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[1-C]
 
 

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR data is current as of August 31, 2015

Title 26Chapter ISubchapter A → Part 1


Title 26: Internal Revenue


PART 1—INCOME TAXES (CONTINUED)


Contents

DEFERRED COMPENSATION, ETC.

Pension, Profit-Sharing, Stock Bonus Plans, etc.

§1.410(a)-1   Minimum participation standards; general rules.
§1.410(a)-2   Effective dates.
§1.410(a)-3   Minimum age and service conditions.
§1.410(a)-3T   Minimum age and service conditions (temporary).
§1.410(a)-4   Maximum age conditions and time of participation.
§1.410(a)-5   Year of service; break in service.
§1.410(a)-6   Amendment of break in service rules; Transition period.
§1.410(a)-7   Elapsed time.
§1.410(a)-8   Five consecutive 1-year breaks in service, transitional rules under the Retirement Equity Act of 1984.
§1.410(a)-8T   Year of service; break in service (temporary).
§1.410(a)-9   Maternity and paternity absence.
§1.410(a)-9T   Elapsed time (temporary).
§1.410(b)-0   Table of contents.
§1.410(b)-1   Minimum coverage requirements (before 1994).
§1.410(b)-2   Minimum coverage requirements (after 1993).
§1.410(b)-3   Employees and former employees who benefit under a plan.
§1.410(b)-4   Nondiscriminatory classification test.
§1.410(b)-5   Average benefit percentage test.
§1.410(b)-6   Excludable employees.
§1.410(b)-7   Definition of plan and rules governing plan disaggregation and aggregation.
§1.410(b)-8   Additional rules.
§1.410(b)-9   Definitions.
§1.410(b)-10   Effective dates and transition rules.
§1.410(d)-1   Election by church to have participation, vesting, funding, etc. provisions apply.
§1.411(a)-1   Minimum vesting standards; general rules.
§1.411(a)-2   Effective dates.
§1.411(a)-3   Vesting in employer-derived benefits.
§1.411(a)-3T   Vesting in employer-derived benefits (temporary).
§1.411(a)-4   Forfeitures, suspensions, etc.
§1.411(a)-4T   Forfeitures, suspensions, etc. (temporary).
§1.411(a)-5   Service included in determination of nonforfeitable percentage.
§1.411(a)-6   Year of service; hours of service; breaks in service.
§1.411(a)-7   Definitions and special rules.
§1.411(a)-8   Changes in vesting schedule.
§1.411(a)-8T   Changes in vesting schedule (temporary).
§1.411(a)-9   Amendment of break in service rules; transitional period.
§1.411(a)-11   Restriction and valuation of distributions.
§1.411(a)(13)-1   Statutory hybrid plans.
§1.411(b)-1   Accrued benefit requirements.
§1.411(b)(5)-1   Reduction in rate of benefit accrual under a defined benefit plan.
§1.411(c)-1   Allocation of accrued benefits between employer and employee contributions.
§1.411(d)-1   Coordination of vesting and discrimination requirements. [Reserved]
§1.411(d)-2   Termination or partial termination; discontinuance of contributions.
§1.411(d)-3   Section 411(d)(6) protected benefits.
§1.411(d)-4   Section 411(d)(6) protected benefits.
§1.411(d)-5   Class year plans; plan years beginning after October 22, 1986.
§1.412(b)-2   Amortization of experience gains in connection with certain group deferred annuity contracts.
§1.412(b)-5   Election of the alternative amortization method of funding.
§1.412(c)(1)-1   Determinations to be made under funding method—terms defined.
§1.412(c)(1)-2   Shortfall method.
§1.412(c)(1)-3   Applying the minimum funding requirements to restored plans.
§1.412(c)(1)-3T   Applying the minimum funding requirements to restored plans (temporary).
§1.412(c)(2)-1   Valuation of plan assets; reasonable actuarial valuation methods.
§1.412(c)(3)-1   Reasonable funding methods.
§1.412(c)(3)-2   Effective dates and transitional rules relating to reasonable funding methods.
§1.412(i)-1   Certain insurance contract plans.
§1.412(l)(7)-1   Mortality tables used to determine current liability.
§1.413-1   Special rules for collectively bargained plans.
§1.413-2   Special rules for plans maintained by more than one employer.
§1.414(b)-1   Controlled group of corporations.
§1.414(c)-1   Commonly controlled trades or businesses.
§1.414(c)-2   Two or more trades or businesses under common control.
§1.414(c)-3   Exclusion of certain interests or stock in determining control.
§1.414(c)-4   Rules for determining ownership.
§1.414(c)-5   Certain tax-exempt organizations.
§1.414(c)-6   Effective date.
§1.414(e)-1   Definition of church plan.
§1.414(f)-1   Definition of multiemployer plan.
§1.414(g)-1   Definition of plan administrator.
§1.414(l)-1   Mergers and consolidations of plans or transfers of plan assets.
§1.414(q)-1   Highly compensated employee.
§1.414(q)-1T   Highly compensated employee (temporary).
§1.414(r)-0   Table of contents.
§1.414(r)-1   Requirements applicable to qualified separate lines of business.
§1.414(r)-2   Line of business.
§1.414(r)-3   Separate line of business.
§1.414(r)-4   Qualified separate line of business—fifty-employee and notice requirements.
§1.414(r)-5   Qualified separate line of business—administrative scrutiny requirement—safe harbors.
§1.414(r)-6   Qualified separate line of business—administrative scrutiny requirement—individual determinations.
§1.414(r)-7   Determination of the employees of an employer's qualified separate lines of business.
§1.414(r)-8   Separate application of section 410(b).
§1.414(r)-9   Separate application of section 401(a)(26).
§1.414(r)-10   Separate application of section 129(d)(8). [Reserved]
§1.414(r)-11   Definitions and special rules.
§1.414(s)-1   Definition of compensation.
§1.414(v)-1   Catch-up contributions.
§1.414(w)-1   Permissible withdrawals from eligible automatic contribution arrangements.
§1.415(a)-1   General rules with respect to limitations on benefits and contributions under qualified plans.
§1.415(b)-1   Limitations for defined benefit plans.
§1.415(b)-2   Multiple annuity starting dates. [Reserved]
§1.415(c)-1   Limitations for defined contribution plans.
§1.415(c)-2   Compensation.
§1.415(d)-1   Cost-of-living adjustments.
§1.415(f)-1   Aggregating plans.
§1.415(g)-1   Disqualification of plans and trusts.
§1.415(j)-1   Limitation year.
§1.416-1   Questions and answers on top-heavy plans.
§1.417(a)(3)-1   Required explanation of qualified joint and survivor annuity and qualified preretirement survivor annuity.
§1.417(e)-1   Restrictions and valuations of distributions from plans subject to sections 401(a)(11) and 417.
§1.417(e)-1T   Restrictions and valuations of distributions from plans subject to sections 401(a)(11) and 417. (Temporary)
§1.419-1T   Treatment of welfare benefit funds. (Temporary)
§1.419A-1T   Qualified asset account limitation of additions to account. (Temporary)
§1.419A-2T   Qualified asset account limitation for collectively bargained funds. (Temporary)
§1.419A(f)(6)-1   Exception for 10 or more employer plan.
§1.420-1   Significant reduction in retiree health coverage during the cost maintenance period.

Certain Stock Options

§1.421-1   Meaning and use of certain terms.
§1.421-2   General rules.
§1.422-1   Incentive stock options; general rules.
§1.422-2   Incentive stock options defined.
§1.422-3   Stockholder approval of incentive stock option plans.
§1.422-4   $100,000 limitation for incentive stock options.
§1.422-5   Permissible provisions.
§1.423-1   Applicability of section 421(a).
§1.423-2   Employee stock purchase plan defined.
§1.424-1   Definitions and special rules applicable to statutory options.
§§1.425-1.429   [Reserved]
§1.430(d)-1   Determination of target normal cost and funding target.
§1.430(f)-1   Effect of prefunding balance and funding standard carryover balance.
§1.430(g)-1   Valuation date and valuation of plan assets.
§1.430(h)(2)-1   Interest rates used to determine present value.
§1.430(h)(3)-1   Mortality tables used to determine present value.
§1.430(h)(3)-2   Plan-specific substitute mortality tables used to determine present value.
§1.430(i)-1   Special rules for plans in at-risk status.
§1.431(c)(6)-1   Mortality tables used to determine current liability.
§1.432   [Reserved]
§1.432(e)(9)-1T   Benefit suspensions for multiemployer plans in critical and declining status (temporary).
§§1.433-1.435   [Reserved]
§1.436-0   Table of contents.
§1.436-1   Limits on benefits and benefit accruals under single employer defined benefit plans.
§§1.437-1.440   [Reserved]

Authority: 26 U.S.C. 401(m)(9) and 26 U.S.C. 7805.

Section 1.410(b)-2 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 410(b)(6).

Section 1.410(b)-3 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 410(b)(6).

Section 1.410(b)-4 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 410(b)(6).

Section 1.410(b)-5 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 410(b)(6).

Section 1.410(b)-6 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 410(b)(6) and section 664 of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-16, 115 Stat. 38).

Section 1.410(b)-7 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 410(b)(6).

Section 1.410(b)-8 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 410(b)(6).

Section 1.410(b)-9 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 410(b)(6).

Section 1.410(b)-10 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 410(b)(6).

Section 1.411(a)-7 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 411(a)(7)(B)(i).

Section 1.411(a)(13)-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 411(a)(13).

Section 1.411(b)(5)-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 411(b)(5).

Section 1.411(d)-3 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 411(d)(6) and section 645(b) of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, Public Law 107-16 (115 Stat. 38).

Section 1.411(d)-4 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 411(d)(6).

Section 1.411(d)-6 issued under Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1978, 29 U.S.C. 1001nt.

§§1.414(c)-1 through 1.414(c)-5 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 414(c).

Section 1.414(c)-5 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 414(b), (c), and (o).

Section 1.414(q)-1T also issued under 26 U.S.C. 414(q).

Sections 1.414(r)-0 through 1.414(r)-7 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 414(r).

Section 1.414(r)-8 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 410(b) and 414(r).

Section 1.414(r)-9 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(26) and 414(r).

Section 1.414(r)-10 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 129 and 414(r).

Section 1.414(r)-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 414(r).

Section 1.414(s)-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 414(s).

Section 1.417(e)-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 417(e)(3)(A)(ii)(II).

Section 1.417(e)-1T also issued under 26 U.S.C. 417(e)(3)(A)(ii)(II).

Section 1.419A(f)(6)-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 419A(i).

Section 1.420-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 420(c)(3)(E).

DEFERRED COMPENSATION, ETC.

Pension, Profit-Sharing, Stock Bonus Plans, etc.

§1.410(a)-1   Minimum participation standards; general rules.

(a) In general. A plan is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of such plan is not a qualified trust) unless the plan satisfies—

(1) The minimum age and service requirements of section 410(a)(1) and §1.410(a)-3,

(2) The maximum age requirements of section 410(a)(2) and §1.410(a)-4, and

(3) The minimum coverage requirements of section 410(b)(1) and §1.410(b)-1.

(b) Organization of regulations relating to minimum participation standards—(1) General rules. This section prescribes general rules relating to the minimum participation standards provided by Section 410.

(2) Effective dates. Section 1.410(a)-2 provides rules under section 1017 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 relating to effective dates under section 410.

(3) Age and service conditions. Section 1.410(a)-3 provides rules under section 410(a)(1) relating to minimum age and service conditions.

(4) Maximum age and time of participation. Section 1.410(a)-4 provides rules under section 410(a) (2) and (4) relating to maximum age and time of participation.

(5) Year of service; breaks in service. For rules relating to years of service and breaks in service, see 29 CFR Part 2530 (Department of Labor regulations relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans). See §1.410(a)-5 for rules under section 410(a)(3)(B) relating to seasonal industries and for certain rules under section 410(a)(5) relating to breaks in service.

(6) Breaks in service. Section 1.410(a)-6 provides special rules under section 1017(f) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 relating to amendment of break in service rules.

(7) Elapsed time. Section 1.410 (a)-7 provides rules under sections 410 and 411 relating to the elapsed time method of crediting years of service.

(8) Coverage. Section 1.410(b)-1 provides rules relating to the minimum coverage requirements provided by section 410(b)(1).

(9) Church election. Section 1.410(d)-1 provides rules relating to the election by a church to have participation, vesting, funding, etc., provisions apply.

(c) Application of participation standards to certain plans—(1) General rule. Except as provided in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph, section 410 does not apply to—

(i) A governmental plan (within the meaning of section 414(d) and the regulations thereunder),

(ii) A church plan (within the meaning of section 414(e) and the regulations thereunder) which has not made the election provided by section 410(d) and the regulations thereunder,

(iii) A plan which has not provided for employer contributions at any time after September 2, 1974, and

(iv) A plan established and maintained by a society, order, or association described in section 501(c) (8) or (9), if no part of the contributions to or under such plan are made by employers of participants in such plan.

(2) Participation requirements. A plan described in subparagraph (1) of this paragraph shall, for purposes of section 401(a), be treated as meeting the requirements of section 410 if such plan meets the coverage requirements resulting from the application of section 401(a)(3) as in effect on September 1, 1974. Such coverage requirements include the rules in §1.410(b)-1(d) (special rules relating to minimum coverage requirements), that interpret statutory provisions substantially identical to section 401(a)(3) as in effect on September 1, 1974. In applying the rules of that paragraph (d) to plans described in this paragraph (c) employees whose principal duties consist in supervising the work of other employees shall be treated as officers, shareholders, and highly compensated employees.

(d) Supersession. Section 11.410(a)-1 through 11.410(d)-1 inclusive, of the Temporary Income Tax Regulation under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 are superseded by this section and §§1.410(a)-2 through 1.410(d)-1.

(Sec. 410 (88 Stat. 898; 26 U.S.C. 410))

[T.D. 7508, 42 FR 47193, Sept. 20, 1977, as amended by T.D. 7703, 45 FR 40980, June 17, 1980; T.D. 7735, 45 FR 74722, Nov. 12, 1980]

§1.410(a)-2   Effective dates.

(a) Plans not in existence on January 1, 1974. Under section 1017(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, in the case of a plan which was not in existence on January 1, 1974, section 410 and the regulations thereunder apply for plan years beginning after September 2, 1974. See paragraph (c) of this section for time plan is considered in existence.

(b) Plans in existence on January 1, 1974. Under section 1017(b) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, in the case of a plan which was in existence on January 1, 1974, section 410 and the regulations thereunder apply for plan years beginning after December 31, 1975. See paragraph (c) of this section for time plan is considered to be in existence.

(c) Time of plan existence—(1) General rule. For purposes of this section, a plan is considered to be in existence on a particular day if—

(i) The plan on or before that day was reduced to writing and adopted by the employer (including, in the case of a corporate employer, formal approval by the employer's board of directors and, if required, shareholder), even though no amounts had been contributed under the plan as of such day, and

(ii) The plan was not terminated on or before that day.

(2) Collectively bargained plan. Notwithstanding subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, a plan described in section 413(a), relating to a plan maintained pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, is considered to be in existence on a particular day if—

(i) On or before that day there is a legally enforceable agreement to establish such a plan signed by the employer, and

(ii) The employer contributions to be made to the plan are set forth in the agreement.

(3) Special rule. If a plan is considered to be in existence on January 1, 1974, under subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, any other plan with which such existing plan is merged or consolidated shall also be considered to be in existence on such date.

(d) Certain existing plans may elect new provisions—(1) In general. The plan administrator (as defined in section 414(g)) of a plan that was in existence on January 1, 1974, may elect to have the provisions of the Code relating to participation, vesting, funding, and form of benefit (as in effect from time to time) apply to a plan year selected by the plan year selected by the plan administrator which begins after September 2, 1974, but before the otherwise applicable effective dates determined under section 1017 (b) or (c), 1021, or 1024 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, and to all subsequent plan years. The provisions referred to are the amendments to the Code made by sections 1011, 1012, 1013, 1015, 1016(a) (1) through (11) and (13) through (27), 1021, and 1022(b) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

(2) Election is irrevocable. Any election made under this paragraph, once made shall be irrevocable.

(3) Procedure and time for making election. An election under this paragraph shall be made by attaching a statement to either the annual return required under section 6058(a) (or an amended return) with respect to the plan which is filed for the first plan year for which the election is effective or to a written request for a determination letter relating to the qualification of the plan under section 401(a), 403(a), or 405(a) of the Code and, if trusteed, the exempt status under section 501(a) of the Code of a trust consituting a part of the plan. If the election is made with a written request for a determination letter, the election may be conditioned upon issuance of a favorable determination letter and will become irrevocable upon issuance of such letter. The statement shall indicate that the election is made under section 1017(d) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and the first plan year for which the election is effective.

(e) Examples. The rules of this section are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. A plan is adopted on January 2, 1974, effective as of Janurary 1, 1974. The plan is not considered to have been in existence on Janurary 1, 1974.
Example 2. A plan was in existence on January 1, 1974, and was amended on November 1, 1974, to increase benefits. The fact that the plan was amended is not relevant and the amended plan is considered to be in existence on January 1, 1974.
Example 3. (i) A subsidiary business corporation is a member of a controlled group of corporations within the meaning of IRC section 1563(a). On November 1, 1974, the plan of the parent corporation is amended to provide coverage for employees of the subsidiary corporation. This amendment of the parent corporation's plan does not affect the effective date of section 410 with respect to the parent corporation's plan. No distinction is made for this purpose between employees of the parent corporation and employees of the subsidiary corporation.

(ii) If the subsidiary adopted a separate plan on November 1, 1974, under paragraph (a) of this section, section 410 would apply to that plan for its first plan year beginning after September 2, 1974. However, the adoption of a different plan by the subsidiary would not affect the time section 410 applies to the plan of the parent corporation. If, instead of adopting its own separate plan, the subsidiary merely executed an adoption agreement under the terms of the parent plan providing that a subsidiary, upon the execution of an adoption agreement, will become part of the parent plan, the effective date of section 410 with respect to such plan will not be affected by the adoption of the plan by the subsidiary.

(Sec. 410 (88 Stat. 898; 26 U.S.C. 410))

[T.D. 7508, 42 FR 47194, Sept. 20, 1977]

§1.410(a)-3   Minimum age and service conditions.

(a) General rule. Except as provided by paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, a plan is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of such plan is not a qualified trust) if the plan requires, as a condition of participation in the plan, that an employee complete a period of service with the employer or employers maintaining the plan extending beyond the later of—

(1) Age 25. The date on which the employee attains the age of 25; or

(2) One year of service. The date on which the employee completes 1 year of service.

(b) Special rule for plan with 3-year 100 percent vesting. A plan which provides that after not more than 3 years of service each participant's right to his accrued benefit under the plan is completely nonforfeitable (within the meaning of section 411 and the regulations thereunder) at the time such benefit accrues satisfies the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section if the period of service required by the plan as a condition of participation does not extend beyond the later of—

(1) Age 25. The date on which the employee attains the age of 25; or

(2) Three years of service. The date on which the employee completes 3 years of service.

(c) Special rule for employees of certain educational institutions. A plan maintained exclusively for employees of an educational institution (as defined in section 170(b)(1)(A)(ii)) by an employer exempt from tax under section 501(a) which provides that after 1 year of service each participant's right to his accrued benefit under the plan is completely nonforfeitable (within the meaning of section 411 and the regulations thereunder) at the time such benefit accrues satisfies the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section if the period of service required by the plan as a condition of participation does not extend beyond the later of—

(1) Age 30. The date on which the employee attains the age of 30; or

(2) One year of service. The date on which the employee completes 1 year of service.

(d) Other conditions. Section 410(a), §1.410(a)-4, and this section relate solely to age and service conditions and do not preclude a plan from establishing conditions, other than conditions relating to age or service, which must be satisfied by plan participants. For example, such provisions would not preclude a qualified plan from requiring, as a condition of participation, that an employee be employed within a specified job classification. See section 410(b) and the regulations thereunder for rules with respect to coverage of employees under qualified plans.

(e) Age and service requirements—(1) General rule. For purposes of applying the rules of this section, plan provisons may be treated as imposing age or service requirements even though the provisions do not specifically refer to age or service. Plan provisions which have the effect of requiring an age or service requirement with the employer or employers maintaing the plan will be treated as if they imposed an age or service requirement. In general, a plan under which an employee cannot participate unless he retires will impose an age and service requirement. However, a plan may provide benefits which supplement benefits provided for employees covered under a pension plan, as defined in section 3(2) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, satisfying the requirements of section 410(a)(1) without violating the age and service rules.

(2) Examples. The rules of this paragraph are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Corporation A is divided into two divisions. In order to work in division 2 an employee must first have been employed in division 1 for 5 years. A plan provision which required division 2 employment for participation will be treated as a service requirement because such a provision has the effect of requiring 5 years of service.
Example 2. Plan B requires as a condition of participation that each employee have had a driver's license for 15 years or more. This provision will be treated as an age requirement because such a provision has the effect of requiring an employee to attain a specified age.
Example 3. A plan which requires 1 year of service as a condition of participation also excludes a part-time or seasonal employee if his customary employment is for not more than 20 hours per week or 5 months in any plan year. The plan does not qualify because the provision could result in the exclusion by reason of a minimum service requirement of an employee who has completed a year of service. The plan would not qualify even though after excluding all such employees, the plan satisfied the coverage requirements of section 410(b).
Example 4. Employer A establishes a plan which covers employees after they retire and does not cover current employees unless they retire. Any employee who works past age 60 is treated as retired. The plan fails to satisfy the requirements of section 410(a) because the plan imposes a minimum age and service requirement in excess of that allowed by this section.
Example 5. Employer B establishes plan X, which provides that employees covered by qualified plan Y will receive benefits supplementing their benefits under plan Y to take into account cost of living increases after retirement. Plan X is not treated as imposing an age of service requirement.
Example 6. Employer C establishes a qualified plan satisfying the minimum age and service requirements. At a later time, entry into the plan is frozen so that employees not covered at that time cannot participate in the plan. The limitation on new participants is not treated as imposing a minimum age and service requirement.

(Sec. 410 (88 Stat. 898; 26 U.S.C. 410))

[T.D. 7508, 42 FR 47194, Sept. 20, 1977]

§1.410(a)-3T   Minimum age and service conditions (temporary).

(a) [Reserved]

(b) Special rule for plan with 2-year 100 percent vesting. A plan which provides that after not more than 2 years of service each participant's right to his or her accrued benefit under the plan is completely nonforeitable (within the meaning of section 411 and the regulations thereunder) at the time such benefit accrues satisfies the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section if the period of service required by the plan as a condition of participation does not extend beyond the later of—

(1) [Reserved]

(2) Two years of service. The date on which the employee completes 2 years of service. For employees not described in §1.411(a)-3T(e)(1), which describes employees with one hour of service in any plan year beginning after December 31, 1988, or later in the case of certain collectively bargained plans, the preceding sentence shall be applied by substituting “3 years of service” for “2 years of service”.

[T.D. 8170, 53 FR 239, Jan. 6, 1988]

§1.410(a)-4   Maximum age conditions and time of participation.

(a) Maximum age conditions—(1) General rule. A plan is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of such plan is not a qualified trust) if the plan excludes from participation (on the basis of age) an employee who has attained an age specified by the plan unless—

(i) The plan is a defined benefit plan or a target benefit plan, and

(ii) The employee begins employment with the employer after the employee has attained an age specified by the plan, which age is not more than 5 years before normal retirement age (within the meaning of section 411(a)(8) and §1.411(a)-7.

For purposes of this paragraph, a target benefit plan is a defined contribution plan under which the amount of employer contributions allocated to each participant is determined under a plan formula which does not allow employer discretion and on the basis of the amount necessary to provide a target benefit specified by the plan for such participant. Such target benefit must be the type of benefit which is provided by a defined benefit plan and the targeted benefit must not discriminate in favor of employees who are officers, shareholders, or highly compensated. For purposes of this paragraph, in the determination of the time an employee begins employment, any such time which is included in a period of service which may be disregarded under the break in service rules need not be taken into account.

(2) Examples. The rules provided by this paragraph are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. A defined benefit plan provides that an employee will become a participant upon completion of 3 years of service if at such time the employee is less than age 60. The normal retirement age under the plan is age 65. The plan also provides full and immediate vesting for each of the plan's participants. Under the plan, an employee hired at age 58 would be denied participation on account of service for the first 3 years and on account of maximum age for the remaining years even though the employee was hired more than 5 years prior to the normal retirement date. The plan therefore does not satisfy section 410(a)(2).
Example 2. A defined benefit plan provides a normal retirement age of the later of age 65 or completion of 10 years of service. Because no employee could ever be hired within 5 years of his normal retirement age, the plan could not exclude employees for being over a specified age.
Example 3. Prior to the effective date of section 410, a defined benefit plan with a normal retirement age of 65 contained a maximum age 55 requirement for participation. Because of the maximum age requirement, and employee hired at age 58 was excluded from the plan. This employee is age 61 at the time that section 410 first applies to the plan. The employee cannot be excluded from participation because of age. The exclusion under section 410(a)(2) is not applicable in this instance because the employee's age at the time of hire, 58, was not within 5 years of the normal retirement age specified in the plan.
Example 4. Employee A was hired at age 50 and participated in a defined benefit plan until separating from service at age 55 with 5 years of service and with no vested benefit. At age 61, employee A was rehired within 5 years of the normal retirement age of 65 after he incurred 6 consecutive breaks in service. Because A's consecutive number of 1-year breaks (6) exceeds his years of service prior to such breaks (5), his service before the breaks may be disregarded. Consequently, A's initial employment date falling within such period may be disregarded and the plan could exclude A on account of his age because his employment commenced within 5 years of normal retirement age.

(b) Time of participation—(1) General rule. A plan is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of such plan is not a qualified trust) unless under the plan any employee who has satisfied the applicable minimum age and service requirements specified in §1.410(a)-3, and who is otherwise entitled to participate in the plan, commences participation in the plan no later than the earlier of—

(i) The first day of the first plan year beginning after the date on which such employee first satisfied such requirements, or

(ii) The date 6 months after the date on which he first satisfied such requirements,

unless such employee was separated from service and has not returned before the date referred to in subdivision (i) or (ii), whichever is applicable. If such separated employee returns to service after either of such dates without incurring a 1-year break in service, the employee must commence participation immediately upon his return. In the case of a plan using the elapsed time method described in §1.410(a)-7, such an employee who has a period of absence commencing before the date referred to in subdivision (i) or (ii) (whichever is applicable) must commence participation as of such applicable date no later than the date such absence ended. However, if an employee's prior service is disregarded on account of the plan's break-in-service rules then, for purposes of this subparagraph, such service is also disregarded for purposes of determining the date on which such employee first satisfied the minimum age and service requirements.

(2) Examples. The rules provided by this paragraph are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. A calendar year plan provides that an employee may enter the plan only on the first semi-annual entry date, January 1 or July 1, after he has satisfied the applicable minimum age and service requirements specified in section 410(a)(1). The plan satisfies the requirements of this paragraph because an employee is eligible to participate no later than the earlier of (1) the first day of the first plan year beginning after he satisfied the applicable minimum age and service requirements, or (2) the date 6 months after he satisfied such requirements.
Example 2. A plan provides that an employee is not eligible to participate until the first day of the first plan year beginning after he has satisfied the minimum age and service requirements of section 410(a)(1). In this case, an employee who satisfies the “6 month” rule described in subparagraph (1) of this paragraph will not be eligible to participate in the plan. Therefore, the plan does not satisfy the requirements of this paragraph.
Example 3. A calendar year plan provides that an employee may enter the plan only on the first semi-annual entry date, January 1 or July 1, after he has satisfied the applicable minimum age and service requirements specified in section 410(a)(1). Employee A after 10 years of service separated from service in 1976 with a vested benefit. On February 1, 1990, A returns to employment covered by the plan. Assuming A completes a year of service after his return, A must participate immediately on his return, February 1. A's prior service cannot be disregarded, because he had a vested benefit when he separated from service. Therefore, the plan may not postpone his participation until July 1.
Example 4. Assume the same facts as in example (3). The plan has the break-in-service rule described in section 410(a)(5)(D) and §1.410(a)-5(c)(4). Employee B, after he had 5 years of service but no vested benefit incurs 5 consecutive 1-year breaks. Because B's prior service can be disregarded, the plan may postpone B's participation in the plan under the rule described in section 410(a)(4) and this paragraph.

(Sec. 410 (88 Stat. 898; 26 U.S.C. 410))

[T.D. 7508, 42 FR 47195, Sept. 20, 1977, as amended by T.D. 7703, 45 FR 40980, June 17, 1980]

§1.410(a)-5   Year of service; break in service.

(a) Year of service. For the rules relating to years of service under subparagraphs (A), (C), and (D) of section 410(a)(3), see regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor under 29 CFR Part 2530, relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans.

Rules relating to a general rule for a year of service, hours of service, and maritime industries apply for purposes of section 410(a) and the regulations thereunder.

(b) Seasonal industries. For rules which relate to seasonal industries under section 410(a)(3)(B), see regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor under 29 CFR Part 2530, relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefits plans.

(c) Breaks in service—(1) General rule. This paragraph provides rules with respect to breaks in service under section 410(a)(5). Except as provided in subparagraphs (2), (3), (4), and (5) of this paragraph, all of an employee's years of service with the employer or employers maintaining a plan are taken into account in computing his period of service under the plan for purposes of section 410(a)(1) and §1.410(a)-3.

(2) Employees under 3-year 100 percent vesting schedule—( i) General rule. In the case of an employee who incurs a 1-year break in service under a plan which provides that after not more than 3 years of service, each participant's right to his accrued benefit under the plan is completely nonforfeitable (within the meaning of section 411 and the regulations thereunder) at the time such benefit accrues, the employee's service before the break in service is not required to be taken into account after the break in service in determining the employee's years of service under section 410(a)(1) and §1.410(a)-3 if such employee has not satisfied such service requirement.

(ii) Example. The rules of this subparagraph are illustrated by the following example.

Example. A qualified plan computing service by the actual counting of hours provides full and immediate vesting. The plan can not require as a condition of participation that an employee complete 3 consecutive years of service with the employer because the requirement as to consecutive years is not permitted under section 410(a) (5). However, such a plan can require 3 years without a break in service, i.e., 3 years with no intervening years in which the employee fails to complete more than 500 hours of service. Under a plan containing such a participation requirement, the following example illustrates when employees whould become eligible to participate.
Year Hours of service completed
Employee A Employee B Employee C
11,0001,0001,000
21,0001,000500
31,0007001,000
41,0001,000700
51,0001,0001,000
61,0001,0001,000

Note. Employee A will have satisfied the plan's service requirement at the end of year 3. Employee B at the end of year 4, and Employee C at the end of year 6.

(3) One-year break in service—(i) In general. In computing the period of service of an employee who has incurred a 1-year break in service, for purposes of section 410(a)(1) and §1.410(a)-3, a plan may disregard the employee's service before the break until the employee completes a year of service after such break in service.

(ii) Examples. The rules provided by this subparagraph are illustrated by the following examples.

Example 1. Employee A completes a year of service under a plan computing service by the actual counting of hours for the 12-month period ending December 31, 1980, and incurs a 1-year break in service for the 12-month period ending December 31, 1981. The plan does not contain the provisions permitted by section 410(a)(5)(B) (relating to 3-year 100 percent vesting) and section 410(a)(5)(D) (relating to nonvested participants). Thereafter, he does not complete a year of service. As of January 1, 1982, in computing his period of service under the plan his service prior to December 31, 1981, is not required to be taken into account for purposes of section 410(a)(1) and §1.410 (a)-3.
Example 2. The employee in example (1) completes a year of service for the 12-month period ending December 31, 1982. Prior to December 31, 1982, in computing the employee's period of service as of any date occurring in 1982, the employee's service before December 31, 1981, is not required to be taken into account for purposes of section 410(a)(1) and §11.410(a)-3. Because the employee completed a year of service for the 12-month period ending December 31, 1982, however, his period of service is redetermined as of January 1, 1982. Upon completion of a year of service for 1982, the employee's period of service, determined as of any date occurring in 1982, includes service prior to December 31, 1981.

(4) Nonvested participants—(i) General rule. In the case of a participant in a plan who does not have any nonforfeitable right under the plan to his employer-derived accrued benefit and who incurs a 1-year break in service, for purposes of section 410(a)(1) and §1.410.(a)-3 the plan may disregard his years of service prior to such break if the number of his consecutive 1-year breaks in service equals or exceeds his aggregate number of years of service prior to such break. In the case of a plan using the elapsed time method described in Department of Labor regulations, the plan may disregard such years of service prior to such break if the period of severance is at least 1 year and the period of severance equals or exceeds the prior period of service, whether or not consecutive, completed before such period of severance. The plan may in computing such aggregate number of years of service prior to such break disregard any years of service which could have been disregarded under this subparagraph by reason of any prior break in service.

(ii) Examples. The rules of this subparagraph are illustrated by the following example:

Example. In 1980, A, who was hired at age 35, separates from the service of X Corporation after completing 4 years of service. At this time A had no vested benefits. In 1985, after incurring 5 consecutive one-year breaks in service, A was reemployed. Under section 410(a)(5)(D), A's 4 years of service may be disregarded because they are exceeded by the number of years of consecutive one-year breaks (5) after such service.

(d) Special continuity rule for certain plans. For special rules for computing years of service in the case of a plan maintained by more than one employer, see regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor under 29 CFR Part 2530, relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans.

(Sec. 410 (88 Stat. 898; 26 U.S.C. 410))

[T.D. 7508, 42 FR 47196, Sept. 20, 1977; T.D. 7508, 42 FR 57123, Nov. 1, 1977, as amended by T.D. 7703, 45 FR 40980, June 17, 1980]

§1.410(a)-6   Amendment of break in service rules; Transition period.

(a) In general. Under section 1017(f) (1) of the Employee retirement Income Security Act of 1974, a plan is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of such plan is not a qualified trust) if the rules of the plan relating to breaks in service are amended, and—

(1) Such amendment is effective after January 1, 1974, and before the date on which section 410 becomes applicable to the plan, and

(2) Under such amendment, any employee's participation in the plan commences at any date later than the later of—

(i) The date on which his participation would commence under the break in service rules of section 410(a)(5), or

(ii) The earliest date on which his participation would commence under the plan as in effect on or after January 1, 1974.

(b) Break in service rules. For purposes of paragraph (a), the term “break in service rules” means the rules provided by a plan relating to circumstances under which a period of an employee's service or plan participation is disregarded for purposes of determining his rights to participate in the plan, if under such rules such service is disregarded by reason of the employee's failure to complete a required period of service within a specified period of time.

(Sec. 410 (88 Stat. 898; 26 U.S.C. 410))

[T.D. 7508, 42 FR 47197, Sept. 20, 1977; 43 FR 2721, Jan. 19, 1978]

§1.410(a)-7   Elapsed time.

(a) In general—(1) Introduction to elapsed time method of crediting service. (i) 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 sets forth the general method of crediting service for an employee. The general method is based upon the actual counting of hours of service during the applicable 12-consecutive-month computation period. The equivalencies set forth in 29 CFR 2530.200b-3 are also methods for crediting hours of service during computation periods. Under the general method and the equivalencies an employee receives a year's credit (in units of years of service or years of participation) for a computation period during which the employee is credited with a specified number of hours of service. In general, an employee's statutory entitlement with respect to eligibility to participate, vesting and benefit accrual is determined by totalling the number of years' credit to which an employee is entitled.

