Section 1. Purpose

This revenue procedure sets forth rules relating to the minimum retirement benefit requirement prescribed under section 31.3121(b)(7)-2 of the Employment Tax Regulations.

Section 2. Background

Section 3121(b)(7)(F), added to the Internal Revenue Code by section 11332(b) of the Omnibus Budget

Reconciliation Act of 1990, Public Law No. 101-508, 104 Stat. 1388, generally expands the definition of employment, for purposes of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), to include service as an employee for a state or local government entity unless the employee is a "member of a retirement system" of such entity. Section 3121(b)(7)(F) is effective with respect to service performed after July 1, 1991. Thus, wages for services performed after July 1, 1991, received by an employee of a state or local government entity who is not a member of a retirement system of such entity will generally be subject to FICA taxes, and will also be taken into account in determining the employee's eligibility for Social Security and Medicare benefits. Under section 31.3121(b)(7)-2(e) of the regulations, a retirement system generally includes any pension, annuity, retirement or similar fund or system within the meaning of section 218 of the Social Security Act that is maintained by a state, political subdivision or instrumentality thereof to provide retirement benefits to its employees who are participants. However, the definition of retirement system is limited in order to carry out the purposes of section 3121(b)(7)(F) of the Code and the corresponding provisions of the Social Security Act. Under the regulations, in order for service in the employ of a state or local government entity to qualify for the exception from employment under section 3121(b)(7), the employee must be a member of a retirement system that provides certain minimum retirement benefits to that employee. To meet this minimum retirement benefit requirement with respect to an employee, section 31.3121(b)(7)-2(e)(2)(i) of the regulations generally requires that a retirement system provide benefits to the employee that are comparable to those provided in the Old-Age portion of the Old-Age, Survivor, Disability Insurance program under Social Security. Section 31.3121(b)(7)-2(e)(2)(vi) of the regulations provides that the Commissioner may, through guidance of general applicability, promulgate additional testing methods to determine whether, a retirement system meets the minimum retirement benefit requirement. This revenue procedure is an exercise of this authority. It outlines a set of safe harbor formulas for defined benefit retirement systems. Benefits calculated under one of these formulas are deemed to meet the minimum retirement benefit requirement. In addition, procedures are set out by which an employer may determine whether retirement benefits calculated under other formulas meet the minimum retirement benefit requirement of the regulations with respect to an employee.

Section 3. Defined Retirement System Safe Harbor Formulas

.01 Final and highest average pay formulas.

  1. Periods of 36 months or less. A defined benefit retirement system that calculates benefits by reference to a participant's average compensation meets the minimum retirement benefit requirement with respect to an employee if it makes available to the employee a single life annuity payable beginning no later than age 65 that is at least 1.5 percent of average compensation for each year (or fraction thereof) of credited service. For this purpose, average compensation may be defined as the average of the employee's compensation over the 36 (or fewer) consecutive or non-consecutive months that provides the highest such average, the average of the employee's compensation for his or her last 36 (or fewer) months of service with the employer, or the average of the employee's compensation for his or her high consecutive or nonconsecutive or final 3 (or fewer) calendar or plan years of service.
  2. Periods of more than 36 months. A defined benefit retirement system that calculates benefits by reference to a participant's average compensation over a period of more than 36 months meets the minimum benefit requirement in the same manner as a retirement system described in section 3.01(l) except that the 1.5 percent factor is replaced with a higher factor in accordance with the following table:
Averaging Period Factor
37-48 months 1.55 percent
49-60 months 1.60 percent
61-120 months 1.75 percent
Over 120 months 2.00 percent

 

.02 Formulas using fractional accrual rule.

A defined benefit retirement system that calculates benefits based on a pro rata accrual towards a projected normal retirement benefit may meet the minimum retirement benefit requirement in the same manner as provided in section 3.01(l) provided the projected normal retirement benefit under the plan formula is greater than or equal to the benefit described in such section.

