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willingly paid the price of starting a program In addition, plans were established for nonunion employees to assure parity with unionized coworkers In companies without unions, plans were developed to ward off organization drives As the economic pie grew, the one-company worker came to expect that he would be rewarded with a secure retirement for his loyal and long service He was not disappointed By the dawn of the congressional debates that culminated in the passage of pension reform legislation in 1974, pension plans had been adopted by virtually all established large and medium-sized companies Pension coverage is still spotty, however, in smaller companies that operate on thin margins Small professional corporations maintained a proliferation of pension plans as tax shelters during the 1980s Accumulation of assets and tax savings for the proprietor(s) are the usual goals of these plans In many ways federal pension regulation has been driven by tax authorities desire to correct perceived abuses in this segment of the pension system (iii) The Present The private system is currently under signi cant pressure from external forces Through repeated changes over the past two decades, the federal government is reducing available tax incentives and increasing administrative complexity and, therefore, compliance costs Foreign competition, corporate restructuring and downsizing, and growing merger activity have caused many companies to rethink their pension policies Changes in the makeup of the labor force are also affecting the makeup of pension programs For now, change in plan design and types of plans used for providing retirement income are the only discernible trends in the responses of plan sponsors Plans such as 401(k) and thrift or matching programs are becoming an increasingly important part of plan sponsors deferred compensation policies Younger employees prefer these savings plans because of their visibility, and the predictability of their annual costs appeals to many employers In response to this preference, some companies are changing their traditional de ned bene t pension plans to a cash balance plan, a hybrid de ned bene t plan that has features of both traditional de ned bene t pension plans and 401(k)-type de ned contribution plans (c) PLAN ADMINISTRATION Employers still establish plans to affect the age composition of its workforce by providing income security during employees retirement years A plan s level of bene t and other important features such as early retirement provisions balance the sponsor s management goals and cost tolerance Once a program is established, its administration is dictated by speci c plan language, which in turn is affected signi cantly by federal law The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) established minimum standards applicable to virtually all employee plans Certain unfunded nonquali ed plans are exempted Through a succession of amendments since 1974, the original legal standards have been modi ed and are now considerably more detailed Employers are not required to start pension plans but, once established, ERISA limits a sponsor s freedom in changing bene ts or options The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) administers most of the minimum standards, including participation, funding, and vesting and accrual of bene ts The Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for the duciary and reporting and disclosure requirements In addition, the DOL assists participants by investigating alleged infractions and by bringing civil action to enforce compliance, if necessary The Pension Bene t Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) administers the termination insurance program established by ERISA Plan administration can be viewed as three functions: operation, communication, and compliance Operating a plan in accordance with its terms requires maintaining suf cient data to determine the proper apportionment of bene ts to participants, the calculations needed to apply bene ts, and an appropriate level of contributions Communicating information about bene ts to participants assists employees retirement planning and enhances loyalty Compliance activities include adopting amendments to conform plans to changing federal requirements and to ERISA s reporting and disclosure requirements The latter include annual and other reporting to the three pension regulatory agencies and to plan participants
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