(ii) Under the alternative method set forth in this section, by contrast, an employee's statutory entitlement with respect to eligibility to participate, vesting and benefit accrual is not based upon the actual completion of a specified number of hours of service during a 12-consecutive-month period. Instead, such entitlement is determined generally with reference to the total period of time which elapses while the employee is employed (i.e., while the employment relationship exists) with the employer or employers maintaining the plan. The alternative method set forth in this section is designed to enable a plan to lessen the administrative burdens associated with the maintenance of records of an employee's hours of service by permitting each employee to be credited with his or her total period of service with the employer or employers maintaining the plan, irrespective of the actual hours of service completed in any 12-consecutive-month period.

(2) Overview of the operation of the elapsed time method. (i) Under the elapsed time method of crediting service, a plan is generally required to take into account the period of time which elapses while the employee is employed (i.e., while the employment relationship exists) with the employer or employers maintaining the plan, regardless of the actual number of hours he or she completes during such period. Under this alternative method of crediting service, an employee's service is required to be taken into account for purposes of eligibility to participate and vesting as of the date he or she first performs an hour of service within the meaning of 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 (a) (1) for the employer or employers maintaining the plan. Service is required to be taken into account for the period of time from the date the employee first performs such an hour of service until the date he or she severs from service with the employer or employers maintaining the plan.

(ii) The date the employee severs from service is the earlier of the date the employee quits, is discharged, retires or dies, or the first anniversary of the date the employee is absent from service for any other reason (e.g., disability, vacation, leave of absence, layoff, etc.). Thus, for example, if an employee quits, the severance from service date is the date the employee quits. On the other hand, if an employee is granted a leave of absence (and if no intervening event occurs), the severance from service date will occur one year after the date the employee was first absent on leave, and this one year of absence is required to be taken into account as service for the employer or employers maintaining the plan. Because the severance from service date occurs on the earlier of two possible dates (i.e., quit, discharge, retirement or death or the first anniversary of an absence from service for any other reason), a quit, discharge, retirement or death within the year after the beginning of an absence for any other reason results in an immediate severance from service. Thus, for example, if an employee dies at the end of a four-week absence resulting from illness, the severance from service date is the date of death, rather than the first anniversary date of the first day of absence for illness.

(iii) In addition, for purposes of eligibility to participate and vesting under the elapsed time method of crediting service, an employee who has severed from service by reason of a quit, discharge or retirement may be entitled to have a period of time of 12 months or less taken into account by the employer or employers maintaining the plan if the employee returns to service within a certain period of time and performs an hour of service within the meaning of 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 (a) (1). In general, the period of time during which the employee must return to service begins on the date the employee severs from service as a result of a quit, discharge or retirement and ends on the first anniversary of such date. However, if the employee is absent for any other reason (e.g., layoff) and then quits, is discharged or retires, the period of time during which the employee may return and receive credit begins on the severance from service date and ends one year after the first day of absence (e.g., first day of layoff). As a result of the operation of these rules, a severance from service (e.g., a quit), or an absence (e.g., layoff) followed by a severance from service, never results in a period of time of more than one year being required to be taken into account after an employee severs from service or is absent from service.

(iv) For purposes of benefit accrual under the elapsed time method of crediting service, an employee is entitled to have his or her service taken into account from the date he or she begins to participate in the plan until the severance from service date. Periods of severance under any circumstances are not required to be taken into account. For example, a participant who is discharged on December 14, 1980 and rehired on October 14, 1981 is not required to be credited with the 10 month period of severance for benefit accrual purposes.

(3) Overview of certain concepts relating to the elapsed time method—(i) In general. The rules with respect to the elapsed time method of crediting service are based on certain concepts which are defined in paragraph (b) of this section. These concepts are applied in the substantive rules contained in paragraphs (c), (d), (e), (f) and (g) of this section. The purpose of this subparagraph is to summarize these concepts.

(ii) Employment commencement date. (A) A concept which is necessary in order to credit service accurately under any service crediting method is the establishment of a starting point for crediting service. The employment commencement date, which is the date on which an employee first performs an hour of service within the meaning of 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 (a) (1) for the employer or employers maintaining the plan, is used to establish the date upon which an employee must begin to receive credit for certain purposes (e.g., eligibility to participate and vesting).

(B) In order to credit accurately an employee's total service with an employer or employers maintaining the plan, a plan also may provide for an “adjusted” employment commencement date (i.e., a recalculation of the employment commencement date to reflect noncreditable periods of severance) or a reemployment commencement date as defined in paragraph (b) (3) of this section. Fundamentally, all three concepts rely upon the performance of an hour of service to provide a starting point for crediting service. One purpose of these three concepts is to enable plans to satisfy the requirements of this section in a variety of ways.

(C) The fundamental rule with respect to these concepts is that any plan provision is permissible so long as it satisfies the minimum standards. Thus, for example, although the rules of this section provide that credit must begin on the employment commencement date, a plan is permitted to “adjust” the employment commencement date to reflect periods of time for which service is not required to be credited. Similarly, a plan may wish to credit service under the elapsed time method as discrete periods of service and provide for a reemployment commencement date. Certain plans may wish to provide for both concepts, although it is not a requirement of this section that plans so provide.

(iii) Severance from service date. Another fundamental concept of the elapsed time method of crediting service is the severance from service date, which is defined as the earlier of the date on which an employee quits, retires, is discharged or dies, or the first anniversary of the first date of absence for any other reason. One purpose of the severance from service date is to provide the endpoint for crediting service under the elapsed time method. As a general proposition, service is credited from the employment commencement date (i.e., the starting point) until the severance from service date (i.e., the endpoint). A complementary purpose of the severance from service date is to establish the starting point for measuring a period of severance from service in order to determine a “break in service” (see paragraph (a)(3)(v) of this section). A third purpose of such date is to establish the starting point for measuring the period of time which may be required to be taken into account under the service spanning rules (see paragraph (a)(3)(vi) of this section).

(iv) Period of service. A third elapsed time concept is the use of the “period of service” rather than the “year of service” in determining service to be taken into account for purposes of eligibility to participate, vesting and benefit accrual. For purposes of eligibility to participate and vesting, the period of service runs from the employment commencement date or reemployment commencement date until the severance from service date. For purposes of benefit accrual, a period of service runs from the date that a participant commences participation under the plan until the severance from service date. Because the endpoint of the period of service is marked by the severance from service date, an employee is credited with the period of time which runs during any absence from service (other than for reason of a quit, retirement, discharge or death) which is 12 months or less. Thus, for example, a three week absence for vacation is taken into account as part of a period of service and does not trigger a severance from service date.

(v) Period of severance. A period of severance begins on the severance from service date and ends when an employee returns to service with the employer or employers maintaining the plan. The purpose of the period of severance is to apply the statutory “break in service” rules to an elapsed time method of crediting service.

(vi) Service spanning. Under the elapsed time method of crediting service, a plan is required to credit periods of service and, under the service spanning rules, certain periods of severance of 12 months or less for purposes of eligibility to participate and vesting. Under the first service spanning rule, if an employee severs from service as a result of quit, discharge or retirement and then returns to service within 12 months, the period of severance is required to be taken into account. Also, a situation may arise in which an employee is absent from service for any reason other than quit, discharge, retirement or death and during the absence a quit, discharge or retirement occurs. The second service spanning rule provides in that set of circumstances that a plan is required to take into account the period of time between the severance from service date (i.e., the date of quit, discharge or retirement) and the first anniversary of the date on which the employee was first absent, if the employee returns to service on or before such first anniversary date.

(4) Organization and applicability. (i) The substantive rules for crediting service under the elapsed time method with respect to eligibility to participate are contained in paragraph (c), the rules with respect to vesting are contained in subparagraph (d), and the rules with respect to benefit accrual are contained in paragraph (e). The format of the rules is designed to enable a plan to use the elapsed time method of crediting service either for all purposes or for any one or combination of purposes under sections 410 and 411. Thus, for example, a plan may credit service for eligibility to participate purposes by the use of the general method of crediting service set forth in 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 or by the use of any of the equivalences set forth in 29 CFR 2530.200b-3, while the plan may credit service for vesting and benefit accrual purposes by the use of the elapsed time method of crediting service.

(ii) A plan using the elapsed time method of crediting service for one or more classifications of employees covered under the plan may use the general method of crediting service set forth in 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 or any of the equivalencies set forth in 29 CFR 2530.200b-3 for other classifications of employees, provided that such classifications are reasonable and are consistently applied. Thus, for example, a plan may provide that part-time employees are credited under the general method of crediting service set forth in 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 and full-time employees are credited under the elapsed time method. A classification, however, will not be deemed to be reasonable or consistently applied if such classification is designed with an intent to preclude an employee or employees from attaining his or her statutory entitlement with respect to eligibility to participate, vesting or benefit accrual. For example, a classification applied so that any full-time employee credited with less than 1,000 hours of service during a given 12-consecutive-month period would be considered part-time and subject to the general method of crediting service rather than the elapsed time method would not be reasonable.

(iii) Notwithstanding paragraph (a) (4) (i) and (ii) of this section, the use of the elapsed time method for some purposes or the use of the elapsed time method for some employees may, under certain circumstances, result in discrimination prohibited under section 401(a)(4), even though the use of the elapsed time method for such purposes, and for such employees, is permitted under this section.

(5) More than one employer plans. For special rules for computing years of service in the case of a plan maintained by more than one employer, see 29 CFR Part 2530 (Department of Labor regulations relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans).

(b) Definitions—(1) Employment commencement date. For purposes of this section, the term “employment commencement date” shall mean the date on which the employee first performs an hour of service within the meaning of 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 (a)(1) for the employer or employers maintaining the plan.

(2) Severance from service date. For purposes of this section, a “severance from service” shall occur on the earlier of—

(i) The date on which an employee quits, retires, is discharged or dies; or

(ii) The first anniversary of the first date of a period in which an employee remains absent from service (with or without pay) with the employer or employers maintaining the plan for any reason other than quit, retirement, discharge or death, such as vacation, holiday, sickness, disability, leave of absence or layoff.

(3) Reemployment commencement date. For purposes of this section, the term “reemployment commencement date” shall mean the first date, following a period of severance from service which is not required to be taken into account under the service spanning rules in paragraphs (c)(2)(iii) and (d)(1)(iii) of this section, on which the employee performs an hour of service within the meaning of 29 CFR 2530.200b-2(a)(1) for the employer or employers maintaining the plan.

(4) Participation commencement date. For purposes of this section, the term “participation commencement date” shall mean the date a participant first commences participation under the plan.

(5) Period of severance. For purposes of this section, the term “period of severance” shall mean the period of time commencing on the severance from service date and ending on the date on which the employee again performs an hour of service within the meaning of 29 CFR 2530.200b-2(a)(1) for an employer or employers maintaining the plan.

(6) Period of service—(i) General rule. For purposes of this section, the term “period of service” shall mean a period of service commencing on the employee's employment commencement date or reemployment commencement date, whichever is applicable, and ending on the severance from service date.

(ii) Aggregation rule. Unless a plan provides in some manner for an “adjusted” employment commencement date or similar method of consolidating periods of service, periods of service shall be aggregated unless such periods may be disregarded under section 410(a)(5) or 411(a)(4).

(iii) Other federal law. Nothing in this section shall be construed to alter, amend, modify, invalidate, impair or supersede any law of the United States or any rule or regulation issued under such law. Thus, for example, nothing in this section shall be construed as denying an employee credit for a “period of service” if credit is required by a separate federal law. Furthermore, the nature and extent of such credit shall be determined under such law.

(c) Eligibility to participate—(1) General rule. For purposes of section 410(a)(1)(A), a plan generally may not require as a condition of participation in the plan that an employee complete a period of service with the employer or employers maintaining the plan extending beyond the later of—

(i) The date on which the employee attains the age of 25; or

(ii) The date on which the employee completes a one-year period of service. See the regulations under section 410(a) (relating to eligibility to participate).

(2) Determination of one-year period of service. (i) For purposes of determining the date on which an employee satisfies the service requirement for initial eligibility to participate under the plan, a plan using the elapsed time method of crediting service shall provide that an employee who completes the 1-year period of service requirement on the first anniversary of his employment commencement date satisfies the minimum service requirement as of such date. In the case of an employee who fails to complete a one-year period of service on the first anniversary of his employment commencement date, a plan which does not contain a provision permitted by section 410(a)(5)(D) (rule of parity) shall provide for the aggregation of periods of service so that a one-year period of service shall be completed as of the date the employee completes 12 months of service (30 days are deemed to be a month in the case of the aggregation of fractional months) or 365 days of service.

(ii) For purposes of section 410(a)(1)(B)(i), a “3-year period of service” shall be deemed to be “3 years of service.”

(iii) Service spanning rules. In determining a 1-year period of service for purposes of initial eligibility to participate and a period of service for purposes of retention of eligibility to participate, in addition to taking into account an employee's period of service, a plan shall take into account the following periods of severance—

(A) If an employee severs from service by reason of a quit, discharge or retirement and the employee then performs an hour of service within the meaning of 29 CFR 2530.200b-2(a)(1) within 12 months of the severance from service date, the plan is required to take into account the period of severance; and

(B) Notwithstanding paragraph (c)(2)(iii)(A) of this section, if an employee severs from service by reason of a quit, discharge or retirement during an absence from service of 12 months or less for any reason other than a quit, discharge, retirement or death, and then performs an hour of service within the meaning of 29 CFR 2530.200b-2(a)(1) within 12 months of the date on which the employee was first absent from service, the plan is required to take into account the period of severance.

(iv) For purposes of determining an employee's retention of eligibility to participate in the plan, a plan shall take into account an employee's entire period of service unless certain periods of service may be disregarded under section 410(a)(5) of the Code.

(v) Example. Employee W, age 31, completed 6 months of service and was laid off. After 2 months of layoff, W quit. Five months later, W returned to service. For purposes of eligibility to participate, W was required to be credited with 13 months of service (8 months of service and 5 months of severance). If, on the other hand, W had not returned to service within the first 10 months of severance (i.e., within 12 months after the first day of layoff), W would be required to be credited with only 8 months of service.

(3) Entry date requirements—(i) General rule. For purposes of section 410(a)(4), it is necessary for a plan to provide that any employee who has satisfied the minimum age and service requirements, and who is otherwise entitled to participate in the plan, commences participation in the plan no later than the earlier of—

(A) The first day of the first plan year beginning after the date on which such employee satisfied such requirements, or

(B) The date six months after the date on which he satisfied such requirements, unless such employee was separated from service before the date referred to in subdivision (i) (A) or (B), whichever is applicable. See the regulations under section 410(a) (relating to eligibility to participate).

(ii) Separation from service—(A) Definition. For purposes of this section, the term “separated from service” includes a severance from service or an absence from service for any reason other than a quit, discharge, retirement or death, regardless of the duration of such absence. Accordingly, if an employee is laid off for a period of six weeks, the employee shall be deemed to be “separated from service” during such period for purposes of the entry date requirements.

(B) Application. A period of severance which is taken into account under the service spanning rules in paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section or an absence of 12 months or less may result in an employee satisfying the plan's minimum service requirement during such period of time. In addition, once an employee satisfies the plan's minimum service requirement, either before or during such period of time, such period of time may contain an entry date applicable to such employee. In the case of an employee whose period of severance is taken into account and such period contains an entry date applicable to the employee, he or she shall be made a participant in the plan (if otherwise eligible) no later than the date on which he or she ended the period of severance. In the case of an employee whose period of absence contains an entry date applicable to such employee, he or she, no later than the date such absence ended, shall be made a participant in the plan (if otherwise eligible) as of the first applicable entry date which occurred during such absence from service.

(iii) Examples. For purposes of the following examples, assume that the plan provides for a minimum age requirement of 25 and a minimum service requirement of one year, and provides for semi-annual entry dates.

(A) Employee A, age 35, worked for 10 months in a job classification covered under the plan, became disabled for nine consecutive months and then returned to service. During the period of absence, A completed a 1-year period of service and passed a semi-annual entry date after satisfying the minimum service requirement. Accordingly, the plan is required to make A a participant no later than his return to service effective as of the applicable entry date.

(B) Employee B, after satisfying the minimum age and service requirements, quit work before the next semi-annual entry date, and then returned to service before incurring a 1-year period of severance, but after such semi-annual entry date. Employee B is entitled to become a participant immediately upon his return to service effective as of the date of his return.

(4) Break in service. For purposes of applying the break in service rules under section 410(a)(5) (B) and (C), the term “1-year period of severance” shall be substituted for the term “1-year break in service”. A 1-year period of severance shall be determined on the basis of a 12-consecutive-month period beginning on the severance from service date and ending on the first anniversary of such date, provided that the employee during such 12-consecutive-month period does not perform an hour of service within the meaning of 29 CFR 2530.200b-2(a)(1) for the employer or employers maintaining the plan.

(5) One-year hold-out—(i) General rule. (A) For purposes of section 410(a)(5)(C), in determining the period of service of an employee who has incurred a 1-year period of severance, a plan may disregard the employee's period of service before such period of severance until the employee completes a 1-year period of service after such period of severance.

(B) Example. Assume that a plan provides for a minimum service requirement of 1-year and provides for semi-annual entry dates, but does not contain the provisions permitted by section 410(a)(5)(D) (relating to the rule of parity). Employee G, age 40, completed a seven-month period of service, quit and then returned to service 15 months later, thereby incurring a 1-year period of severance. After working four months, G was laid off for nine months and then returned to work again. Although the plan may hold employee G out from participation in the plan until the completion of a 1-year period of service after the 1-year (or greater) period of severance, once the 1-year hold-out is completed, the plan is required to provide the employee with such statutory entitlement as arose during the 1-year hold-out. Accordingly, employee G satisfied the 1-year hold-out requirement as of the eighth month of layoff, and G is entitled to become a participant in the plan immediately upon his return to service after the nine-month layoff effective as of the first applicable entry date occurring after the date on which he satisfied the 1-year of service requirement (i.e., the first applicable entry date after the first month of layoff). See the regulations under section 410 (a) (relating to eligibility to participate).

(6) Rule of parity—(i) General rule. For purposes of section 410(a)(5)(D), in the case of a participant who does not have any nonforfeitable right under the plan to his accrued benefit derived from employer contributions and who incurs a 1-year period of severance, a plan, in determining an employee's period of service for purposes of section 410(a)(1), may disregard his period of service if his latest period of severance equals or exceeds his prior periods of service, whether or not consecutive, completed before such period of severance. See the regulations under section 410(a) (relating to eligibility to participate).

(ii) In determining whether a completely nonvested employee's service may be disregarded under the rule of parity, a plan is not permitted to apply the rule until the employee incurs a 1-year period of severance. Accordingly, a plan may not disregard a period of service of less than one year until an employee has incurred a period of severance of at least one year.

(iii) Example. Assume that a plan provides for a minimum service requirement of one year and provides for the rule of parity. An employee works for three months, quits and then is rehired 10 months later. Such employee is entitled to receive 13 months of credit for purposes of eligibility to participate and vesting (see the service spanning rules). Although the period of severance exceeded the period of service, the three months of service may not be disregarded because no 1-year period of severance occurred.

(d) Vesting—(1) General rule. (i) For purposes of section 411(a)(2), relating to vesting in accrued benefits derived from employer contributions, a plan which determines service to be taken in account on the basis of elapsed time shall provide that an employee is credited with a number of years of service equal to at least the number of whole years of the employee's period of service, whether or not such periods of service were completed consecutively.

(ii) In order to determine the number of whole years of an employee's period of service, a plan shall provide that non-successive periods of service must be aggregated and that less than whole year periods of service (whether or not consecutive) must be aggregated on the basis that 12 months of service (30 days are deemed to be a month in the case of the aggregation of fractional months) or 365 days of service equal a whole year of service.

(iii) Service spanning rules. In determining a participant's period of service for vesting purposes, a plan shall take into account the following periods of severance—

(A) If an employee severs from service by reason of a quit, discharge or retirement and the employee then performs an hour of service within the meaning of 29 CFR 2530.200b-2(a)(1) within 12 months of the severance from service date, the plan is required to take into account the period of severance; and

(B) Nothwithstanding paragraph (d)(1)(iii)(A) of this section, if an employee severs from service by reason of a quit, discharge or retirement during an absence from service of 12 months or less for any reason other than a quit, discharge, retirement or death, and then performs an hour of service within the meaning of 29 CFR 2530.200b-2(a)(1) within 12 months of the date on which the employee was first absent from service, the plan is required to take into account the period of severance.

(iv) For purposes of determining an employee's nonforfeitable percentage of accrued benefits derived from employer contributions, a plan, after calculating an employee's period of service in the manner prescribed in this paragraph, may disregard any remaining less than whole year, 12-month or 365-day period of service. Thus, for example, if a plan provides for the statutory five to fifteen year graded vesting, an employee with a period (or periods) of service which yield 5 whole year periods of service and an additional 321-day period of service is twenty-five percent vested in his or her employer-derived accrued benefits (based solely on the 5 whole year periods of service).

(2) Service which may be disregarded. (i) For purposes of section 411(a)(4), in determining the nonforfeitable percentage of an employee's right to his or her accrued benefits derived from employer contributions, all of an employee's period or periods of service with an employer or employers maintaining the plan shall be taken into account unless such service may be disregarded under paragraph (d)(2)(ii) of this section.

(ii) For purposes of paragraph (d)(2)(i) of this section, the following periods of service may be disregarded—

(A) The period of service completed by an employee before the date on which he attains age 22;

(B) In the case of a plan which requires mandatory employee contributions, the period of service which falls within the period of time to which a particular employee contribution relates, if the employee had the opportunity to make a contribution for such period of time and failed to do so;

(C) The period of service during any period for which the employer did not maintain the plan or a predecessor plan;

(D) The period of service which is not required to be taken into account by reason of a period of severance which constitutes a break in service within the meaning of paragraph (d)(4) of this section;

(E) The period of service completed by an employee prior to January 1, 1971, unless the employee completes a period of service of at least 3 years at any time after December 31, 1970; and

(F) The period of service completed before the first plan year for which this section applies to the plan, if such service would have been disregarded under the plan rules relating to breaks in service in effect at that time. See the regulations under section 411(a) (relating to vesting).

(3) Seasonal industry. [Reserved]

(4) Break in service. For purposes of applying the break in service rules, the term “1-year period of severance” shall be substituted for the term “1-year break in service”. A 1-year period of severance shall be a 12-consecutive-month period beginning on the severance from service date and ending on the first anniversary of such date, provided that the employee during such 12-consecutive-month period fails to perform an hour of service within the meaning of 29 CFR 2530.200b-2(a)(1) for an employer or employers maintaining the plan.

(5) One-year hold-out. For purposes of section 411(a)(6)(B), in determining the nonforfeitable percentage of the right to accrued benefits derived from employer contributions of an employee who has incurred a 1-year period of severance, the period of service completed before such period of severance is not required to be taken into account until the employee has completed a 1-year period of service after his return to service. See the regulations under section 411(a) (relating to vesting).

(6) Vesting in pre-break accruals. For purposes of section 411(a)(6)(C), a “1-year period of severance” shall be deemed to constitute a “1-year break in service.” See the regulations under section 411(a) (relating to vesting).

(7) Rule of partity—(i) General rule. For purposes of section 411(a)(6)(D), in the case of an employee who is a nonvested participant in employer-derived benefits at the time he incurs a 1-year period of severance, the period of service completed by such participant before such period of severance is not required to be taken into account for purposes of determining the vested percentage of his or her right to employer-derived benefits if at such time the consecutive period of severance equals or exceeds his prior periods of service, whether or not consecutive, completed before such period of severance. See the regulations under section 411(a) (relating to vesting).

(e) Benefit accrual. (1) For purposes of section 411(b), a plan may provide that a participant's service with an employer or employers maintaining the plan shall be determined on the basis of the participant's total period of service beginning on the participation commencement date and ending on the severance from service date.

(2) Under section 411(b)(3)(A), a defined benefit pension plan may determine an employee's service for purposes of benefit accrual on any basis which is reasonable and consistent and which takes into account all service during the employee's participation in the plan which is included in a period of service required to be taken into account under section 410(a)(5) (relating to service which must be taken into account for purposes of determining an employee's eligibility to participate). A plan which provides for the determination of an employee's service with an employer or employers maintaining the plan on the basis permitted under paragraph (e)(1) of this section will be deemed to meet the requirements of section 411(b)(3)(A), provided that the plan meets the requirements of 29 CFR 2530.204-3, relating to plans which determine an employee's service for purposes of benefit accrual on a basis other than computation periods. Specifically, under 29 CFR 2530.204-3, it must be possible to prove that, despite the fact that benefit accrual under such a plan is not based on computation periods, the plan's provisions meet at least one of the three benefit accrual rules of section 411(b)(1) under all circumstances. Further, 29 CFR 2530.204-3 prohibits such a plan from disregarding service under section 411(b)(3)(C) (which would otherwise permit a plan to disregard service performed by an employee during a computation period in which the employee is credited with less than 1,000 hours). See the regulations under section 411(b) (relating to benefit accrual).

(f) Transfers between methods of crediting service—(1) Single plan. A plan may provide that an employee's service for purposes of eligibility to participate, vesting or benefit accrual shall be determined on the basis of computation periods under the general method set forth in 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 for certain classes of employees but under the alternative method permitted under this section for other classes of employees if the plan provides as follows—

(i) In the case of an employee who transfers from a class of employees whose service is determined on the basis of computation periods to a class of employees whose service is determined on the alternative basis permitted under this section, the employee shall receive credit for a period of service consisting of—

(A) A number of years equal to the number of years of service credited to the employee before the computation period during which the transfer occurs; and

(B) The greater of (1) the period of service that would be credited to the employee under the elapsed time method for his service during the entire computation period in which the transfer occurs or (2) the service taken into account under the computation periods method as of the date of the transfer.

In addition, the employee shall receive credit for service subsequent to the transfer commencing on the day after the last day of the computation period in which the transfer occurs.

(ii) In the case of an employee who transfers from a class of employees whose service is determined on the alternative basis permitted under this section to a class of employees whose service is determined on the basis of computation periods—

(A) The employee shall receive credit, as of the date of the transfer, for a number of years of service equal to the number of 1-year periods of service credited to the employee as of the date of the transfer, and

(B) The employee shall receive credit, in the computation period which includes the date of the transfer, for a number of hours of service determined by applying one of the equivalencies set forth in 29 CFR 2530.200b-3 (e) (1) to any fractional part of a year credited to the employee under this section as of the date of the transfer. Such equivalency shall be set forth in the plan and shall apply to all similarly situated employees.

(2) More than one plan. In the case of an employee who transfers from a plan using either the general method of determining service on the basis of computation periods set forth in 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 or the method of determining service permitted under this section to a plan using the other method of determining service, all service required to be credited under the plan to which the employee transfers shall be determined by applying the rules of paragraph (f)(1) of this section.

(g) Amendments to change method of crediting service. A plan may be amended to change the method of crediting service for any purpose or for any class of employees between the general method set forth in 29 CFR 2530.200-2 and the method permitted under this section, if such amendment contains provisions under which each employee with respect to whom the method of crediting service is changed is treated in the same manner as an employee who transfers from one class of employees to another under paragraph (f)(1) of this section.

(h) Transitional rule. For plans in existence on [insert the date of the publication of this document], the provisions of paragraph (f) of this section are effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 1983.

[T.D. 7703, 45 FR 40980, June 17, 1980]

§1.410(a)-8   Five consecutive 1-year breaks in service, transitional rules under the Retirement Equity Act of 1984.

Sections 410(a)(5)(D) and 411(a)(6)(D), as amended by the Retirement Equity Act of 1984 (REA 1984), permit a plan to disregard years of service that were disregarded under the plan provisions satisfying those sections (as in effect on August 22, 1984) as of the day before the REA amendments apply to the plan. Under section 302(a) of REA 1984, the new break-in-service rules generally apply to plan years beginning after December 31, 1984. Thus, for example, assume a plan has a calendar plan year and disregarded years of service as permitted by sections 410(a)(5)(D) and 411(a)(6)(D) as in effect on August 22, 1984. An employee completed two years of service in 1981 and 1982, and then incurred two consecutive 1-year breaks in service in 1983 and 1984. The plans may disregard the prior years of service even though the employee did not incur five consecutive 1-year breaks in service. On the other hand, assume the employee completed three consecutive years of service beginning in 1980, and incurred two 1-year breaks in service in 1983 and 1984. Because, as of December 31, 1984, the years of service credited before 1983 could not be disregarded, whether the plan may subsequently disregard those years of service would be governed by the rules enacted by REA 1984.

[T.D. 8219, 53 FR 31851, Aug. 22, 1988; 53 FR 48534, Dec. 1, 1988]

§1.410(a)-8T   Year of service; break in service (temporary).

(a)-(b) [Reserved]

(c) Breaks in service. (1) [Reserved]

(2) Employees under 2-year 100 percent vesting schedule—(i) General rule. In the case of an employee who incurs a 1-year break in service under a plan which provides that after not more than 2 years of service each participant's right to his accrued benefit under the plan is completely nonforfeitable (within the meaning of section 411 and the regulations thereunder) at the time such benefit accrues, the employee's service before the break in service is not required to be taken into account after the break in service in determining the employee's years of service under section 410(a)(1) and §1.410(a)-3 if such employee has not satisfied such service requirement.

(ii) Example. The rules of this subparagraph are illustrated by the following example:

Example. A qualified plan computing service by the actual counting of hours provides full and immediate vesting. The plan can not require as a condition of participation that an employee complete 2 consecutive years of service with the employer because the requirement as to consecutive years is not permitted under section 410(a)(5). However, such a plan can require 2 years without a break in service, i.e., 2 years with no intervening years in which the employee fails to complete more than 500 hours of service. Under a plan containing such a participation requirement, the following example illustrates when employees would become eligible to participate.
Year Hours of service completed
Employee AEmployee BEmployee C
11,0001,0001,000
21,000700500
31,0001,0001,000
41,0001,000700
51,0001,0001,000
Note: Employee A will have satisfied the plan's service requirement at the end of year 2, Employee B at the end of year 3, and Employee C at the end of year 5.

(3) One-year break in service

(i) [Reserved]

(ii) Examples. The rules provided by this subparagraph are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Employee A completes a year of service under a plan computing service by the actual counting of hours for the 12-month period ending December 31, 1989, and incurs a 1-year break in service for the 12-month period ending December 31, 1990. The plan does not contain the provisions permitted by section 410(a)(5)(B) (relating to 2-year 100 percent vesting) and section 410(a)(5)(D) (relating to nonvested participants). Thereafter, he does not complete a year of service. As of January 1, 1991, in computing his period of service under the plan his service prior to December 31, 1990, is not required to be taken into account for purposes of section 410(a)(1) and §1.410(a)-3.

[T.D. 8170, 53 FR 239, Jan. 6, 1988]

§1.410(a)-9   Maternity and paternity absence.

(a) Elapsed time—(1) Rule. For purposes of applying the rules of §1.410(a)-7 (relating to the elapsed time method of crediting service) to absences described in sections 410(a)(5)(E) and 411(a)(6)(E) (relating to maternity or paternity absence), the severance from service date of an employee who is absent from service beyond the first anniversary of the first day of absence by reason of a maternity or paternity absence described in section 410(a)(5)(E)(i) or 411(a)(6)(E)(i) is the second anniversary of the first day of such absence. The period between the first and second anniversaries of the first day of absence from work is neither a period of service nor a period of severance. This rule applies to maternity and paternity absences beginning on or after the first day of the first plan year in which the plan is required to credit service under sections 410(a)(5)(E) and 411(a)(6)(E).

(2) Example. The rules of this section are illustrated by the following example:

Assume an individual works until June 30, 1986; is first absent from employment on July 1, 1986, on account of maternity or paternity absence; and on July 1, 1989, performs an hour of service. The period of service must include the period from employment commencement date until June 30, 1987 (one year after the date of separation for any reason other than a quit, discharge, retirement, or death). The period from July 1, 1987, to June 30, 1988, is neither a period of service nor a period of severance. The period of severance would be from July 1, 1988, to June 30, 1989.

(b) Other methods. This paragraph provides a safe harbor for plans that compute years of service under the hours of service methods or permitted equivalencies. Such a plan will be treated as satisfying the requirements of sections 410(a)(5)(E) and 411(a)(6)(E) if the plan increases the minimum period of consecutive 1-year breaks required to disregard any service (or deprive any employee of any right) by one. Thus, a plan will satisfy sections 410(a)(5)(E) and 411(a)(6)(E) without having to compute service for maternity or paternity and sections 410(a)(5)(D) and 411 (a)(4)(D) and (a)(6)(C), by increasing the period of consecutive breaks-in-service from 5 to 6.

[T.D. 8219, 53 FR 31852, Aug. 22, 1988; 53 FR 48534, Dec. 1, 1988]

§1.410(a)-9T   Elapsed time (temporary).

(a)-(b) [Reserved]

(c) Eligibility to participate. (1) [Reserved]

(2) Determination of one-year period of service.

(i) [Reserved]

(ii) For purposes of section 410(a)(1)(B)(i), a “2-year period of service” shall be deemed to be “2 years of service.”

(d) Vesting—(1) General rule.

(i)-(iii) [Reserved]

(iv) For purposes of determining an employee's nonforfeitable percentage of accrued benefits derived from employer contributions, a plan, after calculating an employee's period of service in the manner prescribed in this paragraph, may disregard any remaining less than whole year, 12-month or 365-day period of service. Thus, for example, if a plan provides for the statutory three to seven year graded vesting, an employee with a period (or periods) of service which yields 3 whole year periods of service and an additional 321-day period of service is twenty percent vested in his or her employer-derived accrued benefits (based solely on the 3 whole year periods of service).

[T.D. 8170, 53 FR 239, Jan. 6, 1988]

§1.410(b)-0   Table of contents.

This section contains a listing of the major headings of §§1.410(b)-1 through 1.410(b)-10.

§1.410(b)-1   Minimum coverage requirements (before 1994).

(a) In general.

(b) Coverage tests.

(1) Percentage test.

(2) Classification test.

(c) Exclusion of certain employees.

(1) Bargaining unit.

(2) Air pilots.

(3) Nonresident aliens.

(d) Special rules.

(1) Highly compensated.

(2) Discrimination.

(3) Multiple plans.

(4) Profit-sharing plans.

(5) Certain classifications.

(6) Integration with Social Security Act.

(7) Different age and service requirements.

(i) Application.

(ii) General rule.

(8) Certain controlled groups.

(9) Transitional rule.

(e) Example.

§1.410(b)-2   Minimum coverage requirements (after 1993).

(a) In general.

(b) Requirements with respect to employees.

(1) In general.

(2) Ratio percentage test.

(i) In general.

(ii) Examples.

(3) Average benefit test.

(4) Certain tax credit employee stock ownership plans.

(5) Employers with no nonhighly compensated employees.

(6) Plans benefiting no highly compensated employees.

(7) Plans benefiting collectively bargained employees.

(c) Requirements with respect to former employees.

(1) Former employees tested separately.

(2) Testing former employees.

(d) Nonelective contributions under section 403(b) plans.

(e) Certain governmental and church plans.

(f) Certain acquisitions or dispositions.

(g) Additional rules.

§1.410(b)-3   Employees and former employees who benefit under a plan.

(a) Employees benefiting under a plan.

(1) In general.

(2) Exceptions to allocation or accrual requirement.

(i) Section 401(k) and 401(m) plans.

(ii) Section 415 limits.

(iii) Certain employees treated as benefiting.

(iv) Section 412(i) plans.

(3) Examples.

(b) Former employees benefiting under a plan.

(1) In general.

(2) Examples.

§1.410(b)-4   Nondiscriminatory classification test.

(a) In general.

(b) Reasonable classification established by the employer.

(c) Nondiscriminatory classification.

(1) General rule.

(2) Safe harbor.

(3) Facts and circumstances.

(i) General rule.

(ii) Factual determination.

(4) Definitions.