 

.03 Additional requirements for defined benefit plan formulas to meet safe harbors.

(1) Calculation of compensation.

(a) To meet the requirements of any of the defined benefit safe harbor formulas for plan years beginning after July 1, 1991, a retirement system must calculate benefits based on a definition of compensation that meets the requirements of section 31.3121(b)(7)-2(e)(2)(iii)(B) of the regulations.

(b) In the event that the definition of compensation under the retirement system is less inclusive than the definition otherwise permitted under this section, the applicable benefit percentage in the safe harbor formula of section 3.01 must be increased to account for the lower compensation base. The benefit percentage for employees in a retirement system whose benefits are computed using this definition must be multiplied by the ratio of (i) aggregate compensation (defined as under section 3.03(l)(a) and assuming that compensation considered in determining retirement benefits is limited to the contribution base described in section 3121(x)(1)) of these employees to (ii) aggregate compensation (as defined under the plan) of these employees. This ratio may be determined based upon the compensation during the immediately preceding plan year. In the case of a retirement system sponsored by more than one employer, this ratio must be calculated separately with respect to the employees of each employer whose benefits are computed using this definition. The rule in this section 3.03(l)(b) is illustrated by the following example:

Example. A defined benefit retirement system maintained by a political subdivision provides a retirement benefit equal to 2.5 percent of a participant's average compensation during his or her last calendar year of service. The compensation used for this purpose satisfies section 3.03(l)(a), except that it caps the compensation taken into account at $30,000. Assume that the ratio under section 3.03(t)(b) is 150 percent. This figure is derived by comparing the total compensation of employees in the plan (using the plan definition but capping compensation at the FICA contribution base (rather than at $30,000)) to the total compensation (using only the plan definition of compensation) of employees in the plan. The retirement system meets the requirements of 3.03(l) because the plan benefit percentage of 2.5 percent is more than 150 percent of the applicable safe harbor benefit percentage of 1.5 percent.

(2) Credited service.

(a) In order to meet the requirements of any of the defined benefit safe harbor formulas, a formula must generally include in credited service the employee's entire period of actual service with the employer since commencing participation in the retirement system, plus any past service credited under the retirement system. A formula may, however, exclude any periods of actual service for the employer that are treated as employment under section 3121(b) of the Code, provided that during such periods the employee did not participate in the retirement system. A retirement system subject to paragraph (f)(2)(i)(B) of section 31.3121(b)(7)-2 of the regulations (relating to the treatment of benefits accrued in plan years beginning prior to January 1, 1993) may also limit service consistent with the rules contained in that paragraph.

(b) A formula may limit the maximum period of service that is credited for accrual purposes under this rule. If this limit is less than 30 years in the case of formulas described in section 3.01(l) or (2), or 35 years in the case of formulas described in section 3.02, however, the benefit formula must be increased by the ratio of 30 (or 35) years tosuch lower limit.

(c) Except as provided in section 3.03(4) with respect to part-time and other classes of employees, a formula may limit the periods of actual service actually credited for accrual purposes under this rule to whole years or similar periods, provided the periods are reasonable.

(d) The rules in this subsection are illustrated by the following example:

Example. In 1995, an employee is a participant in a retirement system with 5 years of credited service. Assume that the retirement system provides benefits under a formula described in section 3.01. In January 1996, the employee moves to a position that is not covered by the retirement system. Assume that service in the new position constitutes covered employment under section 3121(b) of the Code for purposes of the FICA (e.g., because a section 218 voluntary agreement is in effect with regard to such position). In January 1998, the employee returns to the old position and recommences participation under the retirement system. The employee must be treated as being in the employee's sixth year of credited service in determining whether the benefit under the retirement system meets the minimum retirement benefit requirement. This is because the retirement system may generally disregard the service of an employee that constitutes employment under section 3121(b) for purposes of the FICA.

(3) Treatment of prior distributions from the retirement system.

