Wannsee on the Potomac

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So it is when you do not want people to know what you are doing and apparently we have the same mentality when it comes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and those who make their living through them.

At this week’s Enrolled Actuaries meeting it was announced that the IRS had, independently of any public opinion, decided to stop issuing determination letters on individually designed pension plans. I took notes of that statement and also recorded Kyle N. Brown confirming that the decision was final and the discussion was now as to the ‘how’:

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I understood that the IRS had their funding problems but I considered such a radical departure from prior procedure taken unilaterally as beyond the pale.  And I was not the only one:

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I view this as an important policy issue open for debate but some would have it remain a secret only for insiders.  I got this email an hour ago:

Dear Mr. Bury,

 It has come to our attention that you have made personal recordings of the speakers at the 2015 Enrolled Actuaries Meeting without the permission of either the individual speakers or the joint sponsors of the Enrolled Actuaries Meeting.  This audio is currently being made available through your blog, Burypensions Blog.

 As your recording was made without the permission of the speakers or the sponsors, we are officially requesting that you remove the audio, and respond to this message once you have complied with this request.

 If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact me immediately.

 Sincerely,

cid:image003.jpg@01D05347.90158FE0

Matthew D. Noncek

Director of Continuing Education and Information Technology
Conference of Consulting Actuaries

3880 Salem Lake Drive, Suite H, Long Grove, IL 60047-5292

847-719-6500 | mnoncek@ccactuaries.org | www.ccactuaries.org | @CCActuaries

I paid to attend the meeting and also took notes which I have shared with you and others though I see an unedited recording as much fairer to the speakers than my interpretations of what they said so I posted the recordings.  Most sessions at this meeting were also recorded (the last meeting that there will be official recordings) so the purported intent was to have this information made public.

However I am finding out that when you are making some decisions (who to answer to or who to audit or who to throw into ovens) you want your privacy.

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on April 19, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    John apart from the recording issue what does this IRS decision mean in everyday terms ?
    Thx

    Reply

    • Thanks for asking. I was just thinking about that.

      In my vanilla-plan world – not much. Almost all my new plans are prototypes. But I see ramifications if the IRS starts (or continues) this on this path. In this order of importance (going from of almost no importance to critical):

      1) Of those 15,000 individually designed plans submitted annually there are, depending on the size of the plan, thousands of dollars in fees to attorneys to make that submission. That business dries up and you will eventually have a lot fewer professionals conversant with pension rules when you make it less lucrative for them to be so

      2) Innovation slows down significantly. What if it were 1981 and Ted Benna wanted to see if a 401(k) plan works? Could he do it through the prototype process? Again, considering the innovation we have gotten (age-weighting, new comparability, cash balance) it’s debatable whether slowing innovation is all that bad.

      3) The process itself. Should there not be a process to have comments and questions asked of the IRS before implementation of a significant policy change (as Mr. Holland suggested in the second recording)? How is the IRS allowed to unilaterally decide to go ahead without researching possible consequences. What if, to save money, they decide to stop auditing any tax return with income of over $10 million on the theory that those people could afford the best accountants and there would be nothing for the IRS to find?

      Reply

  2. Posted by Mike on April 20, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    John

    No doubt you are researching what if any laws might prohibit you from recording and then posting comments made by government employees in a public forum. My guess would be that you are well within your rights as a citizen.

    The fact that a functionary working at Conf Cons Actuaries declares his email to be an “official request,” whatever that means, is simply comic relief. Unless that group intends to sell copies of recordings, what is their complaint ?

    Reply

    • Mike,

      They do sell recordings of the meeting and I bought them in 2011 to get a clip for this blog:
      https://burypensions.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/new-jersey-a-terrible-place-on-which-to-base-pension-policy/
      It was announced at this meeting that they will no longer be recording these meetings starting next year for reasons not explained.

      I did get a response from that ‘functionary’ when I questioned why I had to take off the recordings:

      “Prior to recording sessions at the EA Meeting, we are required by law to obtain permission to record the session from all speakers. This is not an issue of policy. It is an issue of law.
      Again I ask that you please provide notice when you have complied with our request.”

      I then asked for a cite on the ‘law’ referred to and am awaiting response.

      I can understand that CCA should get permission of the speakers to record them since they will be making money off them by selling those recordings for profit (presumably). But I paid $1,250 for that conference (up from $975 in 2014) with no mention of any recording policy when I signed up. Thinking about it now, I did come to the microphone a couple of times during sessions that were recorded and I was not asked my permission to be recorded though I think I did give up my right to be photographed when I signed up.

      Scientologists probably aren’t this touchy about their privacy. Is going to ACOPA meetings better?

      Reply

      • Posted by Tough Love on April 20, 2015 at 2:42 pm

        Good move on asking them the cite the “law”. I doubt that such a “law” exists as applicable to this situation……. and your not getting a response (in due course) likely confirms that.

        I suggest that you again ask them to cite that law. Lack of a response assuredly suggests that no such applicable law exists.

        —————————————
        Reminiscent of your recording endeavors in Union County.

        Reply

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