403(b) and 457(b) Plan Compliance Challenges: Avoiding Pitfalls in Plan Design and Administration Carol Calhoun Counsel | +1 202.344.8300 | [email protected] Introduction What are 403(b) and 457(b) plans? Similar to a 401(k) plan, and named after the Internal Revenue Code (Code) sections that allow them: 403(b) plan Employer and/or employee money contributed to an annuity, a custodial account invested in mutual funds, or a retirement income account in the case of church plans.
457(b) plan (governmental organization) Typically only employee money, held in a trust. Any matching contributions would be held in a trust under a qualified (401(a)) plan. 457(b) plan (nongovernmental tax-exempt) Employer or employee money (but typically not both), either paid from the employers general assets or held in a trust subject to the claims of the employers general creditors (rabbi trust). Introduction History of 403(b) plans Originally sold by insurance companies as a way to provide a tax benefit to employees at minimal cost to the employer. Employee agreed to take a lower salary, in exchange for employer contributing to an annuity contract. Unlike salary, amount contributed to the contract was not taxable to the employee until the employee received
distributions from the contract. While treated for tax purposes as an employer contribution, such amounts (elective deferrals) are typically thought of as pre-tax employee contributions. The early plans often were informal arrangements without a written document. Introduction History of 403(b) plans, continued Gradually, 403(b) plans became more like qualified plans: Beginning in 1986, maximum elective deferrals under a 403(b) plan are limited. Beginning in 2000, elective deferrals under 403(b) plans are subject to FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes. Effective in 2001, rollovers are permitted between 403(b) plans and qualified plans, governmental 457(b) plans, and individual retirement accounts (IRAs).
The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 extended bankruptcy protection to 403(b) plans. Beginning in 2006, 403(b) plans are permitted to include Roth contributions. Effective December 31, 2009, 403(b) plans are required to have a written plan document. Effective in 2013, the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution Program became effective for 403(b) plans. In March 2017, the IRS began issuing advisory and opinion letters to the first pre-approved 403(b) plans. Introduction History of 457(b) plans Originally, governments and tax-exempt organizations, like taxable employers today, were permitted to have executive compensation arrangements that deferred an unlimited amount of compensation. Prop. Treas. Reg. 1.61-16 (1978) would have taxed an employee of any employer (taxable or not) on an elective deferral at the time it was deferred, not when received. The Revenue Act of 1978 eliminated Prop. Treas. Reg. 1.61-16 for taxable employers, but enacted Section 457 of the Code. Under that section, applicable first only to governmental employers but in
1986 extended to tax-exempts other than a church or qualified church-controlled organization, amounts deferred were taxable when vested, except to the extent they complied with 457(b). Initially, many assumed that 457, like Prop. Treas. Reg. 1.61-16, applied only to elective deferrals, and that nonelective deferrals would continue to be unlimited. However, the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA) specifically made Code Section 457 inapplicable to qualified state judicial plans. Because such plans were nonelective, the implication (later confirmed in regulations) was that even nonelective plans were covered. Introduction History of 457(b) plans (continued) Governmental 457(b) plans (but not 457(b) plans of nongovernmental taxexempts) have become more and more like 401(k) plans over time: Elective deferral limits are the same (although someone who has both a 401(k) or 403(b) and a 457(b) can put the maximum into the 457(b) AND put the maximum into the 401(k) or 403(b)).
Amounts must be put in trust. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 extended bankruptcy protection to 457(b) plans. Rollovers are permitted among governmental 457(b) plans, qualified plans, 403(b) plans, and IRAs. Loans are permitted. Introduction Who can have a 403(b) plan? Only a section 501(c)(3) (religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational) organization or a public school can have a 403(b) plan. Certain ministers are treated as though they are employed by a 501(c)(3) for this purpose, even though they are self-employed or employed by a non-501(c)(3) organization. Governmental organizations other than public schools may not maintain.
