The law of benefits
is a difficult channel, which requires careful sailing, or rude boats.
A plan amendment that retroactively (i) eliminates or reduces an early retirement benefit or a retirement-type subsidy (as defined in regulations), or (ii) eliminates an optional form of benefit
is treated as reducing accrued benefits.
The combined effect can seriously compromise the ability of benefit
managers to deal effectively with large suppliers.
While this ruling specifically deals with qualified tuition reduction plans, the conclusions reached may apply to other types of benefit
In fact, more than 67 percent of benefit
managers of large corporations have stated that they will reduce benefits over the next few years to mitigate their FAS 106 liability.
The central issue is that the "decisive distinctions" between deductible expenditures and those that must be capitalized are often distinctions "of degree and not of kind." (7) Once a court determines that the degree of benefit
is significantly longterm, the expenditure must be capitalized.
However, the court found a prohibited reduction, by interpreting "rate of benefit
accrual" to mean the rate at which the participant's accrued benefit, as defined in Sec.
Protected benefits include accrued benefits, early retirement benefits, retirement-type subsidies and optional forms of benefit
. Features that are subject to protection include payment schedules, timing of payment, commencement of benefits
, type of distributions (in cash, in-kind) and election rights with respect to optional forms of distributions.
The ruling's logic suggests that the answer ought to be "yes." Both types of benefit
could be provided through a single trust, and the reserves would be combined; separating the trusts, but keeping their reserves aggregated, "does not allow excess accumulation of income." Nonetheless, employers with those facts would be well advised to seek a private letter ruling.
The normal form of benefit
distribution under the cash-balance program is, by law, an annuity.
132 (unless a de minimis benefit) if another Code section provides rules for the tax treatment of the general type of benefit
. The Sec.
* Relation of Benefit
to Salary Prior to Retirement--Since it had a final average plan, Tobacco's benefits were directly related to final average salary.
In a defined-contribution plan, the cessation or reduction of benefit
accruals does not create or increase the potential for reversion.
However, a mechanism within all flexible benefit programs tends to dampen the effect of benefit
But the human resource question is part of a broader public policy question, which asks, "What are you going to do when the well runs dry?" Corporate America may decide to fund aggressively because of financial incentives to do so, but it also needs to raise the broader issue of benefit
security before Congress.