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Trust Examination Manual
Appendix E Employee Benefit Law
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
(Rev. April 1994)
Favorable Determination Letter
This publication explains the significance of your favorable determination letter, points out some features that may affect the qualified status of your employee retirement plan and nullify your determination letter without specific notice from us, and provides general information on the reporting requirements for your plan. An example of a determination letter is included.
Significance of a Favorable Determination Letter
An employee retirement plan qualified under Internal Revenue Code section 401(a) (qualified plan) is entitled to favorable tax treatment. For example, contributions made in accordance with the plan document are generally currently deductible. However, participants will not include these contributions into income until the time they receive a distribution from the plan, at which time special income averaging rates for lump sum distributions may serve to reduce the tax liability. In some cases, taxation may be further deferred by rollover to another qualified plan or individual retirement arrangement. (See Publication 575, Pension and Annuity Income, for further details.) Finally, plan earnings may accumulate free of tax.
Employee retirement plans that fail to satisfy the requirements under Code section 401(a) are not entitled to favorable tax treatment. Therefore, many employers desire advance assurance that the terms of their plans satisfy the qualification requirements. The Internal Revenue Service provides such advance assurance by means of the determination letter program. A favorable determination letter indicates that, in the opinion of the Service, the terms of the plan conform to the requirements of Internal Revenue Code section 401(a). In addition, a favorable determination letter may indicate that, on the basis of other information provided in your application, it has been demonstrated that the plan satisfies certain nondiscrimination requirements of Code section 401(a). See the following topic, Limitations of a Favorable Determination Letter, for more details.
Limitations of a Favorable Determination Letter
A favorable determination letter is limited in scope and may also have a limited useful life. A determination letter generally applies to qualification requirements regarding the form of the plan. A determination letter may also apply to other qualification requirements pertaining to the prohibition against discrimination in favor of highly compensated employees. These requirements are generally referred to as the coverage and nondiscrimination requirements. They include the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4) of the Code, the minimum coverage requirements of section 410(b), and certain related requirements.
The extent to which a determination letter applies to the coverage and nondiscrimination requirements depends on the terms of the plan, the scope of the determination you requested, and the additional information you supplied with your application. Your determination letter will contain specific statements that will describe the scope of reliance represented by the letter.
In addition, the following apply generally to all determination letters:
The determination letter may not include a statement regarding the minimum coverage requirements of Code section 410(b); this means that you have demonstrated that the plan satisfies these requirements by satisfying the ratio-percentage test.
Become familiar with the terms of the determination letter. Please call the contact person listed on the determination letter if you do not understand any terms in your determination letter.
Retention of Information. Whether a plan qualifies is determined from the information in the written plan document and the supporting information submitted by the employer. Therefore, you must retain copies of any demonstrations or other information submitted with your application. Such demonstrations determine the extent of reliance provided by your determination letter. Failure to retain such Information may limit the scope of reliance on issues for which demonstrations were provided. The determination letter will not provide reliance if:
Law changes affecting the plan. In general, a determination letter is issued based on the law in effect at the time the application is received. However, your letter may include a statement indicating any exception to this rule.
Amendments to the plan. A favorable determination letter may no longer apply if there is a change in a statute, regulation, or revenue ruling applicable to the qualification of the plan. However, the determination letter will continue to apply for years before the effective date of the statute, regulation, or revenue ruling. If the letter no longer applies to the plan, the plan must be amended to comply with the new requirements to maintain its qualified status.
Generally, if a regulation changes, the amendment must be adopted by the end of the first plan year beginning after the adoption date of the regulation. Generally, if a revenue ruling changes, the amendment must be adopted by the end of the first plan year beginning after the publication date of the revenue ruling. Generally the amendment must be effective not later than the first day of such plan year.
Amendments required by Internal Revenue Code sections 401(a)(17) and 401(a)(31). If the plan is a master or prototype or regional prototype plan, the determination letter may be relied on with respect to the direct rollover requirements of Internal Revenue Code section 401(a)(31) and the $150,000 compensation limitation of Internal Revenue Code section 401(a)(17), only if the sponsor amends the master or prototype or regional prototype plan on behalf of all adopting employers to satisfy these requirements by December 31, 1994. In the case of individually designed plans, letters issued under Rev. Proc. 93-39 consider these requirements.
Extended Reliance. In general, individually designed plans (not master or prototype, or regional prototype plans) submitted for a determination letter before July 1, 1994 need not be amended for, or comply in operation with subsequent Treasury regulations or other guidance (for example, revenue rulings, notices, etc.) issued by the Service after the date of the plan determination letter until the last day of the last plan year commencing prior to January 1, 1999, unless specifically stated otherwise.
