Message Boards Digest

May 11, 2018

Here are the most recently added topics on the BenefitsLink Message Boards:

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austin3515 created a topic in 401(k) Plans

Hardship Distributions for Casualty Losses But Only in Declared Disaster Area

Are people applying the new rules regarding casualty losses (that it must be in a declared disaster area)? The rule seems bizarre to me; maybe it's likely to be changed. In the meantime, if someone's house burns down, are people telling the unfortunate participant that he or she is not eligible for a hardship (assuming the fire was started by lightning strike in a regular storm)?
Number of replies posted  3 replies      Number of times viewed  56 views      Add Reply
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Dawn created a topic in 401(k) Plans

401(k) Plan Starting Mid-Year; How to Calculate Safe Harbor Nonelective Contribution?

Startup 401k is effective 1/1/2018. Deferrals and safe harbor nonelective contribution have an effective date of 6/1. Definition of compensation is participation compensation. Does the safe harbor nonelective get calculated on compensation from 6/1, or full year, for participants with an entry date of 1/1?
Number of replies posted  2 replies      Number of times viewed  47 views      Add Reply
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Mike Preston created a topic in Defined Benefit Plans, Including Cash Balance

Another Take on This Topic: "Currently with a Solo 401(k); Does It Make Sense to Add Cash Balance Plan?"

We recently had a discussion about when it is logical to suggest a cash balance plan instead of a traditional DB for a 1 person plan. I presented two, off the top of my head, reasons why I thought it not in the client's best interests to go the cash balance route: the fact that cash balance plans have been individually designed plans (and hence both more expensive to maintain and providing less protection, on audit, than a volume submitter plan) and the fact that in the event of death the strong recommendation of document providers is to either submit a 5310 or (eventually) amend and restate under a volume submitter plan. In any event, both of my objections will soon evaporate when CB Volume Submitter plans become available.

But I got to thinking and there are other reasons. One of the arguments put forward in favor of the CB plan is that the client understands the CB plan better because, in general, the contribution equals or is close to the defined CB allocation. In technical terms, each year's contribution consists largely of target normal cost and there is precious little based on the funding target. But that pattern is notoriously unforgiving. In fact, a traditional formula allows the consultant to design a funding pattern for the first few years of a plan that is based on the cushion under 404. This subsequently allows for tremendous flexibility in funding in later years, which means no worries of minimum funding violations, while at the same time allowing for substantial maximum deductible contributions. Can this pattern come to be in a CB plan? Of course it can (although it is much more difficult to do so if the client has been told that focusing on the current year's formula means something). But it obliterates the argument that the CB plan is more understandable because the annual contribution is closely related to the target normal cost.

As Larry so accurately pointed out, while a client might understand some of the concepts that impact a plan, unless the client is a pension professional, it falls on us to actually understand those concepts and to implement them in a way that allows the client to meet their goals, both short term and long term.

Another concept might help to explain my attraction to the traditional plan: the CB plan essentially overlays the CB requirements over the traditional plan's ruleset. Stated another way, all the rules of the traditional plan (with the exception of 417(e) and a faster vesting schedule that has no impact on one person plans) remain in effect when the plan is a CB plan (415 limits, minimum funding, 404 funding, restrictions on distributions if the plan is not adequately funded, accrual rules under 411, etc.). On the other hand, none of the CB rules are in effect when the plan is a traditional DB plan. So, why would you want to worry about 2 sets of rules when you don't have to?

Here is an example. When CB plans were in their infancy, the IRS allowed interest crediting rates that were eventually determined impermissible. The IRS gave us leeway on how to transition from what ended up being described as impermissible rates to the newly defined permissible rates. Why subject a plan sponsor to that kind of issue if you don't have to? Think it can't happen again? Yes, it can. Of course, that same thing can happen to any plan design, but it is much less likely to come up with a traditional design than a cash balance design. Again: the plan is subject to two rulesets (traditional AND CB) when it just doesn't need to be.

And yet, there is more. A cash balance plan has to do additional work to convert hypothetical account balances to J&S annuity values when preparing relative value disclosures. Those J&S annuity values, when based on traditional formulas, either automatically pop out (if they are expressed in the normal form) or are dead simple to convert.

I'm pretty sure that this missive won't change anybody's opinion about the type of plan that's best for a one person plan. But for me it is simple. If a traditional plan can be designed to meet the needs of a client then suggesting a CB plan unnecessarily subjects the client to rules that they wouldn't normally have to worry about and, at some level, exposes them to additional costs.

Only if there are offsetting advantages would it make sense to advocate for a CB plan.

Number of replies posted  5 replies      Number of times viewed  67 views      Add Reply
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Purplemandinga created a topic in 401(k) Plans

Nondiscrimination Choices Are Settlor Function?

Is the choice to disaggregate otherwise excludable employees or to test nondiscrimination using full year compensation vs. compensation earned upon entering the plan a "settlor function"? This choice isn't an option in the adoption agreement; it's allowed by the basic plan document.
Number of replies posted  2 replies      Number of times viewed  33 views      Add Reply, Inc.
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