Other tax-exempts (e.g., trade associations) may not maintain. An affiliate of a 501(c)(3) organization or public school may not maintain, unless it also has such status. For example, a taxable research institute wholly owned by a public university may not maintain or contribute to a 403(b) plan. Adoption of a plan by an ineligible employer is one of the most common plan defects. Introduction Who can have a 457(b) plan? Any tax-exempt or governmental organization, other than a church or church-controlled organization, can maintain a 457(b) plan. However, as described above, 457(b)
plans for governmental organizations are structured very differently from those for nongovernmental taxexempts. Introduction Why would a public school have a 403(b) plan instead of a 401(k) or 457(b) plan? A governmental organization, including a public school, is not permitted to have a 401(k) plan unless it had one on May 6, 1986, so a 403(b) is an alternative. A 403(b) plan allows both employer and employee contributions, and counts only employee contributions toward the elective deferral limit. Thus, it provides a simpler structure than a 457(b) plan, which counts both employer and employee contributions toward the limit, and thus must be paired with a qualified plan if it is to allow the maximum amount of both
kinds of contributions. Introduction Why would a nongovernmental tax-exempt employer have a 403(b) plan instead of a 401(k) plan or 457(b) plan? A 403(b) plan that permits only elective deferrals can be structured so as to be exempt from ERISA. Catch-up limitations on elective deferrals to a 403(b) plan are more favorable than for a 401(k) plan. A 401(k) plan of a nongovernmental tax-exempt organization is subject to an average deferral percentage test (ADP test) which limits the contributions highly compensated employees can make by reference to those made by nonhighly compensated employees. A 403(b) plan is required to permit all employees (other than very limited groups) to contribute (the universal availability rule), but is
not subject to the ADP test. A 403(b) plan can cover all employees, while a 457(b) plan can cover only certain highly compensated and management employees. Assets of a 403(b) plan are insulated from the claims of creditors of the employer, while assets of a 457(b) plan are not. Introduction Why would a governmental employer have a 457(b) plan instead of a 401(k) or 403(b) plan? Governmental employers are not permitted to have 401(k) plans unless they had one on May 6, 1986. Governmental employers other than public schools and certain governmental instrumentalities that also have 501(c)(3) status are not permitted to have 403(b) plans. For a public school or governmental 501(c)(3), having both a 403(b) and a 457(b)
doubles the amount employees can contribute. A 457(b) plan which is established and maintained by a governmental employer and which is administered in a way that does not meet the requirements of section 457(b) is treated as not being a 457(b) plan only as of the first plan year beginning more than 180 days after the date of notification by the IRS of the problem, and only if the employer does not correct the problem before the first day of such plan year. A 457(b) plan is not subject to minimum distribution requirements (except with regard to amounts rolled in from another type of plan), so distributions can be more flexible. Introduction Why would a nongovernmental employer have a 457(b)? For a nongovernmental employer, a 457(b) plan is not an alternative to a 401(k) or a 403(b). Rather, it is a
form of executive compensation, which must be limited to management and highly compensated employees. Unlike taxable employers, a taxexempt organization cannot defer taxes merely by deferring the receipt of compensation. Compensation deferred outside of a 457(b) plan is immediately taxable when vested. Introduction Common structures public schools Public school 403(b) plan, plus
457(b) plan, plus Defined benefit plan The 403(b) plan may or may not provide for matching or other employer contributions as well as elective deferrals. If a public school has an executive compensation arrangement, it may well be in the form of a special contribution to a 403(b) plan or qualified plan, since governmental plans are not subject to the rules which prohibit a nongovernmental plan from discriminating in favor of highly compensated employees. Introduction Common structures government agencies other than public schools 457(b) plan for elective deferrals May or may not also have a 401(a)
plan for employer matching contributions or other employer contributions. Often has a 401(a) defined benefit plan. May provide executive compensation in the form of additional contributions to, or benefits under, a 401(a) plan. Introduction Common structures nongovernmental tax-exempt organization 401(k) plan for elective deferrals, which may or may not also provide for matches or other employer contributions.
