An Honorable Mention from Dennis Kennedy

Dennis Kennedy has handed out his “Best of Legal Blogging” Awards for 2005. Read about it here. Benefitsblog received an honorable mention in the category of “Best Practice Specific Legal Blog.” Marty Schwimmer’s The Trademark Blog took first place. Excerpt from his post on the awards:

The Trademark Blog won this award last year and, even though I wanted to move to a different winner, the fact is that The Trademark Blog remains the model of a practice-specific blawg. Marty covers trademark law with a great eye for compelling material, his trademark wit and lots of pictures. I said last year: “The Trademark Blog is a great example of a way lawyers can speak in a plain voice to both a legal and non-legal audience in an engaging way.” Two other practice-specific blogs I wanted to single out this year are Dennis Crouch’s widely-acclaimed Patently-O blog and Janell Grenier’s always interesting Benefitsblog. Both are great examples of ways to do practice-specific blogs.

Many thanks, Dennis. (Read about Dennis’s transformation from tax lawyer to technolawyer in this article.)

Roth 401(k) Final Regulations Issued

Is it permissible under the law to have a Roth-only 401(k) plan? No, according to final regulations issued by Treasury and IRS today. Here is the pertinent excerpt from the preamble to the regulations addressing the issue:

Some commentators requested that an employer sponsoring a qualified cash or deferred arrangement be permitted to offer only designated Roth contributions. However, under section 402A(b)(1), designated Roth contributions are made in lieu of all or a portion of elective contributions that the employee is otherwise eligible to make under the cash or deferred arrangement. If a cash or deferred arrangement offered only designated Roth contributions, an employee participating in the arrangement would not be electing to make such contributions in lieu of elective contributions he or she was otherwise eligible to make under the plan. Thus, these final regulations clarify that, in order to provide for designated Roth contributions, a qualified cash or deferred arrangement must also offer pre-tax elective contributions.

The press release announcing the issuance of the final regulations is here. Roth 401(k) final regulations are here.

For the Week of December 9th

IRS Promulgations:

DOL Announcement

Department of Treasury

Benefits quote of the week:

“[A]ny court forced to enter the ERISA preemption thicket sets out on a treacherous path.” Kidneigh v. UNUM Life Ins. Co. of Am., 345 F.3d 1182, 1184 (10th Cir. 2003).

Collected Links Pertaining to Code Section 409A and Related Guidance

I have often thought that someone should start a blog to cover the subject of Internal Revenue Code Section 409A and its application to nonqualified deferred compensation plans. Until someone does, I guess I will have to settle for a sidebar item over in the right-hand column devoted to the topic. There are tons of articles by law firms and consulting firms on 409A and related IRS guidance, but I have listed only a few that are my favorites. If you have any helpful links that you would like to share, please do so and I will post the ones that I think are noteworthy. So far I have compiled the following links:

You can access previous posts related to 409A here.

IRS Guidance for the Week Ending December 2nd

Check on the Status of a Determination Letter Request

If you are wondering what ever happened to that determination letter request that you made for a client, the IRS has provided a web page to assist practitioners with checking on the status of their requests. The web page entitled “Where is My Determination Letter Request?” allows you to gauge how back-logged the IRS is with respect to reviewing Forms 5307, 5300, 5310, and 6406, and tells you which ones the IRS is currently reviewing based on a “Received Date.” For instance, the IRS says it is currently reviewing 5300′s that were submitted back in July of this year. (The web page can be somewhat reassuring since IRS Forms that have been submitted by taxpayers have been known to end up in some pretty surprising places.)

Read about the IRS’s redesign of its website here.

IRS Issues Notice 2005-92 Providing KETRA Guidance

The Treasury and IRS have issued Notice 2005-92 providing some much-needed guidance relating to the application of the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005 (“KETRA”) for Hurricane Katrina victims and employer-sponsored retirement plans and IRAs. Some highlights of the notice:

1. An individual’s principal place of abode is where the individual lives unless temporarily absent due to special circumstances. If an individual’s principal place of abode was in the Hurricane Katrina disaster area immediately before August 28, 2005, and the individual evacuated because of Hurricane Katrina, the individual’s principal place of abode will still be considered to be in the Hurricane Katrina disaster area on August 28, 2005.

2. An employer is permitted to expand the distribution options under its plan to allow an amount attributable to an elective, qualified nonelective, or qualified matching contribution under a qualified cash or deferred arrangement to be distributed as a Katrina distribution even though the distribution is before an otherwise permitted distributable event, such as severance from employment, disability, or attainment of age 59½. However, KETRA does not change the requirements for when plan distributions are permitted to be made from employer retirement plans. Thus, for example, a qualified plan that is a pension plan (e.g. a money purchase plan) is not permitted to make in-service distributions merely because the distribution, if made, would qualify as a Katrina distribution. Furthermore, a pension plan is not permitted to make a distribution under a distribution form that is not a qualified joint and survivor annuity without spousal consent merely because the distribution, if made, could be treated as a Katrina distribution.

3. If a distribution is treated as a Katrina distribution by a retirement plan, the plan is not required to offer the qualified individual a direct rollover with respect to the distribution. In addition, the plan administrator does not have to provide a § 402(f) notice.

4. An employer is permitted to choose whether to treat distributions under its plans as Katrina distributions. Furthermore, the employer (or plan administrator) is permitted to develop any reasonable procedures for identifying which distributions are treated as Katrina distributions under its retirement plans.

5. A plan will not fail to satisfy any requirement under the Code merely because a qualified individual’s total Katrina distributions exceed $100,000, taking into account distributions from IRAs or other eligible retirement plans maintained by unrelated employers.

6. The IRS will be issuing guidance in the future relating to plan amendments for KETRA. For employer retirement plans other than a governmental plan, the date by which any plan amendment to reflect KETRA is required to be made will not be earlier than the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2007.

Access previous posts on KETRA here.