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Still Time for a 2020 Nonelective Safe Harbor Plan?

“Although it is already November, can my client amend her traditional 401(k) plan to be a safe harbor plan for 2020?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center (RLC) Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, stock options, and Social Security and Medicare.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with a financial advisor from Illinois is representative of a common inquiry related to safe harbor plans.

Highlights of the Discussion

Yes, but she must hurry. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019 relaxed the deadline for amending a 401(k) plan to add a safe harbor nonelective contribution for the current year.

Under Section 103 of the SECURE Act, plan sponsors may amend their plans to add a three percent safe harbor nonelective contribution at any time before the 30th day before the close of the plan year. The SECURE Act also did away with the mandatory participant notice requirement for this type of amendment.

Furthermore, amendments after that time would be allowed if the amendment provides

1) a nonelective contribution of at least four percent of compensation for all eligible employees for that plan year,

and

2) the plan is amended no later than the close of the following plan year.

EXAMPLE:

Safety First, Inc., maintains a calendar-year 401(k) plan. Based on the plan’s preliminary actual deferral percentage (ADP) test (which the plan is failing), Safety First decides a safe harbor plan is a good idea for 2020. It’s too late to add a safe harbor matching contribution for 2020. However, the business could add a three percent safe harbor nonelective contribution for the 2020 plan year (without prior participant notice) as long as Safety First amends its plan document prior to December 1, 2020. While Safety First still could add a nonelective safe harbor contribution to the plan for 2020 after that date, the minimum contribution would have to be at least four percent of compensation, and the company would have to amend its plan document no later than December 31, 2021.

Conclusion

Thanks to the SECURE Act, 401(k) plan sponsors have more flexibility to amend their plans for “safe harbor” status. Plan sponsors who are failing their ADP tests for the year may find this type of plan amendment attractive as a correction measure.

 

 

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Reducing or Suspending 401(k) Safe Harbor Contributions Mid-Year

“My client is a business owner and has a standard 401(k) safe harbor plan.  Under what circumstances, if any, may he reduce or eliminate the company’s mandatory safe harbor contribution during the plan year?”   

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center (RLC) Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, stock options, and Social Security and Medicare.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with a financial advisor from Washington is representative of a common inquiry related to 401(k) safe harbor plans.

Highlights of the Discussion

Under limited circumstances, and according to final Treasury Regulations, a sponsor of a 401(k) safe harbor plan may amend the plan during the current year to reduce or suspend the company’s safe harbor contribution—either the matching or nonelective contribution.

A removal or reduction of a safe harbor contribution mid-year is permitted if the employer either

  1. Is operating under an economic loss for the year (See Internal Revenue Code Section (IRC 412(c)(2)(A);

or

  1. Included a statement in the safe harbor notice given to participants before the start of the plan year that the employer
  • May reduce or suspend contributions mid-year;
  • Will give participants a supplemental notice regarding the reduction or suspension; and
  • Will not reduce or suspend employer contributions until at least 30 days after receipt of the supplemental notice.

Supplemental Notice

If a reduction or suspension will occur, the supplemental notice must explain 1) the consequences of the suspension or reduction of contributions; 2) how participants my change their deferral elections as a result; and 3) when the amendment takes effect.

Other Procedural Requirements

The employer must also

  1. Give participants a reasonable opportunity after they receive the supplemental notice and before the reduction or suspension of employer contributions to change their contribution elections;
  2. Amend the plan to apply the actual deferral percentage (ADP) and/or actual contribution percentage (ACP) Tests for the entire plan year; and
  3. Allocate to the plan any contributions that were promised before the amendment took effect.

Conclusion

With the proper set up, or as a result of economic loss, sponsors of 401(k) safe harbor plans may reduce or suspend employer matching or nonelective safe harbor contributions mid-year.

© Copyright 2020 Retirement Learning Center, all rights reserved