The commissioner for the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division of the IRS stated during a recent conference that the IRS plans to change its determination letter program in 2017. Individually designed plans are currently encouraged to file determination letter applications on 5-year cycles. By filing an application on-cycle, a plan sponsor receives assurance from the IRS that its plan has been timely amended to comply with applicable legal requirements. According to the commissioner’s statements, the IRS plans to stop reviewing most applications that are made on behalf of ongoing individually designed (i.e., custom) plans, and instead focus on applications for new plans and terminating plans.
The vast majority of plan sponsors who have individually designed retirement plans rely on the IRS determination letter program to ensure that their plans remain in written compliance with the Internal Revenue Code. The elimination or curtailment of the program for individually designed plans would have a significant impact on those plan sponsors, many of which are not able (or do not wish) to switch to a volume submitter or prototype plan document. The IRS intends to issue guidance this summer detailing its proposed changes to the process.