However, plans must be amended by any date(s) established for plan amendment by subsequent legislation. If the determination letter is dated after June 30, 1994, this extended reliance will apply only d so stated in the determination letter. Similar reliance applies to master and prototype or regional prototype plans if the plan sponsor requested a notification or opinion letter before April 1, 1991.
Plan Must Qualify in Operation
Generally, a plan qualifies in operation if it continues to satisfy the coverage and nondiscrimination requirements and is maintained according to the terms on which the favorable determination letter was issued. Changes in facts and other bases on which the determination letter was issued may mean that the determination letter may no longer be relied upon.
Some examples of the effect of a plan's operation on a favorable determination are:
Not meeting nondiscrimination in amount requirement. If the determination letter states that the plan satisfies the nondiscrimination in amount requirement of section 1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) of the regulations on the basis of a design-based safe harbor, the plan will generally continue to satisfy this requirement in operation n the plan is maintained according to its terms. If the determination letter states that the plan satisfies the nondiscrimination in amount requirement on the basis of a nondesign-based safe harbor or a general test, and the plan subsequently fails to meet this requirement in operation, the letter may no longer be relied upon with respect to this requirement.
Not meeting minimum coverage requirements. If the determination letter does not include a statement regarding the minimum coverage requirements of Code section 410(b), this means that the plan satisfies these requirements by satisfying the ratio-percentage test. However, if the plan subsequently fails to satisfy the ratio-percentage test in operation, the letter may no longer be relied upon with respect to the coverage requirements. Likewise, if the determination letter states the plan satisfies the average benefit test, the letter may no longer be relied on with respect to the coverage requirements once the plan fails to satisfy the average benefit test in operation.
Changes in testing methods. If the determination letter is based in part on a demonstration that a coverage or nondiscrimination requirement is satisfied, and, in the operation of the plan, the method used to test that this requirement continues to be satisfied is changed (or is required to be changed because the facts have changed) from the method employed in the demonstration, the letter may no longer be relied upon with respect to this requirement.
Contributions or benefits in excess of the limitations under Code section 415. A retirement plan may not provide retirement benefits or, in the case of a defined contribution plan, contributions and other additions, that exceed the limitations specified in Internal Revenue Code section 415. Your plan contains provisions designed to provide benefits within these limitations. Please become familiar with these limitations for your plan will be disqualified if these limitations are exceeded.
Top heavy minimums. If this plan primarily benefits employees who are highly compensated, it may be a top heavy plan and must provide certain minimum benefits and vesting for lower compensated employees. If your plan provides the accelerated benefits and vesting only for years during which the plan is top heavy, failure to identify such years and to provide the accelerated vesting and benefits will disqualify the plan.
Actual deferral percentage or contribution percentage tests. If this plan provides for cash or deferred arrangements, employer matching contributions, or employee contributions, the determination letter
does not consider whether special discrimination tests described in Code section 401(k)(3) or 401(m)(2) have been satisfied in operation.
Most plan administrators or employers who maintain an employee benefit plan must file an annual return/report with the Internal Revenue Service. The following is a general discussion of the forms to be used for this purpose. See the instructions to each form for specific information:
Form 5500-EZ, Annual Return of One Participant (Owners and their Spouses) Pension Benefit Plans - generally for a "One-participant Plan', which is a plan that covers only:
If Form 5500-EZ cannot be used, the one-participant plan should use Form 5500-C/R, Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan.
Note. A "one-participant' plan that has no more than $100,000 in assets at the end of the plan year is not required to file a return. However, Form 5500-EZ must be filed for any subsequent year in which plan assets exceed $100,000. If two or more one-participant plans have more than $100,000 in assets, a separate Form 5500-EZ must be filed for each plan.
A "Final' Form 5500-EZ must be filed if the plan is terminated or if assets drop below $100,000 and you wish to stop filing Form 5500-EZ.
Form 5500, Annual Return/Report Of Employee Benefit Plan - for a pension benefit plan with 100 or more participants at the beginning of the plan year.
Form 5500-C/R, Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan - for each pension benefit plan with more than one but fewer than 100 participants at the beginning of the plan year. Form 5500-C/R takes the place of separate Forms 5500-C and 5500-R. Filing only the first two pages of Form 5500-C/R constitutes the filing of Form 5500-R for plan years for which Form 5500-C is not filed.
