On February 21, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) added to its “self-help” resources a new “403(b) Plan Fix-It Guide” to provide guidance more specifically directed at 403(b) plan sponsors that identify qualification or operational plan failures under their 403(b) plans.  Additionally, the IRS issued as a companion piece a booklet entitled “Voluntary Correction Program Submission Kit,” which provides more detailed directions to 403(b) plan sponsors on how to complete and file a correction filing with the IRS specifically relating to the failure to adopt a written 403(b) plan document. 

This new “fix-it” tool addresses 10 potential errors (likely the most common 403(b) plan errors), including, but not limited to, ineligible organizations offering 403(b) plans, failure to adopt a written plan document as required by the final 403(b) regulations, violation of the universal availability rule, failure to appropriately limit elective deferrals and failure to follow the underlying terms of the plan document.  Although these types of failures are not necessarily new (i.e., they could have occurred in prior years), the IRS is slowly bringing 403(b) plans under more scrutiny as the dollars being contributed to these types of plans continue to increase.  The IRS is developing more expertise in this area and is training more agents to be able to identify the particular differences between 401(k) plans and 403(b) plans, and the specific nuances and legal requirements of operating 403(b) plans.  Since the 403(b) regulations were issued in 2007, this is the first step in which the IRS is taking a more active role to ensure compliance under these types of plans. 

Revenue Procedures 2013-12 (Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System, or EPCRS) may be used with respect to any 403(b) plan corrections going forward.  It incorporates in greater detail the “403(b) Plan Fix-It Guide.”  Although prior EPCRS guidance such as Revenue Procedure 2008-50 was often applied to 403(b) plans by analogy for correcting errors, new Revenue Procedure 2013-12 is drafted to be directly applicable to 403(b) plans.  Consequently, given the IRS movement toward greater scrutiny of 403(b) plans, tax-exempt organizations that have not recently conducted any type of internal compliance review are encouraged to review, at a minimum, the mistakes highlighted in the “403(b) Plan Fix-It Guide” to determine whether greater analysis is required with respect the compliance and operation of their 403(b) plans.