Intermediate Accounting II (ACC 306)
Professor Rick Kwan
September 29, 2010
There are several different types of employment compensation. Salaries and wages that people earn while they are working provide immediate compensation for services provided and are a key factor in managing one’s day to day life. However, there are also various types of compensation that one can earn from employment after they have retired from a company. The purpose of these post-retirement benefits is to ensure livelihood for a person when they are no longer able to work. A pension is one such plan. A pension is an arrangement—paid in regular installments--to provide people with an income when they are no longer earning a regular income from employment. The goal of pension plans is accomplished by setting aside funds during the years that an employee is working and making those funds along with earnings from investing those funds available when retirement occurs. A pension created by an employer for the benefit of an employee is commonly referred to as an occupational or an employer pension and for tax reasons, are usually advantageous to the employer and employee. Favorable tax treatment is an added benefit of pension plans established under specific guidelines. Employers earn special tax deductions while employees are only taxed on the fund contributions after retirement occurs. There are other mutual benefits as well. An employee with a pension plan often feels a sense of retirement security that will cause them to work harder and stay at their job longer. Increased productivity and decreased turnover as a result of sufficient retirement plan offerings enhances a company’s competitive ranking in the labor market. Pension plans may be classified as either defined benefit or defined contribution plans depending on how the benefits are determined. Defined contribution plans are plans in which the employer agrees to contribute a fixed amount to the employee’s pension fund each year that the employee is employed. Retirement benefits are contingent on how much money the plan accumulated during employment and the return of investment of those funds. Employers offer designated options for employees to choose where their funds are invested such as stocks or fixed income securities. 401(k) plans offered by private sector employees and 403(b) plans offered by public and non-profit employers are two types of defined contribution plans. In a defined benefit plan the contract between employer and employee states that the employer contributes a specific amount to a pension fund and at retirement pays the employee a fixed monthly income for life. The benefit on retirement in this plan is determined by a set formula. This formula is usually either a dollar times service or final average pay calculation, or a combination of both. Sometimes the age of the employee is a factor as well. In this arrangement, it is up to the employer to ensure that the funds are available to provide the benefits to employees once they retire. In addition to the burden of being completely financially responsible for funding this type of plan there are other reasons for which defined benefit plans have lost their popularity. Three main reasons are the fact that government regulations make administering the plan costly and cumbersome, employers have become more interested in attracting new talent as opposed to building long-term loyalty and there are several market risks that go along with the company’s obligation to contribute to the plan. Kilgour (2007) discussed many of the issues surrounding pension plan funding and the creation of the Pension Protection Act of 2006. The Bush administration proposed an overhaul of pension law that served to strengthen pension plan funding and protect the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) by increasing the cost of employer contributions. The requirements outlined added...