Benefits And Compensation

Pandemic Spurs Midyear Adjustments to Retirement Plans


Many employers looking for price financial savings within the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic naturally have begun scrutinizing their contributions to advantages, corresponding to retirement plans. The foundations for making adjustments to retirement plan phrases—and allow reductions in employer contributions—are complicated, however new steerage quickly lets you scale back or droop secure harbor contributions midyear.

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Protected Harbor Retirement Plans

Below the foundations governing certified retirement plans (corresponding to a 401(ok) or 403(b) plans), contributions and advantages should not discriminate in favor of extremely compensated workers (HCEs). Annually a plan should undergo varied exams for all contributors, together with the precise deferral proportion (ADP) take a look at and the precise contribution proportion (ACP) take a look at, which measure how evenly all workers are taking part. Particularly, the exams assess whether or not participation within the plan or advantages discriminates within the HCEs’ favor.

If a plan opts to be a secure harbor plan, nonetheless, it’s exempted from annual ACP and ADP testing. Protected harbor plans make both an annual matching contribution or nonelective employer contribution. The set quantity is 3% of compensation, and it should be made on behalf of every eligible worker who isn’t an HCE.

Topic to sure necessities, a plan containing secure harbor contributions additionally might embrace contributions that aren’t secure harbor. For instance, a secure harbor plan that makes an annual 3% nonelective employer contribution to non-HCEs might have an identical provision as properly or supply greater than 3% every year with out compromising the secure harbor testing exemption.

A plan’s secure harbor standing eases administrative complexity and permits plan sponsors to observe a set system to make sure all workers are benefiting.

Midyear Reductions

As soon as a plan has adopted secure harbor matching or nonelective contributions, it might not make midyear adjustments that take away the secure harbor until:

  • The employer is working at an financial loss for the plan yr; or
  • The plan included a press release in its annual discover (earlier than the start of the plan yr) that it might be amended in the course of the plan yr to scale back or droop secure harbor matching contributions and that the discount or suspension received’t apply till no less than 30 days in any case eligible workers obtain discover of the change.

In case your plan meets one of many standards, then you might amend it midyear supplied you ship workers a supplementary discover of the secure harbor change. The change can’t be applied till the later of the date of the modification or 30 days after workers obtain the supplemental discover.

The aim is to offer workers sufficient discover to alter deferral elections based mostly on the elimination of a match or nonelective contribution. The plan additionally should be amended to supply that the ADP take a look at will likely be glad for all the plan yr wherein the discount or suspension happens utilizing the present yr testing technique.

COVID-19-Permitted Midyear Reductions or Suspensions

On March 13, President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration in response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Division of the Treasury and the IRS have issued steerage suspending sure deadlines. For instance, Discover 2020-51, which was launched on June 23, prolonged the 60-day rollover interval for sure distributions to August 31.

Because the disaster has continued, monetary challenges have prompted many employers to scale back or droop contributions to retirement plans to allow them to meet payroll and different working prices. Some employers are contemplating lowering contributions, eradicating secure harbor contributions, or reducing contributions to HCEs. Employers are questioning whether or not theses pandemic-related monetary challenges fulfill the “financial loss” requirement within the rule to amend plans mid-year to take away secure harbors.

Employers additionally didn’t foresee the pandemic initially of many plan years and subsequently failed to incorporate language about midyear adjustments required by the rule. Lastly, the timing provisions for adjustments could also be onerous for employers to look at as they wrestle by way of the pandemic.

To make clear all the issues, the DOT and the IRS issued short-term aid to employers clarifying that contributions made for HCEs aren’t included within the definition of secure harbor contributions. You may make midyear adjustments to contributions made on their behalf with out breaking the secure harbor guidelines however should nonetheless present them with an up to date discover and election alternative.

Moreover, the IRS supplied employers with aid by permitting them to scale back or droop secure harbor contributions midyear whereas retaining participant protections. Below the short-term measures, you might amend the plan to scale back or droop secure harbor matching contributions or secure harbor nonelective contributions throughout a plan yr if the modification is adopted between March 13 and August 31.

Below that state of affairs, the plan received’t be handled as failing to fulfill the normal necessities addressed above that the employer (1) is working at a loss or (2) included discover earlier than the plan yr that the secure harbor would possibly change and wouldn’t apply till 30 days after receiving discover.

Backside Line

At the moment, a plan may be amended midyear to take away the secure harbor with out assembly the above necessities. If a plan is amended to take away a secure harbor nonelective employer contribution, nonetheless, it should present a supplemental discover by August 31, and the modification should be adopted no later than the efficient date of the discount or suspension of the secure harbor.

If a plan is lowering or suspending an identical contribution, it should nonetheless present a supplemental discover permitting for implementation 30 days after you present the discover.

Margaret Platzer is an legal professional with Dinse P.C. in Burlington, Vermont. She may be reached at

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