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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR data is current as of February 25, 2020

Title 29Subtitle BChapter XXVSubchapter BPart 2510 → §2510.3-55


Title 29: Labor
PART 2510—DEFINITION OF TERMS USED IN SUBCHAPTERS C, D, E, F, G, AND L OF THIS CHAPTER


§2510.3-55   Definition of employer—Association Retirement Plans and other multiple employer pension benefit plans.

(a) In general. The purpose of this section is to clarify which persons may act as an “employer” within the meaning of section 3(5) of the Act in sponsoring a multiple employer defined contribution pension plan (hereinafter “MEP”). The Act defines the term “employee pension benefit plan” in section 3(2), in relevant part, as any plan, fund, or program established or maintained by an employer, employee organization, or by both an employer and an employee organization, to the extent by its express terms or as a result of surrounding circumstances such plan, fund, or program provides retirement income to employees or results in a deferral of income by employees for periods extending to the termination of covered employment or beyond. For purposes of being able to establish and maintain an employee pension benefit plan within the meaning of section 3(2), an “employer” under section 3(5) of the Act includes any person acting directly as an employer, or any person acting indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee benefit plan. A group or association of employers is specifically identified in section 3(5) of the Act as a person able to act directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer, including for purposes of establishing or maintaining an employee benefit plan. A bona fide group or association of employers (as defined in paragraph (b) of this section) and a bona fide professional employer organization (as described in paragraph (c) of this section) shall be deemed to be able to act in the interest of an employer within the meaning of section 3(5) of the Act by satisfying the criteria set forth in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, respectively.

(b)(1) Bona fide group or association of employers. For purposes of title I of the Act and this chapter, a bona fide group or association of employers capable of establishing a MEP shall include a group or association of employers that meets the following requirements:

(i) The primary purpose of the group or association may be to offer and provide MEP coverage to its employer members and their employees; however, the group or association also must have at least one substantial business purpose unrelated to offering and providing MEP coverage or other employee benefits to its employer members and their employees. For purposes of satisfying the standard of this paragraph (b)(1)(i), as a safe harbor, a substantial business purpose is considered to exist if the group or association would be a viable entity in the absence of sponsoring an employee benefit plan. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(1)(i), a business purpose includes promoting common business interests of its members or the common economic interests in a given trade or employer community and is not required to be a for-profit activity;

(ii) Each employer member of the group or association participating in the plan is a person acting directly as an employer of at least one employee who is a participant covered under the plan;

(iii) The group or association has a formal organizational structure with a governing body and has by-laws or other similar indications of formality;

(iv) The functions and activities of the group or association are controlled by its employer members, and the group's or association's employer members that participate in the plan control the plan. Control must be present both in form and in substance;

(v) The employer members have a commonality of interest as described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section;

(vi) The group or association does not make plan participation through the association available other than to employees and former employees of employer members, and their beneficiaries; and

(vii) The group or association is not a bank or trust company, insurance issuer, broker-dealer, or other similar financial services firm (including a pension recordkeeper or third-party administrator), or owned or controlled by such an entity or any subsidiary or affiliate of such an entity, other than to the extent such an entity, subsidiary or affiliate participates in the group or association in its capacity as an employer member of the group or association.

(2) Commonality of interest. (i) Employer members of a group or association will be treated as having a commonality of interest if either:

(A) The employers are in the same trade, industry, line of business or profession; or

(B) Each employer has a principal place of business in the same region that does not exceed the boundaries of a single State or a metropolitan area (even if the metropolitan area includes more than one State).

(ii) In the case of a group or association that is sponsoring a MEP under this section and that is itself an employer member of the group or association, the group or association will be deemed for purposes of paragraph (b)(2)(i)(A) of this section to be in the same trade, industry, line of business, or profession, as applicable, as the other employer members of the group or association.

(c)(1) Bona fide professional employer organization. A professional employer organization (PEO) is a human-resource company that contractually assumes certain employer responsibilities of its client employers. For purposes of title I of the Act and this chapter, a bona fide PEO is capable of establishing a MEP. A bona fide PEO is an organization that meets the following requirements:

(i) The PEO performs substantial employment functions on behalf of its client employers that adopt the MEP, and maintains adequate records relating to such functions;

(ii) The PEO has substantial control over the functions and activities of the MEP, as the plan sponsor (within the meaning of section 3(16)(B) of the Act), the plan administrator (within the meaning of section 3(16)(A) of the Act), and a named fiduciary (within the meaning of section 402 of the Act), and continues to have employee-benefit-plan obligations to MEP participants after the client employer no longer contracts with the organization.