457(b) plan for executive compensation. For executive compensation in excess of the 457(b) amount, a 457(f) plan, under which amounts are paid immediately after they become vested. Universal Availability General rule If a 403(b) plan provides for elective deferrals, it must permit all employees other than the following to make elective deferrals: Nonresident aliens with no U.S. source income Employees who normally work fewer than 20 hours per week (or some lower number of hours per week selected by the employer) Student workers performing services as described in Treas. Reg. Sec. 31.3121(b)(10)2 Employees whose maximum elective deferrals under the plan are less than $200 Employees eligible to participate and make elective deferrals under another 401(k), 403(b) or 457(b) plan sponsored by the same employer
Note that the employer can still exclude employees from matching contributions or other employer contributions to a 403(b) plan. However, in a nongovernmental 403(b) plan, such exclusions must not have the effect of favoring highly compensated employees. The universal availability does not apply to 457(b) plans, which can exclude any workers (and indeed, in the case of nongovernmental organizations, must exclude all but management and highly compensated employees). Universal Availability Less than 20 hours per week and student worker classifications If a plan allows some employees who normally work less than the specified number of hours per week to make elective deferrals, it must allow all such employees to make such deferrals. For example, an employer can elect to choose to exclude only employees who normally work less than 15, rather than 20, hours per week. However, it cannot permit some employees with 15 hours per week to
make deferrals, while excluding other employees with the same number of hours. Similarly, if a plan allows some student workers to participate, it must allow all of them to participate. Universal Availability Prohibited Classifications A 403(b) plan may not exclude employees based on any classification other than as previously described. For example, the following are impermissible exclusions: Part-time workers Temporary workers Seasonal employees Substitute teachers Adjunct professors
Collectively bargained employees However, if these employees fall under the normally work less than 20 hours per week criterion, then they may be excluded on that basis. Universal Availability Effective opportunity issues At least once during a plan year, employees must receive a deferral notice and have a window of time to make or change a deferral election. This is often a practical issue for more casual employees. For example, employers often neglect to send the notice to substitute teachers or bus drivers, potentially disqualifying the
403(b) plan. Employers should be careful to send notices to all eligible employees, rather than for example handing them out at the workplace, where more casual employees may be missed. Universal Availability Independent contractor issues In some instances, it may be unclear whether a particular worker is an employee or independent contractor. Allowing an independent contractor to participate (because the employer believes that person to be an employee) may disqualify a 403(b) plan. Not allowing an employee to participate (because the employer believes that person to be an independent contractor) may also disqualify a 403(b)
plan. In doubtful cases, it may be worth filing a Form SS-8 to get an IRS ruling on whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor. Universal Availability Nonresident alien issues Typically, a public school will not have any employees who represent nonresident aliens with no US source income, as the income from the public school itself will constitute US source income. A tax-exempt organization with operations abroad may have nonresident aliens with no US source income. However, determining who is a nonresident alien can be complex, as an individual who has previously lived in the US may still be a resident alien after moving abroad. A competent international tax attorney should be consulted if the employer wishes to use this exemption.
Universal Availability Employees whose maximum elective deferrals under the plan are less than $200 This exemption can be used only to exclude those whose maximum deferrals are less than $200. Employees whose maximum deferrals are at least $200 must be permitted to defer any lesser amount that they choose. No minimum percentage of compensation can be imposed. Universal Availability Student worker issues To have the status of a student, the employee must perform services in the employ of a school, college, or university at which the employee is enrolled and regularly attending classes in pursuit of
a course of study. If the student continues work after graduating or dropping out, they lose the status of a student employee. Research activities under the supervision of a faculty advisor necessary to complete the requirements for a Ph.D. degree may constitute classes for this purpose. However, the frequency of the activities determines whether an employee may be considered to be regularly attending classes. This may, for example, raise issues in a situation in which a Ph.D. candidate has finished all requirements other than the dissertation, and it may be difficult to determine the frequency with which the candidate is conducting research, or the degree of supervision by the faculty advisor. If an employer has employees whose status as student employees is difficult to discern, or finds it difficult to maintain records regarding whether its employees lose student status, it may be prudent to include all student employees rather than risking disqualification of the plan by accidentally excluding some employees who later turn out not to have been student employees. Universal Availability
Employees who normally work fewer than 20 hours per week This rule can create issues in several situations: Employees whose work week can fluctuate from one week to another (e.g., substitute teachers). Employees hired for less than 20 hours a week, but whose work week is increased (e.g., to deal with an emergency). Universal Availability Employees who normally work fewer than 20 hours per week (continued)
New employees: If the employer expects the worker to work at least 1,000 hours in the first year (i.e., the date of hire to the anniversary date), the employee must be permitted to make elective deferrals from day one. If the employer reasonably expects the employee to work fewer than 1,000 hours in the first year, the employer can exclude the employee from making elective deferrals for the first year (counting from the date of hire). Universal Availability Employees who normally work fewer than 20 hours per week (continued) Second year employees If an employee who was expected to work less than 1,000 hours in the initial one-year period actually works more than 1,000 hours, the employee must then be permitted to make elective deferrals. If an employee who was expected to work less than less than 1,000 hours in the initial one-year period does not
