Retirement Plan Corrections Get Easier

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Several weeks ago, the IRS released two new revenue procedures (2015-27 and 2015-28) designed to make plan corrections easier and less costly to employers through the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System “EPCRS.” Rev. Proc. 2015-28 provides particular relief related to the correction of certain employee salary deferral errors for employers sponsoring 401(k) and 403(b) plans.

Retirement plans are required to operate per the rules set forth by the Internal Revenue Code and the governing plan document. Failure to abide by these rules gives rise to a plan failure called an operational defect. The EPCRS was established by the IRS in order to provide a framework for the correction of such operational failures so that employer-sponsored plans could maintain their qualified tax status. Correction of these errors can be made through a formal submission via the EPCRS or through self-correction depending on the facts and circumstances of the error(s). The IRS has worked diligently over the years to encourage employers to correct errors as soon as possible and to streamline corrections under the EPCRS.

Prior to the new revenue procedure, the standard correction for missed employee pre-tax salary deferrals was a corrective contribution made by the employer equal to 50% of the missed salary deferral  and 100% of the missed employer matching contribution plus lost earnings. Revenue procedure 2015-28 established some new safe harbor correction methods for certain missed deferral errors that require reduced corrective contributions by the plan sponsor.

A general description of the new safe harbor corrections is detailed below:

Failure to Implement an Automatic Contribution Feature Includes auto enrolling an eligible participant at the auto percentage, implementing an affirmative election made by a participant in lieu of the auto percentage, and failure to implement the proper auto escalation percentage. If the failure to implement the correct withholding does not extend past 9 ½ months after the year of failure, then no corrective employer contribution is required to correct the missed deferral. However, the entire missed matching contribution must be contributed as if the participant withholding began when it should have. Earnings must be included as part of the corrective deposit and notice must be provided to the participant no later than 45 days after correct deferrals begin.

If the failure to implement the correct automatic contribution withholding extends past 9 ½ months but deferrals begin prior to the end of the second year following the end of the year the failure began, then the employer must make a corrective contribution equal to 25% of the missed employee contribution. The remainder of the correction methodology follows the process detailed above.

Failure to Implement Employee Deferrals – If the failure to properly implement employee salary deferral elections is corrected by the first payment of compensation three months after the failure occurred, then no employer corrective contribution is required.  However, the entire missed matching contribution must be contributed as if the participant withholding began when it should have. Earnings must be included as part of the corrective deposit and notice must be provided to the participant no later than 45 days after correct deferrals begin.

If the failure to implement the correct contribution withholding extends past three months but deferrals begin prior to the end of the second year following the end of the year the failure began, then the employer must make a corrective contribution equal to 25% of the missed employee contribution. The remainder of the correction methodology follows the process detailed above.

Errors caught after the timeframes referenced above or failure to provide the required notice revert back to the standard correction methodology.  This clearly provides additional motivation for employers to police their plans carefully so they can benefit from these new safe harbors and reduce the cost of certain plan corrections.

This is designed to merely be a brief description of the new correction rules. Any employer that believes they have plan errors that can be corrected through the new safe harbor methods should contact Mark Flanagan of Aronson’s Employee Benefit Plan Services Group at 301.231.6257

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