(i) Safe harbor percentage.

(ii) Unsafe harbor percentage.

(iii) Nonhighly compensated employee concentration percentage.

(iv) Table.

(5) Examples.

§1.410(b)-5   Average benefit percentage test.

(a) General rule.

(b) Determination of average benefit percentage.

(c) Determination of actual benefit percentage.

(d) Determination of employee benefit percentages.

(1) Overview.

(2) Employee contributions and employee-provided benefits disregarded.

(3) Plans and plan years taken into account.

(i) Testing group.

(ii) Testing period.

(4) Contributions or benefits basis.

(5) Determination of employee benefit percentage.

(i) General rule.

(ii) Plans with differing plan years.

(iii) Options and consistency requirements.

(6) Permitted disparity.

(i) In general.

(ii) Plans which may not use permitted disparity.

(7) Requirements for certain plans providing early retirement benefits.

(i) General rule.

(ii) Exception.

(e) Additional optional rules.

(1) Overview.

(2) Determination of employee benefit percentages as the sum of separately determined rates.

(i) In general.

(ii) Exception from consistency requirement.

(iii) Permitted inconsistencies.

(3) Determination of employee benefit percentages without regard to plans of another type.

(i) General rule.

(ii) Restriction on use of separate testing group determination method.

(iii) Treatment of permitted disparity.

(iv) Example.

(4) Simplified method for determining employee benefit percentages for certain defined benefit plans.

(i) In general.

(ii) Simplified method.

(5) Three-year averaging period.

(6) Alternative methods of determining compensation.

(f) Special rule for certain collectively bargained plans.

§1.410(b)-6   Excludable employees.

(a) Employees.

(1) In general.

(2) Rules of application.

(b) Minimum age and service exclusions.

(1) In general.

(2) Multiple age and service conditions.

(3) Plans benefiting certain otherwise excludable employees.

(i) In general.

(ii) Testing portion of plan benefiting otherwise excludable employees.

(4) Examples.

(c) Certain nonresident aliens.

(1) General rule.

(2) Special treaty rule.

(d) Collectively bargained employees.

(1) General rule.

(2) Definition of collectively bargained employee.

(1) In general.

(ii) Special rules for certain employees in multiemployer plans.

(iii) Covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

(iv) Examples.

(e) Employees of qualified separate lines of business.

(f) Certain terminating employees.

(1) In general.

(2) Hours of service.

(3) Examples.

(g) Employees of certain governmental or tax-exempt entities.

(1) Plans covered.

(2) Employees of governmental entities.

(3) Employees of tax-exempt entities.

(h) Former employees.

(1) In general.

(2) Employees terminated before a specified date.

(3) Previously excludable employees.

(i) Former employees treated as employees.

§1.410(b)-7   Definition of plan and rules governing plan disaggregation and aggregation.

(a) In general.

(b) Separate asset pools are separate plans.

(c) Mandatory disaggregation of certain plans.

(1) Section 401(k) and section 401(m) plans.

(2) ESOPs and non-ESOPs.

(3) Plans benefiting otherwise excludable employees.

(4) Plans benefiting certain disaggregation populations of employees.

(i) In general.

(ii) Definition of disaggregation population.

(5) Additional rules for plans benefiting employees of more than one qualified separate line of business.

(d) Permissive aggregation for ratio percentage and nondiscriminatory classification tests.

(1) In general.

(2) Rules of disaggregation.

(3) Duplicative aggregation.

(4) Special rule for plans benefiting employees of a qualified separate line of business.

(5) Same plan year requirement.

(e) Determination of plans in testing group for average benefit percentage test.

(1) In general.

(2) Example.

(f) Section 403(b) plans.

§1.410(b)-8   Additional rules.

(a) Testing methods.

(1) In general.

(2) Daily testing option.

(3) Quarterly testing option.

(4) Annual testing option.

(5) Example.

(b) Family member aggregation rule.

§1.410(b)-9   Definitions.

Collectively bargained employee.

Defined benefit plan.

Defined contribution plan.

Employee.

Employer.

ESOP.

Former employee.

Highly compensated employee.

Highly compensated former employee.

Multiemployer plan.

Noncollectively bargained employee.

Nonhighly compensated employee.

Nonhighly compensated former employee.

Plan year.

Plan year compensation.

Professional employee.

Ratio percentage.

Section 401(k) plan.

Section 401(l) plan.

Section 401(m) plan.

§1.410(b)-10   Effective dates and transition rules.

(a) Statutory effective dates.

(1) In general.

(2) Special statutory effective date for collective bargaining agreements.

(i) In general.

(ii) Example.

(iii) Plan maintained pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.

(b) Regulatory effective dates.

(1) In general.

(2) Plans of tax-exempt organizations.

(c) Compliance during transition period.

(d) Effective date for governmental plans.

[T.D. 8363, 56 FR 47641, Sept. 19, 1991; 57 FR 10954, Mar. 31, 1992, as amended by T.D. 8487, 58 FR 46838, Sept. 3, 1993; T.D. 8548, 59 FR 32914, June 27, 1994; T.D. 9275, 71 FR 41359, July 21, 2006]

§1.410(b)-1   Minimum coverage requirements (before 1994).

(a) In general. A plan is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of the plan is not a qualified trust) unless the plan satisfies section 410(b)(1). For plan years prior to the applicable effective date set forth in §1.410(b)-10, a plan satisfies section 410(b)(1) if it satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b)(1) or (b)(2) of this section. See also §1.410(b)-2 for plan years beginning on or after the applicable effective date set forth in §1.410(b)-10.

(b) Coverage tests—(1) Percentage test. A plan satisfies the requirements of this subparagraph if it benefits—

(i) Seventy percent or more of all employees, or

(ii) Eighty percent or more of all employees who are eligible to benefit under the plan if 70 percent or more of all the employees are eligible to benefit under the plan,

excluding in each case employees who have not satisfied the minimum age and service requirements (if any) prescribed by the plan, as of the date coverage is tested, as a condition of participation and employees permitted to be excluded under paragraph (c) of this section. The percentage requirements of this subparagraph refer to a percentage of active employees, including employees temporarily on leave, such as those in the Armed Forces of the United States, if such employees are eligible under the plan.

(2) Classification test. A plan satisfies the requirements of section 410(b)(1) and this subparagraph if it benefits such employees as qualify under a classification of employees set up by the employer, which classification is found by the Internal Revenue Service not to be discriminatory in favor of employees who are officers, shareholders, or highly compensated. For purposes of this subparagraph, except as provided by paragraph (c) of this section, all active employees (including employees who do not satisfy the minimum age or service requirements of the plan) are taken into account.

(c) Exclusion of certain employees. Under section 410(b)(2), for purposes of section 410(b)(1) and paragraph (b) of this section, there shall be excluded from consideration employees described in subparagraphs (1), (2), and (3) of this paragraph.

(1) Bargaining unit. Under section 410(b)(2)(A) and this paragraph, there may be excluded from consideration employees not included in the plan who are included in a unit of employees covered by an agreement which the Secretary of Labor finds to be a collective bargaining agreement between employee representatives and one or more employers, if the Internal Revenue Service finds that retirement benefits were the subject of good faith bargaining between such employee representatives and such employer or employers. For purposes of determining whether such bargaining occurred, it is not material that such employees are not covered by another plan or that the plan was not considered in such bargaining.

(2) Air pilots. Under section 410(b)(2)(B) and this paragraph there may be excluded from consideration, in the case of a plan established or maintained pursuant to an agreement which the Secretary of Labor finds to be a collective bargaining agreement between air pilots represented in accordance with title II of the Railway Labor Act and one or more employers all employees not covered by such agreement. Section 410(b)(2)(B) and this subparagraph do not apply to a plan if the plan provides contributions or benefits for employees whose principal duties are not customarily performed aboard aircraft in flight.

(3) Nonresident aliens. Under section 410(b)(2)(C) and this paragraph, there may be excluded from consideration employees who are nonresident aliens and who receive no earned income (within the meaning of section 911(b) and the regulations thereunder) from the employer which constitutes income from sources within the United States (within the meaning of section 861(a)(3) and the regulations thereunder).

(d) Special rules—(1) Highly compensated. The classification of an employee as highly compensated for purposes of section 410(b)(1)(B) and §1.410(b)-1(b)(2) is made on the basis of the facts and circumstances of each case, taking into account the level of the employee's compensation and the level of compensation paid by the employer to other employees, whether or not covered by the plan. Average compensation levels determined on a local, regional, or national basis, are not relevant for this purpose. Further, the classification of an employee as highly compensated is not made solely on the basis of the number or percentage of employees whose compensation exceeds, or is exceeded by, the employee's.

(2) Discrimination. The determination as to whether a plan discriminates in favor of employees who are officers, shareholders, or highly compensated is made on the basis of the facts and circumstances of each case, allowing a reasonable difference between the ratio of such employees benefited by the plan to all such employees of the employer and the ratio of the employees (other than officers, shareholders, or highly compensated) of the employer benefited by the plan to all employees (other than officers, shareholders, or highly compensated). A showing that a specified percentage of employees covered by a plan are not officers, shareholders, or highly compensated, is not in itself sufficient to establish that the plan does not discriminate in favor of employees who are officers, shareholders, or highly compensated.

(3) Multiple plans—(i) An employer may designate two or more plans as constituting a single plan which is intended to qualify for purposes of section 410(b)(1) and this section, in which case all plans so designated shall be considered as a single plan in determining whether the requirements of such section are satisfied by each of the separate plans. A determination that the combination of plans so designated does not satisfy such requirements does not preclude a determination that one or more of such plans, considered separately, satisfies such requirements.

(ii) Notwithstanding subdivision (i) of this subparagraph, a plan which is subject to the limitations of section 401(a)(17) of the Code or section 301(d)(3) of the Tax Reduction Act of 1975 cannot be considered with any other plan which covers any employee covered by such plan.

(4) Profit-sharing plans. Employees under a profit-sharing plan who receive the amounts allocated to their accounts before the expiration of a period of time or the occurrence of a contingency specified in the plan shall not be considered covered by the plan. Thus, in case a plan permits employees to receive immediately the amounts allocated to their accounts, or to have such amounts paid to a profit-sharing plan for them, the employees who receive the shares immediately shall not be considered covered by the plan.

(5) Certain classifications. See section 401(a)(5) and the regulations thereunder for rules relating to classifications of employees which are not considered to be discriminatory per se for purposes of section 410(b)(1)(B) and §1.410(b)-1(b)(2).

(6) Integration with Social Security Act. See section 401(a)(5) and the regulations thereunder for rules relating to integration of plans with the Social Security Act.

(7) Different age and service requirements—(i) Application. The rules of this subparagraph (7) apply to a plan which must satisfy the minimum age and service requirements of section 410(a)(1)(A) in order to be a qualified plan. Accordingly, the rules are inapplicable to plans described in section 410(c)(1) (see §1.410(a)-1(c)(1)); plans satisfying the alternative minimum age and service requirements of section 410(a)(1)(B) but not satisfying the requirements of section 410(a)(1)(A); and plans which provide contributions or benefits for employees, some or all of whom are owner-employees (see section 401(a)(10)).

(ii) General rules. A provision for different age and service requirements for present and future employees either upon establishment or subsequent amendment is not, of itself, discriminatory under section 410(b)(1)(B) even though present employees who are officers, shareholders, or highly compensated cannot meet the age and service requirements for future employees at the time the plan is established or amended and even though present participants who are officers, shareholders, or highly compensated would not have satisfied the age and service requirements for future employees at the time they became participants in the plan. Furthermore, prohibited discrimination will be deemed not to arise in operation, solely because of such different requirements, when future employees are added to the employer's work force.

(8) Certain controlled groups. In applying the percentage test and classification test described in paragraph (b) (1) and (2) of this section for a year, all the employees of corporations or trades and businesses whose employees are treated as employed by a single employer by reason of section 414 (b) or (c) must be taken into account. The preceding sentence shall apply for a plan year if, on 1 day in each quarter of such plan year, such corporations are members of a controlled group of corporations (within the meaning of section 414(b)) of such trades or businesses are under common control (within the meaning of section 414(c)).

(9) Transitional rule. In the case of a cash and deferred profit-sharing plan, in existence on June 27, 1974, the requirements of paragraph (b)(2) of this section are satisfied if over one-half of the participants in the plan are among the lowest paid two-thirds of all eligible employees. This subparagraph shall not apply after December 31, 1977.

(e) Example. The rules provided by this section are illustrated by the following example:

Example. An employer established a non-contributory defined benefit plan covering all employees of its ABC Division who are hired prior to age 60 and who are at least 25 years old. The normal retirement age under the plan is age 65. The employer has 100 employees including 20 employees who are under age 25 and 10 employees who were hired over age 60. The plan does not cover 15 employees who are over age 25 and were hired before age 60 because they are not in the ABC Division. Of these 15 excluded employees, 3 have less than 1 year of service. In addition, 12 of the 55 employees covered have less than one year of service. The plan can be shown not to satisfy the requirements of IRC section 410(b)(1)(A) as follows:
(i) Number of employees100
(ii) Number of employees excluded on account of minimum age and service20
(iii) (i)-(ii)80
(iv) Number of employees who must be covered if plan is to satisfy IRC section 410(b)(1)(A), 70% of (iii)56
(v) Number of employees actually covered55

Because the number of employees covered is less than the number of employees who must be covered, the plan does not satisfy the percentage coverage requirements of IRC section 410(b)(1)(A).

(Sec. 410 (88 Stat. 898; 26 U.S.C. 410))

[T.D. 7508, 42 FR 47197, Sept. 20, 1977, as amended by T.D. 7735, 45 FR 74722, Nov. 12, 1980; T.D. 8363, 56 FR 47643, Sept. 19, 1991; T.D. 8487, 58 FR 46839, Sept. 3, 1993]

§1.410(b)-2   Minimum coverage requirements (after 1993).

(a) In general. A plan is a qualified plan for a plan year only if the plan satisfies section 410(b) for the plan year. A plan satisfies section 410(b) for a plan year if and only if it satisfies paragraph (b) of this section with respect to employees for the plan year and paragraph (c) of this section with respect to former employees for the plan year. The rules in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section apply to all plans as a condition of qualification, including plans under which no employee is able to accrue any additional benefits (for example, frozen plans). Paragraphs (d), (e), and (f) of this section provide special rules for nonelective section 403(b) plans subject to section 403(b)(12)(A)(i), for governmental and church plans subject to section 410(c), and for certain acquisitions or dispositions, respectively. See §1.410(b)-7 for rules for determining the “plan” subject to section 410(b).

(b) Requirements with respect to employees—(1) In general. A plan satisfies this paragraph (b) for a plan year if and only if it satisfies at least one of the tests in paragraphs (b)(2) through (b)(7) of this section for the plan year.

(2) Ratio percentage test—(i) In general. A plan satisfies this paragraph (b)(2) for a plan year if and only if the plan's ratio percentage for the plan year is at least 70 percent. This test incorporates both the percentage test of section 410(b)(1)(A) and the ratio test of section 410(b)(1)(B). See §1.410(b)-9 for the definition of ratio percentage.

(ii) Examples. The following examples illustrate the ratio percentage test of this paragraph (b)(2).

Example 1. For a plan year, Plan A benefits 70 percent of an employer's nonhighly compensated employees and 100 percent of the employer's highly compensated employees. The plan's ratio percentage for the year is 70 percent (70 percent/100 percent), and thus the plan satisfies the ratio percentage test.
Example 2. For a plan year, Plan B benefits 40 percent of the employer's nonhighly compensated employees and 60 percent of the employer's highly compensated employees. Plan B fails to satisfy the ratio percentage test because the plan's ratio percentage is only 66.67 percent (40 percent/60 percent).

(3) Average benefit test. A plan satisfies this paragraph (b)(3) for a plan year if and only if the plan satisfies both the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4 and the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5 for the plan year.

(4) Certain tax credit employee stock ownership plans. A plan satisfies this paragraph (b)(4) for a plan year if and only if the plan—

(i) Is a tax credit employee stock ownership plan (as defined in section 409(a)),

(ii) Is the only plan of the employer that is intended to qualify under section 401(a), and

(iii) Is a plan that satisfies the rule set forth in section 410(b)(6)(D).

This paragraph (b)(4) is available only for plan years for which the tax credit employee stock ownership plan receives contributions for which the employer is allowed a tax credit under section 41 (as in effect prior to its repeal by the Tax Reform Act of 1986) or section 48(n) (as in effect prior to its amendment by the Tax Reform Act of 1984). The requirement of this paragraph (b)(4) that the plan be the only plan of the employer that is intended to qualify under section 401(a) is not satisfied if the employer has only one plan, but that plan is treated as two or more separate plans under the mandatory disaggregation rules of §1.410(b)-7(c).

(5) Employers with no nonhighly compensated employees. A plan satisfies this paragraph (b)(5) for a plan year if and only if the plan is maintained by an employer that has no nonhighly compensated employees at any time during the plan year.

(6) Plans benefiting no highly compensated employees. A plan satisfies this paragraph (b)(6) for a plan year if and only if the plan benefits no highly compensated employees for the plan year.

(7) Plans benefiting collectively bargained employees. A plan that benefits solely collectively bargained employees for a plan year satisfies this paragraph (b)(7) for the plan year. If a plan (within the meaning of §1.410(b)-7(b)) benefits both collectively bargained employees and noncollectively bargained employees for a plan year, §1.410(b)-7(c)(4) provides that the portion of the plan that benefits collectively bargained employees is treated as a separate plan from the portion of the plan that benefits noncollectively bargained employees. Thus, the mandatorily disaggregated portion of the plan that benefits the collectively bargained employees automatically satisfies this paragraph (b)(7) for the plan year and hence section 410(b). See §1.410(b)-9 for the definitions of collectively bargained employee and noncollectively bargained employee.

(c) Requirements with respect to former employees—(1) Former employees tested separately. Former employees are tested separately from employees for purposes of section 410(b). Thus, former employees are disregarded in applying the ratio percentage test, the nondiscriminatory classification test, and the average benefit percentage test with respect to the coverage of employees under a plan, and employees are disregarded in applying this section with respect to the coverage of former employees under a plan.

(2) Testing former employees. A plan satisfies section 410(b) with respect to former employees if and only if, under all of the relevant facts and circumstances (including the group of nonexcludable former employees not benefiting under the plan), the group of former employees benefiting under the plan does not discriminate significantly in favor of highly compensated former employees.

(d) Nonelective contributions under section 403(b) plans. For plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1989, a plan subject to section 403(b)(12)(A)(i) with respect to nonelective contributions (i.e., contributions not made pursuant to a salary reduction agreement) is treated as a plan subject to the requirements of this section. For this purpose, a plan described in the preceding sentence must satisfy the requirements of this section without regard to section 410(c) and paragraph (e) of this section. For plan years beginning before the effective date set forth in §1.410(b)-10(d), any plan described in section 410(c)(1)(A) (regarding governmental plans) satisfies the requirements of this section.

(e) Certain governmental and church plans. The requirements of section 410(b) do not apply to a plan described in section 410(c)(1) (other than a plan subject to section 403(b)(12)(A)(i) or a plan with respect to which an election has been made under section 410(d)). Such a plan must satisfy section 401(a)(3) as in effect on September 1, 1974. For this purpose, a plan that satisfies section 410(b) (without regard to this paragraph (e)) is treated as satisfying section 401(a)(3) as in effect on September 1, 1974. For plan years beginning before the effective date set forth in §1.410(b)-10(d), any plan described in section 410(c)(1)(A) (regarding governmental plans) satisfies the requirements of this section and is thus treated as satisfying the requirements of section 401(a)(3) as in effect on September 1, 1974. See §1.410(b)-10(b)(2) for a special rule for plans of tax-exempt organizations.

(f) Certain acquisitions or dispositions. Section 410(b)(6)(C) (relating to certain acquisitions or dispositions) provides a special rule whereby a plan may be treated as satisfying section 410(b) for a limited period of time after an acquisition or disposition if it satisfies section 410(b) (without regard to the special rule) immediately before the acquisition or disposition and there is no significant change in the plan or in the coverage of the plan other than the acquisition or disposition. For purposes of section 410(b)(6)(C) and this paragraph (f), the terms “acquisition” and “disposition” refer to an asset or stock acquisition, merger, or other similar transaction involving a change in employer of the employees of a trade or business.

(g) Additional rules. The Commissioner may, in revenue rulings, notices, and other guidance of general applicability, provide any additional rules that may be necessary or appropriate in applying the minimum coverage requirements of section 410(b), including (without limitation) additional rules limiting or expanding the methods in §1.410(b)-5(d) and (e) for determining employee benefit percentages.

[T.D. 8363, 56 FR 47643, Sept. 19, 1991; 57 FR 10817, Mar. 31, 1992, as amended by T.D. 8487, 58 FR 46839, Sept. 3, 1993; T.D. 8548, 59 FR 32914, June 27, 1994]

§1.410(b)-3   Employees and former employees who benefit under a plan.

(a) Employees benefiting under a plan—(1) In general. Except as provided in paragraph (a)(2) of this section, an employee is treated as benefiting under a plan for a plan year if and only if for that plan year, in the case of a defined contribution plan, the employer receives an allocation taken into account under §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2)(ii), or in the case of a defined benefit plan, the employee has an increase in a benefit accrued or treated as an accrued benefit under section 411(d)(6).

(2) Exceptions to allocation or accrual requirement—(i) Section 401(k) and 401(m) plans. Notwithstanding paragraph (a)(1) of this section, an employee is treated as benefiting under a section 401(k) plan for a plan year if and only if the employee is an eligible employee as defined in §1.401(k)-6 under the plan. Similarly, an employee is treated as benefiting under a section 401(m) plan for a plan year if and only if the employee is an eligible employee as defined in §1.401(m)-5 under the plan for the plan year.

(ii) Section 415 limits—(A) General rule for defined benefit plans. In determining whether an employee is treated as benefiting under a defined benefit plan for a plan year, plan provisions that implement the limits of section 415 are disregarded. Any plan provision that provides for increases in an employee's accrued benefit under the plan due solely to adjustments under section 415(d)(1), additional years of participation or service under section 415(b)(5), or changes in the defined contribution fraction under section 415(e) is also disregarded, but only if such provision applies uniformly to all employees in the plan.

(B) Defined benefit plans taking section 415 limits into account under section 401(a)(4) testing. Paragraph (a)(2)(ii)(A) of this section does not apply in the case of a defined benefit plan that uses the option in §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(2)(ii)(B) to take into account plan provisions implementing the provisions of section 415 in determining accrual rates under the section 401(a)(4) general test.

(C) Defined contribution plans. A defined contribution plan is permitted to apply the rule in the first sentence of paragraph (a)(2)(ii)(A) of this section in determining whether an employee is treated as benefiting under the plan, provided it applies the rule on a consistent basis for all employees in the plan.

(iii) Certain employees treated as benefiting—(A) In general. An employee is treated as benefiting under a plan for a plan year if the employee satisfies all of the applicable conditions for accruing a benefit or receiving an allocation for the plan year but fails to have an increase in accrued benefit or to receive an allocation solely because of one or more of the conditions set forth in paragraphs (a)(2)(iii) (B) through (F) of this section.

(B) Certain plan limits. The employee's benefit would otherwise exceed a limit that is applicable on a uniform basis to all employees in the plan. Thus, for example, if the formula under a defined benefit plan takes into account only the first 30 years of service for accrual purposes, an employee who has completed more than 30 years of service is still treated as benefiting under the plan.

(C) Benefits previously accrued. The benefit previously accrued by the employee is greater than the benefit that would be determined under the plan if the benefit previously accrued were disregarded. This could happen, for example, when the plan is applying the wear-away formula of §1.401(a)(4)-13(c)(4)(ii) and the employee's frozen accrued benefit exceeds the benefit determined under the current formula.

(D) Benefit offset arrangements. The plan offsets the employee's current benefit accrual under an offset arrangement described in §1.401(a)(4)-3(f)(9) (without regard to whether the offset is attributable to pre-participation service or past service).

(E) Target benefit plans. In the case of a target benefit plan that satisfies the nondiscriminatory amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) by satisfying the safe harbor in §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(3), the employee's theoretical reserve is greater than or equal to the actuarial present value of the fractional rule benefit.

(F) Post-normal retirement age adjustments. The employee has attained normal retirement age under a defined benefit plan and fails to accrue a benefit because of the provisions of section 411(b)(1)(H)(iii) regarding adjustments for delayed retirement.

(iv) Section 412(i) plans—(A) General rule. Notwithstanding paragraph (a)(1) of this section, an employee is treated as benefiting under an insurance contract plan within the meaning of section 412(i) for a plan year if and only if a premium is paid on behalf of the employee for the plan year.

(B) Exceptions. Notwithstanding paragraph (a)(2)(iv)(A) of this section, an employee is treated as benefiting under an insurance contract plan within the meaning of section 412(i) for a plan year if the sole reason that a premium is not paid on behalf of the employee is one of the reasons described in paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of this section. In addition, an employee is treated as benefiting under an insurance contract plan, within the meaning of section 412(i), that is a defined benefit plan if a premium is not paid on behalf of the employee solely because the insurance contracts that have previously been purchased on behalf of the employee guarantee to provide for the employee's projected normal retirement benefit without regard to future premium payments.

(3) Examples. The following examples illustrate the determination of whether an employee is benefiting under a plan for purposes of section 410(b).

Example 1. An employer has 35 employees who are eligible under a defined benefit plan. The plan requires 1,000 hours of service to accrue a benefit. Only 30 employees satisfy the 1,000-hour requirement and accrue a benefit. The five employees who do not satisfy the 1,000-hour requirement during the plan year are taken into account in testing the plan under section 410(b) but are treated as not benefiting under the plan.
Example 2. An employer maintains a section 401(k) plan. Only employees who are at least age 21 and who complete one year of service are eligible employees under the plan within the meaning of §1.401(k)-6. Under the rule of paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this section, only employees who have satisfied these age and service conditions are treated as benefiting under the plan.
Example 3. The facts are the same as in Example 2, except that the employer also maintains a section 401(m) plan that provides matching contributions contingent on elective contributions under the section 401(k) plan. The matching contributions are contingent on employment on the last day of the plan year. Under §1.401(m)-5, because matching contributions are contingent on employment on the last day of the plan year, not all employees who are eligible employees under the section 401(k) plan are eligible employees under the section 401(m) plan. Thus, employees who have satisfied the age and service conditions but who do not receive a matching contribution because they are not employed on the last day of the plan year are treated as not benefiting under the section 401(m) portion of the plan.

(b) Former employees benefiting under a plan—(1) In general. A former employee is treated as benefiting for a plan year if and only if the plan provides an allocation or benefit increase described in paragraph (a)(1) of this section to the former employee for the plan year. Thus, for example, a former employee benefits under a defined benefit plan for a plan year if the plan is amended to provide an ad hoc cost-of-living adjustment in the former employee's benefits. In contrast, because an increase in benefits payable under a plan pursuant to an automatic cost-of-living provision adopted and effective before the beginning of the plan year is previously accrued, a former employee is not treated as benefiting in a subsequent plan year merely because the former employee receives an increase pursuant to such an automatic cost-of-living provision. Any accrual or allocation for an individual during the plan year that arises from the individual's status as an employee is treated as an accrual or allocation of an employee. Similarly, any accrual or allocation for an individual during the plan year that arises from the individual's status as a former employee is treated as an accrual or allocation of a former employee. It is possible for an individual to accrue a benefit both as an employee and as a former employee in a given plan year. During the plan year in which an individual ceases performing services for the employer, the individual is treated as an employee in applying section 410(b) with respect to employees and is treated as a former employee in applying section 410(b) with respect to former employees.

(2) Examples. The following examples illustrate the determination of whether a former employee benefits under a plan for purposes of section 410(b).

Example 1. Employer A amends its defined benefit plan in the 1995 plan year to provide an ad hoc cost-of-living increase of 5 percent for all retirees. Former employees who receive this increase are treated as benefiting under the plan for the 1995 plan year.
Example 2. Employer B maintains a defined benefit plan with a calendar plan year. In the 1995 plan year, Employer B amends the plan to provide that an employee who has reached early retirement age under the plan and who retires before July 31 of the 1995 plan year will receive an unreduced benefit, even though the employee has not yet reached normal retirement age. This early retirement window benefit is provided to employees based on their status as employees. Thus, although individuals who take advantage of the benefit become former employees, the window benefit is treated as provided to employees and is not treated as a benefit for former employees.
Example 3. The facts are the same as Example 2, except that on September 1, 1995, Employer B also amends the defined benefit plan to provide an ad hoc cost-of-living increase effective for all former employees. An individual who ceases performing services for the employer before July 31, 1995, under the early retirement window, and then receives the ad hoc cost-of-living increase, is treated as benefiting for the 1995 plan year both as an employee with respect to the early retirement window, and as a former employee with respect to the ad hoc COLA.

[T.D. 8363, 56 FR 47644, Sept. 19, 1991; 57 FR 10954, Mar. 31, 1992, as amended by T.D. 8487, 58 FR 46839, Sept. 3, 1993; T.D. 9169, 69 FR 78153, 78154, Dec. 29, 2004]

§1.410(b)-4   Nondiscriminatory classification test.

(a) In general. A plan satisfies the nondiscriminatory classification test of this section for a plan year if and only if, for the plan year, the plan benefits the employees who qualify under a classification established by the employer in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section, and the classification of employees is nondiscriminatory under paragraph (c) of this section.

(b) Reasonable classification established by the employer. A classification is established by the employer in accordance with this paragraph (b) if and only if, based on all the facts and circumstances, the classification is reasonable and is established under objective business criteria that identify the category of employees who benefit under the plan. Reasonable classifications generally include specified job categories, nature of compensation (i.e., salaried or hourly), geographic location, and similar bona fide business criteria. An enumeration of employees by name or other specific criteria having substantially the same effect as an enumeration by name is not considered a reasonable classification.

(c) Nondiscriminatory classification—(1) General rule. A classification is nondiscriminatory under this paragraph (c) for a plan year if and only if the group of employees included in the classification benefiting under the plan satisfies the requirements of either paragraph (c)(2) or (c)(3) of this section for the plan year.

(2) Safe harbor. A plan satisfies the requirement of this paragraph (c)(2) for a plan year if and only if the plan's ratio percentage is greater than or equal to the employer's safe harbor percentage, as defined in paragraph (c)(4)(i) of this section. See §1.410(b)-9 for the definition of a plan's ratio percentage.

(3) Facts and circumstances—(i) General rule. A plan satisfies the requirements of this paragraph (c)(3) if and only if—

(A) The plan's ratio percentage is greater than or equal to the unsafe harbor percentage, as defined in paragraph (c)(4)(ii) of this section, and

(B) The classification satisfies the factual determination of paragraph (c)(3)(ii) of this section.

(ii) Factual determination. A classification satisfies this paragraph (c)(3)(ii) if and only if, based on all the relevant facts and circumstances, the Commissioner finds that the classification is nondiscriminatory. No one particular fact is determinative. Included among the facts and circumstances relevant in determining whether a classification is nondiscriminatory are the following—

(A) The underlying business reason for the classification. The greater the business reason for the classification, the more likely the classification is to be nondiscriminatory. Reducing the employer's cost of providing retirement benefits is not a relevant business reason.

(B) The percentage of the employer's employees benefiting under the plan. The higher the percentage, the more likely the classification is to be nondiscriminatory.

(C) Whether the number of employees benefiting under the plan in each salary range is representative of the number of employees in each salary range of the employer's workforce. In general, the more representative the percentages of employees benefiting under the plan in each salary range, the more likely the classification is to be nondiscriminatory.

(D) The difference between the plan's ratio percentage and the employer's safe harbor percentage. The smaller the difference, the more likely the classification is to be nondiscriminatory.

(E) The extent to which the plan's average benefit percentage (determined under §1.410(b)-5) exceeds 70 percent.

(4) Definitions—(i) Safe harbor percentage. The safe harbor percentage of an employer is 50 percent, reduced by 34 of a percentage point for each whole percentage point by which the nonhighly compensated employee concentration percentage exceeds 60 percent. See paragraph (c)(4)(iv) for a table that illustrates the safe harbor percentage and unsafe harbor percentage.

(ii) Unsafe harbor percentage. The unsafe harbor percentage of an employer is 40 percent, reduced by 34 of a percentage point for each whole percentage point by which the nonhighly compensated employee concentration percentage exceeds 60 percent. However, in no case is the unsafe harbor percentage less than 20 percent.

(iii) Nonhighly compensated employee concentration percentage. The nonhighly compensated employee concentration percentage of an employer is the percentage of all the employees of the employer who are nonhighly compensated employees. Employees who are excludable employees for purposes of the average benefit test are not taken into account.

(iv) Table. The following table sets forth the safe harbor and unsafe harbor percentages at each nonhighly compensated employee concentration percentage:

Nonhighly compensated employee concentration percentageSafe harbor percentageUnsafe harbor percentage
0-6050.0040.00
6149.2539.25
6248.5038.50
6347.7537.75
6447.0037.00
6546.2536.25
6645.5035.50
6744.7534.75
6844.0034.00
6943.2533.25
7042.5032.50
7141.7531.75
7241.0031.00
7340.2530.25
7439.5029.50
7538.7528.75
7638.0028.00
7737.2527.25
7836.5026.50
7935.7525.75
8035.0025.00
8134.2524.25
8233.5023.50
8332.7522.75
8432.0022.00
8531.2521.25
8630.5020.50
8729.7520.00
8829.0020.00
8928.2520.00
9027.5020.00
9126.7520.00
9226.0020.00
9325.2520.00
9424.5020.00
9523.7520.00
9623.0020.00
9722.2520.00
9821.5020.00
9920.7520.00

(5) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (c).

Example 1. Employer A has 200 nonexcludable employees, of whom 120 are nonhighly compensated employees and 80 are highly compensated employees. Employer A maintains a plan that benefits 60 nonhighly compensated employees and 72 highly compensated employees. Thus, the plan's ratio percentage is 55.56 percent ([60/120]/[72/80]=50%/90%=0.5556), which is below the percentage necessary to satisfy the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2). The employer's nonhighly compensated employee concentration percentage is 60 percent (120/200); thus, Employer A's safe harbor percentage is 50 percent and its unsafe harbor percentage is 40 percent. Because the plan's ratio percentage is greater than the safe harbor percentage, the plan's classification satisfies the safe harbor of paragraph (c)(2) of this section.
Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that the plan benefits only 40 nonhighly compensated employees. The plan's ratio percentage is thus 37.03 percent ([40/120]/[72/80]=33.33%/90%=0.3703). Under these facts, the plan's classification is below the unsafe harbor percentage and is thus considered discriminatory.
Example 3. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that the plan benefits 45 nonhighly compensated employees. The plan's ratio percentage is thus 41.67 percent ([45/120]/[72/80]=37.50%/90%=0.4167), above the unsafe harbor percentage (40 percent) and below the safe harbor percentage (50 percent). The Commissioner may determine that the classification is nondiscriminatory after considering all the relevant facts and circumstances.
Example 4. Employer B has 10,000 nonexcludable employees, of whom 9,600 are nonhighly compensated employees and 400 are highly compensated employees. Employer B maintains a plan that benefits 600 nonhighly compensated employees and 100 highly compensated employees. Thus, the plan's ratio percentage is 25.00 percent ([600/9,600]/[100/400]=6.25%/25%=0.2500), which is below the percentage necessary to satisfy the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2). Employer B's nonhighly compensated employee concentration percentage is 96 percent (9,600/10,000); thus, Employer B's safe harbor percentage is 23 percent, and its unsafe harbor percentage is 20 percent. Because the plan's ratio percentage (25.00 percent) is greater than the safe harbor percentage (23.00 percent), the plan's classification satisfies the safe harbor of paragraph (c)(2) of this section.
Example 5. The facts are the same as in Example 4, except that the plan benefits only 400 nonhighly compensated employees. The plan's ratio percentage is thus 16.67 percent ([400/9,600]/[100/400]=4.17%/25%=0.1667). The plan's ratio percentage is below the unsafe harbor percentage and thus the classification is considered discriminatory.
Example 6. The facts are the same as in Example 4, except that the plan benefits 500 nonhighly compensated employees. The plan's ratio percentage is thus 20.83 percent ([500/9,600]/[100/400]=5.21%/25%=0.2083), above the unsafe harbor percentage (20 percent) and below the safe harbor percentage (23 percent). The Commissioner may determine that the classification is nondiscriminatory after considering all the facts and circumstances.