In determining whether the requirements of any of the defined benefit safe harbor formulas are met, prior distributions may continue to be considered as part of the benefit accrued under the retirement system unless they were distributed by the employer without any election by the employee. In addition, if a retirement system gives a former employee credit for benefit determination purposes for periods of prior service with respect to which a prior distribution was made only if the employee contributes to the system an amount equal to all or a portion of the prior distribution (with or without interest), and this option is provided on reasonable terms, such prior service is not required to be taken into account in determining whether the requirements of any of the defined benefit safe harbors are met until the required contribution is actually made. If prior service is not taken into account under this rule, the prior distribution may not be taken into account either. The rules of this paragraph is illustrated by the following example:

Example. An employee retires under the early retirement option under a retirement system maintained by a state government. The employee elects to receive a single sum distribution representing the entire accrued benefit under the plan. Subsequently, the employee is rehired by the same employer. The plan does not provide for any recontribution of the prior distribution. Whether the employee is a member of the retirement system from which the employee received the distribution is determined without regard to the single sum distribution. That is, a single life annuity that is the actuarial equivalent of the single sum may be treated as part of the accrued benefit under the plan. Similarly, all periods of service credited under the plan during the employee's previous service must be considered.

(4) Credited service for part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees.

To meet the requirements of any of the defined benefit safe harbor formulas with respect to a part-time, seasonal or temporary employee for plan years beginning after December 31, 1992, a safe harbor formula may not permit double proration of the employee's benefits under the retirement system. See 29 CFR ?2530.204-2(d) for a description of double proration of benefit accruals. Under this rule, the benefit under the retirement system may be prorated either on the basis of full-time service or on the basis of full-time compensation, but may not be prorated based on both service and compensation. In addition, a safe harbor formula may not subject the crediting of service used in calculating the benefit of any part-time, seasonal or temporary employee to any conditions, such as a requirement that the employee attain a minimum age, perform a minimum period of service, be credited with a minimum number of hours of service, make an election in order to participate, or be present at the end of the plan year.

The requirements of this section 3.03(4) will be deemed met with respect to an employee, however, if the requirements of section 31.3121(b)(7)-2(d)(2)(ii) of the regulations relating to amounts distributable upon certain events are met with respect to such employee. See section 31.3121(b)(7)-2(d)(2)(iii) of the regulations for the definitions of part-time, seasonal, and temporary employee for this purpose.

.04 Examples of application of safe harbor formulas.

The application of the defined benefit safe harbors are illustrated in the following examples:

Example 1. An employee has been a participant in a state retirement system for 9 years and several months at the beginning of a plan year of the system. The employee has only 9 years of credited service under the system at the beginning of the plan year, however, because the retirement system calculates service for accrual purposes on the basis of whole years of actual service. Under the retirement system, each participant is credited with a retirement benefit based upon the participant's highest average compensation over 36 consecutive months times his or her years of service (as so determined). Assume the retirement system imposes no other conditions on the accrual of benefits and meets the service crediting requirements of section 3.03(2). If at all times during the plan year prior to being credited with a tenth year of service the employee has a total accrued benefit of at least 13.5 percent of his or her highest average compensation (1.5 percent times 9 years), and at all times during the plan year after being credited with the tenth year of service the employee has a total accrued benefit of at least 15 percent of his or her highest average compensation (1.5 percent times 10 years), and the retirement otherwise meets the requirements of this revenue procedure and the regulations, the employee will be treated as a qualified participant throughout the plan year. This analysis applies without regard to whether the participant actually accrues a benefit in the plan year or is credited with an additional year of service for accrual purposes (e.g., if future accruals under the plan have been frozen or if the participant has obtained the maximum level of benefits under the plan).