actually work more than 1,000 hours, the employee need not be permitted to make elective deferrals at that point. The employer can then change the period for measuring the 1,000 hours to the plan year, or if the plan so provides, can keep the period as the anniversary of employment. If the plan year is used, hours that occur before the first anniversary of employment, but within the second plan year, are counted for determining whether the individual has 1,000 hours in either of those periods. Example 1: Susan starts work on August 25, 2020 for an employer with a calendar year 403(b) plan, which measures the 1,000 hours using the plan year, not the anniversary year, after the initial period. By December 31, she has only worked 300 hours. Between January 1 and August 24, 2021, she works another 700 hours. Because she has worked 1,000 hours during the one-year period beginning with her date of hire, she must be permitted to begin deferrals on August 25, 2021. The facts are the same, except that between January 1 and August 24, 2021, she only works another 600 hours. Because she does not have 1,000 hours between August 25, 2020 and August 24, 2021, she can still be excluded from making deferrals. However, if she then works another 400 hours between August 24, 2021 and December 31, 2021, she must be permitted to make deferrals starting January 1, 2022. Universal Availability
Employees who normally work fewer than 20 hours per week (continued) Once-In-Always-In Requirement (OIAI) An employee can be excluded only if the employee has never worked as many as 1,000 hours in a) the first year of hire, or b) any subsequent plan (or, if so elected, anniversary) year. Example: John was hired as a substitute teacher on July 1, 2020 with the expectation that he will not work as much as 1,000 hours in a year. The plan year is July 1 through June 30. In his first full plan year of employment, a regular teacher dies, and John works full-time for the whole plan year. Beginning July 1, 2021, John goes back to working less than 1,000 hours a year, and never again attains as many as 1,000 hours in a year. Nevertheless, John must be permitted to make deferrals for as long as he remains employed.
Universal Availability Employees who normally work fewer than 20 hours per week (continued) The regulations under 403(b) specified that an employee normally works fewer than 20 hours per week if and only if 1) For the 12-month period beginning on the date the employees employment commenced, the employer reasonably expects the employee to work fewer than 1,000 hours of service (as defined in section 410(a)(3)(C)) in such period; and 2) For each plan year ending after the close of the 12-month period beginning on the date the employees employment commenced (or, if the plan so provides, each subsequent 12month period), the employee worked fewer than 1,000 hours of service in the preceding 12-month period.
Prior to Notice 2018-95, many employers interpreted this language as meaning that for each period after the first, the employee had to be included only if they had had 1,000 hours of service in the immediately preceding year. Suppose the facts were the same as in our prior example, except that John began employment July 1, 2016. The employer would have permitted John to make elective deferrals for the period July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018, but would not have allowed John to make elective deferrals after June 30, 2018. Universal Availability Employees who normally work fewer than 20 hours per week (continued) Because many employers had not perceived the existence of the OIAI rule before Notice 2018-95, the IRS provided two transitional rules: During a Relief Period which ends before December 31, 2019, the employer can exclude an employee who did not work at least 1,000 hours in the relevant prior year (anniversary year or plan year). Examples: A plan year that ends on December 31, 2019 is not part of the Relief Period.
A plan year that ends June 30, 2019 is part of the Relief Period. An anniversary year that ends August 24, 2019 is part of the Relief Period. The plan language relief depends on whether the plan was a pre-approved plan or individually designed: 403(b) plans that adopted an IRS pre-approved plan document will not be treated as failing to satisfy the conditions of the part-time exclusion, and the plans will not be treated as having failed to follow plan terms, merely because the plan document does not match plan operations with regard to the OIAI requirement. 403(b) plan sponsors who use individually designed plan documents must amend their plans language to reflect the plans operation with respect to the OIAI requirement prior to April 1, 2020. Thus, if during the Relief Period, a 403(b) plan did not properly apply the OIAI requirement, the plan must be amended to reflect how it was actually operated. Universal Availability Employees who normally work fewer than 20 hours per week (continued) Traps and ways to avoid them:
To come within the rule regarding employees who normally work fewer than 20 hours per week, careful monitoring is required, because an employee who achieves 1,000 hours on the last day of one anniversary or plan year may have to be permitted to make deferrals beginning on the first day of the next year. Under the OIAI rule, an employee who once worked 1,000 hours in a plan year when they were 20 would still have to be permitted to make deferrals when they were 70, even if they never worked 1,000 hours in any year again. Employers may wish to consider whether to permit even employees who normally work less than 20 hours a week to make elective deferrals. The cost to the employer is minimal (since elective deferrals come from the employees salary), and allowing all employees to participate may avoid inadvertent exclusions that jeopardize the plan. Universal Availability Corrections
If the employer violates the universal availability rule, the error can be corrected, but the cost may be high: The employer must generally make a contribution for each employee improperly excluded equal to 50% of the lost opportunity cost. The lost opportunity cost is the greater of: 3% of compensation, or the maximum deferral percentage for which the plan sponsor provides a matching contribution rate that is at least as favorable as100% of the elective deferral made by the employee. Depending on the circumstances, the employer may need to make a filing with the IRS and pay a fee. Universal Availability Corrections (continued) Exceptions to the 50% contribution requirement for failures found and fixed promptly:
The corrective contribution for the lost opportunity cost can be reduced from 50% to 25% under certain conditions: The excluded employee must be currently employed by the employer at the time of correction The period of failure exceeds three months Correct deferrals finally begin by the first payment of compensation made on or after the earlier of: the last day of the second plan year after the plan year in which the failure first began for the affected employee; or the last day of the month after the month the affected eligible employee first notified the plan sponsor. Within 45 days of being given the opportunity to make salary reduction contributions, the affected participant must receive a special notice. See Appendix A.05(9) discussed in Rev. Proc. 201852 for details as to the specific content that must be in this notice. If the participant terminates employment before the notice is provided, then this requirement has not been met. If the period of failure is less than three months, the corrective contribution for the missed deferral opportunity is reduced to zero if the commencement of deferrals occurs within the three-month period from the start of the failure and issuance of the special notice occurs within the 45-day timeframe.