[T.D. 8363, 56 FR 47645, Sept. 19, 1991; 57 FR 10954, Mar. 31, 1992]

§1.410(b)-5   Average benefit percentage test.

(a) General rule. A plan satisfies the average benefit percentage test of this section for a plan year if and only if the average benefit percentage of the plan for the plan year is at least 70 percent. A plan is deemed to satisfy this requirement if it satisfies paragraph (f) of this section for the plan year.

(b) Determination of average benefit percentage. The average benefit percentage of a plan for a plan year is the percentage determined by dividing the actual benefit percentage of the nonhighly compensated employees in plans in the testing group for the testing period that includes the plan year by the actual benefit percentage of the highly compensated employees in plans in the testing group for that testing period. See paragraph (d)(3)(ii) of this section for the definition of testing period.

(c) Determination of actual benefit percentage. The actual benefit percentage of a group of employees for a testing period is the average of the employee benefit percentages, calculated separately with respect to each of the employees in the group for the testing period. All nonexcludable employees of the employer are taken into account for this purpose, even if they are not benefiting under any plan that is taken into account.

(d) Determination of employee benefit percentages—(1) Overview. This paragraph (d) provides rules for determining employee benefit percentages. See paragraph (e) of this section for alternative methods for determining employee benefit percentages.

(2) Employee contributions and employee-provided benefits disregarded. Only employer-provided contributions and benefits are taken into account in determining employee benefit percentages. Therefore, employee contributions (including both employee contributions allocated to separate accounts and employee contributions not allocated to separate accounts), and benefits derived from such contributions, are not taken into account in determining employee benefit percentages.

(3) Plans and plan years taken into account—(i) Testing group. All plans included in the testing group under §1.410(b)-7(e)(1), and only those plans, are taken into account in determining an employee's employee benefit percentage.

(ii) Testing period. An employee's employee benefit percentage is determined on the basis of plan years ending with or within the same calendar year. These plan years are referred to in this section as the relevant plan years or, in the aggregate, as the testing period.

(4) Contributions or benefits basis. Employee benefit percentages may be determined on either a contributions or a benefits basis. Employee benefit percentages for any testing period must be determined on the same basis (contributions or benefits) for all plans in the testing group.

(5) Determination of employee benefit percentage—(i) General rule. The employee benefit percentage for an employee for a testing period is the rate that would be determined for that employee for purposes of applying the general test for nondiscrimination in §§1.401(a)(4)-2, 1.401(a)(4)-3, 1.401(a)(4)-8 or 1.401(a)(4)-9, if all the plans in the testing group were aggregated for purposes of section 410(b). Thus, if employee benefit percentages are determined on a contributions basis, each employee's employee benefit percentage is the aggregate normal allocation rate that would be determined for the employee under §1.401(a)(4)-9(b)(2)(ii)(A) (if the plans in the testing group include both defined benefit and defined contribution plans), the allocation rate that would be determined for the employee under §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2) (if the plans in the testing group include only defined contribution plans), or the equivalent normal allocation rate that would be determined for the employee under §1.401(a)(4)-8(c)(2) (if the plans in the testing group include only defined benefit plans). Similarly, if employee benefit percentages are determined on a benefits basis, each employee's employee benefit percentage is the aggregate normal accrual rate that would be determined for the employee under §1.401(a)(4)-9(b)(2)(ii)(B), the normal accrual rate that would be determined for the employee under §1.401(a)(4)-3(d), or the equivalent accrual rate that would be determined for the employee under §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(2), depending on whether the plans in the testing group include both defined benefit and defined contribution plans, only defined benefit plans, or only defined contribution plans.

(ii) Plans with differing plan years. If not all the plans in the testing group share the same plan year, §1.410(b)-7(d)(5) would ordinarily prohibit them from being aggregated for purposes of section 410(b). In such a case, employee benefit percentages are determined by applying the rules of paragraph (d)(5)(i) of this section separately to each subset of plans in the testing group that share the same plan year (or the same accrual computation period) and aggregating the results for all plans in the testing group. Thus, an employee's employee benefit percentage is determined as the sum of these separate employee benefit percentages that are determined consistently for all the plans in the testing group (except for differences attributable solely to the differences in plan years).

(iii) Options and consistency requirements. In determining employee benefit percentages under this paragraph (d)(5), any optional or alternative methods or rules available for determining rates in §§1.401(a)(4)-2, 1.401(a)(4)-3, 1.401(a)(4)-8, or 1.401(a)(4)-9, whichever is applicable, may be applied. Thus, for example, employee benefit percentages may generally be calculated using any of the alternative methods of determining average annual compensation or plan year compensation under §1.401(a)(4)-12, and using any underlying definition of compensation that satisfies section 414(s). Except as otherwise specifically permitted, the determination of employee benefit percentages must be made on a consistent basis for all employees and for all plans in the testing group as required by §§1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2)(vi), 1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(2)(i), 1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(2)(iv), 1.401(a)(4)-8(c)(2)(iv) or 1.401(a)(4)-9(b)(2)(iv).

(6) Permitted disparity—(i) In general. Permitted disparity may be imputed in determining employee benefit percentages as provided in §§1.401(a)(4)-2, 1.401(a)(4)-3, 1.401(a)(4)-8, or 1.401(a)(4)-9, whichever is applicable. When separate employee benefit percentages are determined for individual plans under paragraph (e)(2) of this section (or for subsets of plans that have the same plan year as described in paragraph (d)(5)(ii) of this section), permitted disparity may be imputed for an employee only in one individual plan (or subset of plans) and may not be imputed for the same employee in another individual plan (or subset of plans). However, if the same average annual compensation or plan year compensation is used to determine employee benefit percentages in more than one plan, the employee's employee benefit percentages for those plans may be summed prior to imputing permitted disparity.

(ii) Plans which may not use permitted disparity. Permitted disparity may be reflected in the determination of rates only to the extent that the plans for which rates are being determined are plans for which the permitted disparity of section 401(l) is available. Thus, for example, if a section 401(k) plan is included in the testing group and permitted disparity is imputed under §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(iv), then employee benefit percentages are determined by first calculating an adjusted allocation rate (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-7(b)(1)) without regard to the amount of allocations under the section 401(k) plan and adding to it the allocation rate for the section 401(k) plan. See §1.401(l)-1(a)(4) for a list of types of plans for which permitted disparity is not available.

(7) Requirements for certain plans providing early retirement benefits—(i) General rule. If any defined benefit plan in the testing group provides for early retirement benefits in addition to normal retirement benefits to any highly compensated employee, and the average actuarial reduction for any one of these benefits commencing in the five years prior to the plan's normal retirement age is less than four percent per year, then the aggregate most valuable allocation rate, equivalent most valuable allocation rate, aggregate most valuable accrual rate, or most valuable accrual rate must be substituted for the related normal rates in paragraph (d)(5) of this section.

(ii) Exception. Paragraph (d)(7)(i) of this section does not apply if early retirement benefits with average actuarial reductions described in that paragraph are currently available, within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b), under plans in the testing group to a percentage of nonhighly compensated employees that is at least 70 percent of the percentage of highly compensated employees to whom these benefits are currently available.

(e) Additional optional rules—(1) Overview. This paragraph (e) contains various alternative methods for determining employee benefit percentages for a testing period.

(2) Determination of employee benefit percentages as the sum of separately determined rates—(i) In general. Employee benefit percentages may be determined as the sum of separately determined employee benefit percentages for each of the plans in the testing group that are aggregated under paragraphs (d)(5) (i) or (ii) of this section, provided that these employee benefit percentages are determined on a consistent basis for all of these plans pursuant to paragraph (d)(5)(iii) of this section.

(ii) Exception from consistency requirement. The consistency requirement of paragraph (e)(2)(i) of this section is not violated merely because employee benefit percentages are not determined in a consistent manner for all of the plans in the testing group and the inconsistencies in determination of rates among plans are described in paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section. The exception in this paragraph (e)(2)(ii) applies only if it is reasonable to believe that the inconsistencies do not result in an average benefit percentage that is significantly higher than the average benefit percentage that would be determined had employee benefit percentages been determined on a consistent basis pursuant to paragraph (d)(5)(iii) of this section.

(iii) Permitted inconsistencies. The following inconsistencies between plans are permitted under this paragraph (e)(2)—

(A) Use of different underlying definitions of section 414(s) compensation in the determination of rates;

(B) Use of different definitions of average annual compensation;

(C) Use of different testing ages;

(D) Use of different fresh-start dates;

(E) Use of different actuarial assumptions for normalization; or

(F) Disregard of actuarial increases after normal retirement age and QPSA charges without regard to any requirement for uniformity in the actuarial increases or QPSA charges.

(3) Determination of employee benefit percentages without regard to plans of another type—(i) General rule. Employee benefit percentages may be determined under plans of one type (i.e., defined benefit plans or defined contribution plans) by treating all plans of the other type (i.e., defined contribution plans or defined benefit plans, respectively) as if they were not part of the testing group, using the method provided in this paragraph (e)(3). If this method is used to determine whether a defined contribution plan satisfies the average benefit percentage test, employee benefit percentages under all defined contribution plans in the testing group must be determined on a contributions basis, and benefits under any defined benefit plans may not be included in the employee benefit percentage. Similarly, if this method is used to determine whether a defined benefit plan satisfies the average benefit percentage test, employee benefit percentages under all defined benefit plans in the testing group must be determined on a benefits basis, and allocations under any defined contribution plans may not be included in the employee benefit percentage.

(ii) Restriction on use of separate testing group determination method. A plan does not satisfy the average benefit percentage test using the method provided in this paragraph (e)(3) unless each of the plans in the testing group of the other type (i.e., defined benefit plan or defined contribution plan) than the plan being tested satisfies the average benefit test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(3) using the method in this paragraph (e)(3) or satisfies the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2).

(iii) Treatment of permitted disparity. Although under the general rule of this paragraph (e)(3) plans of another type are disregarded in determining employee benefit percentages, the permitted disparity used by those plans (including any permitted disparity that is used by those plans to satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2)) is nonetheless taken into account in determining the extent to which permitted disparity may be used in determining employee benefit percentages.

(iv) Example. The following example illustrates the rules of this paragraph (e)(3):

Example. Employer A maintains two defined benefit plans, neither of which covers a group of employees that satisfies the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2), and a profit-sharing plan and a section 401(k) plan, each of which benefits a group of employees that satisfies the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2). The defined benefit plans will satisfy the average benefit percentage test if the actual benefit percentage of all nonexcludable nonhighly compensated employees, computed on a benefits basis without regard to contributions under the profit-sharing plan or the section 401(k) plan, is at least 70 percent of the actual benefit percentage of all nonexcludable highly compensated employees, computed on a benefits basis without regard to contributions under the profit-sharing plan or the section 401(k) plan.

(4) Simplified method for determining employee benefit percentages for certain defined benefit plans—(i) In general. An employee's employee benefit percentage with respect to a plan may be determined under the simplified method of paragraph (e)(4)(ii) of this section, provided the following conditions are satisfied:

(A) The only plans included in the testing group are defined benefit plans, and employee benefit percentages under these plans are determined on a benefits basis.

(B) Employee benefit percentages under the plans in the testing group are not required to be determined by taking into account early retirement benefits under paragraph (d)(7) of this section.

(C) The plan is a safe harbor defined benefit plan described in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b).

(ii) Simplified method—(A) Section 401(l) plans. Under the simplified method of this paragraph (e)(4)(ii), an employee's employee benefit percentage with respect to a section 401(l) plan described in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(3) (i.e., a unit credit plan) may be deemed equal to the employee's excess benefit percentage or gross benefit percentage (as defined in §1.401(l)-1(c) (14) or (18), respectively), whichever is applicable under the plan's benefit formula in the plan year. In the case of a section 401(l) plan described in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(4) (i.e., a fractional accrual plan), an employee's employee benefit percentage with respect to that plan may be deemed equal to the rate at which the excess or gross benefit, whichever is applicable, accrues for the employee in the plan year, taking into account the plan's benefit formula and the employee's projected service at normal retirement age. The use of this simplified method will be treated as an imputation of permitted disparity. See paragraph (d)(6) of this section for a restriction on multiple use of permitted disparity.

(B) Other plans. Under the simplified method of this paragraph (e)(4)(ii), an employee's employee benefit percentage with respect to a plan described in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(3) that is not a section 401(l) plan and that is not imputing permitted disparity may be deemed equal to the employee's benefit rate in the plan year under the plan's benefit formula. In the case of a plan described in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(4) that is not a section 401(l) plan and that is not imputing permitted disparity, an employee's employee benefit percentage with respect to that plan may be deemed equal to the rate at which the benefit accrues for the employee in the plan year, taking into account the plan's benefit formula and an employee's projected service at normal retirement age.

(5) Three-year averaging period. An employee's employee benefit percentage may be determined for a testing period as the average of the employee's employee benefit percentages determined separately for the testing period and for the immediately preceding one or two testing periods (referred to in this section as an averaging period). Employee benefit percentages of a particular employee that are averaged together within an averaging period must be determined on a consistent basis for all testing periods within the averaging period.

(6) Alternative methods of determining compensation. Employee benefit percentages may be determined on the basis of any definition of compensation that satisfies §1.414(s)-1(d) (without regard to whether the definition satisfies §1.414(s)-1(d)(3)), provided that the same definition is used for all employees and it is reasonable to believe that the definition does not result in an average benefit percentage that is significantly higher than the average benefit percentage that would be determined had employee benefit percentages been determined using a definition of compensation that also satisfies §1.414(s)-1(d)(3).

(f) Special rule for certain collectively bargained plans. A plan (as determined without regard to the mandatory disaggregation rule of §1.410(b)-7(c)(5)) that benefits both collectively bargained employees and noncollectively bargained employees is deemed to satisfy the average benefit percentage test of this section if—

(1) The provisions of the plan applicable to each employee in the plan are identical to the provisions of the plan applicable to every other employee in the plan, including the plan benefit or allocation formula, any optional forms of benefit, any ancillary benefit, and any other right or feature under the plan, and

(2) The plan would satisfy the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2), if §§1.410(b)-6(d) and 1.410(b)-7(c)(5) (the excludable employee and mandatory disaggregation rules for collectively bargained and noncollectively bargained employees) did not apply.

[T.D. 8363, 56 FR 47646, Sept. 19, 1991; 57 FR 10817, 10954, Mar. 31, 1992, as amended by T.D. 8487, 58 FR 46840, Sept. 3, 1993]

§1.410(b)-6   Excludable employees.

(a) Employees—(1) In general. For purposes of applying section 410(b) with respect to employees, all employees of the employer, other than the excludable employees described in paragraphs (b) through (i) of this section, are taken into account. Excludable employees are not taken into account with respect to a plan even if they are benefiting under the plan, except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of this section.

(2) Rules of application. Except as specifically provided otherwise, excludable employees are determined separately with respect to each plan for purposes of testing that plan under section 410(b). Thus, in determining whether a particular plan satisfies the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2), paragraphs (b) through (i) of this section are applied solely with reference to that plan. Similarly, in determining whether two or more plans that are permissively aggregated and treated as a single plan under §1.410(b)-7(d) satisfy the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2), paragraphs (b) through (i) of this section are applied solely with reference to the deemed single plan. In determining whether a plan satisfies the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5, the rules of this section are applied by treating all plans in the testing group as a single plan.

(b) Minimum age and service exclusions—(1) In general. If a plan applies minimum age and service eligibility conditions permissible under section 410(a)(1) and excludes all employees who do not meet those conditions from benefiting under the plan, then all employees who fail to satisfy those conditions are excludable employees with respect to that plan. An employee is treated as meeting the age and service requirements on the date that any employee with the same age and service (including service permitted to be taken into account for purposes of nondiscrimination testing under §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)) would be eligible to commence participation in the plan, as provided in section 410(b)(4)(C).

(2) Multiple age and service conditions. If a plan, including a plan for which an employer chooses the treatment under paragraph (b)(3) of this section, has two or more different sets of minimum age and service eligibility conditions, those employees who fail to satisfy all of the different sets of age and service conditions are excludable employees with respect to the plan. Except as provided in paragraph (b)(3) of this section, an employee who satisfies any one of the different sets of conditions is not an excludable employee with respect to the plan. Differences in the manner in which service is credited (e.g., hours of service calculated in accordance with 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 for hourly employees and elapsed time calculated in accordance with §1.410(a)-7 for salaried employees) for purposes of applying a service condition are not taken into account in determining whether multiple age and service eligibility conditions exist.

(3) Plans benefiting certain otherwise excludable employees—(i) In general. An employer may treat a plan benefiting otherwise excludable employees as two separate plans, one for the otherwise excludable employees and one for the other employees benefiting under the plan. See §1.410(b)-7(c)(3) regarding permissive disaggregation of plans benefiting otherwise excludable employees. The effect of this rule is that employees who would be excludable under paragraph (b)(1) of this section (applied without regard to section 410(a)(1)(B)) but for the fact that the plan does not apply the greatest permissible minimum age and service conditions may be treated as excludable employees with respect to the plan. This treatment is available only if the plan satisfies section 410(b) and §1.410(b)-2 with respect to these otherwise excludable employees in the manner described in paragraph (b)(3)(ii) of this section.

(ii) Testing portion of plan benefiting otherwise excludable employees. In determining whether the plan that benefits employees who would otherwise be excludable under paragraph (b)(1) of this section (applied without regard to section 410(a)(1)(B)) satisfies section 410(b) and §1.410(b)-2, employees who have satisfied the greatest permissible minimum age and service conditions with respect to the plan are excludable employees. In addition, if the plan being tested applies minimum age and service conditions and those conditions are less than the maximum permissible minimum age and service conditions, employees who have not satisfied the lower minimum age and service conditions actually provided for in the plan are excludable employees. Thus, for example, if the plan requires attainment of age 18 and 3 months of service, employees who have not attained age 18 or 3 months of service with the employer are excludable employees.

(4) Examples. The following examples illustrate the minimum age and service condition rules of this paragraph (b). In each example, the employer is not treated as operating qualified separate lines of business under section 414(r).

Example 1. An employer maintains Plan A for hourly employees and Plan B for salaried employees. Plan A has no minimum age or service condition. Plan B has no minimum age condition and requires 1 year of service. The employer treats Plans A and B as a single plan for purposes of section 410(b). Because Plan A imposes no minimum age or service condition, all employees of the employer automatically satisfy the minimum age and service conditions of Plan A. Therefore, no employees are excludable under this paragraph (b) in testing Plans A and B for purposes of section 410(b).
Example 2. An employer maintains three plans. Plan C benefits employees in Division C who satisfy the plan's minimum age and service condition of age 21 and 1 year of service. Plan D benefits employees in Division D who satisfy the plan's minimum age and service condition of age 18 and 1 year of service. Plan E benefits employees in Division E who satisfy the plan's minimum age and service condition of age 21 and 6 months of service. The employer treats Plans D and E as a single plan for purposes of section 410(b). In testing Plan C under the ratio percentage test or the nondiscriminatory classification test of section 410(b), employees who are not at least age 21 or who do not have at least 1 year of service are excludable employees under paragraph (b)(1) of this section. In testing Plans D and E, employees who do not satisfy the age and service requirements of either of the two plans are excludable employees under paragraph (b)(2) of this section. Thus, an employee is excludable with respect to Plans D and E only if the employee is not at least age 18 with at least 1 year of service or is not at least age 21 with at least 6 months of service. Thus, an employee who is 19 years old and has 11 months of service is excludable. Similarly, an employee who is 17 years old and has performed 2 years of service is also excludable.
Example 3. An employer maintains three plans. Plan F benefits all employees in Division F (the plan does not apply any minimum age or service condition). Plan G benefits employees in Division G who satisfy the plan's minimum age and service condition of age 18 and 1 year of service. Plan H benefits employees in Division H who satisfy the plan's minimum age and service condition of age 21 and 6 months of service. In testing the employer's plans under the average benefit percentage test provided in §1.410(b)-5, Plans F, G, and H are treated as a single plan and, as such, use the lowest minimum age and service condition under the rule of paragraph (b)(2) of this section. Therefore, because Plan F does not apply any minimum age or service condition, no employee is excludable under this paragraph (b).
Example 4. An employer maintains Plan J, which does not apply any minimum age or service conditions. Plan J benefits all employees in Division 1 but does not benefit employees in Division 2. Although Plan J has no minimum age or service condition, the employer wants to exclude employees whose age and service is below the permissible minimums provided in section 410(b)(1)(A). The employer has 110 employees who either do not have 1 year of service or are not at least age 21. Of these 110 employees, 10 are highly compensated employees and 100 are nonhighly compensated employees. Five of these highly compensated employees, or 50 percent, work in Division 1 and thus benefit under Plan J. Thirty-five of these nonhighly compensated employees, or 35 percent, work in Division 1 and thus benefit under Plan J. Plan J satisfies the ratio percentage test of section 410(b) with respect to employees who do not satisfy the greatest permissible minimum age and service requirement because the ratio percentage of that group of employees is 70 percent. Thus, in determining whether or not Plan J satisfies section 410(b), the 110 employees may be treated as excludable employees in accordance with paragraph (b)(3)(i) of this section.

(c) Certain nonresident aliens—(1) General rule. An employee who is a nonresident alien (within the meaning of section 7701(b)(1)(B)) and who receives no earned income (within the meaning of section 911(d)(2)) from the employer that constitutes income from sources within the United States (within the meaning of section 861(a)(3)) is treated as an excludable employee.

(2) Special treaty rule. In addition, an employee who is a nonresident alien (within the meaning of section 7701(b)(1)(B)) and who does receive earned income (within the meaning of section 911(d)(2)) from the employer that constitutes income from sources within the United States (within the meaning of section 861(a)(3)) is permitted to be excluded, if all of the employee's earned income from the employer from sources within the United States is exempt from United States income tax under an applicable income tax convention. This paragraph (c)(2) applies only if all employees described in the preceding sentence are so excluded.

(d) Collectively bargained employees—(1) General rule. A collectively bargained employee is an excludable employee with respect to a plan that benefits solely noncollectively bargained employees. If a plan (within the meaning of §1.410(b)-7(b)) benefits both collectively bargained employees and noncollectively bargained employees for a plan year, §1.410(b)-7(c)(4) provides that the portion of the plan that benefits the collectively bargained employees is treated as a separate plan from the portion of the plan that benefits the noncollectively bargained employees. Thus, a collectively bargained employee is always an excludable employee with respect to the mandatorily disaggregated portion of any plan that benefits noncollectively bargained employees.

(2) Definition of collectively bargained employee—(i) In general. A collectively bargained employee is an employee who is included in a unit of employees covered by an agreement that the Secretary of Labor finds to be a collective bargaining agreement between employee representatives and one or more employers, provided that there is evidence that retirement benefits were the subject of good faith bargaining between employee representatives and the employer or employers. An employee is a collectively bargained employee regardless of whether the employee benefits under any plan of the employer. See section 7701(a)(46) and §301.7701-17T of this chapter for additional requirements applicable to the collective bargaining agreement. An employee who performs hours of service during the plan year as both a collectively bargained employee and a noncollectively bargained employee is treated as a collectively bargained employee with respect to the hours of service performed as a collectively bargained employee and a noncollectively bargained employee with respect to the hours of service performed as a noncollectively bargained employee. See §1.410(b)-7(c) for disaggregation rules for plans benefiting collectively bargained and noncollectively bargained employees.

(ii) Special rules for certain employees in multiemployer plans—(A) In general. For purposes of this paragraph (d), in testing the disaggregated portion of a multiemployer plan benefiting noncollectively bargained employees, a noncollectively bargained employee who benefits under the plan may be treated as a collectively bargained employee with respect to all of the employee's hours of service under the rules of paragraphs (d)(2)(ii) (B) through (E) of this section, if the employee is or was a member of a unit of employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement and that agreement or a successor agreement provides for the employee to benefit under the plan in the current plan year. For this purpose, provisions of a participation agreement or similar document are taken into account in determining whether a collective bargaining agreement provides for an employee to benefit under a multiemployer plan.

(B) Employees who were collectively bargained employees during a portion of the current plan year. An employee described in paragraph (d)(2)(ii)(A) of this section who performs services for one or more employers that are parties to the collective bargaining agreement, for the plan, or for the employee representative both as a collectively bargained employee and as a noncollectively bargained employee during a plan year may be treated as a collectively bargained employee for the plan year, provided that at least half of the employee's hours of service during the plan year are performed as a collectively bargained employee.

(C) Employees who were collectively bargained employees during the collective bargaining agreement. An employee described in paragraph (d)(2)(ii)(A) of this section who was a collectively bargained employee with respect to all of the employee's hours of service during a plan year (including employees who are treated as collectively bargained employees with respect to all of their hours of service during a plan year under paragraph (d)(2)(ii) (B) or (E) of this section) may be treated as a collectively bargained employee with respect to all of the employee's hours of service for the duration of the collective bargaining agreement applicable for such plan year or, if later, until the end of the following plan year. For this purpose, a collective bargaining agreement is applicable for a plan year if it provided for the employee to benefit in the plan and was effective for any portion of that plan year. This paragraph (d)(2)(ii)(C) does not apply unless the terms of the plan providing for benefit accruals treat the employee in a manner that is generally no more favorable than similarly-situated employees who are collectively bargained employees.

(D) Employees who previously were collectively bargained employees. An employee who was treated as a collectively bargained employee pursuant to paragraph (d)(2)(ii)(C) of this section may be treated as a collectively bargained employee with respect to all of the employee's hours of service after the end of the period described in paragraph (d)(2)(ii)(C) of this section, provided that the employee is performing services for one or more employers that are parties to the collective bargaining agreement, for the plan, or for the employee representative. This paragraph (d)(2)(ii)(D) does not apply unless the terms of the plan providing for benefit accruals treat the employee in a manner that is generally no more favorable than similarly-situated employees who are collectively bargained employees, and no more than five percent of the employees covered under the multiemployer plan are noncollectively bargained employees (determined without regard to this paragraph (d)(2)(ii)(D)). In determining whether more than five percent of the employees covered under the multiemployer plan are noncollectively bargained employees, those employees who are described in paragraphs (d)(2)(ii) (B) and (C) of this section are treated as collectively bargained employees.

(E) Transition rule. For a plan year beginning before the applicable effective date of these regulations as set forth in §1.410(b)-10 (b) or (d), any employee described in paragraph (d)(2)(ii)(A) of this section may be treated as a collectively bargained employee with respect to all of the employee's hours of service for that plan year.

(F) Consistency requirement. The rules in paragraphs (d)(2) (i) and (ii) of this section must be applied to all employees on a reasonable and consistent basis for the plan year.

(iii) Covered by a collective bargaining agreement—(A) General rule. For purposes of paragraph (d)(2)(i) of this section, an employee is included in a unit of employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement if and only if the employee is represented by a bona fide employee representative that is a party to the collective bargaining agreement under which the plan is maintained. Thus, for example, an employee of either a plan or the employee representative that is a party to the collective bargaining agreement under which the plan is maintained is not included in a unit of employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement under which the plan is maintained merely because the employee is covered under the plan pursuant to an agreement entered into by the plan or employee representative on behalf of the employee (other than in the capacity of an employee representative with respect to the employee). This is the case even if all of such employees benefiting under the plan constitute only a de minimis percentage of the total employees benefiting under the plan.

(B) Plans covering professional employees—(1) In general. An employee is not considered included in a unit of employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement for a plan year for purposes of paragraph (d)(2)(iii)(A) of this section if, for the plan year, more than 2 percent of the employees who are covered pursuant to the agreement are professionals. This rule applies to all employees under the agreement, nonprofessionals as well as professionals. Thus, no employees covered by such an agreement are excludable employees with respect to employees who are not covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

(2) Multiple collective bargaining agreements. This paragraph (d)(2)(iii)(B) is applied separately with respect to each collective bargaining agreement. Thus, for example, if a plan benefits two groups of employees, one included in a unit of employees covered by collective bargaining agreement X, more than 2 percent of whom are professionals, and another included in a unit of employees covered by collective bargaining agreement Y, none of whom are professionals, the group covered by agreement X is not considered covered by a collective bargaining agreement and the group covered by agreement Y is considered covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

(3) Application of minimum coverage tests. If a plan covers more than 2 percent professional employees, no employees in the plan are treated as covered by a collective bargaining agreement. A plan that covers more than 2 percent professional employees must satisfy section 410(b) without regard to section 413(b) and the special rule in §1.410(b)-2(b)(7) of this section (regarding collectively bargained plans). In such cases, all nonexcludable employees must be taken into account. For this purpose, employees included in other collective bargaining units are excludable employees. However, the employees who are not covered by a collective bargaining agreement and the employees who are covered by an agreement that has more than 2 percent professionals are not excludable employees.

(iv) Examples. The following examples illustrate the collective bargaining unit rules of this section.

Example 1. An employer has 700 collectively bargained employees (none of whom is a professional employee) and 300 noncollectively bargained employees (200 of whom are highly compensated employees). For purposes of applying the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2) to Plan X, which benefits only the 300 noncollectively bargained employees, the 700 collectively bargained employees are treated as excludable employees pursuant to paragraph (d) of this section.
Example 2. (i) An employer has 1,500 employees in the following categories:
  Noncollectively bargained employees Collectively bargained employees Total
Highly compensated employees100100200
Nonhighly compensated employees9004001,300
Total1,0005001,500
The employer maintains Plan Y, which benefits 1,100 employees, including all of the noncollectively bargained employees (except for 100 nonhighly compensated employees who are noncollectively bargained employees), and 200 of the collectively bargained employees (including the 100 highly compensated employees who are collectively bargained employees). There are no professional employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement. In accordance with §1.410(b)-7(c)(4), the employer must apply the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2) to Plan Y as if the plan were two separate plans, one benefiting the noncollectively bargained employees and the other benefiting the collectively bargained employees.

(ii) In testing the portion of Plan Y that benefits the noncollectively bargained employees, the collectively bargained employees are excludable employees. That portion's ratio percentage is 88.89 percent ([800/900] /[100/100] = 88.89%/100% =0.8889), and thus it satisfies the ratio percentage test. The portion of Plan Y that benefits collectively bargained employees automatically satisfies section 410(b) under the special rule in §1.410(b)-2(b)(7).

(e) Employees of qualified separate lines of business. If an employer is treated as operating qualified separate lines of business for purposes of section 410(b) in accordance with §1.414(r)-1 (b), in testing a plan that benefits employees of one qualified separate line of business, the employees of the other qualified separate lines of business of the employer are treated as excludable employees. The rule in this paragraph (e) does not apply for purposes of satisfying the nondiscriminatory classification requirement of section 410(b)(5)(B). See §§1.414(r)-1(c)(2) and 1.414(r)-8 (separate application of section 410(b) to the employees of a qualified separate line of business). In addition, the rule in this paragraph (e) does not apply to a plan that is tested under the special rule for employer-wide plans in §1.414(r)-1(c) (2) (ii) for a plan year.

(f) Certain terminating employees—(1) In general. An employee may be treated as an excludable employee for a plan year with respect to a particular plan if—

(i) The employee does not benefit under the plan for the plan year,

(ii) The employee is eligible to participate in the plan,

(iii) The plan has a minimum period of service requirement or a requirement that an employee be employed on the last day of the plan year (last-day requirement) in order for an employee to accrue a benefit or receive an allocation for the plan year,

(iv) The employee fails to accrue a benefit or receive an allocation under the plan solely because of the failure to satisfy the minimum period of service or last-day requirement,

(v) The employee terminates employment during the plan year with no more than 500 hours of service, and the employee is not an employee as of the last day of the plan year (for purposes of this paragraph (f)(1)(v), a plan that uses the elapsed time method of determining years of service may use either 91 consecutive calendar days or 3 consecutive calendar months instead of 500 hours of service, provided it uses the same convention for all employees during a plan year), and

(vi) If this paragraph (f) is applied with respect to any employee with respect to a plan for a plan year, it is applied with respect to all employees with respect to the plan for the plan year.

(2) Hours of service. For purposes of this paragraph (f), the term “hours of service” has the same meaning as provided for such term by 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 under the general method of crediting service for the employee. If one of the equivalencies set forth in 29 CFR 2530.200b-3 is used for crediting service under the plan, the 500-hour requirement must be adjusted accordingly.

(3) Examples. The following examples illustrate the provision of this paragraph (f).

Example 1. An employer has 35 employees who are eligible to participate under a defined contribution plan. The plan provides that an employee will not receive an allocation of contributions for a plan year unless the employee is employed by the employer on the last day of the plan year. Only 30 employees are employed by the employer on the last day of the plan year. Two of the five employees who terminated employment before the last day of the plan year had 500 or fewer hours of service during the plan year, and the remaining three had more than 500 hours of service during the year. Of the five employees who were no longer employed on the last day of the plan year, the two with 500 hours of service or less during the plan year are treated as excludable employees for purposes of section 410(b), and the remaining three who had over 500 hours of service during the plan year are taken into account in testing the plan under section 410(b) but are treated as not benefiting under the plan.
Example 2. An employer has 30 employees who are eligible to participate under a defined contribution plan. The plan requires 1,000 hours of service to receive an allocation of contributions or forfeitures. Ten employees do not receive an allocation because of their failure to complete 1,000 hours of service. Three of the 10 employees who failed to satisfy the minimum service requirement completed 500 or fewer hours of service and terminated their employment. Two of the employees completed more than 500, but fewer than 1,000 hours of service and terminated their employment. The remaining five employees did not terminate employment. Under the rule in paragraph (f) of this section, the three terminated employees who completed 500 or fewer hours of service are treated as excludable employees for the portion of the plan year they are employed. The other seven employees who do not receive an allocation are taken into account in testing the plan under section 410(b) but are treated as not benefiting under the plan.
Example 3. An employer maintains two plans, Plan A for salaried employees and Plan B for hourly employees. Of the 100 salaried employees, two do not receive an allocation under Plan A for the plan year because they terminate employment before completing 500 hours of service. Of the 300 hourly employees, 50 do not receive an allocation under Plan B for the plan year because they terminate employment before completing 500 hours. In applying section 410(b) to Plan A, the two employees who did not receive an allocation under Plan A are excludable employees, but the 50 who did not receive an allocation under Plan B are not excludable employees, because they were not eligible to participate under Plan A.

(g) Employees of certain governmental or tax-exempt entities—(1) Plans covered. For purposes of testing either a section 401(k) plan, or a section 401(m) plan that is provided under the same general arrangement as a section 401(k) plan, an employer may treat as excludable those employees described in paragraphs (g)(2) and (3) of this section.

(2) Employees of governmental entities. Employees of governmental entities who are precluded from being eligible employees under a section 401(k) plan by reason of section 401(k)(4)(B)(ii) may be treated as excludable employees if more than 95 percent of the employees of the employer who are not precluded from being eligible employees by reason of section 401(k)(4)(B)(ii) benefit under the plan for the year.

