It’s time to ensure year-end qualified plan deadlines are satisfied. Below is a checklist designed to help employers with this process. This checklist addresses both year-end deadlines and January 2015 deadlines which sponsors of qualified retirement plans may wish to begin preparing for now.
A. DEADLINES APPLICABLE TO QUALIFIED RETIREMENT PLANS
- Cycle D Sponsors. Individually designed plans are on five-year cycles for renewing their determination letters with the IRS. For most Cycle D sponsors (i.e., those sponsors with an employer identification number ending in either 4 or 9), the five-year cycle will end on January 31, 2015. Generally, multiemployer plans are assigned to Cycle D.
Individually designed plan Cycle D sponsors (and multiemployer plan sponsors) who have not already renewed their determination letter this cycle should be prepared to submit their amended and restated plans to the IRS by no later than January 31, 2015. Additional information on timing cycles and determination letters can be found here.
- Qualified Plan Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages. Qualified retirement plans are required to reflect the outcome of United States v. Windsor effective June 26, 2013. If a qualified plan defines a marital relationship by reference to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) (or is otherwise inconsistent with Windsor, Rev. Rul. 2013-17 or IRS Notice 2014-19), then an amendment to that plan is required. However, if a plan’s terms are not inconsistent with these sources (e.g., the plan’s definition is simply “spouse,” “legally married spouse” or “spouse under Federal law” without any distinction between a same-sex spouse and an opposite-sex spouse), an amendment is generally not required – although may still be helpful for clarification. Generally, a plan sponsor who has not adopted a plan amendment already will have until December 31, 2014 to do so; governmental plans may have additional time if certain criteria are met. Additional information can be found here.
- Uniform PBGC Premium Due Date Change. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (“PBGC”) published a final rule in 2013 that requires that both flat rate and variable rate premiums for small defined benefit plans are due 9½ months after the beginning of the plan year for which they are payable (eliminating the prior system which based the due date on the type of premium and size of the plan at issue). In practice, this accelerates the premium due date for small plans, which has been 4 months after the end of the premium payment year, by 6½ months. That said, certain transition rules apply for 2014 premium payments to small plans only for which premiums would otherwise be due in 2014. For more information on applicable premium payment dates, see our blog post here and the PBGC’s 2014 premium payment instructions here.
- Cash Balance and Hybrid Plans. As noted in our prior year-end qualified plan checklists, the Pension Protection Act of 2006 made several changes affecting cash balance and hybrid pension plans, including requiring three-year vesting and prohibiting interest credits at an interest crediting rate that exceeds a market rate of return, but final regulations had not yet been issued nor was a compliance date set in stone. In September, the IRS issued these long-awaited final regulations, addressing the interest crediting rules and other cash balance and hybrid plan matters. While sponsors of such plans that use interest crediting rates should be aware of these final regulations, compliance is not required until 2016.
B. REQUIRED ANNUAL NOTICES
Plan sponsors should ensure that the required annual notices, if applicable, are sent to participants and beneficiaries on a timely basis.
- Section 401(k) Safe Harbor Notice. All participants in a safe harbor 401(k) plan must receive an annual notice that describes the safe harbor contribution and certain other plan features. The notice must be given by December 1 for calendar year plans and for non-calendar year plans not fewer than 30, and not more than 90, days before the first day of the plan year.
- Section 401(k) Automatic Enrollment Notice. If the plan provides that employees will be automatically enrolled, the plan administrator must give eligible employees an annual notice that describes the circumstances in which eligible employees are automatically enrolled and pay will be automatically contributed to the plan. The notice must be given by December 1 for calendar year plans and for non-calendar year plans not fewer than 30 days before the first day of the plan year.
- Qualified Default Investment Notice. A defined contribution plan that permits participants to direct the investment of their account balances may provide that if the participant does not give an affirmative investment direction, the portion of the account balance for which affirmative investment direction was not given will be invested in a qualified default investment. Plan sponsors must give the annual notice by December 1 for calendar year plans and for non-calendar year plans at least 30 days prior to the beginning of the plan year.
NOTE: A safe harbor 401(k) plan can incorporate two or more of the notices described above, as applicable, in a single notice.
- Defined Benefit Plan Funding Notice. An annual notice describing the plan’s funded status for the past two years, a statement of the plan’s assets and liabilities and certain other information relating to the plan’s funded status must be furnished to participants within 120 days after the end of the plan year. For calendar year plans, the deadline is April 30. The deadline for small plans that cover fewer than 100 participants is the due date for the plan’s Form 5500.