Universal Availability Corrections (continued) For failures before 2021, in the case of plans with automatic contribution features (in other words, auto-enrollment and auto-escalation), the corrective contribution for the missed deferral opportunity is reduced to zero if correct deferrals begin by the first payment of compensation made on or after the earlier of: 9 months after the end of the plan year in which the failure first occurred; or the last day of the month after the month the affected employee first notified the plan sponsor of the error. The special notice to the affected employee must be provided within the applicable 45-day timeframe. Universal Availability
Corrections (continued) Whether an IRS filing under the Voluntary Compliance Program (VCP) is required depends on the circumstances: If sufficient compliance practices dont exist, a VCP filing must be made. Otherwise, if the failure is insignificant, no VCP filing is required. If the failure is significant, a VCP filing is required unless correct the employer corrects the oldest affected plan years within 2 years of the error. For example, a failure for a plan year equal to the 2017 calendar year would have to be corrected by the last day of 2019 to avoid the need for a VCP filing. 4960 excise tax In general Section 4960 applies to tax-exempt
organizations and government instrumentalities exempt from tax under Code section 115. It does not apply to other governmental employers. Excise tax on annual remuneration in excess of $1M for covered employees. Tax applies to the employer, not to the employee. 4960 Excise Tax Definition of covered employee A covered employee is an employee (including any former employee) of an
applicable tax-exempt organization if the employee is one of the five highest compensated employees of the organization for the taxable year or was a covered employee of the organization (or a predecessor) for any preceding taxable year beginning after December 31, 2016. This definition means far more than five employees may be covered. For example, suppose that two tax-exempt organizations, A and B (with no overlapping employees), merge. The individuals who were the top five of each of A and B will continue to be covered employees forever, even if they are not among the top five of the merged organization. Similarly, an individual who has unusually high compensation in one year (e.g., as a result of bonuses or deferred compensation) may become a covered employee, and will then remain one even if their compensation in subsequent years is much lower. 4960 Excise Tax
Definition of remuneration In general, all compensation reported on the Form W-2 is counted, both in determining whether someone is a covered employee and in determining whether the $1 million cap has been exceeded. However, there are three exceptions: Roth contributions Section 457(b) plans of governmental employers (but not private tax-exempts) Compensation attributable to medical services of licensed medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, or veterinarians Note that only compensation attributable to medical services is covered by the second exemption. For example, if a doctor is acting as a hospital administrator, the compensation for administrative services is not exempt.
4960 Excise Tax Special problems for medical professionals In some instances, a hospital, for example, may want to promote a doctor or nurse to become overall administrator of the hospital. Or a medical school may want to hire a doctor as a professor. In either instance, the compensation of the doctor or nurse involved is no longer exempt from being part of remuneration for purposes of the excise taxes. Issues: The individual may immediately become subject to the excise tax on excess compensation. The individual may become a covered employee as a result of the change, meaning the individual is subject to the rules for all future years. As a result, many organizations may find that they have trouble recruiting the most qualified individuals for nonmedical positions.
