Tax-Qualified Retirement Plans

Broad-based, tax-qualified retirement plans are a common vehicle used by businesses for attracting and retaining qualified employees at all levels. To retain tax qualification, plans must meet myriad requirements as to language, form, operation, administration and reporting. Plan sponsors must also communicate the plan effectively to employees in order for them to be aware of and appreciate this element of their compensation package.

The lawyers of Troutman Sanders’ Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation practice have extensive experience counseling private-sector and tax-exempt employers and plan fiduciaries with respect to the design, administration and termination of, and investments under, all types of tax-qualified plans, including the following:

  • Pension or defined benefit plans
  • Cash balance and pension equity plans
  • Profit sharing, 401(k), 403(b) and stock bonus plans

We provide routine and strategic guidance to boards of directors, retirement plan administrative committees and investment committees with respect to design, regulatory compliance and plan investments, including preparation of board and committee packages effecting plan amendments and design changes. We counsel clients on plan design issues, plan documentation, administrative compliance and proper correction procedures for operational errors, and draft participant communications, including plan summaries and distribution election forms. We regularly assist clients in negotiating and drafting administrative services agreements with third-party administrators and trustees.

Our group provides advice and counsel on the overlap between a collective agreement and the qualified plan requirements, and in matters relating to The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) as they relate to the design and operation of retirement plans.

Compliance with tax laws and codes is an area of critical importance to plan sponsors and fiduciaries. We routinely obtain Internal Revenue Service (IRS) approvals of plan elements, where appropriate, through determination letter applications, private letter ruling requests and voluntary compliance submissions. We have advised public plan clients on virtually every Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section relating to qualified retirement plans, 457 plans and the regulations thereunder, from generally applicable requirements to unique rules addressing vesting requirements for governmental plans, pick-up of employee contributions, purchase of service and 415(m) excess plans. We also keep clients current on evolving guidance on the definition of governmental plan. Additionally, the firm advises clients on state statutes relating to the implementation and governance of public plans, as well as the interpretation of specific enabling statutes creating various governmental entities.

Representative Experience

Private Sector and Tax-Exempt Employers

  • Day-to-day representation of the sponsor of multiple employer pension and 401(k) plans
  • Design and implementation of a retirement program for an employee-leasing corporation.
  • Preparation of plan documents and 204(h) notices associated with the conversion of traditional pension plans to cash balance plans
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Public-Sector Employers

  • Serving as outside general counsel for a state retirement system consisting of a defined benefit pension plan and a hybrid program that includes defined benefit and defined contribution components
  • Counseling on defined benefit and defined contribution plan matters for a number of local governments and authorities
  • Advising on retirement matters for local school boards, including implementation of final 403(b) regulations and negotiations with investment providers and administrators
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