Cypen & Cypen
October 22, 2015
Stephen H. Cypen, Esq., Editor
1. IRS ANNOUNCES 2016 PENSION PLAN LIMITATIONS; 401(K) CONTRIBUTION LIMIT REMAINS UNCHANGED AT $18,000 FOR 2016: The Internal Revenue Service announced cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2016. In general, the pension plan limitations will not change for 2016 because the increase in the cost-of-living index did not meet the statutory thresholds that trigger their adjustment. However, other limitations will change because the increase in the index did meet the statutory thresholds. The highlights of limitations that changed from 2015 to 2016 include the following:
- For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $184,000 and $194,000, up from $183,000 and $193,000.
- The AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $184,000 to $194,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $183,000 to $193,000. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $117,000 to $132,000, up from $116,000 to $131,000.
- The AGI limit for the saver’s credit (also known as the retirement savings contribution credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $61,500 for married couples filing jointly, up from $61,000; $46,125 for heads of household, up from $45,750; and $30,750 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $30,500.
The highlights of limitations that remain unchanged from 2015 include the following:
- The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $18,000.
- The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $6,000.
- The limit on annual contributions to an Individual Retirement Arrangement remains unchanged at $5,500. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.
- The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for those who have modified adjusted gross incomes within a certain range. For singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range remains unchanged at $61,000 to $71,000. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range remains unchanged at $98,000 to $118,000. For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.
- The AGI phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.
Below are details on both the adjusted and unchanged limitations.
- Section 415 of the Internal Revenue Code provides for dollar limitations on benefits and contributions under qualified retirement plans. Section 415(d) requires that the Secretary of the Treasury annually adjust these limits for cost of living increases. Other limitations applicable to deferred compensation plans are also affected by these adjustments under Section 415. Under Section 415(d), the adjustments are to be made pursuant to adjustment procedures which are similar to those used to adjust benefit amounts under Section 215(i)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act.
- Effective January 1, 2016, the limitation on the annual benefit under a defined benefit plan under Section 415(b)(1)(A) remains unchanged at $210,000. For a participant who separated from service before January 1, 2016, the limitation for defined benefit plans under Section 415(b)(1)(B) is computed by multiplying the participant's compensation limitation, as adjusted through 2015, by 1.0011.
- The limitation for defined contribution plans under Section 415(c)(1)(A) remains unchanged in 2016 at $53,000.
The Code provides that various other dollar amounts are to be adjusted at the same time and in the same manner as the dollar limitation of Section 415(b)(1)(A). After taking into account the applicable rounding rules, the amounts for 2016 are as follows:
- The limitation under Section 402(g)(1) on the exclusion for elective deferrals described in Section 402(g)(3) remains unchanged at $18,000.
- The annual compensation limit under Sections 401(a)(17), 404(l), 408(k)(3)(C), and 408(k)(6)(D)(ii) remains unchanged at $265,000.
- The dollar limitation under Section 416(i)(1)(A)(i) concerning the definition of key employee in a top-heavy plan remains unchanged at $170,000.
- The dollar amount under Section 409(o)(1)(C)(ii) for determining the maximum account balance in an employee stock ownership plan subject to a 5 year distribution period remains unchanged at $1,070,000, while the dollar amount used to determine the lengthening of the 5 year distribution period remains unchanged at $210,000.
- The limitation used in the definition of highly compensated employee under Section 414(q)(1)(B) remains unchanged at $120,000.
- The dollar limitation under Section 414(v)(2)(B)(i) for catch-up contributions to an applicable employer plan other than a plan described in Section 401(k)(11) or Section 408(p) for individuals aged 50 or over remains unchanged at $6,000. The dollar limitation under Section 414(v)(2)(B)(ii) for catch-up contributions to an applicable employer plan described in Section 401(k)(11) or Section 408(p) for individuals aged 50 or over remains unchanged at $3,000.
- The annual compensation limitation under Section 401(a)(17) for eligible participants in certain governmental plans that, under the plan as in effect on July 1, 1993, allowed cost of living adjustments to the compensation limitation under the plan under Section 401(a)(17) to be taken into account, remains unchanged at $395,000.
- The compensation amount under Section 408(k)(2)(C) regarding simplified employee pensions remains unchanged at $600.
- The limitation under Section 408(p)(2)(E) regarding SIMPLE retirement accounts remains unchanged at $12,500.
- The limitation on deferrals under Section 457(e)(15) concerning deferred compensation plans of state and local governments and tax-exempt organizations remains unchanged at $18,000.
