Isabel C. Safie

Partner

Tel: (951) 826-8309

Location(s)

At a Glance

Isabel advises clients on employee benefit programs, retirement programs and welfare benefit plans.

Her tax work primarily focuses on compliance with laws applicable to pension and health and welfare plans, tax-exempt entities and employment, income and excise taxes.

She serves on the board of directors for a nonprofit organization that helps talented, under-served students access top universities.
 

Best Best & Krieger LLP Partner Isabel Safie is a versatile attorney, whose practice focuses on employee benefits, including issues related to pensions and other post-employment benefits, as well as tax, with a focus on employment, income and excise taxes, and tax-exempt entities.

Employee Benefits
Isabel regularly counsels public and private sector clients on the design of employee benefit programs and issues presented by the retirement programs and welfare benefit plans they establish and maintain for their employees. She counsels clients on applicable tax requirements as well as fiduciary obligations under ERISA and state and local pension laws.

Isabel also works with public employers to identify their options, to modify or reduce the costs of pension and retiree health benefits under California’s “vested rights” doctrine. She works closely with CalPERS member agencies on a variety of issues, including helping them to understand the distinction between a common law employee and an independent contractor, and to comply with the rules on employing CalPERS retirees under PEPRA and the Public Employees’ Retirement Law. In addition, Isabel has substantial experience in designing tax-favored funding vehicles for post-retirement benefits and health benefits, such as Section 115 trusts, VEBAs, Section 125 cafeteria plans and health reimbursement arrangements for both private and public employers.

She has followed the trajectory of the Affordable Care Act since its adoption in 2010 and has counseled public and private clients on compliance with the various elements of the ACA that apply to employers. This experience has placed her in a position to guide her clients through the uncertainty that has been created around the ACA through the efforts to repeal and replace, or otherwise undermine, the ACA.

Tax Compliance
Isabel’s tax work primarily focuses on issues relating to compliance with federal, state and local laws applicable to pension and health and welfare plans, tax-exempt entities and employment, income and excise taxes.

Isabel regularly works with employers to navigate the often complicated and time consuming audits performed by the IRS, Employment Development Department, Board of Equalization and CalPERS. Her long-standing relationships with representatives of those agencies has proven fruitful for her clients. Her experience covers a vast array of tax compliance areas including pension and health and welfare plans, employment, income and excise taxes, and tax-exempt organizations. In particular, her familiarity with the Public Employees’ Retirement Law and CalPERS procedures has allowed her to work closely with CalPERS contracting agencies to conduct internal audits to minimize adverse findings from CalPERS.

Aside from the design and qualification issues associated with pension and health and welfare benefits, there are a variety of tax implications associated with these employee benefits. Isabel is well versed on the application of, and exemption from, the constructive receipt and assignment of income doctrines that can result in substantial liabilities. She understands the elements that must be present to distinguish between nontaxable, pre-tax, tax-deferred and taxable benefits and can guide clients to outcomes that avoid unintended tax liabilities.

Her experience in the tax-exempt area includes providing advice and assistance regarding the formation and exemption of nonprofits, governance issues, conflict of interest matters and charitable giving. She also provides general corporate counsel to tax-exempt entities, whether it be related to local, state or federal tax issues, or general corporate work including drafting or reviewing governance documents, employment agreements and conflict of interest policies.

Associations
Isabel serves on the board of directors for Quest Scholars Program, a nonprofit organization working to ensure that the nation’s most talented under-served students have access to the top universities in the United States. She is a member of the Riverside County Bar Association, the San Bernardino County Bar Association and the American Bar Association. Isabel is a graduate of Leadership Riverside. She is fluent in Spanish. Isabel is licensed to practice law in the State of California.

Education

  • University of California, Los Angeles, J.D.
  • Stanford University, B.A.


Awards

  • Diversity Journal Women Worth Watching, 2017
  • Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars List, Employee Benefits, 2015-2017

 

  • Represented the Oxnard Harbor District in obtaining a reversal from CalPERS on a determination that would have adversely affected the District.
  • Represented the Apple Valley Fire Protection District in securing a reduction in corrective measures following a CalPERS audit that resulted in adverse finding based on erroneous guidance in CalPERS regulations.