4960 Excise Tax Related organizations For purposes of the Section 4960 excise tax and of identifying covered employees, remuneration is the aggregate of remuneration paid by the organization subject to the tax and any of its related organizations, including related for-profit organizations and related governmental units and governmental entities. Example: Mary works for a university and for its wholly owned taxable research organization. Her salary is allocated between the two, so only half of it is from the university. Nevertheless, all of it is included in remuneration for purposes of the $1 M threshold. If the 4960 tax is owed based on combined income from tax-exempt and taxable entities, each employer will be liable for its share of the tax. This is true even though a taxable employer that is not affiliated with a tax-exempt is not subject to the tax. However, if the affiliate is a publicly held company, any portion of remuneration disallowed
as a deduction by reason of section 162(m) is not taken into account under section 4960. This can occur, for example, if the tax-exempt is a 501(c)(9) employee welfare benefit trust, and the related organization is a publicly held company that contributes to that trust. 4960 Excise Tax Differences from reasonable compensation rules Employees of nonprofits are already subject to a reasonable compensation standard, which prevents them from receiving compensation which is not reasonable, considering factors such as the size of the organization and the degree of responsibility. However, the new excess compensation rules are separate from this. Thus, even over $1 million is reasonable for a particular executive (e.g., because the organization is competing with profit-making employers offering more than $1 million for the employee), it will nevertheless be subject to the excise tax if it goes over the $1 million figure. This can be a particular problem when an executive has built up an organization.
In many instances, an executive will initially accept a salary well below market rates, because the organization is small and not able to pay more. However, once the organization becomes much larger (often due to that executives own fundraising and the like), it wants to pay the executive extra to compensate for the low salary in the early years. While such compensation may be reasonable, it may in some instances cause the executive to go over the $1 million cap. 4960 Excise Tax Application to 403(b) and 457(b) plans 403(b) plans are exempt, because they are not included in Form W-2 compensation. Governmental 457(b) plans are specifically made exempt. 457(b) plans of nongovernmental taxexempts are subject to 4960.
4960 Excise Tax Timing of 457(b) remuneration Remuneration is treated as paid when there is no substantial risk of forfeiture (when vested). 457(b) deferrals of nongovernmental employers are included in Form W-2 wages for income tax purposes when paid, not when distributed and included in income under 457(b). 457(b) deferrals are included in FICA (Social Security) wages when deferred. Deferrals under a 457(b) plan are also reported in Box 12 of the Form W-2. For purposes of the definition of remuneration, the applicable date will be the date of vesting (which is typically the date deferred in the case of a 457(b) plan).
4960 Excise Tax Reporting obligation Form 4720 is used to report the tax. The tax can all be paid at the end of the year, rather than quarterly the way employment taxes are paid. 4960 Excise Tax Planning opportunities public schools For an executive potentially subject to 4960: Contribute as much as possible to a 457(b) plan (for 2019, $19,000 if the individual is under 50, $25,000 if the individual is 50 or over). Contribute as much as possible to a defined contribution 401(a) or 403(b)
plan (for 2019, $56,000 if the individual is under 50, $62,000 if the individual is 50 or over, provided that the amounts are true employer contributions rather than elective deferrals). Provide additional benefits under a defined benefit plan. Because governmental plans are not subject to rules prohibiting discrimination in favor of highly compensated employees, 401(a) and 403(b) plans can provide executive compensation benefits. Putting money into such plans will insulate it from being counted as remuneration. 4960 Excise Tax Planning opportunities governmental organizations other than public schools Determine whether the employer can claim to be an integral part of government, rather than an instrumentality of government, to avoid 4960 altogether. (This works only if the employer has never obtained 501(c)(3)
status.) Contribute as much as possible to a 457(b) plan (for 2019, $19,000 if the individual is under 50, $25,000 if the individual is 50 or over). Contribute as much as possible to a defined contribution 401(a) plan (for 2019, $56,000 if the individual is under 50, $62,000 if the individual is 50 or over, provided that the amounts are true employer contributions rather than elective deferrals) Provide additional benefits under a defined benefit plan. 4960 Excise Tax Planning opportunities nongovernmental tax-exempts Make elective deferrals to the maximum extent possible to a 401(k) plan or (if the employer is a 501(c)(3) organization) a 403(b) plan (for 2019, $19,000 if the individual is under 50, $25,000 if the individual is 50 or over).
Planning opportunities are much less than for other organizations subject to the 4960 tax, because a) 457(b) deferrals are treated as part of remuneration, and b) a 401(k) or 403(b) plan cannot discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees. 2019 Venable LLP. This document is published by the law firm Venable LLP. It is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion. Such advice may only be given when related to specific fact situations that Venable has accepted an engagement as counsel to address.