- The compensation amount under Section 1.61 21(f)(5)(i) of the Income Tax Regulations concerning the definition of “control employee” for fringe benefit valuation remains unchanged at $105,000. The compensation amount under Section 1.61 21(f)(5)(iii) remains unchanged at $215,000.
- The Code provides that the $1,000,000,000 threshold used to determine whether a multiemployer plan is a systematically important plan under section 432(e)(9)(H)(v)(III)(aa) is adjusted using the cost-of-living adjustment provided under Section 432(e)(9)(H)(v)(III)(bb). After taking the applicable rounding rule into account, the threshold used to determine whether a multiemployer plan is a systematically important plan under section 432(e)(9)(H)(v)(III)(aa) is increased in 2016 from $1,000,000,000 to $1,012,000,000.
The Code also provides that several pension-related amounts are to be adjusted using the cost-of-living adjustment under Section 1(f)(3). After taking the applicable rounding rules into account, the amounts for 2016 are as follows:
- The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for married taxpayers filing a joint return is increased from $36,500 to $37,000; the limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $39,500 to $40,000; and the limitation under Sections 25B(b)(1)(C) and 25B(b)(1)(D) is increased from $61,000 to $61,500.
- The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for taxpayers filing as head of household is increased from $27,375 to $27,750; the limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $29,625 to $30,000; and the limitation under Sections 25B(b)(1)(C) and 25B(b)(1)(D) is increased from $45,750 to $46,125.
- The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for all other taxpayers is increased from $18,250 to $18,500; the limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $19,750 to $20,000; and the limitation under Sections 25B(b)(1)(C) and 25B(b)(1)(D) is increased from $30,500 to $30,750.
- The deductible amount under Section 219(b)(5)(A) for an individual making qualified retirement contributions remains unchanged at $5,500.
- The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(3)(B)(i) for determining the deductible amount of an IRA contribution for taxpayers who are active participants filing a joint return or as a qualifying widow(er) remains unchanged at $98,000. The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(3)(B)(ii) for all other taxpayers (other than married taxpayers filing separate returns) remains unchanged at $61,000. The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(3)(B)(iii) for a married individual filing a separate return is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0. The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(7)(A) for a taxpayer who is not an active participant but whose spouse is an active participant is increased from $183,000 to $184,000.
- The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 408A(c)(3)(B)(ii)(I) for determining the maximum Roth IRA contribution for married taxpayers filing a joint return or for taxpayers filing as a qualifying widow(er) is increased from $183,000 to $184,000. The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 408A(c)(3)(B)(ii)(II) for all other taxpayers (other than married taxpayers filing separate returns) is increased from $116,000 to $117,000. The applicable dollar amount under Section 408A(c)(3)(B)(ii)(III) for a married individual filing a separate return is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0.
- The dollar amount under Section 430(c)(7)(D)(i)(II) used to determine excess employee compensation with respect to a single-employer defined benefit pension plan for which the special election under Section 430(c)(2)(D) has been made is increased from $1,101,000 to $1,106,000.
IR-2015-118 (October 21, 2015).
2. IN 2016, SOME TAX BENEFITS INCREASE SLIGHTLY DUE TO INFLATION ADJUSTMENTS, OTHERS ARE UNCHANGED: For tax year 2016, the Internal Revenue Service announced annual inflation adjustments for more than 50 tax provisions, including the tax rate schedules, and other tax changes. Revenue Procedure 2015-53 provides details about these annual adjustments. The tax items for tax year 2016 of greatest interest to most taxpayers include the following dollar amounts:
- For tax year 2016, the 39.6% tax rate affects single taxpayers whose income exceeds $415,050 ($466,950 for married taxpayers filing jointly), up from $413,200 and $464,850, respectively. The other marginal rates -- 10, 15, 25, 28, 33 and 35% -- and the related income tax thresholds for tax year 2016 are described in the revenue procedure.
- The standard deduction for heads of household rises to $9,300 for tax year 2016, up from $9,250, for tax year 2015.The other standard deduction amounts for 2016 remain as they were for 2015: $6,300 for singles and married persons filing separate returns and $12,600 for married couples filing jointly.
- The limitation for itemized deductions to be claimed on tax year 2016 returns of individuals begins with incomes of $259,400 or more ($311,300 for married couples filing jointly).
- The personal exemption for tax year 2016 rises $50 to $4,050, up from the 2015 exemption of $4,000. However, the exemption is subject to a phase-out that begins with adjusted gross incomes of $259,400 ($311,300 for married couples filing jointly). It phases out completely at $381,900 ($433,800 for married couples filing jointly.)
