American Benefits Council
Benefits Byte


March 18, 2014

The Benefits Byte is the American Benefits Council’s regular e-mail and online newsletter for members only, providing timely reports on legislative, regulatory and judicial developments, along with updates on the Council’s activities in support of employer-sponsored benefit plans.

The Benefits Byte is published by the American Benefits Council, based on staff reports and edited by Jason Hammersla, Council director of communications. Contact information for Council staff related to specific topics can be found at the end of each story.

Click here to read past issues on the Benefits Byte Archive page.

Follow us on Twitter at @BenefitsCouncil

Council Leads Group Effort to Maintain Access to Death Master File

On March 18, the American Benefits Council led a group of 15 employer and retirement industry organizations on a comment letter urging the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, to provide retirement plans (and their service providers) with uninterrupted access to the Death Master File (DMF).

The DMF is a list of deceased individuals maintained by the Social Security Administration and distributed through the Commerce Department. These records contain the full name, Social Security number, date of birth and date of death for listed decedents, updated weekly. Defined benefit and defined contribution plans commonly use these files for administrative purposes, such as determining when benefits to a deceased participant should be terminated or when a payment should be made to a surviving beneficiary.

However, under the Bipartisan Budget Act, enacted in December 2013 (and effective March 26, 2014), the Secretary of Commerce "shall not disclose to any person information contained on the [DMF] with respect to any deceased individual at any time during the 3-calendar-year period beginning on the date of the individual's death, unless such person is certified" under a program to be established by the Secretary of Commerce. Only parties that have "a fraud prevention interest or other legitimate need for the information and agree to maintain the information under safeguards similar to those required of Federal agencies that receive return information" may apply for certification.

The March 18 group comment letter was responding to a Request for Information (RFI) issued by NTIS on March 3, which followed a January 6 clarification that access to the DMF will continue uninterrupted pending the establishment of a certification process. Although the RFI reiterated this clarification, the Council has learned that NTIS is being pressured to close access to the DMF on March 26, the effective date of the legislation. For a description of NTIS's January 6 clarification and the previous Council-led group letter urging continuous access during the development of the process and while an application is pending, see the Council's January 29, 2014 Benefits Byte.

The March 18 letter states that "Simple and inexpensive access to the DMF information is critical to the efficient functioning of all types of retirement plans" and notes that the RFI itself "recognized this need by pointing out access is necessary for 'others responsible for verifying deceased person(s) in support of fulfillment of benefits to their beneficiaries.'"

The Council will continue to monitor this issue and provide input to the NTIS and the Commerce Department on the importance of uninterrupted access for retirement plans. For more information, contact Jan Jacobson, senior counsel, retirement policy, at (202) 289-6700.

List of Upcoming Council Webinars - Save the Dates!

The extraordinary period of activity surrounding employer-sponsored benefit plans has continued apace in 2014, and as always Council staff and policy experts are on hand to describe the latest legislative, regulatory and legal developments and answer your questions.

The following is a list of webinar programs coming soon. For some of these sessions, a formal and detailed invitation is forthcoming. Please note that registration is required to attend and participate in Council webinars.

P4P: Preparing for PPACA Session #28: IRS Final Employer 'Shared Responsibility' (4980H) Regulations, Part II: Application to Various Types of Workers
Thursday, March 20, 2 p.m. ET

Benefits Law Briefing: DOL's Retirement Agenda
(Featuring Bradford P. Campbell, Drinker Biddle & Reath)
Friday, March 21, 2 p.m. ET

Benefits Passport: The International Pension Plan, The International Savings Plan and Trends in the Middle East
Wednesday, March 26, noon (12 p.m.) ET

Benefits Briefing: Tax Reform & Implications for Benefit Plans
Thursday, March 27, 2 p.m. ET

P4P: Preparing for PPACA Session #29: IRS Final Employer 'Shared Responsibility' (4980H) Regulations, Part III: Determining Full-Time Employees (formal invitation notice coming shortly)
Friday, April 4, 2 p.m. ET

P4P: Preparing for PPACA Session #30: Reporting Requirements Under Sections 6055 & 6056
Date and Time TBA - Early/Mid-April

As a reminder, Council webinars may now be used toward continuing education/renewal requirements for many professional accreditation programs, but only by means of self-certification. Please retain your registration confirmation for your verification records.

Descriptions and materials from prior webinars are listed on the Council's Webinar Archive page.

Digital replays of recent programs are generally available upon request. To request a recording, or for more information on the Council's webinar programs (including technical assistance), contact Jason Hammersla, director, communications.

If you need assistance with registering for a webinar or verification of prior sessions attended, please contact Deanna Johnson, director, membership; Sondra Williams, membership services coordinator; or Mary Lindsay, receptionist. All can be reached by phone at (202) 289-6700.

The American Benefits Council is the national trade association for companies concerned about federal legislation and regulations affecting all aspects of the employee benefits system. The Council's members represent the entire spectrum of the private employee benefits community and either sponsor directly or administer retirement and health plans covering more than 100 million Americans.

Notice: the information contained herein is general in nature. It is not, and should not be construed as, accounting, consulting, legal or tax advice or opinion provided by the American Benefits Council or any of its employees. As required by the IRS, we inform you that any information contained herein was not intended or written to be used or referred to, and cannot be used or referred to (i) for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein (and any attachment).