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Church plans and DOMA


katieinny
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A New York State church has a non-ERISA defined benefit plan. My reading on DOMA's affect on retirement plans suggests that non-ERISA plans, such as non-electing church plans, are not obligated to follow the changes to qualified plans that came about under DOMA. I was thinking that I would find several articles on the subject of church plans and DOMA, but either I wasn't looking in the right places, or there wasn't much said about non-ERISA plans. I'm asking because a church plan wants to specifically amend their DB plan to make sure that provisions that might apply to same-sex couples will not apply. I suppose that's do-able?

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The provision will apply to all participants. I'm not sure that the denomination matters. It is a well-established Christian church with long standing beliefs relating to same-sex relationships. I think it just comes down to a basic question -- must a non-ERISA plan comply with Revenue Ruling 2013-17?

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A same-sex spouse is a spouse for 401(a)(9) purposes. However, the status of a beneficiary being a spouse has the effect of stretching out MRDs rather than accelerating them, so I think if you wanted to you could treat a same sex spouse as a non-spouse for purpose of implementing the Plan's MRD requirements.

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If the church plan is not governed by ERISA, get a lawyer's advice about whether the plan's provisions are contrary to, or could result in a violation of, a relevant State law.

In some instances, that advice might be nuanced by considering the church's free-exercise-of-religion rights.

Peter Gulia PC

Fiduciary Guidance Counsel

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

215-732-1552

Peter@FiduciaryGuidanceCounsel.com

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If it is a non-ERISA plan, I don't think you have QJSA requirements. Seems to me since you don't need to offer spousal coverage, DOMA wouldn't have any impact.

But Fiduciary gives the best advice - this is a legal question best handled by lawyers. I would however like to know how this works out.

The material provided and the opinions expressed in this post are for general informational purposes only and should not be used or relied upon as the basis for any action or inaction. You should obtain appropriate tax, legal, or other professional advice.

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Religious entities are exempt from complying with tax laws that violate the tenants of their religion. For example churches are exempt from being required to file for tax exemption under IRC 501©(3) if the Church asserts that filing violates their religious beliefs which are protected under the First amendment. Also supremes exempted closely held corp from complying with provisions of the ACA requiring that certain abortion procedures must be available under an employer provided health plan if the owners of the business claimed the abortion methods violated their religious beliefs.

mjb

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