- The Alternative Minimum Tax exemption amount for tax year 2016 is $53,900 and begins to phase out at $119,700 ($83,800, for married couples filing jointly for whom the exemption begins to phase out at $159,700). The 2015 exemption amount was $53,600 ($83,400 for married couples filing jointly). For tax year 2016, the 28 percent tax rate applies to taxpayers with taxable incomes above $186,300 ($93,150 for married individuals filing separately).
- The tax year 2016 maximum Earned Income Credit amount is $6,269 for taxpayers filing jointly who have 3 or more qualifying children, up from a total of $6,242 for tax year 2015. The revenue procedure has a table providing maximum credit amounts for other categories, income thresholds and phase-outs.
- For tax year 2016, the monthly limitation for the qualified transportation fringe benefit remains at $130 for transportation, but rises to $255 for qualified parking, up from $250 for tax year 2015.
- For tax year 2016 participants who have self-only coverage in a Medical Savings Account, the plan must have an annual deductible that is not less than $2,250, up from $2,200 for tax year 2015; but not more than $3,350, up from $3,300 for tax year 2015. For self-only coverage the maximum out of pocket expense amount remains at $4,450. For tax year 2016 participants with family coverage, the floor for the annual deductible remains as it was in 2015 -- $4,450, however the deductible cannot be more than $6,700, up $50 from the limit for tax year 2015. For family coverage, the out of pocket expense limit remains at $8,150 for tax year 2016 as it was for tax year 2015.
- For tax year 2016, the adjusted gross income amount used by joint filers to determine the reduction in the Lifetime Learning Credit is $111,000, up from $110,000 for tax year 2015.
- For tax year 2016, the foreign earned income exclusion is $101,300, up from $100,800 for tax year 2015.
- Estates of decedents who die during 2016 have a basic exclusion amount of $5,450,000, up from a total of $5,430,000 for estates of decedents who died in 2015.
IR-2015-119 (October 21, 2015).
3. FLORIDA SUPPLEMENTAL PREMIUM TAX DISTRIBUTION: The Municipal Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Retirement Trust Funds Office has disbursed the amounts available to be distributed to firefighter pension plans as supplemental distributions. This distribution follows the regular premium tax distribution to firefighter and police officer pension plans (see C & C Newsletter Special Supplement for August 20, 2015). The gross amount is $15,123,177.60 making 6,589,539.84 available for distribution. Of course, this supplemental distribution is paid pursuant to Section 633.382(4)(c)2, Florida Statutes, which provides that funds remaining in the firefighters supplemental compensation trust fund following required annual distribution shall be redistributed by the Department of Revenue pro rata to those municipalities and special fire control districts identified by the Division of Retirement as being eligible for additional funds pursuant to Section 175.121(3)(b), Florida Statutes.
4. WHAT IF YOU LIVE A LONG LIFE, AND YOUR SAVINGS RUN OUT?: Investor’s Business Daily says the financial professionals talk about risk as if it were a singular thing, but it is a concept of many facets. Advisors typically warn clients about market risk, economic risk and inflation risk. But a big thing that they typically forget to mention is longevity risk. Longevity risk is the possibility of outliving your retirement savings. The power of medical advances to help people live longer is both a blessing and a curse. The longer we live, the more money we need in order to survive. More longevity means that longevity risk will affect more people. In 1970, a man would expect to spend 13 years in retirement, and today that number is closer to 18 years. The amount of savings a person needs to finance that extra five years is significant. Because of the shift from pensions to defined contributions, such as 401(k) plans, many people may not have saved as much as they need. Longevity, plus a low savings rate, could lead to a lot of people living into their 90s but running out of money in their 70s. The first strategy to deal with longevity risk is to work longer, save more and retire later. But eventually you are going to retire, so what are the strategies for making the money last? For the past 20 years, professionals have followed the 4% rule. In a 1994 paper in theJournal of Financial Planning, a financial advisor wrote that a person could live off of a $1 million portfolio if he withdrew 4% a year. However, in 2013, Morningstar published a study saying that retirees would need to lower the withdrawal rate to 2.8% a year if they wanted it to last 30 years. If you live on 2.8%, then either you need to start with more savings or learn to live on less. [The rest of the piece deals with the author’s suggestions in an attempt to minimize longevity risk. The purpose of this news item is not to go into those items but merely to remind our readers of the caveat, which is in every newsletter: “REMEMBER, YOU CAN NEVER OUTLIVE YOUR DEFINED RETIREMENT BENEFIT,” (see Item 16 below.)