(3) Employees of tax-exempt entities. Employees of an organization described in section 403(b)(1)(A)(i) who are eligible to make salary reduction contributions under section 403(b) may be treated as excludable with respect to a section 401(k) plan, or a section 401(m) plan that is provided under the same general arrangement as a section 401(k) plan, if—

(i) No employee of an organization described in section 403(b)(1)(A)(i) is eligible to participate in such section 401(k) plan or section 401(m) plan; and

(ii) At least 95 percent of the employees who are neither employees of an organization described in section 403(b)(1)(A)(i) nor employees of a governmental entity who are precluded from being eligible employees under a section 401(k) plan by reason of section 401(k)(4)(B)(ii) are eligible to participate in such section 401(k) plan or section 401(m) plan.

(h) Former employees—(1) In general. For purposes of applying section 410(b) with respect to former employees, all former employees of the employer are taken into account, except that the employer may treat a former employee described in paragraph (h)(2) or (h)(3) of this section as an excludable former employee. If either (or both) of the former employee exclusion rules under paragraphs (h)(2) and (h)(3) of this section is applied, it must be applied to all former employees for the plan year on a consistent basis.

(2) Employees terminated before a specified date. The employer may treat a former employee as excludable if—

(i) The former employee became a former employee either prior to January 1, 1984, or prior to the tenth calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the current plan year begins, and

(ii) The former employee became a former employee in a calendar year that precedes the earliest calendar year in which any former employee who benefits under the plan in the current plan year became a former employee.

(3) Previously excludable employees. The employer may treat a former employee as excludable if the former employee was an excludable employee (or would have been an excludable employee if these regulations had been in effect) under the rules of paragraphs (b) through (g) of this section during the plan year in which the former employee became a former employee. If the employer treats a former employee as excludable pursuant to this paragraph (h)(3), the former employee is not taken into account with respect to a plan even if the former employee is benefiting under the plan.

(i) Former employees treated as employees. An employer may treat as excludable employees all formerly nonhighly compensated employees who are treated as employees of the employer under §1.410(b)-9 solely because they have increases in accrued benefits under a defined benefit plan that are based on ongoing service or compensation credits (including imputed service or compensation) after they cease to perform services for the employer.

[T.D. 8363, 56 FR 47652, Sept. 19, 1991, as amended by T.D. 8376, 56 FR 63433, Dec. 4, 1991; T.D. 8363, 57 FR 10817, Mar. 31, 1992; T.D. 8487, 58 FR 46842, Sept. 3, 1993; T.D. 8487, 59 FR 16984, Apr. 11, 1994; T.D. 8548, 59 FR 32914, June 27, 1994; T.D. 9275, 71 FR 41359, July 21, 2006]

§1.410(b)-7   Definition of plan and rules governing plan disaggregation and aggregation.

(a) In general. This section provides a definition of “plan.” First, this section sets forth a definition of plan within the meaning of section 401(a) or 403(a). Then certain mandatory disaggregation and permissive aggregation rules are applied. The result is the definition of plan that applies for purposes of sections 410(b) and 401(a)(4). Thus, in general, the term “plan” as used in this section initially refers to a plan described in section 414(l) and to an annuity plan described in section 403(a), and the term “plan” as used in other sections under these regulations means the plan determined after application of this section. Paragraph (b) of this section provides that each single plan under section 414(l) is treated as a single plan for purposes of section 410(b). Paragraph (c) of this section describes the rules for certain plans that must be treated as comprising two or more separate plans, each of which is a single plan subject to section 410(b). Paragraph (d) of this section provides a rule permitting an employer to aggregate certain separate plans to form a single plan for purposes of section 410(b). Paragraph (e) of this section provides rules for determining the testing group of plans taken into account in determining whether a plan satisfies the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5.

(b) Separate asset pools are separate plans. Each single plan within the meaning of section 414(l) is a separate plan for purposes of section 410(b). See §1.414(l)-1(b). For example, if only a portion of the assets under a defined benefit plan is available, on an ongoing basis, to provide the benefits of certain employees, and the remaining assets are available only in certain limited cases to provide such benefits (but are available in all cases for the benefit of other employees), there are two separate plans. Similarly, the defined contribution portion of a plan described in section 414(k) is a separate plan from the defined benefit portion of that same plan. A single plan under section 414(l) is a single plan for purposes of section 410(b), even though the plan comprises separate written documents and separate trusts, each of which receives a separate determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service. A defined contribution plan does not comprise separate plans merely because it includes more than one trust, or merely because it provides for separate accounts and permits employees to direct the investment of the amounts allocated to their accounts. Further, a plan does not comprise separate plans merely because assets are separately invested in individual insurance or annuity contracts for employees.

(c) Mandatory disaggregation of certain plans—(1) Section 401(k) and 401(m) plans. The portion of a plan that is a section 401(k) plan and the portion that is not a section 401(k) plan are treated as separate plans for purposes of section 410(b). Similarly, the portion of a plan that is a section 401(m) plan and the portion that is not a section 401(m) plan are treated as separate plans for purposes of section 410(b). Thus, a plan that consists of elective contributions under a section 401(k) plan, employee and matching contributions under a section 401(m) plan, and contributions other than elective, employee, or matching contributions is treated as three separate plans for purposes of section 410(b). In addition, the portion of a plan that consists of contributions described in §1.401(k)-2(a)(5) (i.e., contributions that fail to satisfy the allocation or compensation requirements applicable to elective contributions and are therefore required to be tested separately) and the portion of the plan that does not consist of such contributions are treated as separate plans for purposes of section 410(b). Similarly, the portion of a plan that consists of contributions described in §1.410(m)-1(b)(4)(ii) (i.e., matching contributions that fail to satisfy the allocation and other requirements applicable to matching contributions and are therefore required to be tested separately) and the portion of the plan that does not consist of such contributions are treated as separate plans for purposes of section 410(b).

(2) ESOPs and non-ESOPs. The portion of a plan that is an ESOP and the portion of the plan that is not an ESOP are treated as separate plans for purposes of section 410(b), except as otherwise permitted under §54.4975-11(e) of this Chapter.

(3) Plans benefiting otherwise excludable employees. If an employer applies section 410(b) separately to the portion of a plan that benefits only employees who satisfy age and service conditions under the plan that are lower than the greatest minimum age and service conditions permissible under section 410(a), the plan is treated as comprising separate plans, one benefiting the employees who have satisfied the lower minimum age and service conditions but not the greatest minimum age and service conditions permitted under section 410(a) and one benefiting employees who have satisfied the greatest minimum age and service conditions permitted under section 410(a). See §410(b)-6(b)(3)(ii) for rules about testing otherwise excludable employees.

(4) Plans benefiting certain disaggregation populations of employees—(i) In general—(A) Single plan must be treated as separate plans. If a plan (i.e., a single plan within the meaning of section 414(l)) benefits employees of more than one disaggregation population, the plan must be disaggregated and treated as separate plans, each separate plan consisting of the portion of the plan benefiting the employees of each disaggregation population. See paragraph (c)(4)(ii) of this section for the definition of disaggregation population.

(B) Benefit accruals or allocations attributable to current status. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (c)(4)(i)(C) of this section, in applying the rule of paragraph (c)(4)(i)(A) of this section, the portion of the plan benefiting employees of a disaggregation population consists of all benefits accrued by, or all allocations made to, employees while they were members of the disaggregation population.

(C) Exceptions for certain benefit accruals—(1) Attribution of benefits to first disaggregation population. If employees benefiting under a plan change from one disaggregation population to a second disaggregation population, benefits they accrue while members of the second disaggregation population that are attributable to years of service previously credited while the employees were members of the first disaggregation population may be treated as provided to them in their status as members of the first disaggregation population and thus included in the portion of the plan benefiting employees of the first disaggregation population. This special treatment is available only if it is applied on a consistent basis, if it does not result in significant discrimination in favor of highly compensated employees, and if the plan provision providing the additional benefits applies on the same terms to all similarly-situated employees. For example, if all formerly collectively bargained employees accrue additional benefits under a plan after becoming noncollectively bargained employees, then those benefit increases may be treated as included in the portion of the plan benefiting collectively bargained employees if they are attributable to years of service credited while the employees were collectively bargained (e.g., where the additional benefits result from compensation increases that occur while the employees are noncollectively bargained or from plan amendments affecting benefits earned while collectively bargained that are adopted while the employees are noncollectively bargained) and if such treatment does not result in significant discrimination in favor of highly compensated employees.

(2) Attribution of benefits to current disaggregation population. If employees benefiting under a plan change from one disaggregation population to another disaggregation population, benefits they accrue while members of the first disaggregation population may be treated as provided to them in their current status and thus included in the portion of the plan benefiting employees of the disaggregation population of which they are currently members. This special treatment is available only if it is applied on a consistent basis and if it does not result in significant discrimination in favor of highly compensated employees.

(D) Change in disaggregation populations—(1) Reasonable treatment. If, in previous years, the configuration of a plan's disaggregation populations differed from their configuration for the current year, for purposes of the benefits accrued by, or allocations made to, an employee for those years, the employee's status as a member of a current disaggregation population for those years must be determined on a reasonable basis. A different configuration occurs, for example, if disaggregation populations exist for the first time, such as when an employer is first treated as operating qualified separate lines of business, or if the existing disaggregation populations change, such as when an employer redesignates its qualified separate lines of business.

(2) Example. The following example illustrates the application of this paragraph (c)(4)(i)(D).

Example. (a) Employer X operates Divisions M and N, which are treated as qualified separate lines of business for the first time in 1998. Thus, the disaggregation populations of employees of Division M and employees of Division N exist for the first time. Since 1981 Employer X has maintained a defined benefit plan, Plan P, for employees of Division M. Plan P provides a normal retirement benefit of one percent of average annual compensation for each year of service up to 25. Employee A has worked for Division M since 1981 and has never worked for Division N. Employee B has worked for Division N since 1989 and worked for Division M from 1981 to 1988. Employee C has worked in the headquarters of Employer X since 1981. For the period 1981 to 1988 Employee C was credited with years of service under Plan P.

(b) For purposes of the benefits accrued by Employee A under Plan P during years 1981 through 1997, Employee A is reasonably treated as having been a member of the Division M disaggregation population for those years. For purposes of the benefits accrued by Employee B under Plan P during years 1981 through 1988, Employee B is reasonably treated as having been a member of the Division M disaggregation population for 1981 through 1988 and as having changed to the Division N disaggregation population for 1989 through 1997. For purposes of the benefits accrued by Employee C under Plan P during years 1981 through 1988, Employee C is reasonably treated as having been a member of the Division M disaggregation population for those years. Moreover, any benefit accruals for Employee B and Employee C in years after 1988, that result from increases in average annual compensation after 1988 and that are attributable to years of service credited for 1981 through 1988, may be treated as provided to Employee B and Employee C in their status as members of the Division M disaggregation population if the requirements of paragraph (c)(4)(i)(C)(1) of this section are otherwise met.

(ii) Definition of disaggregation population—(A) Plan benefiting employees of qualified separate lines of business. If an employer is treated as operating qualified separate lines of business for purposes of section 410(b) in accordance with §1.414(r)-1(b), and a plan benefits employees of more than one qualified separate line of business, the employees of each qualified separate line of business are separate disaggregation populations. In this case, the portion of the plan benefiting the employees of each qualified separate line of business is treated as a separate plan maintained by that qualified separate line of business. However, employees of different qualified separate lines of business who are benefiting under a plan that is tested under the special rule for employer-wide plans in §1.414(r)-1(c)(2)(ii) for a plan year are not separate disaggregation populations merely because they are employees of different qualified separate lines of business.

(B) Plan benefiting collectively bargained employees. If a plan benefits both collectively bargained employees and noncollectively bargained employees, the collectively bargained employees are one disaggregation population and the noncollectively bargained employees are another disaggregation population. If the population of collectively bargained employees includes employees covered under different collective bargaining agreements, the population of employees covered under each collective bargaining agreement is also a separate disaggregation population.

(C) Plan maintained by more than one employer. If a plan benefits employees of more than one employer, the employees of each employer are separate disaggregation populations. In this case, the portion of the plan benefiting the employees of each employer is treated as a separate plan maintained by that employer, which must satisfy section 410(b) by reference only to that employer's employees. However, for purposes of this paragraph (c)(4)(ii)(C), if the plan of one employer (or, in the case of a plan maintained by more than one employer, the plan provisions applicable to the employees of one employer) treats compensation or service with another employer as compensation or service with the first employer, then the current accruals attributable to that compensation or service are treated as provided to an employee of the first employer under the plan of the first employer (or the portion of a plan maintained by more than one employer benefiting employees of the first employer), and the provisions of paragraph (c)(4)(i)(C) of this section do not apply to those accruals. Thus, for example, if Plan A maintained by Employer X imputes service or compensation for an employee of Employer Y, then Plan A is not treated as benefiting the employees of more than one employer merely because of this imputation.

(5) Additional rule for plans benefiting employees of more than one qualified separate line of business. If a plan benefiting employees of more than one qualified separate line of business satisfies the reasonable classification requirement of §1.410(b)-4(b) before the application of paragraph (c)(4) of this section, then any portion of the plan that is treated as a separate plan as a result of the application of paragraphs (c)(4)(i)(A) and (ii)(A) of this section is deemed to satisfy that requirement.

(d) Permissive aggregation for ratio percentage and nondiscriminatory classification tests—(1) In general. Except as provided in paragraphs (d)(2) and (d)(3) of this section, for purposes of applying the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2) or the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4, an employer may designate two or more separate plans (determined after application of paragraph (b) of this section) as a single plan. If an employer treats two or more separate plans as a single plan under this paragraph, the plans must be treated as a single plan for all purposes under sections 401(a)(4) and 410(b).

(2) Rules of disaggregation. An employer may not aggregate portions of a plan that are disaggregated under the rules of paragraph (c) of this section. Similarly, an employer may not aggregate two or more separate plans that would be disaggregated under the rules of paragraph (c) of this section if they were portions of the same plan. In addition, an employer may not aggregate an ESOP with another ESOP, except as permitted under §54.4975-11(e) of this Chapter.

(3) Duplicative aggregation. A plan may not be combined with two or more plans to form more than one single plan. Thus, for example, an employer that maintains plans A, B, and C may not aggregate plans A and B and plans A and C to form two single plans. However, the employer may apply the permissive aggregation rules of this paragraph (d) to form any one (and only one) of the following combinations: plan ABC, plans AB and C, plans AC and B, or plans A and BC.

(4) Special rule for plans benefiting employees of a qualified separate line of business. For purposes of paragraph (d)(1) of this section, an employer that is treated as operating qualified separate lines of business for purposes of section 410(b) in accordance with §1.414(r)-1(b) is permitted to aggregate the portions of two or more plans that benefit employees of the same qualified separate line of business (regardless of whether the employer elects to aggregate the portions of the same plans that benefit employees of the other qualified separate lines of business of the employer), provided that none of the plans is tested under the special rule for employer-wide plans in §1.414(r)-1 (c)(2)(ii). Thus, the employer is permitted to apply paragraph (d)(1) of this section with respect to two or more separate plans determined after the application of paragraphs (b) and (c)(4) of this section, but may not aggregate a plan that is tested under the special rule for employer-wide plans in §1.414(r)-1(c)(2)(ii) for a plan year with any portion of a plan that does not rely on that special rule for the plan year. In all other respects, the provisions of this paragraph (d) regarding permissive aggregation apply, including (but not limited to) the disaggregation rules under paragraph (d)(2) of this section (including the mandatory disaggregation rule of paragraph (c)(4) of this section), and the prohibition on duplicative aggregation under paragraph (d)(3) of this section. This paragraph (d)(4) applies only in the case of an employer that is treated as operating qualified separate lines of business for purposes of section 410(b) in accordance with §1.414(r)-1(b). See §§l.414(r)-1(c)(2) and 1.414(r)-8 (separate application of section 410(b) to the employees of a qualified separate line of business).

(5) Same plan year requirement. Two or more plans may not be aggregated and treated as a single plan under this paragraph (d) unless they have the same plan year.

(e) Determination of plans in testing group for average benefit percentage test—(1) In general. For purposes of applying the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5 with respect to a plan, all plans in the testing group must be taken into account. For this purpose, the plans in the testing group are the plan being tested and all other plans of the employer that could be permissively aggregated with that plan under paragraph (d) of this section. Whether two or more plans could be permissively aggregated under paragraph (d) of this section is determined (i) without regard to the rule in paragraph (d)(4) of this section that portions of two or more plans benefiting employees of the same line of business may not be aggregated if any of the plans is tested under the special rule for employer-wide plans in §1.414(r)-1(c)(2)(ii), (ii) without regard to paragraph (d)(5) of this section, and (iii) by applying paragraph (d)(2) of this section without regard to paragraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of this section.

(2) Examples. The following example illustrates the rules of this paragraph (e).

Example 1. Employer X is treated as operating two qualified separate lines of business for purposes of section 410(b) in accordance with section 414(r), QSLOB1 and QSLOB2. Employer X must apply the rules in §1.414(r)-8 to determine whether its plans satisfy section 410(b) on a qualified-separate-line-of-business basis. Employer X maintains the following plans:

(a) Plan A, the portion of Employer X' s employer-wide section 401(k) plan that benefits all noncollectively bargained employees of QSLOB1,

(b) Plan B, the portion of Employer X' s employer-wide section 401(k) plan that benefits all noncollectively bargained employees of QSLOB2,

(c) Plan C, a defined benefit plan that benefits all hourly noncollectively bargained employees of QSLOB1,

(d) Plan D, a defined benefit plan that benefits all collectively bargained employees of QSLOB1,

(e) Plan E, an ESOP that benefits all noncollectively bargained employees of QSLOB1,

(f) Plan F, a profit-sharing plan that benefits all salaried noncollectively bargained employees of QSLOB1.

Assume that Plan F does not satisfy the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2) on a qualified-separate-line-of-business basis, but does satisfy the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4 on both an employer-wide and a qualified-separate-line-of-business basis. Therefore, to satisfy section 410(b), Plan F must satisfy the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5 on a qualifiedseparatelineofbu5ine55 basis. The plans in the testing group used to determine whether Plan F satisfies the average benefit percentage test of §1.4 10(b)-5 are Plans A, C, E, and F.

Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that Employer X applies the special rule for employer-wide plans in §1.414(r)-1(c)(2)(ii) to its employer-wide section 401(k) plan. To satisfy section 410(b), Plan F must satisfy the average benefit percentage test of §1.4 10(b)-5. Since paragraph (c)(4) of this section no longer applies to Plans A and B, they are treated as a single plan (Plan AB). The plans in the testing group used to determine whether Plan F satisfies the average benefit percentage test of §1.4 10(b)-5 are therefore Plans A, B, C, E, and F. However, the employees of QSLOB 2 continue to be excludable employees for purposes of determining whether Plan F satisfies the average benefit percentage test. See §1.410(b)-6(e).

(f) Section 403(b) plans. In determining whether a plan satisfies section 410(b), a plan subject to section 403(b)(12)(A)(i) is disregarded. However, in determining whether a plan subject to section 403(b)(12)(A)(i) satisfied section 410(b), plans that are not subject to section 403(b)(12)(A)(i) may be taken into account.

[T.D. 8363, 56 FR 47655, Sept. 19, 1991, as amended by T.D. 8376, 56 FR 63433, Dec. 4, 1991; T.D. 8363, 57 FR 10819, 10954, Mar. 31, 1992; T.D. 8487, 58 FR 46843, Sept. 3, 1993; T.D. 8548, 59 FR 32914, June 27, 1994; T.D. 9169, 69 FR 78153, Dec. 29, 2004]

§1.410(b)-8   Additional rules.

(a) Testing methods—(1) In general. A plan must satisfy section 410(b) for a plan year using one of the testing options in paragraphs (a)(2) through (a)(4) of this section. Whichever testing option is used for the plan year must also be used for purposes of applying section 401(a)(4) to the plan for the plan year. The annual testing option in paragraph (a)(4) of this section must be used in applying section 410(b) to a section 401(k) plan or a section 401(m) plan, and in applying the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5. For purposes of this paragraph (a), the plan provisions and other relevant facts as of the last day of the plan year regarding which employees benefit under the plan for the plan year are applied to the employees taken into account under the testing option used for the plan year. For this purpose, amendments retroactively correcting a plan in accordance with §1.401(a)(4)-11(g) are taken into account as plan provisions in effect as of the last day of the plan year.

(2) Daily testing option. A plan satisfies section 410(b) for a plan year if it satisfies §1.410(b)-2 on each day of the plan year, taking into account only those employees (or former employees) who are employees (or former employees) on that day.

(3) Quarterly testing option. A plan is deemed to satisfy section 410(b) for a plan year if the plan satisfies §1.410(b)-2 on at least one day in each quarter of the plan year, taking into account for each of those days only those employees (or former employees) who are employees (or former employees) on that day. The preceding sentence does not apply if the plan's eligibility rules or benefit formula operate to cause the four quarterly testing days selected by the employer not to be reasonably representative of the coverage of the plan over the entire plan year.

(4) Annual testing option. A plan satisfies section 410(b) for a plan year if it satisfies §1.410(b)-2 as of the last day of the plan year, taking into account all employees (or former employees) who were employees (or former employees) on any day during the plan year.

(5) Example. The following example illustrates this paragraph (a).

Example. Plan A is a defined contribution plan that is not a section 401(k) plan or a section 401(m) plan, and that conditions allocations on an employee's employment on the last day of the plan year. Plan A is being tested for the 1995 calendar plan year using the daily testing option in paragraph (a)(2) of this section. In testing the plan for compliance with section 410(b) on March 11, 1995, Employee X is taken into account because he was an employee on that day and was not an excludable employee with respect to Plan A on that day. Employee X was a participant in Plan A on March 11, 1995, was employed on December 31, 1995, and received an allocation under Plan A for the 1995 plan year. Under these facts, Employee X is treated as benefiting under Plan A on March 11, 1995, even though Employee X had not satisfied all of the conditions for receiving an allocation on that day, because Employee X satisfied all of those conditions as of the last day of the plan year.

(b) Family member aggregation rule. For purposes of section 410(b), and in accordance with section 414(q)(6), a highly compensated employee who is a 5-percent owner or one of the ten most highly compensated employees and any family member (or members) of such a highly compensated employee who is also an employee of the employer are to be treated as a single highly compensated employee. If any member of that group is benefiting under a plan, the deemed single employee is treated as benefiting under the plan. If no member of that group is benefiting under a plan, the deemed single employee is treated as not benefiting under the plan.

[T.D. 8363, 56 FR 47656, Sept. 19, 1991]

§1.410(b)-9   Definitions.

In applying this section and §§1.410(b)-2 through 1.410(b)-10, the definitions in this section govern unless otherwise provided.

Collectively bargained employee. Collectively bargained employee means a collectively bargained employee within the meaning of §1.410(b)-6(d)(2).

Defined benefit plan. Defined benefit plan means a defined benefit plan within the meaning of section 414(j). The portion of a plan described in section 414(k) that does not consist of separate accounts is treated as a defined benefit plan.

Defined contribution plan. Defined contribution plan means a defined contribution plan within the meaning of section 414(i). The portion of a plan described in section 414(k) that consists of separate accounts is treated as a defined contribution plan.

Employee. Employee means an individual who performs services for the employer who is either a common law employee of the employer, a self-employed individual who is treated as an employee pursuant to section 401(c)(1), or a leased employee (not excluded under section 414(n)(5)) who is treated as an employee of the employer-recipient under section 414(n)(2) or 414(o)(2). Individuals that an employer treats as employees under section 414(n) pursuant to the requirements of section 414(o) are considered to be leased employees for purposes of this rule. In addition, an individual must be treated as an employee with respect to allocations under a defined contribution plan taken into account under §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(ii) and with respect to increases in accrued benefits (within the meaning of 411(a)(7)) under a defined benefit plan that are based on ongoing service or compensation (including imputed service or compensation) credits.

Employer. Employer means the employer maintaining the plan and those employers required to be aggregated with the employer under sections 414(b), (c), (m), or (o). An individual who owns the entire interest of an unincorporated trade or business is treated as an employer. Also, a partnership is treated as the employer of each partner and each employee of the partnership.

ESOP. ESOP or employee stock ownership plan means an employee stock ownership plan within the meaning of section 4975(e)(7) or a tax credit employee stock ownership plan within the meaning of section 409(a).

Former employee. Former employee means an individual who was, but has ceased to be, an employee of the employer (i.e., the individual has ceased performing services as an employee for the employer). An individual is treated as a former employee beginning on the day after the day on which the individual ceases performing services as an employee for the employer. Thus, an individual who ceases performing services as an employee for an employer during a plan year is both an employee and a former employee for the plan year. Notwithstanding the foregoing, an individual is an employee (and not a former employee) to the extent that the individual is treated as an employee with respect to the plan for the plan year under the definition of employee in this section.

Highly compensated employee. Highly compensated employee means an employee who is a highly compensated employee within the meaning of section 414(q) or a former employee treated as an employee under the definition of employee in this section who is a highly compensated former employee within the meaning of section 414(q).

Highly compensated former employee. Highly compensated former employee means a former employee who is a highly compensated former employee within the meaning of section 414(q).

Multiemployer plan. Multiemployer plan means a multiemployer plan within the meaning of section 414(f).

Noncollectively bargained employee. Noncollectively bargained employee means an employee who is not a collectively bargained employee.

Nonhighly compensated employee. Nonhighly compensated employee means an employee who is not a highly compensated employee.

Nonhighly compensated former employee. Nonhighly compensated former employee means a former employee who is not a highly compensated former employee.

Plan year. Plan year means the plan year of the plan as defined in the written plan document. In the absence of a specifically designated plan year, the plan year is deemed to be the calendar year.

Plan year compensation. Plan year compensation means plan year compensation within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-12.

Professional employee. Professional employee means any highly compensated employee who, on any day of the plan year, performs professional services for the employer as an actuary, architect, attorney, chiropodist, chiropractor, dentist, executive, investment banker, medical doctor, optometrist, osteopath, podiatrist, psychologist, certified or other public accountant, stockbroker, or veterinarian, or in any other professional capacity determined by the Commissioner in a notice or other document of general applicability to constitute the performance of services as a professional.

Ratio percentage. With respect to a plan for a plan year, a plan's ratio percentage means the percentage (rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percentage point) determined by dividing the percentage of the nonhighly compensated employees who benefit under the plan by the percentage of the highly compensated employees who benefit under the plan. The percentage of the nonhighly compensated employees who benefit under the plan is determined by dividing the number of nonhighly compensated employees benefiting under the plan by the total number of nonhighly compensated employees of the employer. The percentage of the highly compensated employees who benefit under the plan is determined by dividing the number of highly compensated employees benefiting under the plan by the total number of highly compensated employees of the employer.

Section 401(k) plan. Section 401(k) plan means a plan consisting of elective contributions described in §1.40(k)-1(g)(3) under a qualified cash or deferred arrangement described in §1.401(k)-1(a)(4)(i). Thus, a section 401(k) plan does not include a plan (or portion of a plan) that consists of contributions under a nonqualified cash or deferred arrangement, or qualified nonelective or qualified matching contributions treated as elective contributions under §1.401(k)-1(a)(6).

Section 401( l) plan. Section 401( l) plan means a plan that—

(1) Provides for a disparity in employer-provided benefits or contributions that satisfies section 401(l) in form, and

(2) Relies on one of the safe harbors of §1.401(a)(4)-2(b)(2), 1.401(a)(4)-3(b), 1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(3), or 1.401(a)(4)-8(c)(3)(iii)(B) to satisfy section 401(a)(4).

Section 401(m) plan. Section 401(m) plan means a plan consisting of employee contributions described in §1.401(m)-1(f)(6) or matching contributions described in §1.40(m)-1(f)(12), or both. Thus, a section 401(m) plan does not include a plan (or portion of a plan) that consists of elective contributions or qualified nonelective contributions treated as matching contributions under §1.401(m)-1(b)(5).

[T.D. 8363, 56 FR 47657, Sept. 19, 1991; 57 FR 10817, 10954, Mar. 31, 1992, as amended by T.D. 8487, 58 FR 46843, Sept. 3, 1993; T.D. 9169, 69 FR 78153, Dec. 29, 2004]

Editorial Note: By T.D. 9169, 69 FR 78153, Dec. 29, 2004, the Internal Revenue Service published a document in the Federal Register, attempting to amend §1.410(b)-9 by removing “1.401(k)-1(g)(3) and 1.401(m)-1(f)(12)” and inserting “1.401(k)-6 and 1.401(m)-1(f)(12)”. However, because of inaccurate language, this amendment could not be incorporated.

§1.410(b)-10   Effective dates and transition rules.

(a) Statutory effective dates—(1) In general. Except as set forth in paragraph (a)(2) of this section, the minimum coverage rules of section 410(b) as amended by section 1112 of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1989.

(2) Special statutory effective date for collective bargaining agreements—(i) In general. As provided for by section 1112(e)(2) of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, in the case of a plan maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements between employee representatives and one or more employers ratified before March 1, 1986, the minimum coverage rules of section 410(b) as amended by section 1112 of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 do not apply to employees covered by any such agreement in plan years beginning before the earlier of—

(A) January 1, 1991; or

(B) The later of January 1, 1989, or the date on which the last of such collective bargaining agreements terminates (determined without regard to any extension thereof after February 28, 1986). For purposes of this paragraph (a)(2), any extension or renegotiation of a collective bargaining agreement, which extension or renegotiation is ratified after February 28, 1986, is to be disregarded in determining the date on which the agreement terminates.

(ii) Example. The following example illustrates this paragraph (a)(2).

Example. Employer A maintains Plan 1 pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. Plan 1 covers 100 of Employer A's noncollectively bargained employees and 900 of Employer A's collectively bargained employees. Employer A also maintains Plan 2, which covers Employer A's other 400 noncollectively bargained employees. The collective bargaining agreement under which Plan 1 is maintained was entered into on January 1, 1986, and expires December 31, 1992. Because Plan 1 is a plan maintained pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, section 410(b) applies to the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 1991. In applying section 410(b) to Plan 2, the 100 noncollectively bargained employees in Plan 1 must be taken into account. The deferred effective date for plans maintained pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement is not applicable in determining how section 410(b) is applied to a plan that is not maintained pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.

(iii) Plan maintained pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. For purposes of this paragraph (a)(2), a plan is maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements between employee representatives and one or more employers, if one or more of the agreements were ratified before March 1, 1986. Only plans maintained pursuant to agreements that the Secretary of Labor finds to be collective bargaining agreements and that satisfy section 7701(a)(46) are eligible for the deferred effective date under this paragraph (a)(2). A plan will not be treated as a plan maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements eligible for the deferred effective date under this paragraph (a)(2) unless the plan would be a plan maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements under the principles applied under section 1017(c) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. See H.R. Rep. No. 1280, 93rd Cong. 2d Sess. 266 (1974).

(b) Regulatory effective dates—(1) In general. Except as otherwise provided in this section, §§1.410(b)-2 through 1.410(b)-9 apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1994.

(2) Plans of tax-exempt organizations. In the case of plans maintained by organizations exempt from income taxation under section 501(a), including plans subject to section 403(b)(12)(A)(i) (nonelective plans), §§1.410(b)-2 through 1.410(b)-9 apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1996, to the extent such plans are subject to section 410(b).

(c) Compliance during transition period. For plan years beginning before the effective date of these regulations, as set forth in paragraph (b) of this section, and on or after the statutory effective date as set forth in paragraph (a) of this section, a plan must be operated in accordance with a reasonable, good faith interpretation of section 410(b). Whether a plan is operated in accordance with a reasonable, good faith interpretation of section 410(b) will generally be determined based on all of the relevant facts and circumstances, including the extent to which an employer has resolved unclear issues in its favor. If a plan's classification has been determined by the Commissioner to be nondiscriminatory and there have been no significant changes in or omissions of a material fact, the classification will be treated as nondiscriminatory for the relevant plan year. A plan will be deemed to be operated in accordance with a reasonable, good faith interpretation of section 410(b) if it is operated in accordance with the terms of §§1.410(b)-2 through 1.410(b)-9.

(d) Effective date for governmental plans. In the case of governmental plans described in section 414(d), including plans subject to section 403(b)(12)(A)(i) (nonelective plans) §1.410(b)-2 through §1.410(b)-10 apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1996, or 90 days after the opening of the first legislative session beginning on or after January 1, 1996, of the governing body with authority to amend the plan, if that body does not meet continuously. Such plans are deemed to satisfy section 410(b) (and in the case of such plans that are not subject to section 403(b)(12)(A)(i), section 401(a)(3) as in effect on September 1, 1974) for plan years before that effective date. For purposes of this section, the governing body with authority to amend the plan is the legislature, board, commission, council, or other governing body with authority to amend the plan. See §1.410(b)-2(d) and (e).

(e) Effective date for provisions relating to exclusion of employees of certain tax-exempt entities. The provisions in §1.410(b)-6(g) apply to plan years beginning after December 31, 1996. For plan years to which §1.410(b)-6 applies that begin before January 1, 1997, §1.410(b)-6(g) (as it appeared in the April 1, 2005 edition of 26 CFR part 1) applies.

[T.D. 8487, 58 FR 46844, Sept. 3, 1993, as amended by T.D. 9275, 71 FR 41359, July 21, 2006]

§1.410(d)-1   Election by church to have participation, vesting, funding, etc. provisions apply.

(a) In general. If a church or convention or association of churches which maintains any church plan, as defined in section 414(e), makes an election under this section, certain provisions of the Code and title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (the “Act”) shall apply to such church plan as if such plan were not a church plan. The provisions of the Code referred to are section 410 (relating to minimum participation standards), section 411 (relating to minimum vesting standards), section 412 (relating to minimum funding standards), section 4975 (relating to prohibited transactions), and paragraphs (11), (12), (13), (14), (15), and (19) of section 401(a) (relating to joint and survivor annuities, mergers and consolidations, assignment or alienation of benefits, time of benefit commencement, certain social security increases, and withdrawals of employee contributions, respectively).

(b) Election is irrevocable. An election under this section with respect to any church plan shall be binding with respect to such plan and, once made, shall be irrevocable.

(c) Procedure for making election—(1) Time of election. An election under this section may be made for plan years for which the provisions of section 410(d) of the Code apply to the church plan. By reason of section 1017(b) of the Act section 410(d) does not apply to a plan in existence on January 1, 1974, for plan years beginning before January 1, 1976. Section 1017(d) of the Act permits a plan administrator to elect to have certain provisions of the Code (including section 410(d)) apply to a plan before the otherwise applicable effective dates of such provisions. See §1.410(a)-2(d). Therefore, for a plan in existence on Janurary 1, 1974, an election under section 410(d) of the Code may be made for a plan year beginning before January 1, 1976, only if an election has been made under section 1017(d) of the Act with respect to that plan year.

(2) By whom election is to be made. The election provided by this section may be made only by the plan administrator of the church plan.

(3) Manner of making election. The plan administrator may elect to have the provisions of the Code described in paragraph (a) of this section apply to the church plan as it is were not a church plan by attaching the statement described in subparagraph (5) of this paragraph to either (i) the annual return required under section 6058(a) (or an amended return) with respect to the plan which is filed for the first plan year for which the election is effective or (ii) a written request for a determination letter relating to the qualification of the plan under section 401(a), 403(a), or 405(a) of the Code and if trusteed, the exempt status under section 501(a) of the Code of a trust constituting a part of the plan.

(4) Conditional election. If an election is made with a written request for a determination letter, the election may be conditioned upon issuance of a favorable determination letter and will become irrevocable upon issuance of such letter.

(5) Statement. The statement described in subparagraph (3) of this paragraph shall indicate (i) that the election is made under section 410(d) of the Code and (ii) the first plan year for which it is effective.

