House approves retirement-savings bill that eases use of annuities in workplace plans

Supporters hope Senate will move similar legislation to increase chances in lame-duck session

Sep 27, 2018 @ 4:34 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Legislation approved by the House of Representatives Thursday would make it easier for employers to include annuities in workplace retirement plans.

The provision, which clarifies how firms can satisfy their fiduciary responsibilities when selecting annuity providers, was added to the Family Savings Act, a bill that is part of the so-called Tax Reform 2.0. That package also includes bills that would permanently extend many individual tax breaks enacted in last year's tax reform legislation.

The Family Savings Act passed mostly along party lines, 240-177. On Friday, the House is set to complete action on the tax reform package, which has little chance of overcoming Democratic objections in the Senate.

But supporters of the annuities safe harbor are hoping the Senate will advance legislation known as the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act, which was introduced by the chairman and top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

The annuities policy, which is part of RESA, could then be viable in House and Senate negotiations potentially during a lame-duck session after the midterm elections.

"We're encouraging that discussion to take place," said Paul Richman, vice president of government affairs at the Insured Retirement Institute. "If there is a conference committee, that provision has an excellent chance of surviving."

The annuities amendment was tacked onto the Family Savings Act after insurance company executives urged House lawmakers to include it. The bill also would make it easier for small businesses to band together to offer retirement-savings plans and would relax minimum distribution requirements in individual retirement accounts.

Although RESA has garnered bipartisan support in the Senate — and a House bill that would provide an annuity safe harbor in 401k plans also has bipartisan co-sponsors — the Family Savings Act hit Democratic resistance in the House Thursday as a result of other provisions, such as a universal savings account.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said that the accounts would mostly benefit the wealthy.

"They are leaving families that are struggling to make ends meet behind," Mr. Doggett said during the House floor debate.

But Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., said that the Family Savings Act would "give every American the tools they need to save for their retirement."

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