Example 2. Assume the same facts as in Example 1, except that the plan grants 1 month of credited service for every whole month of actual service, and that the employee had 111 months of service (9 years and 3 months) at the beginning of the plan year. If at all times during the first month of the plan year prior to being credited with the 112th month of service the employee has a total accrued benefit of at least 13.875 percent of his highest average compensation (1.5 percent times 111 months, divided by 12), and at all times during the first month of the plan year after being credited with the 112th month of service the employee has a total accrued benefit of at least 14 percent of his highest average compensation (1.5 percent times 112 months, divided by 12), and the retirement system otherwise meets the requirements of this revenue procedure and section 31.3121(b)(7)-2(e) of the regulations, the participant is a qualified participant in the plan within the meaning of section 31.3121(b)(7)-2(d)(1) for the entire first month of the plan year.

Example 3. Assume the same facts as in Example 1, except that, instead of crediting only whole years of participation for accrual purposes, the retirement system credits only service during plan years in which a participant has at least 1,000 hours of service. Thus, as in Example 1, the participant has 9 years of credited service at the beginning of the plan year. If at all times during the plan year prior to meeting the 1,000-hour requirement the employee has a total accrued benefit of at least 13.5 percent of his or her highest average compensation (1.5 percent times 9 years), and at all times during the plan year after meeting the 1,000-hour requirement the employee has a total accrued benefit of at least 15 percent of his or her highest average compensation (1.5 percent times 10 years), the employee will be treated as a qualified participant in the retirement system within the meaning of section 31.3121(b)(7)-2(d)(1) of the regulations throughout the plan year.

Section 4. Defined Benefit Retirement Systems with Benefit Formulas Not Described in the Safe Harbors of Section 3

.01 In general.

A defined benefit retirement system that calculates benefits under a formula that does not meet one of the safe harbor formulas described in section 3 of this revenue procedure meets the minimum retirement benefit requirement with respect to an employee if the employee's accrued benefit as of the date of the determination is at least as great as the

accrued benefit the employee would have if his or her accrued benefit had been calculated under the safe harbor formula in section 3.01(l). In determining whether this requirement is satisfied, the additional requirements set forth in section 3.03 must be taken into account. The rules in this paragraph are illustrated by the following example:

Example. A defined benefit plan maintained by a political subdivision and described in section 457(b) of the Code provides only for single sum distributions and thus does not meet the requirements of any of the defined benefit safe harbor formulas. The plan may still meet the minimum retirement benefit requirement with respect to an employee if it provides a single sum with respect to such employee that is the actuarial equivalent (using reasonable actuarial assumptions) of a single life annuity meeting the requirements of section 3.01(1).

.02 Treatment of past service credit.

In determining whether an employee's accrued benefit under a defined benefit retirement system that calculates benefits under a formula that does not meet one of the defined benefit safe harbor formulas is at least as great as the accrued benefit the employee would have if his or her accrued benefit had been calculated under the safe harbor formula in section 3.01(1), a retirement system may ignore periods of service by an employee with the employer prior to his or her commencement of participation in the retirement system, notwithstanding the additional rules relating to credited service in section 3.03(2). If such periods of service are ignored, however, any accrued benefits attributable to such period of service must also be ignored. The rule in this paragraph is illustrated by the following example:

Example: An employee begins to participate in a retirement system in the employee's fifth year of service. The retirement system provides credit for all past service with the employer. Assume the retirement system does not provide benefits under a formula that meets the requirements of any of the safe harbors. The employee must be treated as being in the employee's fifth year of credited service if benefits attributable to the past service are to be taken into account in comparing the benefit under the retirement system to the benefit the employee would have under the safe harbor formula of section 3.01(1) to determine whether the minimum retirement benefit requirement is met.

Section 5. Employees with Multiple Positions or Who Participate in Certain Retirement Systems

See section 31.3121(b)(7)-2(e)(2)(iv) and (v) of the regulations for rules to be used in determining the service, compensation and benefits taken into account for purposes of this revenue procedure in the case of employees who are employed in more than one position with the employer, and employees who are participants in retirement systems maintained by more than one employer, respectively.

Section 6. Effective Date

This revenue procedure is effective with respect to service performed after July 1, 1991.