Note. Keogh (HR-10) plans having over $100,000 in assets are required to file an annual return even if the only participants are owner-employees. The term "owner-employee' includes a partner who owns more than 10% interest in either the capital or profits of the partnership. This applies to both defined contribution and defined benefit plans.
When to file. Forms 5500 and 5500-EZ must be filed annually. Form 5500-C must be filed for (i) the initial plan year, (ii) the year a final return/report would be filed, and (iii) at three-year intervals.
Form 5500-R pages 1 and 2 of Form 5500-C/R) must be filed in the years when 5500-C is not filed. However, 5500-C will be accepted in place of 5500-R.
Form 5330 for prohibited transactions - Transactions between a plan and someone having a relationship to the plan (disqualified person) are prohibited, unless specifically exempted from this requirement. A few examples are loans, sales and exchanges of property, leasing of property, furnishing goods or services, and use of plan assets by the disqualified person. Disqualified persons
who engage in a prohibited transaction for which there is no exception must file Form 5330 by the last day of the seventh month after the end of the tax year of the disqualified person.
Form 5330 for tax on nondeductible employer contributions to qualified plans - If contributions are made to this plan in excess of the amount deductible, a tax is imposed upon the excess contribution. Form 5330 must be filed by the last day of the seventh month after the end of the employer's tax year.
Form 5330 for tax on excess contributions to cash or deferred arrangements or excess employee contributions or employer matching contributions - If a plan includes a cash or deferred arrangement (Code section 401(k)) or provides for employee contributions or employer matching contributions (Code section 401(m)), then excess contributions that would cause the plan to fail the actual deferral percentage or the actual contribution percentage test are subject to a tax unless the excess is eliminated within 2 1/2 months after the end of the plan year. Form 5330 must be filed by the due date of the employer's tax return for the plan year in which the tax was incurred.
Form 5330 for tax on reversions of plan assets - Under Code section 4980, a tax is payable on the amount of any employer reversion of plan assets. Form 5330 must be filed by the last day of the month following the month in which the reversion occurred.
Form 5310-A for certain transactions - Under Code section 6058(b), an actuarial statement is required at least 30 days before a merger, consolidation, or transfers (including spin-offs) of assets to another plan. This statement is required for all plans. However, penalties for non-filing will not apply to defined contribution plans for which:
Penalties will also not apply if the assets transferred are less than three percent of the assets of the plan involved in the transfer (spin-off), and the transaction is not one of a series of two or more transfers (spin-off transactions) that are, in substance, one transaction.
The purpose of the above discussions is to illustrate some of the principal filing requirements that apply to pension plans. This listing is not an exclusive listing of all returns and schedules that must be filed.
Disclosure. The Internal Revenue Service will process the returns and provide the Department of Labor and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation with the necessary information and copies of the returns on microfilm for disclosure purposes.
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
1100 Commerce St. Code 431 In reply refer to: 75260006Springfield
AS 99001 Dec. 04, 1987 LTR 835AU
73-0793565P 0000 74 001
Input 0p: 75018508 00016
Flimflam & Jones, P.C.
1000 Ajax Life Bldg
PLANO AS 99103
District Office Code and
Case Serial Number: 73737028 EP
Name of Plan: Flimflam & Jones Profit Sharing Plan
Application Form: 5301
Date Amended: 030386
Employer Identification Number: 73-0793565
Plan Number: 001
File Number: 730000488
Based on the information supplied, we have made a favorable determination on your application identified above. Please keep this letter in your permanent records.
Continued qualification of the plan will depend on its effect in operation under its present form. (See Section 1.401-1(b)(3) of the Income Tax Regulations.) The status of the plan in operation will be reviewed periodically.
The enclosed document describes some events that could occur after you receive this letter that would automatically nullify it without specific notice from us. The document also explains how operation of the plan may affect a favorable determination letter, and contains information about filing requirements.
This letter relates only to the status of your plan under the Internal Revenue Code. It is not a determination regarding the effect of other federal or local statutes.
This determination is not a ruling on the effect of reclamination on the deferred percentage test.
If you have any questions, please contact E P Tech Assistor at 703-754-1234.