 
CalPERS Employers Dodge a Bullet
Legal Alerts Oct 2, 2018

CalPERS Employers Dodge a Bullet

SB 1124 Would Have Imposed Statutory Liability for Errors in CalPERS Reporting

70 Years of Pension Precedent Could Soon Be Weakened by the California Supreme Court
Authored Articles & Publications Aug 16, 2018

70 Years of Pension Precedent Could Soon Be Weakened by the California Supreme Court

Isabel Safie Provides Insight Into Lawsuits That May Have Significant Implications for Public Agencies Facing High Pension Costs in PublicCEO

Gov. Brown’s Executive Order Suspends Certain Retired Annuitant Employment Requirements
Legal Alerts Feb 6, 2018

Gov. Brown’s Executive Order Suspends Certain Retired Annuitant Employment Requirements

Modifications Needed for Disaster Response Staffing Levels

CalPERS Employers are Now Subject to Two New Penalties
Legal Alerts Feb 1, 2018

CalPERS Employers are Now Subject to Two New Penalties

New Laws Change Out-of-Class Appointments Requirements and Impose New Penalties in Connection with Retired Annuitant Employment

Best in Law: New Law Enables Small Employers to Resume Health Reimbursement Arrangements
Authored Articles & Publications Jan 9, 2017

Best in Law: New Law Enables Small Employers to Resume Health Reimbursement Arrangements

HRAs Eliminated Under ACA, Attorneys Isabel Safie and Katrina Veldkamp Explain in Press-Enterprise

21st Century Cures Act Permits Standalone HRAs for Small Employers
Legal Alerts Dec 19, 2016

21st Century Cures Act Permits Standalone HRAs for Small Employers

Takes Effect in 2017

Recent Guidance Expands on Affordable Care Act Implementation Rules
Legal Alerts Dec 18, 2015

Recent Guidance Expands on Affordable Care Act Implementation Rules

Changes Could Have a Significant Impact on Existing Benefit Programs

Best in Law: Employers need to heed Obamacare Reporting Rules
Authored Articles & Publications Mar 22, 2015

Best in Law: Employers need to heed Obamacare Reporting Rules

BB&K Partner Isabel Safie Writes About Obligations and Penalties Under the ACA for Employers in The Press-Enterprise

Charitable Hospital Organizations and the Affordable Care Act
Legal Alerts Mar 6, 2015

Charitable Hospital Organizations and the Affordable Care Act

Final Regulations Provide Guidance on Compliance with Complex Requirements

Congress Passes Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 and Retroactively Extends Tax Relief Provisions
Legal Alerts Dec 22, 2014

Congress Passes Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 and Retroactively Extends Tax Relief Provisions

Welcome Tax Relief Provided to Individuals and Businesses Extended through Calendar Year 2014

BB&K Webinar Dec 13, 2018

Annual Labor & Employment Update

BB&K Free Webinar

BB&K Webinar Oct 16, 2018

Out-of-Court Restructuring

Avoiding Municipal Bankruptcy Series

BB&K Webinar Sep 18, 2018

Pension Costs and Financial Pressure

Avoiding Municipal Bankruptcy Series

Partners Roger Crawford and Isabel Safie Named Top Labor & Employment Lawyers
Press Releases Jul 19, 2018

Partners Roger Crawford and Isabel Safie Named Top Labor & Employment Lawyers

Daily Journal Releases Annual List of 75

BB&K Webinar Jul 19, 2018

Update on Pension Litigation

Free BB&K Webinar

[WEBINAR] Update on Pension Litigation
Videos Jul 19, 2018

[WEBINAR] Update on Pension Litigation

BB&K Webinar

Congratulations to IELLA: Nonprofit of the Year
Press Releases Jun 14, 2018

Congratulations to IELLA: Nonprofit of the Year

BB&K is Proud to Support the Inland Empire Latino Lawyers Association

Isabel Safie and Jill Tremblay Return to 2018 So. Cal. Super Lawyers Rising Stars List
Press Releases Jun 7, 2018

Isabel Safie and Jill Tremblay Return to 2018 So. Cal. Super Lawyers Rising Stars List

The BB&K Attorneys Acknowledged Again for Practice Achievements

BB&K Event Apr 24, 2018

The Bill is Due: Now What? Infrastructure, Pensions and the Environment

A BB&K Premier Event

Perspectives: The Practical Effects of Today's Pension Programs
Videos Apr 24, 2018

Perspectives: The Practical Effects of Today's Pension Programs

The Bill is Due: Now What? Infrastructure, Pensions and the Environment

Legal Update: Is the California Rule in Flux?
Videos Apr 24, 2018

Legal Update: Is the California Rule in Flux?