(iii) The PEO ensures that each client employer that adopts the MEP acts directly as an employer of at least one employee who is a participant covered under the MEP; and

(iv) The PEO ensures that participation in the MEP is available only to employees and former employees of the PEO and client employers, employees and former employees of former client employers who became participants during the contract period between the PEO and former client employers, and their beneficiaries.

(2) Safe harbor criteria for substantial employment functions. For purposes of paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section, whether a PEO performs substantial employment functions on behalf of its client employers is determined on the basis of the facts and circumstances of the particular situation. As a safe harbor, a PEO shall be considered to perform substantial employment functions on behalf of its client-employers that adopt the MEP if it meets the following criteria with respect to each client-employer employee that participates in the MEP—

(i) The PEO assumes responsibility for and pays wages to employees of its client-employers that adopt the MEP, without regard to the receipt or adequacy of payment from those client employers;

(ii) The PEO assumes responsibility for and reports, withholds, and pays any applicable federal employment taxes for its client employers that adopt the MEP, without regard to the receipt or adequacy of payment from those client employers;

(iii) The PEO plays a definite and contractually specified role in recruiting, hiring, and firing workers of its client-employers that adopt the MEP, in addition to the client-employer's responsibility for recruiting, hiring, and firing workers. A PEO is considered to satisfy this standard if it recruits, hires, and fires, assumes responsibility for recruiting, hiring, and firing, or retains the right to recruit, hire, and fire workers of its client-employers that adopt the MEP, in addition to the client-employer's responsibility for recruiting, hiring, and firing workers; and

(iv) The PEO assumes responsibility for and has substantial control over the functions and activities of any employee benefits which the service contract may require the PEO to provide, without regard to the receipt or adequacy of payment from those client employers for such benefits.

(d) Dual treatment of working owners as employers and employees. (1) A working owner of a trade or business without common law employees may qualify as both an employer and as an employee of the trade or business for purposes of the requirements in paragraph (b) of this section, including the requirement in paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section that each employer member of the group or association adopting the MEP must be a person acting directly as an employer of one or more employees who are participants covered under the MEP, and the requirement in paragraph (b)(1)(vi) of this section that the group or association does not make participation through the group or association available other than to certain employees and former employees and their beneficiaries.

(2) The term “working owner” as used in this paragraph (d) means any person who a responsible plan fiduciary reasonably determines is an individual:

(i) Who has an ownership right of any nature in a trade or business, whether incorporated or unincorporated, including a partner or other self-employed individual;

(ii) Who is earning wages or self-employment income from the trade or business for providing personal services to the trade or business; and

(iii) Who either:

(A) Works on average at least 20 hours per week or at least 80 hours per month providing personal services to the working owner's trade or business, or

(B) In the case of a MEP described in paragraph (b) of this section, if applicable, has wages or self-employment income from such trade or business that at least equals the working owner's cost of coverage for participation by the working owner and any covered beneficiaries in any group health plan sponsored by the group or association in which the individual is participating or is eligible to participate.

(3) The determination under this paragraph (d) must be made when the working owner first becomes eligible for participation in the defined contribution MEP and continued eligibility must be periodically confirmed pursuant to reasonable monitoring procedures.

(e) Severability. (1) If any provision of this section is held to be invalid or unenforceable by its terms, or as applied to any person or circumstance, or stayed pending further agency action, the provision shall be construed so as to continue to give the maximum effect to the provision permitted by law, unless such holding shall be one of complete invalidity or unenforceability, in which event the provision shall be severable from this section and shall not affect the remainder thereof.

(2) Examples. (i) If any portion of paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section (containing the substantial business purpose requirement) is found to be void in a manner contemplated by paragraph (e)(1) of this section, then the whole of paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section shall be construed as follows: “The group or association must be a viable entity in the absence of offering and providing MEP coverage or other employee benefits to its employer members and their employees.”

(ii) If any portion of paragraph (d) of this section (containing the “working owner” provision) is found to be void in a manner contemplated by paragraph (e)(1) of this section, such a decision does not impact the ability of a bona fide group or association to meet the “commonality of interest” requirement in paragraph (b)(2) of this section by being located in the same geographic locale.

[84 FR 37543, July 31, 2019]

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