James P. Huttonski
Abusive Roth IRA Transactions
December 31, 2003
Part III - Administrative, Procedural and Miscellaneous
December 31, 2003
U.S. Treasury Notice
Abusive Roth IRA Transactions
The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department are aware of a type of transaction, described below, that taxpayers are using to avoid the limitations on contributions to Roth IRAs. This notice alerts taxpayers and their representatives that these transactions are tax avoidance transactions and identifies these transactions, as well as substantially similar transactions, as listed transactions for purposes of § 1.6011-4(b)(2) of the Income Tax Regulations and §§ 301.6111-2(b)(2) and 301.6112-1(b)(2) of the Procedure and Administration Regulations. This notice also alerts parties involved with these transactions of certain responsibilities that may arise from their involvement with these transactions.
Section 408A was added to the Internal Revenue Code by section 302 of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, Pub. L. 105-34, 105th Cong., 1st Sess. 40 (1997). This section created Roth IRAs as a new type of nondeductible individual retirement arrangement (IRA). The maximum annual contribution to Roth IRAs is the same maximum amount that would be allowable as a deduction under § 219 with respect to the individual for the taxable year over the aggregate amount of contributions for that taxable year to all other IRAs. Neither the contributions to a Roth IRA nor the earnings on those contributions are subject to tax on distribution, if distributed as a qualified distribution described in § 408A(d)(2).
A contribution to a Roth IRA above the statutory limits generates a 6 - percent excise tax described in § 4973. The excise tax is imposed each year until the excess contribution is eliminated.
In general, these transactions involve the following parties: (1) an individual (the Taxpayer) who owns a pre-existing business such as a corporation or a sole proprietorship (the Business), (2) a Roth IRA within the meaning of § 408A that is maintained for the Taxpayer, and (3) a corporation (the Roth IRA Corporation), substantially all the shares of which are owned or acquired by the Roth IRA. The Business and the Roth IRA Corporation enter into transactions as described below. The acquisition of shares, the transactions or both are not fairly valued and thus have the effect of shifting value into the Roth IRA.
Examples include transactions in which the Roth IRA Corporation acquires property, such as accounts receivable, from the Business for less than fair market value, contributions of property, including intangible property, by a person other than the Roth IRA, without a commensurate receipt of stock ownership, or any other arrangement between the Roth IRA Corporation and the Taxpayer, a related party described in § 267(b) or 707(b), or the Business that has the effect of transferring value to the Roth IRA Corporation comparable to a contribution to the Roth IRA.
The transactions described in this notice have been designed to avoid the statutory limits on contributions to a Roth IRA contained in § 408A. Because the Taxpayer controls the Business and is the beneficial owner of substantially all of the Roth IRA Corporation, the Taxpayer is in the position to shift value from the Business to the Roth IRA Corporation. The Service intends to challenge the purported tax benefits claimed for these arrangements on a number of grounds.
In challenging the purported tax benefits, the Service will, in appropriate cases, assert that the substance of the transaction is that the amount of the value shifted from the Business to the Roth IRA Corporation is a payment to the Taxpayer, followed by a contribution by the Taxpayer to the Roth IRA and a contribution by the Roth IRA to the Roth IRA Corporation. In such cases, the Service will deny or reduce the deduction to the Business; may require the Business, if the Business is a corporation, to recognize gain on the transfer under § 311(b); and may require inclusion of the payment in the income of the Taxpayer (for example, as a taxable dividend if the Business is a C corporation). See Sammons v. United States, 433 F.2d 728 (5th Cir. 1970); Worcester v. Commissioner, 370 F.2d 713 (1st Cir. 1966).
Depending on the facts of the specific case, the Service may apply § 482 to allocate income from the Roth IRA Corporation to the Taxpayer, Business, or other entities under the control of the Taxpayer. Section 482 provides the Secretary with authority to allocate gross income, deductions, credits or allowances among persons owned or controlled directly or indirectly by the same interests, if such allocation is necessary to prevent evasion of taxes or clearly to reflect income. The § 482 regulations provide that the standard to be applied is that of a person dealing at arm's length with an uncontrolled person. See generally § 1.482-1(b) of the Income Tax Regulations. To the extent that the consideration paid or received in transactions between the Business and the Roth IRA Corporation is not in accordance with the arm's length standard, the Service may apply § 482 as necessary to prevent evasion of taxes or clearly to reflect income. In the event of a § 482 allocation between the Roth IRA Corporation and the Business or other parties, correlative allocations and other conforming adjustments would be made pursuant to § 1.482-1(g). Also see, Rev. Rul. 78-83, 1978-1 C.B. 79.
In addition to any other tax consequences that may be present, the amount treated as a contribution as described above is subject to the excise tax described in § 4973 to the extent that it is an excess contribution within the meaning of § 4973(f). This is an annual tax that is imposed until the excess amount is eliminated.