(Sec. 410 (88 Stat. 898; 26 U.S.C. 410))

[T.D. 7508, 42 FR 47198, Sept. 20, 1977]

§1.411(a)-1   Minimum vesting standards; general rules.

(a) In general. A plan is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of such plan is not a qualified trust) unless—

(1) The plan provides that an employee's right to his normal retirement benefit (see §1.411(a)-7(c)) is nonforfeitable (see §1.411(a)-4) upon and after the attainment of normal retirement age (see §1.411(a)-7(b)),

(2) The plan provides that an employee's rights in his accrued benefit derived from his own contributions (see §1.411(c)-1) are nonforfeitable at all times, and

(3) The plan satisfies the requirements of—

(A) Section 411(a)(2) and §1.411(a)-3 (relating to vesting in accrued benefit derived from employer contributions), and

(B) In the case of a defined benefit plan, section 411(b)(1) and §1.411(b)-1 (relating to accrued benefit).

(b) Organization of regulations relating to minimum vesting standards—(1) General rules. This section prescribes general rules relating to the minimum vesting standards provided by section 411.

(2) Effective dates. Section 1.411(a)-2 provides rules under section 1017 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 relating to effective dates under section 411.

(3) Employer contributions. Section 1.411(a)-3 provides rules under section 411(a)(2) relating to vesting in employer-derived accrued benefits.

(4) Certain forfeitures. Section 1.411(a)-4 provides rules under section 411(a)(3) relating to certain permitted forfeitures, suspensions, etc. under qualified plans.

(5) Nonforfeitable percentage. Section 1.411(a)-5 provides rules under section 411(a)(4) relating to service included in the determination of an employee's nonforfeitable percentage under section 411(a)(2) and §1.411(a)-3.

(6) Years of service; break in service. Section 1.411(a)-6 provides rules under section 411(a) (5) and (6) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 relating to years of service and breaks in service. Rules prescribed by the Secretary of Labor, relating to years of service and breaks in service under part 2 of subtitle B of title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 are provided under 29 CFR Part 2530 (Department of Labor regulations relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans).

(7) Definitions and special rules. Section 1.411(a)-7 provides definitions and special rules under section 411(a) (7), (8), and (9), for purposes of section 411 and the regulations thereunder.

(8) Changes in vesting schedule. Section 1.411(a)-8 provides rules under section 411(a)(10) relating to changes in the vesting schedule of a plan.

(9) Breaks in service. Section 1.411(a)-9 provides special rules relating to breaks in service.

(10) Accrued benefits. See §1.411(b)-1 for rules under section 411(b) relating to accrued benefit requirements under defined benefit plans.

(11) Allocation of accrued benefits. See §1.411(c)-1 for rules under section 411(c) relating to allocation of accrued benefits between employer and employee contributions.

(12) Discrimination, etc. See §1.411(d)-1 for rules relating to the coordination of section 411 with section 401(a)(4) (relating to discrimination) and other rules under section 411(d).

(c) Application of standards to certain plans—(1) General rule. Except as provided in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph, section 411 does not apply to—

(i) A governmental plan (within the meaning of section 414(d) and the regulations thereunder),

(ii) A church plan (within the meaning of section 414(e) and the regulations thereunder) which has not made the election provided by section 410(d) and the regulations thereunder,

(iii) A plan which has not provided for employer contributions at any time after September 2, 1974, and

(iv) A plan established and maintained by a society, order, or association described in section 501(c) (8) or (9), if no part of the contributions to or under such plan are made by employers of participants in such plan.

(2) Vesting requirements. A plan described in subparagraph (1) of this paragraph shall, for purposes of section 401(a), be treated as meeting the requirements of section 411 if such plan meets the vesting requirements resulting from the application of section 401(a)(4) and section 401(a)(7) as in effect on September 1, 1974.

(d) Supersession. Sections 11.411(a)-1 through 11.411(d)-3, inclusive, of the Temporary Income Tax Regulations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 are superseded by this section and §§1.411(a)-2 through 1.411(d)-3.

(Sec. 411 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42324, Aug. 23, 1977]

§1.411(a)-2   Effective dates.

(a) Plan not in existence on January 1, 1974. Under section 1017(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, in the case of a plan which was not in existence on January 1, 1974, section 411 and the regulations thereunder apply for plan years beginning after September 2, 1974. See paragraph (c) of this section for time plan is considered in existence.

(b) Plans in existence on January 1, 1974. Under section 1017(b) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, in the case of a plan which was in existence on January 1, 1974, section 411 and the regulations thereunder apply for plan years beginning after December 31, 1975. See paragraph (c) of this section for time plan is considered to be in existence.

(c) Time of plan existence—(1) General rule. For purposes of this section, a plan is considered to be in existence on a particular day if—

(i) The plan on or before that day was reduced to writing and adopted by the employer (including, in the case of a corporate employer, formal approval by the employer's board of directors and, if required, shareholders), even though no amounts had been contributed under the plan as of such day, and

(ii) The plan was not terminated on or before that day.

For example, if a plan was adopted on January 2, 1974, effective as of January 1, 1974, the plan is not considered to have been in existence on January 1, 1974, because it was not both adopted and in writing on January 1, 1974.

(2) Collectively-bargained plan. Notwithstanding paragraph (c) (1) of this section, a plan described in section 413 (a), relating to a plan maintained pursuant to a collective-bargaining agreement, is considered to be in existence on a particular day if—

(i) On or before that day there is a legally enforceable agreement to establish such a plan signed by the employer, and

(ii) The employer contributions to be made to the plan are set forth in the agreement.

(3) Special rule. If a plan is considered to be in existence under subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, any other plan with which such existing plan is merged or consolidated shall also be considered to be in existence on such date.

(d) Existing plans under collective-bargaining agreements. For a special effective date rule for certain plans maintained pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, see section 1017(c)(1) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (88 Stat. 932).

(e) Certain existing plans may elect new provisions. The plan administrator may elect to have the provisions of the Code relating to participation, vesting, funding, and form of benefit apply to a selected plan year. See §1.410(a)-2(d) for rules relating to such an election.

(f) Application of rules. The requirements of section 411 do not apply to employees who separate from service with the employer prior to the first plan year to which such requirements apply and who never return to service with the employer in a plan year to which section 411 applies.

(Sec. 411 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42325, Aug. 23, 1977]

§1.411(a)-3   Vesting in employer-derived benefits.

(a) In general—(1) Alternative requirements. A plan is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of such plan is not a qualified trust) unless the plan satisfies the requirements of section 411(a)(2) and this section. A plan satisfies the requirements of this section if is satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b), (c), or (d) of this section.

(2) Composite arrangements. A plan will not be considered to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b), (c), or (d) of this section unless it satisfies all requirements of a particular one of such paragraphs with respect to all of an employee's years of service. A plan which, for example, satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b) (but not (c) or (d)) for an employee's first 9 years of service and satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c) (but not (b)) for all of his remaining years of service, does not satisfy the requirements of this section. A plan is not precluded from satisfying the requirement of one such paragraph with respect to one group of employees and another such paragraph with respect to another group provided that the groups are not so structured as to evade the requirements of this paragraph. For example, if plan A provides that employees who commence participation before age 30 are subject to the “rule of 45” vesting schedule and employees who commence participation after age 30 are subject to the full vesting after 10 years schedule, plan A would be so structured as to evade the requirements of this paragraph.

(3) Plan amendments. A plan which satisfies the requirements of a particular one of such paragraphs for each of an employee's years of service and which is amended so that, as amended, it satisfies the requirements of another such paragraph for all such years of service, satisfies the requirements of this section even though, as amended, it does not satisfy the requirements of the paragraph which were satisfied prior to the amendment. See §1.411(a)-8 for rules relating to employee election where the vesting schedule is amended.

(b) 10-year vesting. A plan satisfies the requirements of section 411(a)(2) (A) and this paragraph if an employee who has completed 10 years of service has a nonforfeitable right to 100 percent of his accrued benefit derived from employer contributions.

(c) 5- to 15-year vesting. A plan satisfies the requirements of section 411(a)(2) (B) and this paragraph if an employee who has completed at least 5 years of service has a nonforfeitable right to a percentage of his accrued benefit derived from employer contribution which percentage is not less than the nonforfeitable percentage determined under the following table:

Completed years of serviceNonforfeitable percentage
525
630
735
840
945
1050
1160
1270
1380
1490
15 or more100

(d) Rule of 45. A plan satisfies the requirements of section 411(a)(2)(C) and this paragraph if an employee is entitled to the greater of the two percentages determined under paragraph (d) (1) or (2) of this section.

(1) Age and service test. An employee who is not separated from the service, who has completed at least 5 years of service, and with respect to whom the sum of his age and years of service equals of exceeds 45, has a nonforfeit- able right to a percentage of his accrued benefit derived from employer contributions which is not less than the nonforfeitable percentage corresponding to his number of completed years of service to the sum of his age and completed years of service (whichever percentage is the lesser) determined under the following table:

Completed years of service Sum of age and service Nonforfeitable percentage
545 or 4650
647 or 4860
749 or 5070
851 or 5280
953 or 5490
10 or more55 or more100

(2) Service test. An employee who has completed at least 10 years of service has a nonforfeitable right to a percentage of his accrued benefit derived from employer contributions determined under the following table:

Completed years of serviceNonforfeitable percentage
1050
1160
1270
1380
1490
15100

(3) Computation of age. For purposes of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, the age of an employee is his age on his last birthday.

(e) Examples. The rules provided by this section are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Plan B provides that each employee's rights to his employer-derived accrued benefit are nonforfeitable as follows:
Completed years of serviceNonforfeitable percentage
2 or less0
330
435
540
645
750
855
960
1065
1170
1275
1380
1485
15100

Plan B does not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section (relating to 5-15-year vesting) because the nonforfeitable percentage provided by the plan after completion of 14 years of service (85 percent) is less than the percentage required by paragraph (c) of this section at that time (90 percent). The fact that the nonforfeitable percentage provided by the plan for years prior to the 13th year of service is greater than the percentage required under paragraph (c) of this section is immaterial. The plan fails to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section even if it is demonstrated that the value of the vesting provided by the plan to the employee is at least equal to the value of the vesting rate required by that paragraph.

Example 2. Plan C provides for plan participation after the completion of 1 year of service. The plan provides that each employee's rights to his employer-derived accrued benefit are 100 percent nonforfeitable after 10 years of plan participation rather than service. The plan does not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section because, under the plan, an employee obtains a 100 percent nonforfeitable right to his employer-derived accrued benefit only after completion of more than 10 years of service.
Example 3. Plan D provides that each employee's rights to his employer-derived accrued benefit are nonforfeitable in accordance with the following schedule:
Completed years of serviceNonforfeitable percentage
0-90
1050
1160
1270
1380
1490
15100

The plan does not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section after the 9th year of service. It does not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section for years prior to the 10th year of service. It does not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (d)(1) of this section for any year of service prior to the 10th year. The plan does not satisfy the requirements of this section because it does not satisfy the requirements of a particular one of the three paragraphs for each of an employee's years of service.

Example 4. Plan G provides that each employee's rights to his employer-derived accrued benefit are 100 percent nonforfeitable upon completion of 5 years of service. The plan satisfies the requirements of paragraphs (b), (c), and (d) of this section and, because it satisfies the requirements of at least one of such paragraphs for all of an employee's years of service, it satisfies the requirements of this section.

(Sec. 411 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42325, Aug. 23, 1977]

§1.411(a)-3T   Vesting in employer-derived benefits (temporary).

(a) In general—(1) [Reserved]

(2) Composite arrangements. A plan will not be considered to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b), (c), or (d) of this section unless it satisfies all requirements of a particular one of such paragraphs with respect to all of an employee's years of service. A plan which, for example, satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b) (but not (c) or (d)) for an employee's first 4 years of service and satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c) (but not (b)) for all of his remaining years of service does not satisfy the requirements of this section. A plan is not precluded from satisfying the requirements of one such paragraph with respect to one group of employees and another such paragraph with respect to another group provided that the groups are not so structured as to evade the requirements of this paragraph.

(b) 5-year vesting. A plan satisfies the requirements of section 411(a)(2)(A) and this paragraph if an employee who has completed 5 years of service has a nonforfeitable right to 100 percent of his or her accrued benefits derived from employer contributions.

(c) 3- to 7-year vesting. A plan satisfies the requirements of section 411(a)(2)(B) and this paragraph if an employee who has completed at least 3 years of service has a nonforfeitable right to a percentage of his accrued benefit derived from employer contributions, which percentage is not less than the nonforfeitable percentage determined under the following table:

Completed years of serviceNonforfeitable percentage
320
440
560
680
7 or more100

(d) Multiemployer plans. A plan satisfies the requirements of section 411(a)(2)(C) and this paragraph if—

(1) The plan is a multiemployer plan (within the meaning of section 414(f)), and

(2) Under the plan—

(i) An employee who is covered pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement described in section 414(f)(1)(B) has a nonforfeitable right to 100 percent of the employee's accrued benefit derived from employer contributions not later than upon completion of 10 years of service, and

(ii) The requirements of paragraph (b) or (c) of this section are met with respect to employees who are not covered pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement described in section 414(f)(1)(B).

(iii) For purposes of this provision, an employee is not covered pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement unless the employee is represented by a bona fide employee representative that is a party to the collective bargaining agreement pursuant to which the multiemployer plan is maintained. Thus, for example, an employee of either the multiemployer plan or the employee representative is not covered pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement under which the plan is maintained even if the employee is covered pursuant to an agreement entered into by the multiemployer plan or employee representative on behalf of the employee and even if all such employees covered under the plan constitute only a de minimis percentage of the total employees covered under the plan.

(e) Effective date. (1) The provisions of this section apply to all employees who have one hour of service in any plan year beginning after—

(i) December 31, 1988, or

(ii) In the case of a plan maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements between employee representatives and one or more employers ratified before March 1, 1986, for employees covered by any such agreement, the earlier of—

(A) The later of—

(1) January 1, 1989, or

(2) The date on which the last of such collective bargaining agreements terminates (determined without regard to any extension thereof after February 28, 1986), or

(B) January 1, 1991.

(2) For employees not described in paragraph (e)(1), above, the regulations in effect prior to January 1, 1989, shall be applied to determine the requirements of this section.

(f) Examples. The rules provided by this section are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Plan B provides that each employee's rights to his employer-derived accrued benefit are nonforfeitable as follows:
Completed years of serviceNonforfeitable percentage
10
210
325
445
565
675
7100
Plan B does not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section (relating to 3- to 7-year vesting) because the nonforfeitable percentage provided by the plan after completion of 6 years of service (75 percent) is less than the percentage required by paragraph (c) of this section at that time (80 percent). The fact that the nonforfeitable percentage provided by the plan for years prior to the 6th year of service is greater than the percentage required under paragraph (c) of this section is immaterial. The plan fails to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section even if it is demonstrated that the value of the vesting provided by the plan to the employees is at least equal to the value of the vesting rate required by this paragraph.
Example 2. Plan C provides for plan participation after the completion of 1 year of service. The plan provides that each employee's rights to his employer-derived accrued benefits are 100 percent nonforfeitable after 5 years of plan participation rather than service. The plan does not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section because, under the plan, an employee obtains a 100 percent nonforfeitable right to his or her employer-derived accrued benefit only after completion of more than 5 years of service.
Example 3. Plan D provides that each employee's rights to his employer-derived accrued benefits are nonforfeitable in accordance with the following schedule:
Completed years of serviceNonforfeitable percentage
0 to 40
560
680
7100
The plan does not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section after the 4th year of service. It does not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section for years prior to the 5th year of service. The plan does not satisfy the requirements of this section because it does not satisfy the requirements of a particular one of the two paragraphs for each of an employee's years of service.
Example 4. Plan G provides that each employee's rights to his employer-derived accrued benefit are 100 percent nonforfeitable upon completion of 3 years of service. The plan satisfies the requirements of paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section and, because it satisfies the requirements of at least one of such paragraphs for all of an employee's years of service, it satisfies the requirements of this section.

[T.D. 8170, 53 FR 240, Jan. 6, 1988]

§1.411(a)-4   Forfeitures, suspensions, etc.

(a) Nonforfeitability. Certain rights in an accrued benefit must be nonforfeitable to satisfy the requirements of section 411(a). This section defines the term “nonforfeitable” for purposes of these requirements. For purposes of section 411 and the regulations thereunder, a right to an accrued benefit is considered to be nonforfeitable at a particular time if, at that time and thereafter, it is an unconditional right. Except as provided by paragraph (b) of this section, a right which, at a particular time, is conditioned under the plan upon a subsequent event, subsequent performance, or subsequent forbearance which will cause the loss of such right is a forfeitable right at that time. Certain adjustments to plan benefits such as adjustments in excess of reasonable actuarial reductions, can result in rights being forfeitable. Rights which are conditioned upon a sufficiency of plan assets in the event of a termination or partial termination are considered to be forfeitable because of such condition. However, a plan does not violate the nonforfeitability requirements merely because in the event of a termination an employee does not have any recourse toward satisfaction of his nonforfeitable benefits from other than the plan assets or the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Furthermore, nonforfeitable rights are not considered to be forfeitable by reason of the fact that they may be reduced to take into account benefits which are provided under the Social Security Act or under any other Federal or State law and which are taken into account in determining plan benefits. To the extent that rights are not required to be nonforfeitable to satisfy the minimum vesting standards, or the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4), they may be forfeited without regard to the limitations on forfeitability required by this section. The right of an employee to repurchase his accrued benefit for example under section 411(a)(3)(D), is an example of a right which is required to satisfy such standards. Accordingly, such a right is subject to the limitations on forfeitability. Rights which are required to be prospectively nonforfeitable under the vesting standards are nonforfeitable and may not be forfeited until it is determined that such rights are, in fact, in excess of the vesting standards. Thus, employees have a right to vest in the accrued benefits if they continue in employment of employers maintaining the plan unless a forfeitable event recognized by section 411 occurs. For example, if a plan covered employees in Division A of Corporation X under a plan utilizing a 10-year 100 percent vesting schedule, the plan could not forfeit employees' rights on account of their moving to service in Division B of Corporation X prior to completion of 10 years of service even though employees are not vested at that time.

(b) Special rules. For purposes of paragraph (a) of this section a right is not treated as forfeitable—

(1) Death—(i) General rule. In the case of a participant's right to his employer-derived accrued benefit, merely because such accrued benefit is forfeitable by the participant to the extent it has not been paid or distributed to him prior to his death. This subparagraph shall not apply to a benefit which must be paid to a survivor in order to satisfy the requirements of section 401(a)(11).

(ii) Employee contributions. A participant's right in his accrued benefit derived from his own contributions must be nonforfeitable at all times. Such a right is not treated as forfeitable merely because, after commencement of annuity or pension payments in a benefit form provided under the plan, the participant dies without receiving payments equal in amount to his nonforfeitable accrued benefit derived from his contributions determined at the time of commencement.

(2) Suspension of benefits upon reemployment of retiree. In the case of certain suspensions of benefits under section 411(a)(3)(B), see regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor under 29 CFR Part 2530 (Department of Labor regulations relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans).

(3) Retroactive plan amendment. In the case of a participant's right to his employer-derived accrued benefit, merely because such benefit is subject to reduction to the extent provided by a plan amendment described in section 412(c)(8) and the regulations thereunder, which amendment is given retroactive effect in accordance with such section.

(4) Other forfeiture rules—(i) Withdrawal of mandatory contributions. For rules allowing forfeitures on account of the withdrawal of mandatory contributions, see §1.411(a)-7(d) (2) and (3).

(ii) Additional requirements. For additional requirements relating to nonforfeitability of benefits in the event of a withdrawal by the employee, see section 401(a)(19) and §1.401(a)-19.

(5) Multiemployer plan. In the case of a multiemployer plan described in section 414(f), merely because an employee's accrued benefit which results from service with an employer before such employer was required to contribute to the plan is forfeitable on account of the cessation of contributions by the employer of the employee. This subparagraph shall not apply to an employee's accrued benefit with respect to an employer which accrued under a plan maintained by that employer prior to the adoption by that employer of the multiemployer plan.

(6) Lost beneficiary; escheat. In the case of a benefit which is payable, merely because the benefit is forfeitable on account of the inability to find the participant or beneficiary to whom payment is due, provided that the plan provides for reinstatement of the benefit if a claim is made by the participant or beneficiary for the forfeited benefit. In addition, a benefit which is lost by reason of escheat under applicable state law is not treated as a forfeiture.

(7) Certain matching contributions. A matching contribution (within the meaning of section 401(m)(4)(A) and §1.401(m)-1(a)(2)) is not treated as forfeitable even if under the plan it may be forfeited under §1.401(m)-2(b)(1) because the contribution to which it relates is treated as an excess contribution (within the meaning of §§1.401(k)-2(b)(2)(ii) and 1.401(k)-6), excess deferral (within the meaning of §1.402(g)-1(e)(1)(iii)), excess aggregate contribution (within the meaning of §1.401(m)-5), or a default elective contribution (within the meaning of §1.414(w)-1(e)) that is withdrawn in accordance with the requirements of §1.414(w)-1(c).

(c) Examples. The rules of this section are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Corporation A's plan provides that an employee is fully vested in his employer-derived accrued benefit after completion of 5 years of service. The plan also provides that, if an employee works for a competitor he forfeits his rights in the plan. Such provision could result in the forfeiture of an employee's rights which are required to be nonforfeitable under section 411 and therefore the plan would not satisfy the requirements of section 411. If the plan limited the forfeiture to employees who completed less than 10 years of service, the plan would not fail to satisfy the requirements of section 411 because the forfeitures under this provision are limited to rights which are in excess of the minimum required to be nonforfeitable under section 411(a)(2)(A).
Example 2. Plan B provides that if an employee does not apply for benefits within 5 years after the attainment of normal retirement age, the employee loses his plan benefits. Such a plan provision could result in forfeiture of an employee's rights which are required to be nonforfeitable under section 411 and, therefore, the plan would not satisfy the requirements of section 411.

(Sec. 411 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42326, Aug. 23, 1977, as amended by T.D. 8357, 56 FR 40549, Aug. 15, 1991; T.D. 9169, 69 FR 78153, Dec. 29, 2004; T.D. 9219, 70 FR 47126, Aug. 12, 2005; T.D. 9447, 74 FR 8211, Feb. 24, 2009]

Editorial Note: By T.D. 9169, 69 FR 78153, Dec. 29, 2004, §1.411(a)-(b)(7) was amended by removing the reference to §1.401(k)-1(f)(2) and (g)(7). However, the reference does not appear in the paragraph.

§1.411(a)-4T   Forfeitures, suspensions, etc. (temporary).

(a) Nonforfeitability. Certain rights in an accrued benefit must be nonforfeitable to satisfy the requirements of section 411(a). This section defines the term “nonforfeitable” for purposes of these requirements. For purposes of section 411 and the regulations thereunder, a right to an accrued benefit is considered to be nonforfeitable at a particular time if, at that time and thereafter, it is an unconditional right. Except as provided by paragraph (b) of this section, a right which, at a particular time, is conditioned under the plan upon a subsequent event, subsequent performance, or subsequent forbearance which will cause the loss of such right is a forfeitable right at that time. Certain adjustments to plan benefits, such as adjustments in excess of reasonable actuarial reductions, can result in rights being forfeitable. Rights which are conditioned upon a sufficiency of plan assets in the event of a termination or partial termination are considered to be forfeitable because of such condition. However, a plan does not violate the nonforfeitability requirements merely because in the event of a termination an employee does not have any recourse toward satisfaction of his nonforfeitable benefits from other than the plan assets, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, or a trust established and maintained pursuant to sections 4041(c)(3)(B) (ii) or (iii) and section 4049 of ERISA with respect to the plan. Furthermore, nonforfeitable rights are not considered to be forfeitable by reason of the fact that they may be reduced as allowed under sections 401(a)(5) and 401(l). To the extent that rights are not required to be nonforfeitable to satisfy the minimum vesting standards, or the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4), they may be forfeited without regard to the limitations on forfeitability required by this section. The right of an employee to repurchase his accrued benefit for example under section 411(a)(3)(D), is an example of a right which is required to satisfy such standards. Accordingly, such a right is subject to the limitations on forfeitability. Rights which are required to be prospectively nonforfeitable under the vesting standards are nonforfeitable and may not be forfeited until it is determined that such rights are, in fact, in excess of the vesting standards. Thus, employees have a right to vest in the accrued benefits if they continue in employment of employers maintaining the plan unless a forfeitable event recognized by section 411 occurs. For example, if a plan covered employees in Division A of Corporation X under a plan utilizing a 5-year 100 percent vesting schedule, the plan could not forfeit employees' rights on account of their moving to service in Division B of Corporation X prior to completion of 5 years of service even though employees are not vested at that time.

(b) [Reserved]

(c) Examples. The rules of this section ae illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Corporation A's plan provides that an employee is fully vested in his employer-derived accrued benefit after completion of 3 years of service. The plan also provides that if the employee works for a competitor he forfeits his rights in the plan. Such provision could result in the forfeiture of an employee's rights which are required to be nonforfeitable under section 411 and therefore the plan would not satisfy the requirements of section 411. If the plan limited the forfeiture to employees who completed less than 5 years of service, the plan would not fail to satisfy the requirements of section 411 because the forfeitures under this provision are limited to rights which are in excess of the minimum required to be nonforfeitable under section 411(a)(2)(A).

[T.D. 8170, 53 FR 241, Jan. 6, 1988]

§1.411(a)-5   Service included in determination of nonforfeitable percentage.

(a) In general. Under section 411(a)(4), for purposes of determining the nonforfeitable percentage of an employee's right to his employer-derived accrued benefit under section 411(a)(2) and §1.411(a)-3, all of an employee's years of service with an employer or employers maintaining the plan shall be taken into account except that years of service described in paragraph (b) of this section may be disregarded.

(b) Certain service. For purposes of paragraph (a) of this section, the following years of service may be disregarded:

(1) Service before age 22. (i) In the case of a plan which satisfies the requirements of section 411(a)(2) (A) or (B) (relating to 10-year vesting and 5-15-year vesting, respectively), a year of service completed by an employee before he attains age 22.

(ii) In the case of a plan which does not satisfy the requirements of section 411(a)(2) (A) or (B), a year of service completed by an employee before he attains age 22 if the employee is not a participant (for purposes of section 410) in the plan at any time during such year.

(iii) For purposes of this subparagraph in the case of a plan utilizing computation periods, service during a computation period described in section 411(a)(5)(A) within which the employee attains age 22 may not be disregarded. In the case of a plan utilizing the elapsed time method described in §1.410(a)-7, service on or after the date on which the employee attains age 22 may not be disregarded.

(2) Contributory plans. In the case of a plan utilizing computation periods, a year of service completed by an employee under a plan which requires mandatory contributions (within the meaning of section 411(c)(2)(C) and §1.411(c)-1(c)(4)) to be made by the employee for such year, if the employee does not participate for such year solely because of his failure to make all mandatory contributions to the plan for such year. If the employee contributes any part of the mandatory contributions for the year, such year may not be excluded by reason of this subparagraph. In the case of a plan utilizing the elapsed time method described in §1.410(a)-7, the service which may be disregarded is the period with respect to which the mandatory contribution is not made.

(3) Plan not maintained—(i) In general. An employee's years of service with an employer during any period for which the employer did not maintain the plan or a predecessor plan may be disregarded for purposes of section 411(a)(2). Paragraph (b)(3)(ii) of this section provides rules regarding the period prior to the adoption of a plan. Paragraph (b)(3)(iii) of this section provides rules regarding the period after the termination of a plan. Paragraph (b)(3)(iv) of this section provides rules regarding employers who have certain relationships with other employers maintaining the plan.

(ii) Period prior to adoption. The period for which a plan is not maintained by an employer includes the period before the plan was established. For purposes of this subdivision, a plan is established on the first day of the plan year in which the plan is adopted even though the plan is adopted after such first day. Except as provided in paragraph (b)(3)(iv) of this section if an employer adopts a plan which has previously been established by another employer or group of employers, the plan is not maintained by the adopting employer prior to the first day of the plan year in which the plan is adopted by the adopting employer. In the case of a transfer of assets or liabilities (including a merger or consolidation) involving two plans maintained by a single employer, the successor (or transferee) plan is treated as if it was established at the same time as the date of the establishment of the earliest component plan. In the case of a plan merger, consolidation, or transfer of plan assets or liabilities involving plans of two or more employers, the successor plan is treated as if it were established on each of the separate dates on which such component plan was established for the employees of each employer. Thus, for example, if employer A establishes a plan January 1, 1970, and employer B establishes a plan January 1, 1980, and the plans were subsequently merged, then the merged plan would be treated as if it were in existence on January 1, 1970, with respect to A's employees and as if it were in existence on January 1, 1980, with respect to B's employees.

(iii) Period after termination or withdrawal. The period for which a plan is not maintained by an employer includes the period after the plan is terminated. For purposes of this section, a plan is terminated at the date there is a termination of the plan within the meaning of section 411(d)(3)(A) and the regulations thereunder. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, if contributions to or under a plan are made after termination, the plan is treated as being maintained until such contributions cease, whether or not accruals are made after such termination. If, after termination of a plan in circumstances under which the employer may be liable to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation under section 4062 of the Act, employer contributions are made to or under the plan to fund benefits accrued at the time of termination, such contributions shall, for purposes of this paragraph, be deemed to be payments in satisfaction of employer liability to such Corporation rather than contributions to or under the plan. In the case of a plan maintained by more than one employer, the period for which the plan is not maintained by the withdrawing employer includes the period after the withdrawal from the plan.

(iv) Certain employers. For purposes of this subparagraph—

(A) Predecessor employers. Service with a predecessor employer who maintained the plan of the current employer is treated as service with such current employer (see section 414(a)(1) and the regulations thereunder), and certain service with a predecessor employer who did not maintain the plan of the current employer is treated as service with the current employer (see section 414(a)(2) and the regulations thereunder).

(B) Related employers. Service with an employer is treated as service for certain related employers for the period during which the employers are related. These related employers include members of a controlled group of corporations (within the meaning of section 1563(a), determined without regard to subsections (a)(4) and (e)(3) (C) thereof) and trades or businesses (whether or not incorporated) which are under common control (see section 414 (b) and (c) and 29 CFR Part 2530, Department of Labor regulations relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefits plans).

(C) Plan maintained by more than one employer. Service with an employer who maintains a plan is treated as service for each other employer who maintains that plan for the period during which the employers are maintaining the plan (see section 413 (b)(4) and (c)(3) and 29 CFR Part 2530, Department of Labor regulations relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans).

(v) Predecessor plan—(A) General rule. In the case of an employee who was covered by a predecessor plan, the time the successor of such plan is maintained for such employee includes the time the predecessor plan was maintained if, as of the later of the time the predecessor plan is terminated or the successor plan is established, the employee's years of service under the predecessor plan are not equalled or exceeded by the aggregate number of consecutive 1-year breaks in service occuring after such years of service. Years of service and breaks in service, without regard to whether the employee has nonforfeitable rights under the predecessor plan, are determined under section 411(a) (5) and (6) except that years between the termination date of the predecessor plan and the date of establishment of the successor plan do not count as years of service.

(B) Definition of predecessor plan. For purposes of this section, if—

(1) An employer establishes a retirement plan (within the meaning of section 7476(d)) qualified under subchapter D of chapter 1 of the Code within the 5-year period immediately preceding or following the date another such plan terminates, and

(2) The other plan is terminated during a plan year to which this section applies.

The terminated plan is a predecessor plan with respect to such other plan.

(C) Example. The rules provided by this subparagraph are illustrated by the following example:

Example. (1) Employer X's qualified plan A terminated on January 1, 1977, Employer X established qualified plan B on January 1, 1981. Under paragraph (b)(3)(v)(B) of this section, plan A is a predecessor plan with respect to plan B because plan B is established within the 5-year period immediately following the date plan A terminated.

(2) Employee C was not covered by the A plan. Under the general rule in subdivision (v)(A) of this subparagraph, plan B is not maintained until January 1, 1981, with respect to Employee C.

(3) Employee D was covered by the A plan. On December 31, 1976, D had 4 years of service. D had 4 consecutive 1-year breaks in service because, during the years between the termination of plan A and the establishment of plan B, he did not have more than 500 hours of service in any applicable computation period. Because D's consecutive 1-year breaks (4) equal his years of service prior to his breaks (4), plan B is not maintained until January 1, 1981, with respect to employee D.

(4) Employee E was covered by the A plan. On December 31, 1975, E had 6 years of service. E had a 1-year break in service in 1976. E also had 4 consecutive 1-year breaks in service for the period between plan A's termination and plan B's establishment. Because E's years of service (6) are not less than his consecutive 1-year breaks (5), plan B is maintained for E as of the establishment date of plan A.

(4) Break in service. A year of service which is not required to be taken into account by reason of a break in service (within the meaning of section 411(a)(6) and §1.411(a)-6)).

(5) Service before January 1, 1971. A year of service completed by an employee prior to January 1, 1971, unless the employee completes at least 3 years of service at any time after December 31, 1970. For purposes of determining if an employee completes 3 years of service, whether or not consecutive, the exceptions of section 411(a)(4) are not applicable. For the meaning of the term “year of service”, see regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor under 29 CFR Part 2530, relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans.

(6) Service before effective date. A year of service completed before the first plan year for which this section applies to the plan, if such service would have been disregarded under the plan rules relating to breaks in service (whether or not such rules are so designated in the plan) as such rules were in effect from time to time under the plan. For this purpose, plan rules which result in the loss of prior vesting or benefit accruals of an employee, or which deny an employee eligibility to participate, by reason of separation or failure to complete a required period of service within a specified priod of time (e.g., 300 hours in one year) will be considered break in service rules See §1.411(a)-9 for requirements relating to certain amendments to the break in service rules of a plan.

(i) [Reserved]

(ii) Examples. The rules of this subparagraph are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. The A plan in 1971 provides for immediate participation and vesting at normal retirement age. Employees accrue a unit benefit based on their compensation in each year. The plan provides that if an employee is not employed on the last day of the calendar year, he loses all accrued benefits. The requirement of employment on the last day of the year is a break in service rule because employees can lose benefits by reason of their separation. Accordingly, in the case of employees who separate and do not return by the close of the year, service which is completed prior to separation may be disregarded.
Example 2. The B plan in 1971 excludes from plan participation employees who work less than 1,200 hours per year. Because years of less than 1,200 hours are not taken into account under the B plan for eligibility to participate, such years are excluded under rules relating to breaks in service. Therefore, the years can be disregarded under this subparagraph.
Example 3. The C plan in 1971 provides for immediate participation and provides accruals and vesting credit for 1,200 hours or more in a given year. The plan provides that if a participant works less than 300 hours in a given year, he loses all prior vesting and benefit credits. The 300 hour rule is a break in service rule because the failure to complete 300 hours results in the loss of vesting and prior service credit. The 1,200 hour requirement is not a break in service rule because even though employees do not increase vesting or accrue benefits for service between 300 and 1,200 hours, they cannot lose prior vesting or benefits for such service. Accordingly, the C plan can disregard completed years only on account of less than 300 hours of service by an employee.

(c) Special continuity rule for certain plans. For special rules for computing years of service in the case of a plan maintained by more than one employer, see 29 CFR Part 2530 (Department of Labor regulations relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans).

(Sec. 411 (88 Stat. 901, 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42327, Aug. 23, 1977, as amended by T.D. 7703, 45 FR 40985, June 17, 1980]

§1.411(a)-6   Year of service; hours of service; breaks in service.

