After December's federal budget deal brought significant premium increases for pension plan sponsors, some good news came from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) last month. The agency took a step forward in making its premium rules "more effective and less burdensome" by setting one premium due date for large plans.
In the past, pension plans with 500 or more participants faced one due date early in the fiscal year for their flat-rate premiums and a separate due date, later in the year, for their variable-rate premiums. Now both premiums are due at the same time—October 15 for calendar-year plans. The change applies to both single-employer and multi-employer plans, and it is in effect for plan years starting January 1, 2014, or later.
Flat-rate premiums used to be due on February 28 for calendar-year plans, but plan sponsors usually didn't have a final participant count by that date. Thus, they would pay their premium based on an estimate of how much they owed. If the number of participants in the plan changed in the subsequent seven and a half months, they would have to reconcile the participant count they used for the February premium payment with the final count, filing and possibly paying an additional premium on October 15.
Using a single filing and due date will save companies from this hassle. It will also give pension plans nearly eight more months to invest the money they owe for their flat-rate premium.
"Plans are no longer required to make estimated premium payments or filings," says Serena Simons, senior vice president and national retirement practice leader for Sibson Consulting. "This ruling is a welcome change because it simplifies plan administration going forward, and also because it allows trustees to have the money to use for a longer period of the plan year, given the single premium payment amount is not adjusted for the time value of money."