Moreover, under § 408(e)(2)(A), the Service may take the position in appropriate cases that the transaction gives rise to one or more prohibited transactions between a Roth IRA and a disqualified person described in § 4975(e)(2). For example, the Department of Labor has advised the Service that, to the extent that the Roth IRA Corporation constitutes a plan asset under the Department of Labor's plan asset regulation (29 C.F.R. § 2510.3-101), the provision of services by the Roth IRA Corporation to the Taxpayer's Business (which is a disqualified person with respect to the Roth IRA under § 4975(e)(2)) would constitute a prohibited transaction under § 4975(c)(1)(C). Further, the Department of Labor has advised the Service that, if a transaction between a disqualified person and the Roth IRA would be a prohibited transaction, then a transaction between that disqualified person and the Roth IRA Corporation would be a prohibited transaction if the Roth IRA may, by itself, require the Roth IRA Corporation to enter into the transaction.
The following transactions are identified as "listed transactions" for purposes of §§ 1.6011-4(b)(2), 301.6111-2(b)(2) and 301.6112-1(b)(2) effective December 31, 2003, the date this document is released to the public: arrangements in which an individual, related persons described in § 267(b) or 707(b), or a business controlled by such individual or related persons, engage in one or more transactions with a corporation, including contributions of property to such corporation, substantially all the shares of which are owned by one or more Roth IRAs maintained for the benefit of the individual, related persons described in § 267(b)(1), or both. The transactions are listed transactions with respect to the individuals for whom the Roth IRAs are maintained, the business (if not a sole proprietorship) that is a party to the transaction, and the corporation substantially all the shares of which are owned by the Roth IRAs. Independent of their classification as "listed transactions," these transactions may already be subject to the disclosure requirements of § 6011 (§ 1.6011-4), the tax shelter registration requirements of § 6111 (§§ 301.6111-1T and 301.6111-2), or the list maintenance requirements of § 6112 (§ 301.6112-1).
Substantially similar transactions include transactions that attempt to use a single structure with the intent of achieving the same or substantially same tax effect for multiple taxpayers. For example, if the Roth IRA Corporation is owned by multiple taxpayers' Roth IRAs, a substantially similar transaction occurs whenever that Roth IRA Corporation enters into a transaction with a business of any of the taxpayers if distributions from the Roth IRA Corporation are made to that taxpayer's Roth IRA based on the purported business transactions done with that taxpayer's business or otherwise based on the value shifted from that taxpayer's business to the Roth IRA Corporation.
Persons required to register these tax shelters under § 6111 who have failed to do so may be subject to the penalty under § 6707(a). Persons required to maintain lists of investors under § 6112 who have fail to do so (or who fail to provide such lists when requested by the Service) may be subject to the penalty under § 6708(a). In addition, the Service may impose penalties on participants in this transaction or substantially similar transactions, including the accuracy related penalty under § 6662, and as applicable, persons who participate in the reporting of this transaction or substantially similar transactions, including the return preparer penalty under § 6694, the promoter penalty under § 6700, and the aiding and abetting penalty under § 6701.
The Service and the Treasury recognize that some taxpayers may have filed tax returns taking the position that they were entitled to the purported tax benefits of the type of transaction described in this notice. These taxpayers should consult with a tax advisor to ensure that their transactions are disclosed properly and to take appropriate corrective action.
The principal author of this notice is Michael Rubin of the Employee Plans, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division. However, other personnel from the Service and Treasury participated in its development. Mr. Rubin may be reached at (202) 283-9888 (not a toll-free call).
 Under section 102 of Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1978 (43 FR 47713), the Secretary of Labor has interpretive jurisdiction over § 4975 of the Internal Revenue Code.
 For the Roth IRA Corporation to be considered as holding plan assets under the Department of Labor's plan asset regulation, the Roth IRA's investment in the Roth IRA Corporation must be an equity interest, the Roth IRA Corporation's securities must not be publicly-offered securities, and the Roth IRA's investment in the Roth IRA Corporation must be significant. 29 C.F.R. §§ 2510.3-101(a)(2), 2510.3-101(b)(1), 2510.3-101(b)(2), and 2510.3-101(f). Although the Roth IRA Corporation would not be treated as holding plan assets if the Roth IRA Corporation constituted an operating company within the meaning of 29 C.F.R. § 2510.3-101(c), given the context of the examples described in this notice, it is unlikely that the Roth IRA Corporation would qualify as an operating company.
 See 29 C.F.R. § 2509.75-2(c).
|Last Updated 04/02/2008|