Public fund boards are increasingly under media pressure to disclose the identity and pension benefits of retirees. Historically, disclosure requests were confined to elected officials or other government employees with public profiles (e.g. university presidents, Division I-A football and basketball coaches.) Now, disclosure efforts are focused on “high end” pensioners – typically those with annual pensions above $100,000 per year – regardless of position or notoriety.
For years, governmental entities have struggled with the criteria for identification of a “governmental plan” for purposes of the tax-qualification rules of the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”). On November 8, 2011, the IRS issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) defining “governmental plan” under Section 414(d) of the IRC. The ANPRM sets forth an extensive discussion of the IRS’s view on the characteristics of a governmental plan. It can be anticipated that through the initial comment period — ending on February 6, 2012 — and as proposed regulations work their way into final regulations, input from governmental sponsors and advisors may significantly impact the criteria for determining governmental plan status.
Link to full text of Duane Morris Alert:
Link to full text of ANPRM:
On October 20, 2011, the Internal Revenue Service published news release IR-2011-103, which details the cost-of-living adjustments for dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related benefits for the 2012 tax year.
Of particular note for plan sponsors is the fact that the elective deferral limit has been increased from $16,500 to $17,000 and the annual limitation for contributions to defined contribution plans increased from $49,000 to $50,000. In addition, the annual compensation limit increased from $245,000 to $250,000. This is the first increase in those areas since the current limits went into effect for 2009.
Timing is everything. In deciding to launch a blog specifically geared to the public fund fiduciary, we knew there was a broad landscape of legal issues that are now gaining wide scale attention. We intend to touch on many of these issues in subsequent installments. Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to drill down on major issues that are of importance to our clients and readers. Of the many issues that could serve as the first entry, we prepared discussions on two that seemed equally urgent: the fiduciary duty to protect pension records requested under “right to know” laws and the potential impact of bankruptcy filings of local governmental plans. With yesterday’s bankruptcy filing by the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the decision has been made for us. We value your time and hope you find this discussion, and those that follow, to be worthwhile.