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REGULATION/LEGISLATION

PSCA officials cautiously optimistic Washington proposals won’t harm retirement plans

Plan Sponsor Council of America officials say they remain hopeful yet vigilant that proposed changes in federal tax policy and/or regulations won't harm sponsors.

“We are doing everything we can to educate lawmakers in Washington,” Kenneth Raskin, the newly elected chairman of the PSCA board, said Tuesday.

Mr. Raskin and several members of PSCA held a news conference at the PSCA's annual national conference professing cautious optimism that tax and regulatory proposals in Washington won't have a negative impact on the retirement industry.

“We hope there won't be a fight,” said Mr. Raskin. “Right now, there isn't.” He was referring to a tax proposal from President Donald Trump that appears to retain deductions for retirement savings, home ownership and charitable donations, while other deductions would be eliminated.

Given the potential complexity of tax reform, “We want to be prepared,” Mr. Raskin said.

PSCA is a founding member of the Save Our Savings Coalition, created in early April by prominent players in the retirement industry such as the American Benefits Council, Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association and Employee Benefit Research Institute to explain to legislators the importance of tax benefits to promote retirement savings.

Having “more than one voice is more effective” in efforts to protect retirement plans during debates about taxation and regulation, said Mr. Raskin, who is a New York-based partner in the King & Spalding law firm and chairman of the firm's employee benefits and executive compensation practice.

“Everybody is optimistic but cautious about protecting” the retirement industry's tax benefits, said David Levine, a principal at the Groom Law Group, which is PSCA's Washington lobbyist as well as an adviser to the Save Our Savings Coalition.

Mr. Raskin said PSCA didn't have any immediate concerns about the Labor Department's recent decision to delay by 60 days implementation of the fiduciary rule.

“I don't see any harm” giving sponsors a few more months to better study the potential impact now scheduled to take effect June 9 instead of April 10.

Because different service providers are “going down different roads” in deciding how to offer services based on the fiduciary rule — distinguishing between fiduciary advice and non-fiduciary information — “sponsors are caught in the middle,” said Mr. Levine.

Several PSCA executives agreed that whatever the final form of the fiduciary rule, the prolonged process has given sponsors an opportunity to better study — and ask questions about — service providers' contracts.

Regardless of what happens in Washington, Mr. Raskin said one of PSCA's goals is expanding its services beyond its original mandate for 401(k) plans and profit-sharing plans. “PSCA is evolving,” said Mr. Raskin. The organization has been conducting surveys and offering best-practices information to non-qualified deferred compensation plans for several years, and it recently turned its attention to health savings accounts, creating an HSA committee and issuing its first survey of HSA practices.