5. THE KEY TO A GOOD RETIREMENT PLAN IS IN YOUR MIND’S EYE: Visualization is a deceptively valuable financial tool. According to USA TODAY it can take your mind to a future time, and then retrace the steps on how you got there. Along the way back to your current reality, it can illuminate the threats and risks that line your path to financial independence. Begin by picturing yourself five years into your retirement. How old are you? Where are you? The answers to those two questions alone can provide enough financial homework for the next few years of your current reality. We are vigilant of how many nuts we have put in the tree. We stare at our portfolios and obsess over our returns. But we often ignore gigantic financial forces, such as real estate and health care expenses, which can easily displace even the best retirement income plan. There is always that someone who intends on retiring at age 62. It is a lovely plan, and he often has enough income generated to handle his lifestyle, but the wheels fall off when it comes to the plan to fund health care coverage. Retiring prior to 65 years old can create tremendous stress on your retirement income, due to health care expenses. We are so used to subsidized health care through our employers, yet we tend to neglect the true cost of health care when purchased on the open market as individuals. The need to fund health care can force a retirement income strategy to generate another $20,000 per year of income, if a person retires prior to being eligible for Medicare. Too often people discover this when it is too late, and portfolios are aggressively tapped to fund the shortfall. Disaster ensues. Visualizing what our lives will be like five years into retirement, walking our minds backward, and asking questions all along the way can help ensure that the secondary and tertiary aspects of retirement do not ruin our retirement. It is quite possible your biggest retirement threat has nothing to do with your investments.
6. ARMORED CAR TAKE-BACKS TICK OFF FLORIDA LAW OFFICERS: Florida lawmen must turn in their tanks, and some Central Florida Sheriffs are mighty ticked about it. According to a report from Daytona Beach News Journal, a White House ban on military-styled equipment is forcing eleven Florida law enforcement agencies to return all tanks they received years ago after the items were declared surplus by the Federal Government. The take-back of the cannon-less tanks follows an executive order by President Obama. Armored vehicles with wheels are allowed under the ban, and are far more common than the recalled tanks with tracks. In all, 126 tracked vehicles have been recalled from agencies across the country.
7. NCPERS CODE OF CONDUCT FOR PUBLIC PENSION SERVICE PROVIDERS: The National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems recommends that all public pensions 1) adopt its Code of Conduct for Public Pension Service Providers, 2) ask your service providers to endorse the Code of Conduct, and 3) let NCPERS know when your plan has adopted the Code of Conduct and your service providers have endorsed the Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct identifies ten principles for service providers. Pension plan fiduciaries are obligated to make prudent, informed decisions about plan services, with an eye at all times on discouraging conflicts of interest. NCPERS created this code of conduct to help fiduciaries and managers articulate strong, consistent ethical expectations for service providers across the board. The 10-point voluntary plan requires service providers to:
- Act in a professional and ethical manner at all times in dealings with public plan clients.
- Act for the benefit of public plan clients.
- Act with independence and objectivity.
- Fully disclose to public plan clients conflicts of interest that arise that may impair the ability to act independently or objectively.
- Act with reasonable care, skill, competence, and diligence when engaging in professional activities.
- Communicate with public plan clients in a timely and accurate manner.
- Uphold the applicable law, rules, and regulations governing their sector and profession.
- Fully disclose to public plan clients all fees charged for the products or services provided to said client.
- Not advocate for the diminishment of public defined benefit plans.
- Fully disclose all contributions made to entities enumerated in a schedule that advocate for the diminishment of public defined benefit plans.
Here is a link to the NCPERS Code of Conduct for Public Pension Service Providers: http://files.ctctcdn.com/dd7da80d301/84e91cde-b2bf-42b7-a4e8-77299bfbd8bf.pdf a link to Schedule A:http://files.ctctcdn.com/dd7da80d301/866f4bbe-2d76-4b92-b1b0-5cb7e55634f9.pdf Schedule A Annual Process:http://files.ctctcdn.com/dd7da80d301/9647516a-70b1-4bc7-bd13-feb2d20c0318.pdf Fiduciary Memo:http://files.ctctcdn.com/dd7da80d301/36ba46fd-58b0-4ecb-9476-3daaa7031431.pdf and Model Motions:http://files.ctctcdn.com/dd7da80d301/8c826bd4-9e70-4150-b196-4a7b4776a776.pdf.
