer matching contributions may increase with increased employee participation.
  • Payroll integration is a must! Missing the first deduction for a newly eligible employee or missing the automatic increase deadline for a plan offering auto-increase features, can result in penalties to the employer, and a required contribution equal to 25% of the missed deferral plus the full match that should have been contributed.
  • Small balances – since newly eligible participants are default enrolled, their initial account balances may reduce the average account balance of the plan overall. Some investment platforms may charge higher fees for plans with lower average account balances, so make sure to check with yours.

Still not sure if auto-enrollment is right for your organization?

While there is no blanket answer, we can help you understand how implementing an auto-enrollment feature might affect your company or organization – Contact us today!

Choosing an Auditor for your Retirement Plan

With summer upon us and fiscal deadlines approaching, you may be facing the daunting task of hiring an auditor. 

ERISA requires an annual audit on plans with more than 100 eligible participants. Choosing a qualified plan auditor helps insure that you meet your legal responsibility to file a complete and accurate annual report/return known as the Form 5500. This form must meet standards from both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Labor (DOL).

The fees charged by CPAs for retirement plan audits can range from $5,000 to $20,000. It may be tempting to shop for auditing services on price alone, but this approach can have long term consequences.

If your Form 5500 is considered incorrect or incomplete, it is subject to rejection and Plan Sponsors could be charged substantial civil penalties. In some cases, the penalties could even double the initial cost of your audit.

The IRS can charge you up to $25 per day, up to $15,000.

• The DOL can charge penalties of $300 per day until a complete Form 5500 is filed, up to $30,000 per year.

Full Scope Audits Are More Comprehensive Than Limited Scope Audits

The Limited Scope Audit option is available for retirement plans whose assets are prepared and certified by a bank or similar institution, or by an insurance carrier that is regulated, supervised, and subject to periodic examination by a state or federal agency that acts as a custodian or trustee. The Limited Scope option relies on the trustee or custodian holding the assets to provide certification that the investment information is accurate and complete. In a Full Scope Audit, everything in the plan, including the investments, is subject to audit testing. The Limited Scope Audit limits the information that is audited.

The Limited Scope Audit composes 65% of retirement plan audits, but it does not protect the participants, according to the former  Assistant Secretary of Labor Phyllis C. Borzi. Speaking at a recent conference of Certified Public Accountants, Borzi called the Limited Scope Audit “practically useless.” She also told the attendees that the primary auditors who are most likely to produce substandard audits are those who think their rate of compensation is inadequate.

Choosing a Retirement Plan Auditor

Here is a list of things you should review before choosing an auditor for your plan:

• Your auditor must be licensed/certified – Federal law requires that the auditor you engage must be licensed or certified as a public accountant by a State regulatory authority.• Your auditor must be independent – The auditor you choose should not have any financial interests in the Plan or the Plan Sponsor. The auditor must be able provide an objective, unbiased opinion about the financial condition of the Plan.

• Your auditor should be experienced – According to the Department of Labor (DOL) one of the most common reasons for deficient accountant’s report is the failure of the auditor to perform test in areas unique to qualified plans. Hiring an auditor with training and experience in performing qualified plan audits will make it more likely the auditor is aware of the special auditing standards and rules that apply to qualified plans. 

Check References Before Engaging an Auditor

• Ask about their work with other qualified plans.

• See if they are a member of AICPA’s Employee Benefit Plan Audit Quality Center. The Employee Benefit Plan Audit Quality Center helps auditors meet the challenges of performing quality audits in the complex areas of qualified plans.

• You may also wish to verify with the correct State regulatory authority that the auditor’s holds a valid, up-to-date license or certificate to perform auditing services.

When a Less Experienced Auditor Is Assigned to Your Plan

There will be some instances when a less experienced auditor may be assigned to perform the audit of your plan to reduce audit costs. When this happens, make sure that a more experienced manager or partner will be reviewing their work.

The Engagement Letter

Once you have chosen an auditor, a contract also known as an “engagement letter” will be provided by the auditor for review and approval.

The letter of engagement from your auditor should include:

• The work to be performed.

• The timing of the audit.

• The responsibilities of both parties.

Review the letter carefully and resolve any questions prior to engaging the auditor for a smoother auditing process. Many of our clients at EJReynolds, Inc. undergo an annual audit and we work with several quality audit firms. If this process is new to you, or if you are interested in speaking with a new auditor, please feel free to ask your plan’s administrator for a list of referrals.