Washington Update—Tax Reform 2013

| October 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

ASPPA Gets Ready to Save 401(k)s from Tax Reform

ASPPA News from the Field
2012 ASPPA Annual Conference

WASHINGTON (October 29, 2012)—Leading with a bullhorn and a battle cry, The American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries’ Executive Director and CEO Brian Graff called on attendees of the 2012 ASPPA Annual Meeting to marshal their resources and get ready for what lies ahead—namely tax reform—and don’t allow history to repeat itself.

“I want to take you back 26 years ago to 1986,” said Graff. “Ronald Reagan was in office. And just like today, the federal government was in dire need of tax reform in order to raise revenue.

Many of you remember those days; and if you were working in this business back then, you certainly remember those days. 401k plans got whacked by 70 percent. Businesses terminated plans. ASPPA members lost their jobs and businesses. And unfortunately, our industry—and especially ASPPA—just wasn’t prepared. But it didn’t have to be that way.”

Toward that end, Graff announced the launch of the “SaveMy401k – Protect My Piggy!” campaign. Its goal is to send 250,000 emails to members of congress that say, “Stay away from my 401k!”

“Campaigns of this scope usually cost millions of dollars. We don’t have that,” said Graff. “What we do have is a strong, passionate membership. You guys—each one of you—has a network that touches providers, sponsors, and participants. Together, your networks reach millions of Americans. Our plan is to use social media to energize our membership base, and then reach out to the masses. This is an emotional issue. Social media works best when emotion is involved.”

ASPPA has hired the Beekeeper Group, one of the top social media firms in the country, based in DC. The plan is to have all the necessary tools in place so ASPPA members can help push the message. The tools include:

  • A website:  www.savemy401k.com
  • Specific content that will drive people to the site and get them talking virally. The site features:
    1. A simple, automated way to send an email to your Member of Congress. It’s simple and quick to use with a generic message that can be customized.
    2. A brief animated video that shows—simply and with a little humor—what Congress is up to and why everyone with a 401k plan needs to send them a message.
    3. A video game called “Protect My Piggy!” that’s based on the old PacMan game.
    4. Plus great information that shows why the 401k save-at-work strategy is so successful in helping America—and especially middle America—save for a secure retirement.
  • A Facebook page (with the game, etc) where members can “Like” the campaign.
  • A Google Plus page, which is just like a Facebook page.
  • A Twitter account.
  • An online Member Kit that tells members everything they need to know about how to get involved in this campaign.

“The strategy is to mobilize ASPPA members now and have everyone ready to reach out to their networks before Congress reconvenes in January,” Graff said. “We want Congress to feel our heat before they get immersed in tax reform. We need to educate them about why they should NOT mess with the 401k when seeking new sources of revenue.”

In addition, Judy Miller, ASPPA’s director of retirement policy and executive director of ACOPA, ran down the various federal and state legislative initiatives that are aimed as “simplifying” the retirement system.

“Simplification, such as combining different types of plans into a single design,  isn’t always productive,” Miller said. “The theory is that consolidating options simplifies, eliminates confusion, and expands coverage. The reality is that it reduces options and coverage. Flexibility in design helps sell plans, it’s not an enemy of coverage.”

Craig Hoffman, ASPPA’s general counsel and director of regulatory affairs, updated ASPPA’s efforts in working with the IRS and DOL in making sure that new regulations aren’t onerous or counterproductive.

Hoffman said that Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) 2012-02 included new guidance with regard to plan provided brokerage windows.  FAQ 30 in FAB 2012 implied that fiduciaries may have responsibility for monitoring the investment choices made by participants through a brokerage window.

ASPPA met with DOL officials and pointed out that this position was a surprise to the retirement plans community and problematic coming so late in the regulatory process. ASPPA suggested that this issue would be better addressed in more formal rulemaking with public comment and economic analysis.  The DOL apparently agreed, as FAB 2012-02 was officially revised to remove the issue but with a promise to seek further comment in the future.

—Steve Sullivan
Editor, The 403(b) Advisor



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