8. ILLINOIS -- SHORT OF MONEY MEANS SHORT THE PENSIONS…: The Illinois State Comptroller has confirmed what she has been warning. The state can no longer keep up with the pace of spending that has been dictated by the courts and existing state laws. And, once again, the thing that is going to take the hit is state pensions. She says the state will not be able to make its full payment in November to the five state-funded pension systems. There simply is not enough money to go around. Quoted in The State Journal-Register, the comptroller is said: "we had to pick something we could not pay," -- which, when you think about it, is the approach Illinois' elected officials have taken for decades. They had to pick something when there was not enough money to go around to pay for all of the spending they had in mind (coupled with an aversion to raising taxes). Take it out of the pensions. Besides, it is so painless. Retirees will still get their pension checks, so it is not like there is some immediate pressure to put money into pensions. It helps explain why there's a $110 billion pension debt. Now the comptroller said she hopes to make all the pension payments required this fiscal year when all of those income taxes come pouring in next spring during filing season. Hopefully that will happen. In the meantime, though, the pension systems lose out on investment returns they might have earned had the payments been made on time. Worse, some of the systems will need to dip into assets to pay current benefits, further eroding returns. The hole just keeps getting bigger.
9. SCRAPPING PUBLIC WORKER PENSIONS IS A BAD IDEA: Dan Livingston, is chief negotiator for the Connecticut State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition. He recently wrote an opinion piece for the Hartford Courant. Across the country, conservative activists press to preserve expensive corporate subsidies and tax breaks for our wealthiest citizens. At the same time, they are manufacturing the perception of a public employee pension crisis in order to slash modest retiree benefits and move to 401(k) savings plans. However, understanding the funding challenges that face Connecticut's pension system requires a few simple facts. Pension benefits for the current workforce are well funded, moderate and fully affordable (the newest plan costs less than 5% of payroll, less than most large employers pay for real pensions or 401(k) plans). By using a little of the money that would otherwise pay for higher wages instead to provide a defined benefit pension plan, the state benefits in at least two ways. First, pension plans are strongly skewed in favor of career service workers, which reduces employee turnover and improves public services. Second, each dollar paid out in pension benefits supports $1.64 in total economic activity in Connecticut, while each dollar "invested" by Connecticut taxpayers in these plans supports $3.99 in total economic activity. The situation is a win/win for public employees and the citizens they serve. Some legislators called for a review and investigation of the idea to eliminate pension benefits going forward. Committee staff soundly rejected the notion because taking pensions from new employees would not reduce the state's pension debt by one penny; and defined contribution plans are dramatically less efficient for the state in producing retirement security, and unlike real defined benefit plans, do little to reduce turnover or improve service. So the state pays more to get less. Switching new employees to a defined contribution type plan because of old pension debt would be like a homeowner switching from high-efficiency natural gas heat to a less efficient oil burner because of an old gas bill. The homeowner still has to pay off the gas company, and now faces higher oil expenses. It is tough to be a working person in today's economy, whether a public sector worker or private. Defined benefit plans (real pensions) are key to working Americans, public or private, being able to retire with some dignity and security -- something the very fortunate few take for granted. In this sense, real pension plans help provide some level of income equality, at least among retirees. Connecticut has been smart to move to pay off old pension debts just as we pay off other debts. It is called fiscal responsibility. In so doing, not only are current quality pension programs preserved, but also the efforts to make retirement security available to all working families are increased.
10. 45TH ANNUAL POLICE OFFICERS' AND FIREFIGHTERS' PENSION TRUSTEES' CONFERENCE: The 45th Annual Police Officers' and Firefighters' Pension Trustees' Conference will be held on November 17-19, 2015. You may access information and updates about the Conference, including area maps, a copy of the program when completed and links to register at the Radisson in Celebration, Florida. Please continue to check the FRS website for updates regarding the program at www.myflorida.com/frs/mpf. All police officer and firefighter plan participants, board of trustee members, plan sponsors and anyone interested in the administration and operation of the Chapters 175 and 185 pension plans should take advantage of this unique, insightful and informative program.
11. ON SECOND THOUGHT...MAYBE THEY WERE WRONG?: I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea. -- HG Wells, British novelist, in 1901.
12. TODAY IN HISTORY: In 1966, ice hockey legend Bobby Orr scores his first career goal (vs Montreal Canadiens).
13. KEEP THOSE CARDS AND LETTERS COMING: Several readers regularly supply us with suggestions or tips for newsletter items. Please feel free to send us or point us to matters you think would be of interest to our readers. Subject to editorial discretion, we may print them. Rest assured that we will not publish any names as referring sources.
14. PLEASE SHARE OUR NEWSLETTER: Our newsletter readership is not limited to the number of people who choose to enter a free subscription. Many pension board administrators provide hard copies in their meeting agenda. Other administrators forward the newsletter electronically to trustees. In any event, please tell those you feel may be interested that they can subscribe to their own free copy of the newsletter at http://www.cypen.com/subscribe.htm.
15. REMEMBER, YOU CAN NEVER OUTLIVE YOUR DEFINED RETIREMENT BENEFIT.
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