Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Public Law (04/10/2004)

(This measure has not been amended since the Conference Report was filed in the House on April 1, 2004. The summary of that version is repeated here.)

Pension Funding Equity Act of 2004 - Title I: Pension Funding - (Sec. 101) Amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code (Code) to temporarily replace (for plan years 2004 and 2005) the 30-year Treasury rate with a rate based on long-term corporate bonds for certain pension plan funding requirements.

Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to: (1) determine the permissible range of such rate on the basis of two or more indices that are selected periodically from the the top three quality levels available; and (2) make such range public, as well as indices and methodology used to determine such weighted average rate.

(Sec. 102) Allows applicable employers to elect to make alternative deficit reduction contributions under ERISA and the Code. Defines applicable employers as: (1) commercial passenger airlines; (2) those primarily engaged in production or manufacture of steel mill products or the processing of iron ore pellets; or (3) a specified type of organization that established its plan on June 30, 1955. Allows such an employer, if the defined benefit plan met certain requirements in 2000, to elect an alternative type of increase for up to two plan years that begin after December 27, 2003, and before December 28, 2005. Restricts benefit increases during such applicable plan year unless specified conditions are met. Requires employers who elect such an alternative deficit reduction contribution to notify participants, beneficiaries, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).

(Sec. 103) Establishes ERISA requirements for multiemployer defined benefit plan funding notices. Requires plan administrators to send such notices to participants, beneficiaries, labor organizations, and employers for each plan year, within a specified time, form, and manner. Requires such notices to include information on: (1) the plan's funded current liability percentage; (2) the value of the plan's assets, the amount of benefit payments, and the ratio of the assets to the payments for the plan year; (3) rules governing insolvent multiemployer plans, including limitations on benefit payments, potential benefit reductions and suspensions, and potential effects on the plan; and (4) plan benefits eligible to be guaranteed by the PBGC, and circumstances limiting such guarantee. Directs the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations, including a model notice.

(Sec. 104) Permits, under ERISA and the Code, certain eligible multiemployer plan sponsors to elect to defer a charge for a portion of a net experience loss. Allows, with respect to such loss for the first plan year beginning after December 31, 2001, such deferral of up to 80 percent of the amount otherwise required to be charged for any plan year beginning after June 30, 2003, and before July 1, 2005, to any plan year selected by the plan from either of the two immediately succeeding plan years. Prohibits any plan amendments which increase plan liabilities by increasing benefits from taking effect during such deferral period, unless specified conditions are met.

Makes a multiemployer plan eligible to elect such deferral if: (1) it had a net investment loss (determined on the basis of actual loss) for the first plan year beginning after December 31, 2001, of at least ten percent of the average fair market value of its assets during the plan year; and (2) its enrolled actuary certifies, on the basis of the actuarial assumptions used for the last plan year ending before the enactment date of this Act, that it is projected to have an accumulated funding deficiency for any plan year beginning between June 30, 2003, and July 1, 2006. Makes a plan ineligible if: (1) any of its required employer contributors failed to timely pay an excise tax imposed on the plan, for any taxable year beginning during the preceding ten-year period; (2) the average contribution required to be made by all employers to it does not exceed ten cents per hour, or no employer is required to make contributions to it, for any plan year beginning after June 30, 1993; or (3) it was granted a specified waiver or an amortization period extension, for any plan year beginning after June 30, 1993.

Title II: Other Provisions - (Sec. 201) Provides for a special two-year extension, for plan years beginning in 2004 and 2005, of a transition rule, under the Retirement Protection Act of 1994, as amended by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, with respect to certain pension funding requirements under ERISA and the Code. Allows a certain defined benefit plan, in 2004 and 2005, to use a special mortality table in calculating funding liability and to be exempt from a deficit reduction contribution and variable premiums to the PBGC.

(Sec. 202) Sets forth a special ERISA procedure for certain disputes between a multiemployer plan sponsor and an employer involving pension plan withdrawal liability. Shifts, from the employer to the plan sponsor, the burden of proof that the employer created a subsidiary to avoid the employer's liability for plan termination, if: (1) the transaction occurred before January 1, 1999, and at least five years before the date of complete or partial withdrawal; and (2) the employer receives a certain notification under ERISA after October 31, 2003.

(Sec. 203) Expresses the sense of Congress that it must ensure the financial health of the defined benefit pension system by working to implement promptly: (1) a permanent replacement for the pension discount rate used for defined benefit pension plan calculations; and (2) comprehensive funding reforms, for all defined benefit pension plans, aimed at achieving accurate and sound pension funding

(Sec. 204) Extends, until December 31, 2013, Code and ERISA provisions permitting the transfer of excess pension assets to retiree health accounts.

(Sec. 205) Repeals a Code provision requiring reduction of the policyholder dividend deductions of mutual life insurance companies.

(Sec. 206) Revises the definition of small property and casualty insurance companies (insurance companies other than life insurance companies) exempt from income taxes to specify: (1) a company whose gross receipts for the taxable year do not exceed $600,000, and over half such gross receipts consist of premiums (currently, whose net written premiums (or, if greater, direct written premiums) for the taxable year do not exceed $350,000); or (2) a mutual insurance company (with certain exceptions) whose gross receipts of which for the taxable year do not exceed $150,000, and more than 35 percent of such gross receipts consist of premiums.

(Sec. 207) Declares that graduate medical resident matching programs do not violate Federal or State antitrust laws.