IRS Announces Employee Plan Cost-Of-Living Adjustments


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced the cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to the compensation and contribution limits affecting individual retirement account, qualified defined benefit plan, qualified 401(k) and other defined contribution and defined benefit plan contributions under the Internal Revenue Code (Code) for 2015. Meanwhile, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) also released updated guaranteed benefit amounts that will apply under the pension benefit guarantee programs it administers for 2015.

Code COLAs for 2015

The 2015 COLA limits under the Code among other things determine what individuals are considered highly compensated and key  employees for purposes of the Code’s rules for qualified retirement plans, health plans, cafeteria plans, and certain other employee benefit plans, the amounts that employers and employee can contribute on a tax preferred basis a qualified retirement plan, and various other issues relating to the tax treatment of employee benefit plans.  The 2015 COLA amounts under the Code compared to those for 2014 and 2013 are as follows:

2015 2014 2013


IRA Contribution Limit $5,500 $5,500 $5,500
IRA Catch-Up Contributions 1,000 1,000 1,000

IRA AGI Deduction Phase-out Starting at

Joint Return 98,000 96,000 95,000
Single or Head of Household 61,000 60,000 59,000


SEP Minimum Compensation 600 550 550
SEP Maximum Contribution 53,000 52,000 51,000
SEP Maximum Compensation 265,000 260,000 255,000


SIMPLE Maximum Contributions 12,500 12,000 12,000
Catch-up Contributions 3,000 2,500 2,500

401(k), 403(b), Profit-Sharing Plans, etc.

Annual Compensation 265,000 260,000 255,000
Elective Deferrals 18,000 17,500 17,500
Catch-up Contributions 6,000 5,500 5,500
Defined Contribution Limits 53,000 52,000 51,000
ESOP Limits 1,070,000
1,050,000210,000 1,035,000205,000


HCE Threshold 120,000 115,000 115,000
Defined Benefit Limits 210,000 210,000 205,000
Key Employee 170,000 170,000 165,000
457 Elective Deferrals 18,000 17,500 17,500
Control Employee (board member or officer) 105,000 105,000 100,000
Control Employee (compensation-based) 215,000 210,000 205,000
Taxable Wage Base 118,500 117,000 113,700

Employer and other employee benefit plan sponsors, fiduciaries and administrators should update their plan documentation, enrollment and other communications, protocols for identifying and managing contributions for highly compensated and key employees, contribution and discrimination testing and other related programs and practices as well as notify employees and encourage them to take into account these adjusted limitations when making their upcoming benefit enrollment choices for the upcoming year.

2015 PBGC Maximum Insurance Benefit Level

The PBGC also updated its limits for 2015 today.  It employer plan has increased to $60,136 for 2015, up from $59,318 for 2014.   The increase is not retroactive. Payments to retirees whose plans terminated before 2015 will not change. The guarantee for multiemployer plans has not changed.

Single-Employer Plan Guarantee   The PBGC maximum guarantee for participants in single-employer plans is determined using a formula prescribed by federal law that calls for annual increases. The formula provides lower amounts for people who begin getting benefits from PBGC before age 65, reflecting the fact that they will receive more monthly pension checks over their expected lifetime. Conversely, amounts are higher for benefits starting at ages above 65. The formula also calls for reducing the amount for retirees who choose a payment form that continues benefits to a beneficiary after the retiree’s death.   The following table shows the maximum annual guarantee limits for 2015 for sample ages and payment forms. Amounts for other ages are posted on the Maximum Monthly Guarantees table on PBGC’s website.

Age Annual Maximum Single Life Annuity Annual Maximum Joint & 50% Survivor Annuity*
65 $60,136 $54,123
60 $39,098 $35,180
55 $27,061 $24,355
*Assumes both spouses are the same age. Different amounts apply if that is not the case

The limits shown above generally apply for participants whose plan terminates in 2015. However, if a plan terminates in 2015 as a result of a bankruptcy that began in an earlier year, the limits in effect for that earlier year apply.   In most cases, the single-employer PBGC guarantee is larger than the pension earned by people in such plans. In fact, according to a 2006 study, almost 85% of retirees receiving PBGC benefits at that time received the full amount of their earned benefit.(For more information, see the entry “Making Sense of the Maximum Insurance Benefit” in PBGC blog, Retirement Matters.)   The limits shown above represent the cap on what PBGC guarantees, not on what PBGC pays. In some cases, PBGC pays benefits above the guaranteed amount. Whether that happens depends on the retiree’s age and how much money was in the plan when it terminated.   For more information about how the single-employer guarantee works, see Pension Guarantees on

Multiemployer Plan Guarantee Limit   The PBGC maximum guarantee for participants in multiemployer plans is also based on a formula prescribed by federal law. Unlike the single-employer formula, the multiemployer guarantee is not indexed (i.e., it remains the same from year to year) and does not vary based on the retiree’s age or payment form. Unlike the single-employer formula, it varies based on the retiree’s length of service. In addition, the multiemployer guarantee structure has two tiers, providing 100% coverage up to a certain level and 75% coverage above that level. For a retiree with 30 years of service, the current annual limit is 100% of the first $3,960 and 75% of the next $11,760 for a total guarantee of $12,870. This limit has been in place since 2001.

About Author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

If you need help reviewing or updating your health benefit program for compliance or with any other employment, employee benefit, compensation or internal controls matter, please contact the author of this article, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefits Council, immediate past-Chair and current Welfare Benefit Committee Co-Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, the ABA TIPS Employee Benefit Plan Committee Vice Chair, former ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group Chair, past Southwest Benefits Association Board Member, Employee Benefit News Editorial Advisory Board Member, and a widely published speaker and author,  Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising businesses, plans, fiduciaries, insurers. plan administrators and other services providers,  and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, and tax program design, administration, defense and policy.   Nationally and internationally known for her creative and highly pragmatic knowledge and work on health benefit and insurance programs, Ms. Stamer’s  experience includes extensive involvement in advising and representing these and other clients on ACA and other health care legislation, regulation, enforcement and administration.

Widely published on health benefit and other related matters, Ms. Stamer’s insights and articles have been published by the HealthLeaders, Modern Health Care, Managed Care Executive, the Bureau of National Affairs, Aspen Publishers, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News, the Wall Street Journal, the American Bar Association, Aspen Publishers, World At Work, Spencer Publications, SHRM, the International Foundation, Solutions Law Press and many others.

For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see


For Added Information and Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

For Help Or More Information

If you need assistance in auditing or assessing, updating or defending your organization’s compliance, risk manage or other  internal controls practices or actions, please contact the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or at (469)767-8872.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, management attorney and consultant Ms. Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for more than 24 years of work helping employers and other management; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; and others design, administer and defend innovative workforce, compensation, employee benefit  and management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers implement, audit, manage and defend union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline and other workforce and internal controls policies, procedures and actions.  The Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee, a Council Representative on the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Government Affairs Committee Legislative Chair for the Dallas Human Resources Management Association, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer works, publishes and speaks extensively on management, reengineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, and related matters.  She also is recognized for her publications, industry leadership, workshops and presentations on these and other human resources concerns and regularly speaks and conducts training on these matters.Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see hereor contact Ms. Stamer directly.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources at

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile at here or e-mailing this information here.

©2014 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: