We are receiving requests from a few multiemployer pension clients to estimate their withdrawal liability as they contemplate getting out of the pension business. One common problem that these clients experience is that the withdrawal liability they get from the pension fund is not as current as they thought it would be.
For example, a company is interested in withdrawing from the multiemployer plan sometime in 2011. They request a withdrawal liability estimate in November 2010 thinking they’ll receive the numbers early in 2011 and they will be 12/31/2010 liabilities. Instead, they receive December 31, 2009 liabilities early in 2011.
This problem above is tough to avoid, depending on the timing of when you want to get out of a multiemployer plan. Under PPA rules, a multiemployer plan administrator must furnish a withdrawal liability estimate within 180 days of an employer’s request. Requests can be made once per year, but the liability provided is calculated as of the end of the preceding plan year.
So, if you want to start preparing now for an early 2011 withdrawal then the most recent information you can get is as of 12/31/2009. However, if you wait until after January 1, 2011 to make the request (in order to get 12/31/2010 liabilities) then the administrator doesn’t have to provide it until the middle of 2011. Nevertheless, you have a couple of options:
- Provide the 12/31/2009 estimate to an actuary (along with some additional data) and they should be able give you a rough estimate of what the liability will be at a later date.
- Don’t bother with a request in November or December 2010 since deferring the request until January 2011 only delays the notification by a couple of months, but you will get liabilities that are much more recent. If you do make a request late in 2010, be sure to specify that you want a withdrawal liability estimate as of 12/31/2010 provided to you in 2011. This may help prevent the administrator from accidentally supplying you with the 12/31/2009 values that are already available.