(a) Year of service. Under section 411 (a)(5)(A), for purposes of the regulations thereunder, the term “year of service” is defined in regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor under section 203(b)(2)(A) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. For special rules applicable to seasonal industries and maritime industries, see regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor under subparagraphs (C) and (D) of section 203(b)(2) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

(b) Hours of service. Under section 411(a)(5)(B), for purposes of the regulations thereunder, the term “hours of service” has the meaning provided by section 410(a)(3)(C). See regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor under 29 CFR Part 2530, relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans.

(c) Breaks in service. Under section 411(a)(6), for purposes of §1.411(a)-5(b)(4) and of this paragraph—

(1) In general—(i) Year of service after 1-year break in service. In the case of any employee who has incurred a 1-year break in service, years of service completed before such break are not required to be taken into account until the employee has completed one year of service after his return to service.

(ii) Defined contribution plan. In the case of a participant in a defined contribution plan or in an insured defined benefit plan (which plan satisfies the requirements of section 411 (b)(1)(F) and §1.411(b)-1) who has incurred a 1-year break in service, years of service completed after such break are not required to be taken into account for purposes of determining the nonforfeitable percentage of the participant's right to employer-derived benefits which accrued before such break. This subdivision does not permit years of service completed before a 1-year break in service to be disregarded in determining the nonforfeitable percentage of a participant's right to employer-derived benefits which accrue after such break.

(iii) Nonvested participants. In the case of an employee who is a nonvested participant in employer-derived benefits at the time he incurs a 1-year break in service, years of service completed by such participant before such break are not required to be taken into account for purposes of determining the nonforfeitable percentage of his right to employer-derived benefits if at such time the number of consecutive 1-year breaks in service included in his most recent break in service equals or exceeds the aggregate number of his years of service, whether or not consecutive, completed before such break. In the case of a plan utilizing the elapsed time method described in §1.410(a)-7, the condition in the preceding sentence shall be satisfied if the period of severance is at least one year and the consecutive period of severance equals or exceeds his prior period of service, whether or not consecutive, completed before such period of severance. In computing the aggregate number of years of service prior to such break, years of service which could have been disregarded under this subdivision by reason of any prior break in service may be disregarded.

(2) One-year break in service defined. The term “1-year break in service” means a calendar year, plan year, or other 12-consecutive month period designated by a plan (and not prohibited under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor) during which the participant has not completed more than 500 hours of service. In the case of a plan utilizing the elapsed time method, the term “1-year break in service” means a 12-consecutive month period beginning on the severance from service date or any anniversary thereof and ending on the next succeeding anniversary of such date; provided, however, that the employee during such 12-consecutive-month period does not complete any hours of service within the meaning of 29 CFR Part 2530.200b-2(a) for the employer or employers maintaining the plan. See regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor under 29 CFR Part 2530, relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans.

(d) Examples. The rules provided by this section are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. (i) X Corporation maintains a defined contribution plan to which section 411 applies. The plan uses the calendar year as the vesting computation period. In 1980, Employee A, who was hired at age 35, separates from the service of X Corporation after completing 4 years of service. At the time of his separation, Employee A had a nonforfeitable right to 25 percent of his employer-derived accrued benefit which was not distributed. In 1985, after incurring 5 consecutive one-year breaks in service. Employee A is re-employed by X Corporation and becomes an active participant in the plan. The plan provides that, for 1985 and all subsequent years, Employee A's previous years of service will not be taken into account for purposes of computing the nonforfeitable percentage of his employer-derived accrued benefit, solely because of his break in service.

(ii) The plan fails to satisfy section 411. Section 411(a)(6)(B) would permit the plan to disregard Employee A's prior service for purposes of computing his nonforfeitable percentage in 1985 only, but such service must be taken into account in subsequent years unless there is another break in service. Under section 411(a)(6)(C), the plan is not required to take Employee A's post-break service into account for purposes of computing his nonforfeitable right to his prebreak employer-derived accrued benefits. This provision, however, would not permit the plan to disregard pre-break service in determining his nonforfeitable right to his benefit accrued after the break. The exception provided by section 411(a)(6)(D) does not apply in the case of a participant who has any nonforfeitable right to his accrued benefit derived from employer contributions.

Example 2. (i) X Corporation maintains a qualified plan to which sections 410 and 411 (relating to minimum participation standards and minimum vesting standards, respectively) apply. The plan permits participation upon completion of a year of service and provides that 100% of an employee's employer-derived accrued benefit vests after 10 years of service. The plan uses the calendar year as the vesting computation period. The plan provides that an employee who completes at least 1,000 hours of service in a 12-month period is credited with a year of service for participation and vesting purposes. The plan also provides that an employee who does not complete more than 500 hours of service in that 12-month period incurs a one-year break in service. The plan includes the rule described in section 411 (a)(6)(D) for participation and vesting purposes. Under this rule, an employee's years of service prior to a break in service may be disregarded under certain circumstances if he has no vested right to any employer-derived benefit under the plan. The plan does not contain the rule described in section 411(a)(6)(B) (relating to the requirement of one year of service after a one-year break in service).

(ii) Employee A commences employment with the X Corporation on January 1, 1977. Employee A's employment history for 1977 through 1989 is as follows:

Year ending December 31Hours of service completed
19771,000
1978800
19791,000
1980400
19811,000
19820
1983400
19841,000
19850
19860
1987500
1988200
19891,000

Employee A's status as a participant during this period is determined as follows:

1978: Employee A was a plan participant on January 1, 1978, because he completed a year of service (1,000 hours) in 1977. He did not complete a year of service in 1978 because he completed fewer than 1,000 hours in that year. Because he completed more than 500 hours of service in 1978, however, Employee A did not incur a one-year break in service that year.

1979: Employee A completes a year of service in 1979. Because he did not incur a one-year break in service in 1978, the plan may not disregard his 1977 service for purposes of determining his years of service as of January 1, 1979.

1980: Employee A incurs a one-year break in service in 1980.

1981: Because Employee A had completed 2 years of service prior to 1981 and had incurred one 1-year break in service prior to 1981, under section 411(a)(6)(D), the plan may not disregard his pre-1980 service in 1981. Employee A completes a year of service in 1981.

1982: Employee A incurs a one-year break in service in 1982.

1983: Employee A incurs a one-year break in service in 1983. As of the end of 1983, he has completed 3 years of service and has incurred 2 consecutive one-year breaks in service.

1984: Employee A completes a year of service in 1984. Under section 411(a)(6)(D), his pre-1982 service may not be disregarded in 1984 because, as of the beginning of 1984, his pre-1984 years of service (3) exceed his consecutive one-year breaks in service (2).

1984-1988: Employee A incurs 4 consecutive one-year breaks in service during the years 1985 through 1988.

1989: Employee A's pre-1989 service is disregarded in 1989 and all subsequent plan years because his years of service as of January 1, 1989, equal the number of consecutive one-year breaks he has incurred as of that date. Therefore, as of the beginning of 1989, Employee A is not a plan participant. Employee A completes a year of service in 1989. (Although section 411(a)(6)(D) does not prohibit the plan provision under which Employee A's pre-1989 service is disregarded, that section does not require such a provision in a qualified plan.)

(Sec. 411 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42329, Aug. 23, 1977, as amended by T.D. 7703, 45 FR 40985, June 17, 1980]

§1.411(a)-7   Definitions and special rules.

(a) Accrued benefit. For purposes of section 411 and the regulations thereunder, the term “accrued benefit” means—

(1) Defined benefit plan. In the case of a defined benefit plan—

(i) If the plan provides an accrued benefit in the form of an annual benefit commencing at normal retirement age, such accrued benefit, or

(ii) If the plan does not provide an accured benefit in the form described in subdivision (i) of this subparagraph, an annual benefit commencing at normal retirement age which is the actuarial equivalent (determined under section 411(c)(3) and §1.411(c)-(5) of the accrued benefit determined under the plan. In general, the term “accrued benefits” refers only to pension or retirement benefits. Consequently, accrued benefits do not include ancillary benefits not directly related to retirement benefits such as payment of medical expenses (or insurance premiums for such expenses), disability benefits not in excess of the qualified disability benefit (see section 411(a)(9) and paragraph (c)(3) of this section), life insurance benefits payable as a lump sum, incidental death benefits, current life insurance protection, or medical benefits described in section 401(h). For purposes of this paragraph a subsidized early retirement benefit which is provided by a plan is not taken into account, except to the extent of determining the normal retirement benefit under the plan (see section 411(a)(9) and paragraph (c) of this section). The accrued benefit includes any optional settlement at normal retirement age under actuarial assumptions no less favorable than those which would be applied if the employee were terminating his employment at normal retirement age. The accrued benefit does not include any subsidized value in a joint and survivor annuity to the extent that the annual benefit of the joint and survivor annuity does not exceed the annual benefit of a single life annuity.

(2) Defined contribution plan. In the case of a defined contribution plan, the balance of the employee's account held under the plan.

(b) Normal retirement age—(1) General rule. For the purposes of section 411 and the regulations thereunder, the term “normal retirement age” means the earlier of—

(i) The time specified by a plan at which a plan participant attains normal retirement age, or

(ii) The later of—

(A) The time the plan participant attains age 65, or

(B) The 10th anniversary of the date the plan participant commences participation in the plan.

If a plan, or the employer sponsoring the plan, imposes a requirement that an employee retire upon reaching a certain age, the normal retirement age may not exceed that mandatory retirement age. The preceding sentence will apply if the employer consistently enforces a mandatory retirement age rule, whether or not set forth in the plan or any related document. For purposes of subdivision (i) of this subparagraph, if an age is not specified by a plan as the normal retirement age then the normal retirement age under the plan is the earliest age beyond which the participant's benefits under the plan are not greater solely on account of his age or service. For purposes of paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B) of this section, participation commences on the first day of the first year in which the participant commenced his participation in the plan, except that years which may be disregarded under section 410(a)(5)(D) may be disregarded in determining when participation commenced.

(2) Examples. The provisions of this paragraph are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Plan A defines normal retirement age as age 65. Under the plan, benefits payable to participants who retire at or after age 60 are not reduced on account of early retirement. For purposes of section 411 and the vesting regulations, normal retirement age under Plan A is age 65 (determined under subparagraph (1)(i) of this paragraph). This is true even if in operation all participants retire at age 60.
Example 2. Plan B does not specify any age as the normal retirement age. Under the plan, participants who have attained age 55 are entitled to benefits commencing upon retirement but the benefits of participants who retire before attaining age 70 are subject to reduction on account of early retirement. For purposes of section 411 and the vesting regulations the normal retirement age under Plan B is the later of (i) age 65, or (ii) the 10th anniversary of the date a plan participant commences participation in the plan (assuming such date is prior to age 70).
Example 3. The facts are the same as in example (2). Employee X first became a participant in Plan B on January 1, 1980 at age 53. His participation continued until December 31, 1980, when he separated from the service with no vested benefits. After incurring 5 consecutive 1-year breaks in service, Employee X again becomes an employee and a plan participant on January 1, 1986, at age 59. For purposes of section 411, Employee X's normal retirement age under Plan B is age 69, the 10th anniversary of the date on which his year of plan participation commenced. His participation in 1980 may be disregarded under the last sentence of paragraph (b)(1) of this section.

(c) Normal retirement benefit—(1) In general. For purposes of section 411 and the regulations thereunder, the term “normal retirement benefit” means the periodic benefit under the plan commencing upon early retirement (if any) or at normal retirement age, whichever benefit is greater.

(2) Periodic benefit. For purposes of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph—

(i) In the case of a plan under which a benefit is payable as an annuity in the same form upon early retirement and at normal retirement age, the greater benefit is determined by comparing the amount of such annuity payments.

(ii) In the case of a plan under which an annuity benefit payable upon early retirement is not in the same form as an annuity benefit payable at normal retirement age, the greater benefit is determined by converting the annuity benefit payable upon early retirement age into the same form of annuity benefit as is payable at normal retirement age and by comparing the amount of the converted early retirement benefit payment with the amount of the normal retirement benefit payment.

(iii) In the case of a plan which is integrated with the Social Security Act or any other Federal or State law, the periodic benefit payable upon and after early retirement age is adjusted for any increases in such benefits occurring on or after early retirement age which are taken into account under the plan. See however, section 401(a)(15) and the regulations thereunder.

(3) Benefits included. For purposes of this paragraph, the normal retirement benefit under a plan shall be determined without regard to ancillary benefits not directly related to retirement benefits such as medical benefits or disability benefits not in excess of the qualified disability benefit; see section 411(a)(7) and paragraph (a)(1) of this section. For this purpose, a qualified disability benefit is a disability benefit which is not in excess of the amount of the benefit which would be payable to the participant if he separated from service at normal retirement age.

(4) Early retirement benefit; social security supplement. (i) For purposes of this paragraph, the early retirement benefit under a plan shall be determined without regard to any social security supplement.

(ii) For purposes of this subparagraph, a social security supplement is a benefit for plan participants which—

(A) Commences before the age and terminates before the age when participants are entitled to old-age insurance benefits, unreduced on account of age, under title II of the Social Security Act, as amended (see section 202 (a) and (g) of such Act), and

(B) Does not exceed such old-age insurance benefit.

(5) Special limitation. If a defined benefit plan bases its normal retirement benefits on employee compensation, the compensation must reflect the compensation which would have been paid for a full year of participation within the meaning of section 411(b)(3). If an employee works less than a full year of participation, the compensation used to determine benefits under the plan for such year of participation must be multiplied by the ratio of the number of hours for a complete year of participation to the number of hours worked in such year. A plan whose benefit formula is computed on a computation base which cannot decrease is not required to adjust employee compensation in the manner described in the previous sentence. Thus, for example, if a plan provided a benefit based on an employee's compensation for his highest five consecutive years or a separate benefit for each year of participation based on the employee's compensation for such year the plan would not have to so adjust compensation. However, if a plan provided a benefit based on an employee's compensation for the employee's last five years or the five highest consecutive years out of the last 10 years, the compensation, would have to be so adjusted. For special rules for applying the limitations on proration of a year of participation for benefit accrual, see regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor under 29 CFR Part 2530, relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans.

(6) Examples. The provisions of this paragraph are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Plan A provides for a benefit equal to 1% of high 5 years compensation for each year of service and a normal retirement age of 65. The plan also provides for a full unreduced accrued benefit without any actuarial reduction for any employee at age 55 with 30 years of service. Even though the actuarial value of the early retirement benefit could exceed the value of the benefit at the normal retirement age, the normal retirement benefit would not include the greater value of the early retirement benefit because actuarial subsidies are ignored.
Example 2. Plan B provides the following benefits: (1) at normal retirement age 65, $300/mo. for life and (2) at early retirement age 60, $400/mo. for life. The normal retirement benefit is $400/mo., the greater of the benefit payable at normal retirement age ($300) or early retirement ($400).
Example 3. Assume the same facts as example (2) except that the early retirement benefit of $400 is reduced to $300 upon attainment of age 65. If each employee's social security benefit at age 65 is not less than $100, the $100 would be considered to be a social security supplement and would therefore be ignored. Consequently, the normal retirement benefit would be $300.
Example 4. Plan C provides a benefit at normal retirement age equal to 1% per year of service, multiplied by the participant's compensation averaged over the 5 years immediately prior to retirement. An early retirement benefit is provided upon attainment of age 60 equal to the benefit accrued to date of early retirement reduced by 4 percent for each year by which the early retirement date precedes the normal retirement age of 65. Employee A was hired at age 30, participated immediately, and retired at age 65. Employee A's annual compensation was $50,000 between ages 55-60 and was reduced to $33,000 after age 60. The following table indicates the amount of annual benefit that would have been provided by the plan formula if the employee retired at or after age 60:
AgeFinal average computated Percent accrued benefit Reduction Annual benefit
   (1)—(2)—(3)—(4)—
60$50,000300.80*$12,000
6146,60031.8412,135
6243,20032.8812,165
6339,80033.9212,083
6436,40034.9611,881
6533,000351.0011,550

Note. Col. (1) times col. (2) times col. (3) equals col. (4).

The normal retirement benefit is the greater of the benefit payable at normal retirement age or the early retirment benefit. Employee A's normal retirement benefit is $12,165, the greatest annual benefit Employee A would be entitled to.

(d) Rules relating to certain distributions and cash-outs of accrued benefits—(1) In general. This paragraph sets forth vesting rules applicable to certain distributions from qualified plans and their related trusts (other than class year plans). Subparagraphs (2) and (3) set forth the exceptions to nonforfeitability on account of withdrawal of mandatory contributions provided by section 411(a)(3)(D). When a plan utilizes these exceptions with respect to a given participant's accrued benefit, such accrued benefit is not subject to the cash-out rules or vesting rules of subparagraphs (4) or (5), respectively. Section 411 prescribes certain requirements with respect to accrued benefits under a qualified plan. These requirements would generally not be satisfied if the plan disregarded service in computing accrued benefits even though amounts were distributed on account of such service. Subparagraph (4) of this paragraph sets forth rules under section 411(a)(7)(B) which allow a plan to make distributions and compute accrued benefits without regard to the accrued benefit attributable to the distribution. When a defined contribution plan utilizes this exception with respect to an accrued benefit, the plan is not required to satisfy the rules of subparagraph (5) of this paragraph. Subparagraph (5) of this paragraph sets forth a vesting requirement applicable to certain distributions from defined contribution plans. Subparagraph (6) sets forth other rules which pertain to the distribution rules of this paragraph.

(2) Withdrawal of mandatory contribution—(i) General rule. In the case of a participant's right to his employer-derived accrued benefit, a right is not treated as forfeitable merely because all or a portion of such benefit may be forfeited on account of the withdrawal by the participant of any amount attributable to his accrued benefit derived from his mandatory contributions (within the meaning of section 411(c)(2)(C) and §1.411(c)-1) before he has become a 50 percent vested participant (within the meaning of §1.401(a)-19(b)(2)). For purposes of determining the vested percentage, the plan may disregard service after the withdrawal. For example, assume that a plan utilizes 1000 hours for computing years of service and that for the computation period employee A had 1000 hours of service. If A was 40 percent vested at the beginning of the period but only had 800 hours at the time of the withdrawal, the plan could treat A as only 40 percent vested because service after the withdrawal can be disregarded. On the other hand, if A had 1000 hours at the time of the withdrawal, he must receive a year of service for the computation period, even though service is not taken into account until the end of such period.

(ii) Plan repayment provision. (A) Subdivision (i) of this subparagraph shall not apply unless, at the time the amount described in such subdivision is withdrawn by the participant, the plan provides the employee with a right to restoration of his employer-derived accrued benefit to the extent forfeited in accordance with such subdivision upon repayment to the plan of the full amount of the withdrawal.

(B) In the case of a defined benefit plan (as defined in section 414(j)) the restoration of the employee's employer-derived accrued benefit may be conditioned upon repayment of interest on the full amount of the distribution. Such interest shall be computed on the amount of the distribution from the date of such distribution to the date of repayment, compounded annually from the date of distribution, at the rate determined under section 411(c)(2)(C) in effect on the date of repayment. A plan may provide for repayment of interest which is less than the amount determined under the preceding sentence.

(C) In the case of both defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans, the plan repayment provision described in this subparagraph may provide that the employee must repay the full amount of the distribution in order to have the forfeited benefit restored. The plan provision may not require that such repayment be made sooner than the time described in paragraph (d)(2)(ii)(D) of this section.

(D)(1) If a distribution is on account of separation from service, the time for repayment may not end before the earlier of—

(i) 5 years after the first day the employee is subsequently employed, or

(ii) The close of the first period of consecutive 1-year breaks in service commencing after the distribution.

If the distribution occurs for any other reason, the time for repayment may not end earlier than 5 years after the date of distribution. Nevertheless, a plan provision may provide for a longer period in which the employee may repay. For example, a plan could allow repayments to be made at any time before normal retirement age.

(2) In the case of a plan utilizing the elapsed time method, described in §1.410(a)-7, the minimum time for repayment shall be determined as in paragraph (d)(2)(ii)(D)(1) of this section except as provided in this subdivision. The 5 consecutive 1-year break periods shall be determined by substituting the term “1-year period of severance” for the term “1-year break in service”. Also, the repayment period both commences and closes in a manner determined by the Commissioner that is consistent with the rules in §1.410(a)-7 and the substitution in section 411(a)(6) (C) and (D) of a 5-year break-in-service rule for the former 1-year break-in-service rule.

(E) A defined benefit plan using the break-in-service rule described in section 410(a)(5)(D) or a defined contribution plan using the break-in-service rule described in section 411(a)(6)(C) for determining employees' accrued benefits is not required to provide for repayment by an employee whose accrued benefit is disregarded by reason of a plan provision using these rules.

(iii) Computation of benefit. In the case of a defined contribution plan, the employer-derived accrued benefit required to be restored by this subparagraph shall not be less than the amount in the account balance of the employee which was forfeited, unadjusted by any subsequent gains or losses.

(iv) Delayed forfeiture. A defined contribution plan may, in lieu of the forfeiture and restoration described in this subparagraph, provide that the forfeiture does not occur until the expiration of the time for repayment described in subdivision (ii) of this subparagraph provided that the conditions of this subparagraph are satisfied.

(3) Withdrawal of mandatory contributions; accruals before September 2, 1974—(i) General rule. In the case of a participant's right to the portion of the employer-derived benefit which accrued prior to September 2, 1974, a right is not treated as forfeitable merely because all or part of such portion may be forfeited on account of the withdrawal by the participant of an amount attributable to his benefit derived from mandatory contributions (within the meaning of section 411(c)(2)(C) and §1.411(c)-1(c)(4)) made by the participant before September 2, 1974, if the amount so subject to forfeiture is no more than proportional to such amounts withdrawn. This subparagraph shall not apply to any plan to which any mandatory contribution (within the meaning of section 411(c)(2)(C) and §1.411(c)-1(c)(4)) is made after September 2, 1974.

(ii) Defined contribution plan. In the case of a defined contribution plan, the portion of a participant's employer-derived benefit which accrued prior to September 2, 1974, shall be determined on the basis of a separate accounting between benefits accruing before and after such date. Gains, losses, withdrawals, forfeitures, and other credits or charges must be separately allocated to such benefits. Any allocation made on a reasonable and consistent basis prior to September 1, 1977, shall satisfy the requirements of this subdivision.

(iii) Defined benefit plan. In the case of a defined benefit plan, the portion of a participant's employer-derived benefit which accrued prior to September 2, 1974, shall be determined in a manner consistent with the determination of an accrued benefit under section 411(b)(1)(D) (see §1.411(b)-1(c)). Any method of determining such accrued benefit which the Commissioner finds to be reasonable shall satisfy the requirements of this subdivision.

(4) Certain cash-outs of accrued benefits—(i) Involuntary cash-outs. For purposes of determining an employee's right to an accrued benefit derived from employer contributions under a plan, the plan may disregard service performed by the employee with respect to which—

(A) The employee receives a distribution of the present value of his entire nonforfeitable benefit at the time of the distribution;

(B) The requirements of section 411(a)(11) are satisfied at the time of the distribution;

(C) The distribution is made due to the termination of the employee's participation in the plan; and

(D) The plan has a repayment provision which satisfies the requirements of paragraph (d)(4)(iv) of this section in effect at the time of the distribution.

(ii) Voluntary cash-outs. For purposes of determining an employee's accrued benefit derived from employer contributions under a plan, the plan may disregard service performed by the employee with respect to which—

(A) The employee receives a distribution of the present value of his nonforfeitable benefit attributable to such service at the time of such distribution,

(B) The employee voluntarily elects to receive such distribution,

(C) The distribution is made on termination of the employee's participation in the plan, and

(D) The plan has a repayment provision in effect at the time of the distribution which satisfies the requirements of subdivision (iv) of this subparagraph.

A distribution shall be deemed to be made on termination of participation in the plan if it is made not later than the close of the second plan year following the plan year in which such termination occurs. For purposes of determining the nonforfeitable benefit, the plan may disregard service after the distribution as illustrated in subparagraph (2)(i) of this subparagraph.

(iii) Disregard of service. Service of an employee permitted to be disregarded under subdivision (i) or (ii) of the subparagraph is not required to be taken into account in computing the employee's accrued benefit under the plan. In the case of a voluntary distribution described in subdivision (ii) of this subparagraph which is less than the present value of the employee's total nonforfeitable benefit immediately prior to the distribution, the accrued benefit not required to be taken into account is such total accrued benefit multiplied by a fraction, the numerator of which is the amount of the distribution and the denominator of which is the present value of his total nonforfeitable benefit immediately prior to such distribution. For example, A who is 50 percent vested in an account balance of $1,000 receives a voluntary distribution of $250. The accrued benefit which can be disregarded equals $1,000 times $250/$500, or $500. However, such service may not by reason of this paragraph be disregarded for purposes of determining an employee's years of service under sections 410(a)(3) and 411(a)(4).

(iv) Plan repayment provision. (A) A plan repayment provision satisfies the requirements of this subdivision if, under the provision, the accrued benefit of an employee that is disregarded by a plan under this subparagraph is restored upon repayment to the plan by the employee of the full amount of the distribution. An accrued benefit is not restored unless all of the optional forms of benefit and subsidies relating to such benefit are also restored. A plan is not required to provide for repayment of an accrued benefit unless the employee—

(1) Received a distribution that is in a plan year to which section 411 applies (see §1.411(a)-2), which distribution is less than the amount of his accrued benefit determined under the same optional form of benefit as the distribution was made, and

(2) Resumes employment covered under the plan.

(B) Example. Plan A provides a single sum distribution equal to the present value of the normal form of the accrued benefit payable at normal retirement age which is a single life annuity. Plan A also provides a subsidized joint and survivor annuity and a subsidized early retirement annuity benefit. A participant who is fully vested and receives a single sum distribution equal to the present value of the single life annuity normal retirement benefit is not required to be provided the right under the plan to repay the distribution upon subsequent reemployment even though the participant received a distribution that did not reflect the value of the subsidy in the joint and survivor annuity or the value of the early retirement annuity subsidy. This is true whether or not the participant had satisfied at the time of the distribution all of the conditions necessary to receive the subsidies. However, if a participant does not receive his total accrued benefit in the optional form of benefit under which his benefit was distributed, the plan must provide for repayment. If the employee repays the distribution in accordance with section 411(a)(7), the plan must restore the employee's accrued benefit which would include the right to receive the subsidized joint and survivor annuity and the subsidized early retirement annuity benefit.

(C) A plan may impose the same conditions on repayments for the restoration of employer-derived accrued benefits that are allowed as conditions for restoration of employer-derived accrued benefits upon repayment of mandatory contributions under paragraphs (d)(2)(ii) (B), (C), (D) and (E) of this section.

(v) In the case of a defined contribution plan, the employer-derived accrued benefit required to be restored by this subparagraph shall not be less than the amount in the account balance of the employee, both the amount distributed and the amount forfeited, unadjusted by any subsequent gains or losses. Thus, for example, if an employee received a distribution of $250 when he was 25 percent vested in an account balance of $1,000, upon repayment of $250 the account balance may not be less than $1,000 even if, because of plan losses, the account balance, if not distributed, would have been reduced to $500.

(vi) For purposes of paragraph (d)(4)(i) of this section, a distribution shall be deemed to be made due to the termination of an employee's participation in the plan if it is made no later than the close of the second plan year following the plan year in which such termination occurs, or if such distribution would have been made under the plan by the close of such second plan year but for the fact that the present value of the nonforfeitable accrued benefit then exceeded the cash-out limit in effect under §1.411(a)-11(c)(3)(ii). For purposes of determining the entire nonforfeitable benefit, the plan may disregard service after the distribution, as illustrated in paragraph (d)(2)(i) of this section.

(vii) Effective date. Paragraphs (d)(4)(i) and (vi) of this section apply to distributions made on or after March 22, 1999. However, an employer is permitted to apply paragraphs (d)(4)(i) and (vi) of this section to plan years beginning on or after August 6, 1997. Otherwise, for distributions prior to March 22, 1999, §§1.411(a)-7 and 1.411(a)-7T, in effect prior to October 17, 2000 (as contained in 26 CFR part 1, revised as of April 1, 2000) apply.

(5) Vesting requirement for defined contribution plans—(i) Application. The requirements of this subparagraph apply to a defined contribution plan which makes distributions to employees from their accounts attributable to employer contributions at a time when—

(A) Employees are less than 100 percent vested in such accounts, and

(B) Under the plan, employees can increase their percentage of vesting in such accounts after the distributions.

(ii) Requirements. In order for a plan, to which this subparagraph applies, to satisfy the vesting requirements of section 411, account balances under the plan (with respect to which percentage vesting can increase) must be computed in a manner which satisfies either subdivision (iii) (A) or (B) of this subparagraph.

(iii) Permissible methods. A plan many provide for either of the following methods, but not both, for computing account balances with respect to which percentage vesting can increase and from which distributions are made:

(A)(1) A separate account is established for the employee's interest in the plan as of the time of the distribution, and

(2) At any relevant time the employee's vested portion of the separate account is not less than an amount (“X”) determined by the formula: X=P(AB+(R×D))−(R×D). For purposes of applying the formula: P is the vested percentage at the relevant time; AB is the account balance at the relevant time; D is the amount of the distribution; R is the ratio of the account balance at the relevant time to the account balance after distribution; and the relevant time is the time at which, under the plan, the vested percentage in the account cannot increase.

A plan is not required to provide for separate accounts provided that account balances are maintained under a method that has the same effect as under this subdivision.

(B) At any relevant time the employee's vested portion is not less than an amount (“X”) determined by the formula: X=P(AB+D)−D. For purposes of applying the formula, the terms have the same meaning as under subdivision (iii)(A)(2) of this subparagraph.

(C) An application of the methods described in subdivisions (iii) (A) and (B) of this subparagraph is illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. The X defined contribution plan uses the method described in subdivision (iii)(A) of this subparagraph for computing account balances and the break in service rule described in section 411(a)(6)(C) (service after a 1-year break does not increase the vesting percentage in account balances accrued prior to the break). The plan distributes $250 to A when A's account balance prior to the distribution equals $1,000 and he is 25 percent vested. At the time of the distribution, A has not incurred a 1-year break so that his vesting percentage can increase. Six years later, when A is 60 percent vested, he incurs a 1-year break so that his vesting percentage cannot increase. At this time his separate account balance equals $1,500. R=$1,500/$750 or 2. A's separate account must equal 60 percent ($1,500+(2×$250))−(2×$250) or 60 percent ($1,500+$500)−$500, or $1,200−$500 equals $700.
Example 2. The Y defined contribution plan uses the method descirbed in subdivision (iii)(B) of this subparagraph for computing account balances and the break in service rule described in section 411(a)(6)(C). The plan distributes $250 to B when B's account balance prior to the distribution equals $1,000 and he is 25 percent vested. At the time of the distribution, B has not incurred a 1-year break so that his vesting percentage can increase. Six years later, when A is 60 percent vested, he incurs a 1-year break so that his vesting percentage cannot increase. At this time his account balance equals $1,500. B's separate account must equal 60 percent ($1,500+$250)−$250, 60% of $1,750−$250 equals $800.

(6) Other rules—(i) Distributions on separation or other event. None of the rules of this paragraph preclude distributions to employees upon separation from service or any other event recognized by the plan for commencing distributions. Such a distribution must, of course, satisfy the applicable qualification requirements pertaining to such distributions. For example, a profitsharing plan could pay the vested portion of an account balance to an employee when he separated from service, but in order to satisfy section 411 the plan might not be able to forfeit the nonvested account balance until the employee has a 1-year break in service. Similarly, the fact that a plan cannot disregard an accrued benefit attributable to service for which an employee has received a distribution because the plan does not satisfy the cash-out requirements of subparagraph (4) of this paragraph does not mean that the employee's accrued benefit (computed by taking into account such service) cannot be offset by the accrued benefit attributable to the distribution.

(ii) Joint and survivor requirements. See §1.401(a)-11(a)(2) (relating to joint and survivor annuities) for special rules applicable to certain distributions described in this paragraph.

(iii) Plan repayments. (A) Under subparagraphs (2) and (4) of this paragraph, a plan may be required to restore accrued benefits in the event of repayment by an employee.

(B) For purposes of applying the limitations of section 415 (c) and (e), in the case of a defined contribution plan, the repayment by the employee and the restoration by the employer shall not be treated as annual additions.

(C) In the case of a defined contribution plan, the permissible sources for restoration of the accrued benefit are: income or gain to the plan, forfeitures, or employer contributions. Notwithstanding the provisions of §1.401-1(b)(1)(ii), contributions may be made for such an accrued benefit by a profit-sharing plan even though there are no profits. In order for such a plan to be qualified, account balances (accrued benefits) generally must correspond to assets in the plan. Accordingly, there cannot be an unfunded account balance. However, an account balance will not be deemed to be unfunded in the case of a restoration if assets for the restored benefit are provided by the end of the plan year following the plan year in which the repayment occurs.

(Sec. 411 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42329, Aug. 23, 1977, as amended by T.D. 8038, 50 FR 29374, July 19, 1985; T.D. 8219, 53 FR 31852, Aug. 22, 1988; 53 FR 48534, Dec. 1, 1988; T.D. 8794, 63 FR 70337, Dec. 21, 1998; T.D. 8891, 65 FR 44681, July 19, 2000]

§1.411(a)-8   Changes in vesting schedule.

(a) Requirement of prior schedule. Under section 411(a)(10)(A), for plan years for which section 411 applies, a plan will be treated as not meeting the minimum vesting standards of section 411(a)(2) if the plan does not satisfy the requirements of this paragraph. If the vesting schedule of a plan is amended, then as of the date such amendment is adopted, the plan satisfies the requirements of this paragraph if, under the plan as amended, in the case of an employee who is a participant on—

(1) The date the amendment is adopted, or

(2) The date the amendment is effective, if later.

The nonforfeitable percentage (determined as of such date) of such employee's right to his employer-derived accrued benefit is not less than his percentage computed under the plan without regard to such amendment.

(b) Election of former schedule—(1) In general. Under section 411 (a)(10)(B), for plan years for which section 411 applies, if the vesting schedule of a plan is amended, the plan will not be treated as meeting the minimum vesting standards of section 411 (a)(2) unless the plan as amended, provides that each participant whose nonforfeitable percentage of his accrued benefit derived from employer contributions is determined under such schedule, and who has completed at least 5 years of service with the employer, may elect, during the election period, to have the nonforfeitable percentage of his accrued benefit derived from employer contributions determined without regard to such amendment. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, no election need be provided for any participant whose nonforfeitable percentage under the plan, as amended, at any time cannot be less than such percentage determined without regard to such amendment.

(2) Election period. For purposes of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, the election period under the plan must begin no later than the date the plan amendment is adopted and end no earlier than the latest of the following dates:

(i) The date which is 60 days after the day the plan amendment is adopted,

(ii) The date which is 60 days after the day the plan amendment becomes effective, or

(iii) The date which is 60 days after the day the participant is issued written notice of the plan amendment by the employer or plan administrator.

(3) Service requirement. For purposes of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, a participant shall be considered to have completed 5 years of service if such participant has completed 5 years of service, whether or not consecutive, without regard to the exceptions of section 411(a)(4) prior to the expiration of the election period described in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph. For the meaning of the term “year of service”, see regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor under 29 CFR Part 2530, relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans.

(4) Election only by participant. The election described in subparagraph (1) of this paragraph is available only to an individual who is a participant in the plan at the time such election is made.

(5) Election may be irrevocable. A plan, as amended, shall not fail to meet the minimum vesting standards of section 411(a)(2) by reason of section 411(a)(10)(B) merely because such plan provides that the election described in subparagraph (1) of this paragraph is irrevocable.

(6) Relationship with section 411(a)(2). The election described in subparagraph (1) of this paragraph is available for a vesting schedule which does not satisfy the requirements of section 411(a)(2) only if under such schedule all participants have a 50 percent nonforfeitable right after 10 years of service, and a 100 percent nonforfeitable right after 15 years of service, in their employer-derived accrued benefit. If the vesting schedule provides less vesting than the percentages required by the preceding sentence, the plan can be amended to provide for such vesting.

