ERISA, take me back to 1982

I’m a big NBA fan, and I love those time traveling Kia commercials featuring Blake Griffin, the All Star forward of the Los Angeles Clippers.He’s in his Kia Optima and says,

"Kia, take me back to 1992."

There he meets himself and learns valuable life lessons.

I can also imagine time traveling. Not with a Kia but with ERISA; not to 1992 but to 1982; and not to learn valuable life lessons – though that wouldn’t be so bad.

Instead to go back to that year in which Congress passed tax legislation, the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) in which benefit reductions and other restrictions were added to the tax laws. The first such pull backs since ERISA was passed in 1974.

TEFRA was soon followed in 1984 by the Deficit Reduction Act (DEFRA) which added further restrictions.

So now let’s go back to the present when retirement benefits are a chip in the politics of budget reduction, tax reform, or whatever you choose to call it. Yesterday’s announcement of the President’s budget proposed a cap on retirement savings with the White House claiming that some people are saving ‘more than is needed’ for retirement.

Let’s not go there from either a political or philosophical standpoint. Consider the historical approach.

When tax reform and deficit reduction became part of the political debate in the early 1980s, many employers considering benefit increases or even whether to adopt a plan did so before the laws were changed.

If you’re an employer in that situation today, talk to your tax advisor now.


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