The Bill is Due: Now What? Infrastructure, Pensions and the Environment

Event Feb 20-23, 2018

California Society of Municipal Finance Officers

Annual Conference

Settlement Reached with CalPERS on Behalf of Truckee
Client Successes Feb 15, 2018

Settlement Reached with CalPERS on Behalf of Truckee

BB&K Represented Town in Negotiations

BB&K Webinar Feb 13, 2018

Free Municipal Law Webinar Series from BB&K

Legal Issues that Matter Most to California Cities

BB&K Event Jan 18, 2018

BB&K Annual Labor & Employment Update 2018

Free BB&K Seminar

[WEBINAR] Labor & Employment Law: What Changed in 2017
Videos Jan 9, 2018

[WEBINAR] Labor & Employment Law: What Changed in 2017

BB&K Free Webinar

BB&K Event Jan 9, 2018

Labor & Employment Law: What Changed in 2017

BB&K Free Webinar

[WEBINAR] The Art of Reducing OPEB Liabilities
Videos Oct 19, 2017

[WEBINAR] The Art of Reducing OPEB Liabilities

BB&K Municipal Law Webinar Series

Connections the Key for Resolving CalPERS Issues
Client Successes Oct 5, 2017

Connections the Key for Resolving CalPERS Issues

BB&K Partner Isabel Safie Helped Two Public Agencies Overcome Problems

Isabel Safie Receives a Women Worth Watching Leadership Award
Press Releases Sep 7, 2017

Isabel Safie Receives a Women Worth Watching Leadership Award

The Profiles in Diversity Journal Recognizes BB&K Partner for “Impressive” Success

Event Aug 8, 2017

Public Sector Benefits 2017: Big Ticket Items You Need to Plan For

The Pun Group Accounting Conference

Event Jun 19, 2017

CalPERS Pension Liabilities: Trends, Budget Considerations, and Planning for the Future

Webinar with KPMG Advisory Institute

Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars 2017
Press Releases Jun 5, 2017

Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars 2017

Two BB&K Attorneys Included on Respected List

BB&K Event Jan 11, 2017

2017 Labor & Employment Update

8 a.m. - Noon

[WEBINAR] Annual Labor & Employment Update 2016
Videos Dec 9, 2016

[WEBINAR] Annual Labor & Employment Update 2016

New Legislation and Case Law Impacting California Employers

Event Nov 1-4, 2016

Play Hard. Play Fair. Play Together.

CALPELRA 2016 41st Annual Training Conference

Event Oct 10-13, 2016

California Special Districts Association

Annual Conference

Event Oct 5-7, 2016

LCC Annual Conference

League of California Cities

BB&K Attorney on 2016 Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars List
Press Releases Jun 7, 2016

BB&K Attorney on 2016 Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars List

Congratulations to Isabel Safie for Her Achievement

Event Jan 30, 2016

CALPERS and PEPRA

Independent Cities Association Winter Seminar

Event Oct 19-22, 2015

CALPELRA Adventure: In Search Of Labor Relations Knowledge

2015 CALPELRA Annual Conference

Press Releases Jun 12, 2015

Four BB&K Attorneys Named to 2015 Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars List

A Variety of Practice Areas Represented In This Year’s Selections

BB&K Event Dec 10, 2014

BB&K Webinar: Labor & Employment Update 2014

9:30 - 11:30 a.m. PT | Webinar

Press Releases Jan 7, 2014

BB&K Promotes Eight Attorneys in California and Washington, D.C. to Partner

Attorneys Focus on Environmental, Municipal, Business, Employee Benefits and Telecommunications Law

Presentations

  • “Ignorance is Not Bliss: Avoiding CalPERS Pitfalls and Unintended Liability”, PELRAC Annual Conference, Oct. 11, 2018
  • “BB&K Labor & Employment Webinar: Affordable Care Act,” BB&K Webinar, June 27, 2013
  • “Health Care Reform: The Eight-Month Countdown,” CSUSB, April 25, 2013
  • “Comprehensive Pension Reform is Here, Now What?,” CSDA Annual Conference, Sept. 25, 2012