Congratulations to Morgan Lewis partner Handy Hevener, who has been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the New York Law Journal as part of its 2020 New York Legal Awards. The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to lawyers who have made a significant impact on the legal community throughout their career. Handy has made significant contributions throughout her 42 years of practice, particularly in relation to critical payroll tax, fringe benefit, executive compensation, and contingent workforce issues. Handy and the other winners are set to be recognized at an October 27 ceremony in New York.

Under IRS Notice 2020-50, employers sponsoring nonqualified deferred compensation plans (NQCD plans) may now allow employees to suspend their deferral elections without having to determine whether the employee has had an unforeseeable emergency for purposes of Section 409A or otherwise qualifies for a hardship under Section 401(k) if the employee received a coronavirus-related distribution from an eligible retirement plan.

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has greatly affected many employers and their employees. Employers sponsoring NQCD Plans are seeing an increase in requests from NQDC Plan participants to suspend deferral elections in order to deal with financial hardships resulting from COVID-19.

The IRS has again extended the due dates for certain returns and payments because of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Notice 2020-35, which the IRS issued on May 28, 2020, postpones the due date for certain time-sensitive actions related to qualified retirement plans, health savings accounts and Archer medical savings accounts, and employment taxes. With some exceptions, which are noted below, affected filings are due July 15, 2020.

Extensions

Notice 2020-35 amplifies Notices 2020-18, 2020-20, and 2020-23 that postponed the due date for various tax returns and payments to July 15, 2020. The extensions provided in this most recent IRS notice apply to certain time-sensitive actions that would have been due on or after March 30, 2020 (and April 1, 2020 in some cases) and before July 15, 2020.

A CARES Act provision offers some relief to employee stock ownership plans by allowing the suspension of required minimum distributions for 2020.

In addition to providing individual stimulus payments and other individual-oriented assistance, the CARES Act contains some provisions aimed at retirement plans, some of which are of particular interest to companies that maintain employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs).

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed into law on March 27 contains several emergency measures affecting retirement plans. The CARES Act gives plan sponsors the option of making available to participants, effective immediately, penalty-free coronavirus-related distributions as well as plan loans increased beyond the amount otherwise permitted under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 72(p). Plan amendments for these provisions need not be adopted until the last day of the plan year beginning in 2022 (2024 for governmental plans). As plan sponsors eagerly put into place a portion or all of these relief measures, it is important to consider the special mid-year amendment rules that apply to safe harbor 401(k) plans.

The Coronavirus Air, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 27 includes an allocation of $200 million to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support telehealth services and $125 million to the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service to expand its existing distance learning, telehealth, and broadband initiative.

Read our LawFlash that includes a summary of these provisions.

Recognizing that our employee benefits clients often need an extra pair of hands-either because of a benefits staff shortage, a labor-intensive project, or for other reasons–we are pleased to announce our ML BeneHelp program. Through ML BeneHelp, our senior benefits advisors are available for in-person or virtual temporary assignment to assist during crunch time. Please see our announcement to learn more about this program.

Our employee benefits and executive compensation practice is available to help employers evaluate and troubleshoot potential issues arising from the changing work environment and economic situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This guidance reviews the employee benefits and executive compensation issues that we have been assisting clients with in the last few days.

Please contact the authors or your Morgan Lewis contacts if you have questions related to employee benefits and executive compensation in the midst of coronavirus COVID-19. For updated, comprehensive information about COVID-19, please see our resource page.

SECURE Act Makes Significant Changes to Benefits Laws

December 26, 2019 (Updated February 6, 2020)

The SECURE Act—potentially the most impactful benefits legislation since the Pension Protection Act of 2006—was included in the bipartisan spending bill signed into law on December 20, 2019. The SECURE Act includes provisions that affect tax-qualified retirement plans and individual retirement accounts. Other provisions of the spending bill affect executive compensation and healthcare benefits.

We will continue to update you on the effects of the SECURE Act. Our current publications include the following:

Keep an eye out for upcoming LawFlashes on other key aspects of the SECURE Act and how the spending bill impacts employee benefits and tax-deferred savings.

On December 20, 2019, President Donald Trump signed into law the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (Act). After years of delayed effective dates, the Act finally repeals the 40% excise tax on high-cost health coverage, often referred to as the “Cadillac tax.” Furthermore, the Act extends the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee scheduled to originally sunset at the end of 2019.