(c) Special rules—(1) Amendment of vesting schedule. For purposes of this section, an amendment of a vesting schedule is each plan amendment which directly or indirectly affects the computation of the nonforfeitable percentage of employees' rights to employer-derived accrued benefits. Consequently, such an amendment, for example, includes each change in the plan which affects either the plan's computation of years of service or of vesting percentages for years of service.

(2) Aggregation of amendments. All plan amendments which are: (i) amendments of a vesting schedule within the meaning of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph and (ii) adopted and effective at the same time, shall be deemed to be a single amendment for purposes of applying the rules in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section.

(3) Relationship with section 411(d)(6). For additional requirements relating to section 411(d)(6), see §1.411(d)-3(a)(3).

(Sec. 411 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42333, Aug. 23, 1977, as amended by T.D. 9280, 71 FR 45383, Aug. 9, 2006]

§1.411(a)-8T   Changes in vesting schedule (temporary).

(a) [Reserved]

(b) Election of former schedule—(1) In general. Under section 411(a)(10)(B), for plan years for which section 411 applies, if the vesting schedule of a plan is amended, the plan will not be treated as meeting the minimum vesting standards of section 411(a)(2) unless the plan as amended provides that each participant whose nonforfeitable percentage of his accrued benefit derived from employer contributions is determined under such schedule, and who has completed at least 3 years of service with the employer, may elect, during the election period, to have the nonforfeitable percentage of his accrued benefit derived from employer contributions determined without regard to such amendment. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, no election need be provided for any participant whose nonforfeitable percentage under the plan, as amended, at any time cannot be less than such percentage determined without regard to such amendment. For employees not described in §1.411(a)-3T(e)(1), this section shall be applied by substituting “5 years of service” for “3 years of service” where such language appears.

(2) Election period. For purposes of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, the election period under the plan must begin no later than the date the plan amendment is adopted and end no earlier than the latest of the following dates:

(i) The date which is 60 days after the day the plan amendment is adopted,

(ii) The date which is 60 days after the day the plan amendment becomes effective, or

(iii) The date which is 60 days after the day the participant is issued written notice of the plan amendment by the employer or plan administrator.

(3) Service requirement. For purposes of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, a participant shall be considered to have completed 3 years of service if such participant has completed 3 years of service, whether or not consecutive, without regard to the exceptions of section 411(a)(4) prior to the expiration of the election period described in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph. For the meaning of the term “year of service”, see regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor under 29 CFR Part 2530, relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans.

[T.D. 8170, 53 FR 241, Jan. 6, 1988]

§1.411(a)-9   Amendment of break in service rules; transitional period.

(a) In general. Under section 1017(f)(2) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, a plan is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of such plan is not a qualified trust) if the rules of the plan relating to breaks in service are amended, and—

(1) Such amendment is effective after January 1, 1974, and before the effective date of section 411, and

(2) Under such amendment, the nonforfeitable percentage of any employee's right to his employer-derived accrued benefit is less than the lesser of the nonforfeitable percentage of such employee's right to such benefit—

(i) Under the break in service rules provided by section 411(a)(6) and §1.411(a)-6(c), or

(ii) The greatest such percentage under the plan as in effect on or after January 1, 1974 (provided the break in service rules of the plan were not in violation of any law or rule of law on January 1, 1974).

(b) Break in service rules. For purposes of paragraph (a), the term “break in service rules” means the rules provided by a plan relating to circumstances under which a period of an employee's service or plan participation is disregarded, for purposes of determining the extent to which his rights to his accrued benefit under the plan are unconditional, if under such rules such service is disregarded by reason of the employee's failure to complete a required period of service within a specified period of time. For this purpose, plan rules which result in the loss of prior vesting or benefit accruals of an employee, or which deny an employee eligibility to participate, by reason of separation or failure to complete a required period of service within a specified period of time (e.g., 300 hours in one year) will be considered break in service rules. For purposes of section 411(b)(3), service described under the plan's break in service rules, as in effect before the effective date of section 411, need not be counted.

(Sec. 411 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42333, Aug. 23, 1977]

§1.411(a)-11   Restriction and valuation of distributions.

(a) Scope—(1) In general. Section 411(a)(11) restricts the ability of a plan to distribute any portion of a participant's accrued benefit without the participant's consent. Section 411(a)(11) also restricts the ability of defined benefit plans to distribute any portion of a participant's accrued benefit in optional forms of benefit without complying with specified valuation rules for determining the amount of the distribution. If the consent requirements or the valuation rules of this section are not satisfied, the plan fails to satisfy the requirements of section 411(a).

(2) Accrued benefit. For purposes of this section, an accrued benefit is valued taking into consideration the particular optional form in which the benefit is to be distributed. The value of an accrued benefit is the present value of the benefit in the distribution form determined under the plan. For example, a plan that provides a subsidized early retirement annuity benefit may specify that the optional single sum distribution form of benefit available at early retirement age is the present value of the subsidized early retirement annuity benefit. In this case, the subsidized early retirement annuity benefit must be used to apply the valuation requirements of this section and the resulting amount of the single sum distribution. However, if a plan that provides a subsidized early retirement annuity benefit specifies that the single sum distribution benefit available at early retirement age is the present value of the normal retirement annuity benefit, then the normal retirement annuity benefit is used to apply the valuation requirements of this section and the resulting amount of the single sum distribution available at early retirement age.

(b) General consent rules. A plan must satisfy the participant consent requirement with respect to the distribution of a participant's nonforfeitable accrued benefit with a present value in excess of the cash-out limit in effect under paragraph (c)(3)(ii) of this section. See paragraphs (c) (3) and (4) for situations where no consent is required.

(c) Consent, etc. requirements—(1) General rule. If an accrued benefit is immediately distributable, section 411(a)(11) permits plans to provide for the distribution of any portion of a participant's nonforfeitable accrued benefits only if the applicable consent requirements are satisfied.

(2) Consent. (i) No consent is valid unless the participant has received a general description of the material features of the optional forms of benefit available under the plan. In addition, so long as a benefit is immediately distributable, a participant must be informed of the right, if any, to defer receipt of the distribution. Furthermore, consent is not valid if a significant detriment is imposed under the plan on any participant who does not consent to a distribution. Whether or not a significant detriment is imposed shall be determined by the Commissioner by examining the particular facts and circumstances.

(ii) Consent of the participant to the distribution must not be made before the participant receives the notice of his or her rights specified in this paragraph (c)(2) and must not be made more than 90 days before the date the distribution commences.

(iii) A plan must provide a participant with notice of the rights specified in this paragraph (c)(2) at a time that satisfies either paragraph (c)(2)(iii)(A) or (B) of this section:

(A) This paragraph (c)(2)(iii)(A) is satisfied if the plan provides a participant with notice of the rights specified in this paragraph (c)(2) no less than 30 days and no more than 90 days before the date the distribution commences. However, if the participant, after having received this notice, affirmatively elects a distribution, a plan will not fail to satisfy the consent requirement of section 411(a)(11) merely because the distribution commences less than 30 days after the notice was provided to the participant, provided the plan administrator clearly indicates to the participant that the participant has a right to at least 30 days to consider whether to consent to the distribution.

(B) This paragraph (c)(2)(iii)(B) is satisfied if the plan—

(1) Provides the participant with notice of the rights specified in this paragraph (c)(2);

(2) Provides the participant with a summary of the notice within the time period described in paragraph (c)(2)(iii)(A) of this section; and

(3) If the participant so requests after receiving the summary described in paragraph (c)(2)(iii)(B)(2) of this section, provides the notice to the participant without charge and no less than 30 days before the date the distribution commences, subject to the rules for the participant's waiver of that 30-day period. The summary described in paragraph (c)(2)(iii)(B)(2) of this section must advise the participant of the right, if any, to defer receipt of the distribution, must set forth a summary of the distribution options under the plan, must refer the participant to the most recent version of the notice (and, in the case of a notice provided in any document containing information in addition to the notice, must identify that document and must provide a reasonable indication of where the notice may be found in that document, such as by index reference or by section heading), and must advise the participant that, upon request, a copy of the notice will be provided without charge.

(iv) For purposes of satisfying the requirements of this paragraph (c)(2), the plan administrator may substitute the annuity starting date, within the meaning of §1.401(a)-20, Q&A-10, for the date the distribution commences.

(v) See §1.401(a)-20, Q&A-24 for a special rule applicable to consents to plan loans.

(3) Cash-out limit. (i) Written consent of the participant is required before the commencement of the distribution of any portion of an accrued benefit if the present value of the nonforfeitable total accrued benefit is greater than the cash-out limit in effect under paragraph (c)(3)(ii) of this section on the date the distribution commences. The consent requirements are deemed satisfied if such value does not exceed the cash-out limit, and the plan may distribute such portion to the participant as a single sum. Present value for this purpose must be determined in the same manner as under section 417(e); see §1.417(e)-1(d).

(ii) The cash-out limit in effect for a date is the amount described in section 411(a)(11)(A) for the plan year that includes that date. The cash-out limit in effect for dates in plan years beginning on or after August 6, 1997, is $5,000. The cash-out limit in effect for dates in plan years beginning before August 6, 1997, is $3,500.

(iii) Effective date. Paragraphs (c)(3)(i) and (ii) of this section apply to distributions made on or after October 17, 2000. However, an employer is permitted to apply the $5,000 cash-out limit described in paragraph (c)(3)(ii) of this section to plan years beginning on or after August 6, 1997. Otherwise, for distributions prior to October 17, 2000, §§1.411(a)-11 and 1.411(a)-11T in effect prior to October 17, 2000 (as contained in 26 CFR Part 1 revised as of April 1, 2000) apply.

(4) Immediately distributable. Participant consent is required for any distribution while it is immediately distributable, i.e., prior to the later of the time a participant has attained normal retirement age (as defined in section 411(a)(8)) or age 62. Once a distribution is no longer immediately distributable, a plan may distribute the benefit in the form of a QJSA in the case of a benefit subject to section 417 or in the normal form in other cases without consent.

(5) Death of participant. The consent requirements of section 411(a)(11) do not apply after the death of the participant.

(6) QDROs. The consent requirements of section 411(a)(11) do not apply to payments to an alternate payee, defined in section 414(p)(8), except as provided in a qualified domestic relations order pursuant to section 414(p).

(7) Section 401(a)(9), etc. The consent requirements of section 411(a)(11) do not apply to the extent that a distribution is required to satisfy the requirements of section 401(a)(9) or 415. See section 401(a)(9) and the regulations thereunder and §1.401(a)-20 Q&A 23 for guidance on these requirements. Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary in section 401(a)(14) or §1.401(a)-14, a plan may not distribute a participant's nonforfeitable accrued benefit with a present value in excess of the cash-out limit in effect under paragraph (c)(3)(ii) of this section while the benefit is immediately distributable unless the participant consents to such distribution. The failure of a participant to consent is deemed to be an election to defer commencement of payment of the benefit for purposes of section 401(a)(14) and §1.401(a)-14.

(8) Delegation to Commissioner. The Commissioner, in revenue rulings, notices, and other guidance published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin, may modify, or provide additional guidance with respect to, the notice and consent requirements of this section. See §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b) of this chapter.

(d) Distribution valuation requirements. In determining the present value of any distribution of any accrued benefit from a defined benefit plan, the plan must take into account specified valuation rules. For this purpose, the valuation rules are the same valuation rules for valuing distributions as set forth in section 417(e); see §1.417(e)-1(d). This paragraph (d) applies both before and after the participant's death regardless of whether the accrued benefit is immediately distributable. This paragraph also applies whether or not the participant's consent is required under paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section.

(e) Special rules—(1) Plan termination. The requirements of this section apply before, on and after a plan termination. If a defined contribution plan terminates and the plan does not offer an annuity option (purchased from a commercial provider), then the plan may distribute a participant's accrued benefit without the participant's consent. The preceding sentence does not apply if the employer, or any entity within the same controlled group as the employer, maintains another defined contribution plan, other than an employee stock ownership plan (as defined in section 4975(e)(7)). In such a case, the participant's accrued benefit may be transferred without the participant's consent to the other plan if the participant does not consent to an immediate distribution from the terminating plan. See section 411(d)(6) and the regulations thereunder for other rules applicable to transferee plans and plan terminations.

(2) ESOP dividends. The requirements of this section do not apply to any distribution of dividends to which section 404(k) applies.

(3) Other rules. See §1.401(a)-20 Q&As 14, 17 and 24 for other rules that apply to the section 411(a)(11) requirements.

(f) Medium for notice and consent—(1) Notice. The notice of a participant's rights described in paragraph (c)(2) of this section or the summary of that notice described in paragraph (c)(2)(iii)(B)(2) of this section must be provided on a written paper document. However, see §1.401(a)-21 of this chapter for rules permitting the use of electronic media to provide applicable notices to recipients with respect to retirement plans.

(2) Consent. The consent described in paragraphs (c)(2) and (3) of this section must be given on a written paper document. However, see §1.401(a)-21 of this chapter for rules permitting the use of electronic media to make participant elections with respect to retirement plans.

[T.D. 8219, 53 FR 31853, Aug. 22, 1988; 53 FR 48534, Dec. 1, 1988, as amended by T.D. 8620, 60 FR 49221, Sept. 22, 1995; T.D. 8796, 63 FR 70011, Dec. 18, 1998; T.D. 8794, 63 FR 70338, Dec. 21, 1998; T.D. 8873, 65 FR 6006, Feb. 8, 2000; T.D. 8891, 65 FR 44681, 44682, July 19, 2000; T.D. 9294, 71 FR 61887, Oct. 20, 2006]

§1.411(a)(13)-1   Statutory hybrid plans.

(a) In general. This section sets forth certain rules that apply to statutory hybrid plans under section 411(a)(13). Paragraph (b) of this section describes special rules for certain statutory hybrid plans that determine benefits under a lump sum-based benefit formula. Paragraph (c) of this section describes the vesting requirement for statutory hybrid plans. Paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section contain definitions and effective/applicability dates, respectively.

(b) Calculation of benefit by reference to hypothetical account balance or accumulated percentage—(1) Payment of a current balance or current value under a lump sum-based benefit formula. Pursuant to section 411(a)(13)(A), a statutory hybrid plan that determines any portion of a participant's benefits under a lump sum-based benefit formula is not treated as failing to meet the following requirements solely because, with respect to benefits determined under that formula, the present value of those benefits is, under the terms of the plan, equal to the then-current balance of the hypothetical account maintained for the participant or to the then-current value of the accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation under that formula—

(i) Section 411(a)(2); or

(ii) With respect to the participant's accrued benefit derived from employer contributions, section 411(a)(11), 411(c), or 417(e).

(2) General rules with respect to current account balance or current value—(i) Benefit after normal retirement age. The relief of section 411(a)(13) does not override the requirement for a plan that, with respect to a participant with an annuity starting date after normal retirement age, the plan either provide an actuarial increase after normal retirement age or satisfy the requirements for suspension of benefits under section 411(a)(3)(B). Accordingly, with respect to such a participant, a plan with a lump sum based benefit formula violates the requirements of section 411(a) if the balance of the hypothetical account or the value of the accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation is not increased sufficiently to satisfy the requirements of section 411(a)(2) for distributions commencing after normal retirement age, unless the plan suspends benefits in accordance with section 411(a)(3)(B).

(ii) Reductions limited. The relief of section 411(a)(13) does not permit the accumulated benefit under a lump sum-based benefit formula to be reduced in a manner that would be prohibited if that reduction were applied to the accrued benefit. Accordingly, the only reductions that can apply to the balance of the hypothetical account or accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation are reductions as a result of—

(A) Benefit payments;

(B) Qualified domestic relations orders under section 414(p);

(C) Forfeitures that are permitted under section 411(a) (such as charges for providing a qualified preretirement survivor annuity);

(D) Amendments that would reduce the accrued benefit but that are permitted under section 411(d)(6);

(E) Adjustments resulting in a decrease in the balance of the hypothetical account due to the application of interest credits (as defined in §1.411(b)(5)-1(d)(1)(ii)(A)) that are negative for an interest crediting period;

(F) In the case of a formula that expresses the accumulated benefit as an accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation, adjustments resulting in a decrease in the dollar amount of the accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation—

(1) Due to a decrease in the dollar amount of the participant's final average compensation; or

(2) Due to an increase in the integration level, under a formula that is integrated with Social Security (for example, as a result of an increase in the Social Security taxable wage base or in Social Security covered compensation); or

(G) Other reductions to the extent provided by the Commissioner in revenue rulings, notices, or other guidance published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin (see §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b)).

(3) Payment of benefits based on current account balance or current value—(i) Optional forms that are actuarially equivalent. With respect to the benefits under a lump sum-based benefit formula, the relief of paragraph (b)(1) of this section applies to an optional form of benefit that is determined as of the annuity starting date as the actuarial equivalent, using reasonable actuarial assumptions, of the then-current balance of a hypothetical account maintained for the participant or the then-current value of an accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation.

(ii) Optional forms that are subsidized. With respect to the benefits under a lump sum-based benefit formula, if an optional form of benefit is payable in an amount that is greater than the actuarial equivalent, determined using reasonable actuarial assumptions, of the then-current balance of a hypothetical account maintained for the participant or the then-current value of an accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation, then the plan satisfies the requirements of sections 411(a)(2), 411(a)(11), 411(c) and 417(e) with respect to the amount of that optional form of benefit. However, see §1.411(b)(5)-1(b)(1)(iii) for rules relating to early retirement subsidies.

(iii) Optional forms that are less valuable. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b)(4)(i) of this section, if an optional form of benefit is not at least the actuarial equivalent, using reasonable actuarial assumptions, of the then-current balance of a hypothetical account maintained for the participant or the then-current value of an accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation, then the relief under section 411(a)(13) (permitting a plan to treat the account balance or accumulated percentage as the actuarial equivalent of the portion of the accrued benefit determined under the lump sum-based benefit formula) does not apply in determining whether the optional form of benefit is the actuarial equivalent of the portion of the accrued benefit determined under the lump sum-based benefit formula. As a result, payment of that optional form of benefit must satisfy the rules applicable to payment of the accrued benefit generally under a defined benefit plan (without regard to the special rules of section 411(a)(13)(A) and paragraph (b)(1) of this section), including the requirements of section 411(a)(2) and, for optional forms subject to the minimum present value requirements of section 417(e)(3), those minimum present value requirements.

(4) Rules of application—(i) Relief applies on proportionate basis with respect to payment of only a portion of the benefit under a lump sum-based benefit formula. The relief of paragraph (b)(1) of this section applies on a proportionate basis to a payment of a portion of the benefit under a lump sum-based benefit formula, such as a payment of a specified dollar amount or percentage of the then-current balance of a hypothetical account maintained for the participant or then-current value of an accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation. Thus, for example, if a plan that expresses the participant's entire accumulated benefit as the balance of a hypothetical account distributes 40 percent of the participant's then-current hypothetical account balance in a single payment, the plan is treated as satisfying the requirements of section 411(a) and the minimum present value rules of section 417(e) with respect to 40 percent of the participant's then-current accrued benefit.

(ii) Relief applies only to portion of benefit determined under lump sum-based benefit formula. The relief of paragraph (b)(1) of this section generally applies only to the portion of the participant's benefit that is determined under a lump sum-based benefit formula and generally does not apply to any portion of the participant's benefit that is determined under a formula that is not a lump sum-based benefit formula. The following rules apply for purposes of satisfying section 417(e):

(A) “Greater-of” formulas. If the participant's accrued benefit equals the greater of the accrued benefit under a lump sum-based benefit formula and the accrued benefit under another formula that is not a lump-sum based benefit formula, a single-sum payment of the participant's entire benefit must be no less than the greater of the then-current accumulated benefit under the lump sum-based benefit formula and the present value, determined in accordance with section 417(e), of the benefit under the other formula. For example, assume that the accrued benefit under a plan is determined as the greater of the accrued benefit attributable to the balance of a hypothetical account and the accrued benefit equal to a pro rata portion of a normal retirement benefit determined by projecting the hypothetical account balance (including future principal and interest credits) to normal retirement age. In such a case, a single-sum payment of the participant's entire benefit must be no less than the greater of the then-current balance of the hypothetical account and the present value, determined in accordance with section 417(e), of the pro rata benefit determined by projecting the hypothetical account balance to normal retirement age.

(B) “Sum-of” formulas. If the participant's accrued benefit equals the sum of the accrued benefit under a lump sum-based benefit formula and the accrued benefit under another formula that is not a lump-sum based benefit formula, a single-sum payment of the participant's entire benefit must be no less than the sum of the then-current accumulated benefit under the lump sum-based benefit formula and the present value, determined in accordance with section 417(e), of the benefit under the other formula. For example, assume that the accrued benefit under a plan is determined as the sum of the accrued benefit attributable to the balance of a hypothetical account and the accrued benefit equal to the excess of the benefit under another formula over the benefit under the hypothetical account formula. In such a case, a single-sum payment of the participant's entire benefit must be no less than the sum of the then-current balance of the hypothetical account and the present value, determined in accordance with section 417(e), of the excess of the benefit under the other formula over the benefit under the hypothetical account formula.

(C) “Lesser-of” formulas. If the participant's accrued benefit equals the lesser of the accrued benefit under a lump sum-based benefit formula and the accrued benefit under another formula that is not a lump-sum based benefit formula, a single-sum payment of the participant's entire benefit must be no less than the lesser of the then-current accumulated benefit under the lump sum-based benefit formula and the present value, determined in accordance with section 417(e), of the benefit under the other formula. For example, assume that the accrued benefit under a plan is determined as the accrued benefit attributable to the balance of a hypothetical account, but no greater than an accrued benefit payable at normal retirement age in the form of a straight life annuity of $100,000 per year. In such a case, a single-sum payment of the participant's entire benefit must be no less than the lesser of the then-current balance of the hypothetical account and the present value, determined in accordance with section 417(e), of a benefit payable at normal retirement age in the form of a straight life annuity of $100,000 per year. If the formula that is not a lump sum-based benefit formula is the maximum annual benefit described in section 415(b), then the single-sum payment of the participant's entire benefit must not exceed the then-current accumulated benefit under the lump sum-based benefit formula.

(c) Three-year vesting requirement—(1) In general. Pursuant to section 411(a)(13)(B), if any portion of the participant's accrued benefit under a defined benefit plan is determined under a statutory hybrid benefit formula, the plan is treated as failing to satisfy the requirements of section 411(a)(2) unless the plan provides that the participant has a nonforfeitable right to 100 percent of the participant's accrued benefit if the participant has three or more years of service. Thus, this 3-year vesting requirement applies with respect to the entire accrued benefit of a participant under a defined benefit plan even if only a portion of the participant's accrued benefit under the plan is determined under a statutory hybrid benefit formula. Similarly, if the participant's accrued benefit under a defined benefit plan is, under the plan's terms, the larger of two (or more) benefit amounts, where each amount is determined under a different benefit formula (including a benefit determined pursuant to an offset among formulas within the plan or a benefit determined as the greater of a protected benefit under section 411(d)(6) and another benefit amount) and at least one of those formulas is a statutory hybrid benefit formula, the participant's entire accrued benefit under the defined benefit plan is subject to the 3-year vesting rule of section 411(a)(13)(B) and this paragraph (c). The rule described in the preceding sentence applies even if the larger benefit is ultimately the benefit determined under a formula that is not a statutory hybrid benefit formula.

(2) Examples. The provisions of this paragraph (c) are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Employer M sponsors Plan X, a defined benefit plan under which each participant's accrued benefit is equal to the sum of the benefit provided under two benefit formulas. The first benefit formula is a statutory hybrid benefit formula, and the second formula is not. Because a portion of each participant's accrued benefit provided under Plan X is determined under a statutory hybrid benefit formula, the 3-year vesting requirement described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section applies to each participant's entire accrued benefit provided under Plan X.
Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that the benefit formulas described in Example 1 only apply to participants for service performed in Division A of Employer M and a different benefit formula applies to participants for service performed in Division B of Employer M. Pursuant to the terms of Plan X, the accrued benefit of a participant attributable to service performed in Division B is based on a benefit formula that is not a statutory hybrid benefit formula. Therefore, the 3-year vesting requirement described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section does not apply to a participant with an accrued benefit under Plan X if the participant's benefit is solely attributable to service performed in Division B.
Example 3. Employer N sponsors defined benefit Plan Y, an independent plan that provides benefits based solely on a lump sum-based benefit formula, and defined benefit Plan Z, which provides benefits based on a formula which is not a statutory hybrid benefit formula, but which is a floor plan that provides for the benefits payable to a participant under Plan Z to be reduced by the amount of the vested accrued benefit payable under Plan Y. The formula under Plan Y is a statutory hybrid benefit formula. Accordingly, Plan Y is subject to the 3-year vesting requirement described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section. The formula provided under Plan Z, even taking into account the offset for vested accrued benefits under Plan Y, is not a statutory hybrid benefit formula. Therefore, Plan Z is not subject to the 3-year vesting requirement in paragraph (c)(1) of this section.

(d) Definitions—(1) In general. The definitions in this paragraph (d) apply for purposes of this section.

(2) Accumulated benefit. A participant's accumulated benefit at any date means the participant's benefit, as expressed under the terms of the plan, accrued to that date. For this purpose, if a participant's benefit is expressed under the terms of the plan as the current balance of a hypothetical account or the current value of an accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation, the participant's accumulated benefit is expressed in that manner regardless of how the plan defines the participant's accrued benefit. Thus, for example, the accumulated benefit of a participant may be expressed under the terms of the plan as either the current balance of a hypothetical account or the current value of an accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation, even if the plan defines the participant's accrued benefit as an annuity beginning at normal retirement age that is actuarially equivalent to that balance or value.

(3) Lump sum-based benefit formula— (i) In general. A lump sum-based benefit formula means a benefit formula used to determine all or any part of a participant's accumulated benefit under a defined benefit plan under which the accumulated benefit provided under the formula is expressed as the current balance of a hypothetical account maintained for the participant or as the current value of an accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation. A benefit formula is expressed as the current balance of a hypothetical account maintained for the participant if it is expressed as a current single-sum dollar amount equal to that balance. A benefit formula is expressed as the current value of an accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation if it is expressed as a current single-sum dollar amount equal to a percentage of the participant's final average compensation or, for plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2016 (or any earlier date as elected by the taxpayer), a percentage of the participant's highest average compensation (regardless of whether the plan applies a limitation on the past period for which compensation is taken into account in determining highest average compensation). Whether a benefit formula is a lump sum-based benefit formula is determined based on how the accumulated benefit of a participant is expressed under the terms of the plan, and does not depend on whether the plan provides an optional form of benefit in the form of a single-sum payment. However, for plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2016, a benefit formula does not constitute a lump sum-based benefit formula unless a distribution of the benefits under that formula in the form of a single-sum payment equals the accumulated benefit under that formula (except to the extent the single-sum payment is greater to satisfy the requirements of section 411(d)(6)). In addition, for plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2016, a benefit formula does not constitute a lump sum-based benefit formula unless the portion of the participant's accrued benefit that is determined under that formula and the then-current balance of the hypothetical account or the then-current value of the accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation are actuarially equivalent (determined using reasonable actuarial assumptions) either—

(A) Upon attainment of normal retirement age; or

(B) At the annuity starting date for a distribution with respect to that portion.

(ii) Exception for employee contributions. For purposes of the definition of a lump sum-based benefit formula in paragraph (d)(3)(i) of this section, the benefit properly attributable to after-tax employee contributions, rollover contributions from eligible retirement plans under section 402(c)(8), and other similar employee contributions (such as repayments of distributions pursuant to section 411(a)(7)(C) and employee contributions that are pickup contributions pursuant to section 414(h)(2)) is disregarded. However, a benefit is not properly attributable to contributions described in this paragraph (d)(3)(ii) if the contributions are credited with interest at a rate that exceeds a reasonable rate of interest or if the conversion factors used to calculate such benefit are not actuarially reasonable. See section 411(c) for an example of a calculation of a benefit that is properly attributable to employee contributions.

(4) Statutory hybrid benefit formula—(i) In general. A statutory hybrid benefit formula means a benefit formula that is either a lump sum-based benefit formula or a formula that is not a lump sum-based benefit formula but that has an effect similar to a lump sum-based benefit formula.

(ii) Effect similar to a lump sum-based benefit formula— (A) In general. Except as provided in paragraphs (d)(4)(ii)(B) through (E) of this section, a benefit formula under a defined benefit plan that is not a lump sum-based benefit formula has an effect similar to a lump sum-based benefit formula if the formula provides that a participant's accumulated benefit is expressed as a benefit that includes the right to adjustments (including a formula that provides for indexed benefits under §1.411(b)(5)-1(b)(2)) for a future period and the total dollar amount of those adjustments is reasonably expected to be smaller for the participant than for any similarly situated, younger individual (within the meaning of §1.411(b)(5)-1(b)(5)) who is or could be a participant in the plan. For this purpose, the right to adjustments for a future period means, for plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2016, the right to any changes in the dollar amount of benefits over time, regardless of whether those adjustments are denominated as interest credits. A benefit formula that does not include adjustments for any future period is treated as a formula with an effect similar to a lump sum-based benefit formula if the formula would be described in this paragraph (d)(4)(ii)(A) except for the fact that the adjustments are provided pursuant to a pattern of repeated plan amendments. See §1.411(d)-4, A-1(c)(1).

(B) Exception for post-retirement benefit adjustments. Post-annuity starting date adjustments in the amount payable to a participant (such as cost-of-living increases) are disregarded in determining whether a benefit formula under a defined benefit plan has an effect similar to a lump sum-based benefit formula.

(C) Exception for certain variable annuity benefit formulas. If a variable annuity benefit formula adjusts benefits by reference to the difference between a rate of return on plan assets (or specified market indices) and a specified assumed interest rate of 5 percent or higher, then the variable annuity benefit formula is not treated as being reasonably expected to provide a smaller total dollar amount of future adjustments for the participant than for any similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant in the plan, and thus such a variable annuity benefit formula does not have an effect similar to a lump sum-based benefit formula. For plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2016 (or any earlier date as elected by the taxpayer), the rate of return on plan assets (or specified market index) by reference to which the benefit formula adjusts must be a rate of return described in §1.411(b)(5)-1(d)(5) (which includes, in the case of a benefit formula determined with reference to an annuity contract for an employee issued by an insurance company licensed under the laws of a State, the rate of return on the market index specified under that contract).

(D) Exception for employee contributions. Benefits that are disregarded under paragraph (d)(3)(ii) of this section (benefits properly attributable to certain employee contributions) are also disregarded for purposes of determining whether a benefit formula has an effect similar to a lump sum-based benefit formula.

(E) Exception for certain actuarial reductions for early commencement under traditional formula. A defined benefit formula is not treated as having an effect similar to a lump sum-based benefit formula with respect to a participant merely because the formula provides for a reduction in the benefit payable at early retirement due to early commencement (with the result that the benefit payable at normal retirement age is greater than the benefit payable at early retirement), provided that the benefit payable at normal retirement age to the participant cannot be less than the benefit payable at normal retirement age to any similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant in the plan. Thus, for example, a plan that provides a benefit equal to 1 percent of final average pay per year of service, payable as a life annuity at normal retirement age, is not treated as having an effect similar to a lump sum-based benefit formula by reason of an actuarial reduction in the benefit payable under the plan for early commencement.

(5) Statutory hybrid plan. A statutory hybrid plan means a defined benefit plan that contains a statutory hybrid benefit formula.

(6) Variable annuity benefit formula. A variable annuity benefit formula means any benefit formula under a defined benefit plan which provides that the amount payable is periodically adjusted by reference to the difference between a rate of return and a specified assumed interest rate.

(e) Effective/applicability date—(1) Statutory effective/applicability date—(i) In general. Except as provided in paragraphs (e)(1)(ii) and (e)(1)(iii) of this section, section 411(a)(13) applies for periods beginning on or after June 29, 2005.

(ii) Calculation of benefits. Section 411(a)(13)(A) applies to distributions made after August 17, 2006.

(iii) Vesting—(A) Plans in existence on June 29, 2005—(1) General rule. In the case of a plan that is in existence on June 29, 2005 (regardless of whether the plan is a statutory hybrid plan on that date), section 411(a)(13)(B) applies to plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2008.

(2) Exception for plan sponsor election. See §1.411(b)(5)-1(f)(1)(iii)(A)(2) for a special election for early application of section 411(a)(13)(B).

(B) Plans not in existence on June 29, 2005. In the case of a plan not in existence on June 29, 2005, section 411(a)(13)(B) applies to plan years that end on or after June 29, 2005.

(C) Collectively bargained plans. Notwithstanding paragraphs (e)(1)(iii)(A) and (B) of this section, in the case of a collectively bargained plan maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements between employee representatives and one or more employers ratified on or before August 17, 2006, the requirements of section 411(a)(13)(B) do not apply to plan years that begin before the earlier of—

(1) The later of—

(i) The date on which the last of those collective bargaining agreements terminates (determined without regard to any extension thereof on or after August 17, 2006); or

(ii) January 1, 2008; or

(2) January 1, 2010.

(D) Treatment of plans with both collectively bargained and non-collectively bargained employees. In the case of a plan with respect to which a collective bargaining agreement applies to some, but not all, of the plan participants, the plan is considered a collectively bargained plan for purposes of paragraph (e)(1)(iii)(C) of this section if it is considered a collectively bargained plan under the rules of §1.436-1(a)(5)(ii)(B).

(E) Hour of service required. Section 411(a)(13)(B) does not apply to a participant who does not have an hour of service after section 411(a)(13)(B) would otherwise apply to the participant under the rules of paragraph (e)(1)(iii)(A), (B), or (C) of this section.

(2) Effective/applicability date of regulations—(i) In general. Except as provided in paragraph (e)(2)(ii) of this section, this section applies to plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2011. For the periods after the statutory effective date set forth in paragraph (e)(1) of this section and before the regulatory effective date set forth in the preceding sentence, the relief of section 411(a)(13)(A) applies and the 3-year vesting requirement of section 411(a)(13)(B) must be satisfied. During these periods, a plan is permitted to rely on the provisions of this section for purposes of applying the relief of section 411(a)(13)(A) and satisfying the requirements of section 411(a)(13)(B).

(ii) Special effective date. Paragraphs (b)(2), (b)(3) and (b)(4) of this section apply to plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2016.

(iii) Hour of service required. A benefit formula is not treated as having an effect similar to a lump sum-based benefit formula under paragraph (d)(4)(ii) of this section with respect to a participant who does not have an hour of service after the regulatory effective date set forth in paragraph (e)(2)(i) of this section.

[T.D. 9505, 75 FR 64135, Oct. 19, 2010, as amended by 76 FR 4244, Jan. 25, 2011; T.D. 9693, 79 FR 56457, Sept. 19, 2014]

§1.411(b)-1   Accrued benefit requirements.

(a) Accrued benefit requirements—(1) In general. Under section 411(b), for plan years beginning after the applicable effective date of section 411, rules are provided for the determination of the accrued benefit to which a participant is entitled under a plan. Under a defined contribution plan, a participant's accrued benefit is the balance to the credit of the participant's account. Under a defined benefit plan, a participant's accrued benefit is his accrued benefit determined under the plan. A defined benefit plan is not a qualified plan unless the method provided by the plan for determining accrued benefits satisfies at least one of the alternative methods (described in paragraph (b) of this section) for determining accrued benefits with respect to all active participants under the plan. A defined benefit plan may provide that accrued benefits for participants are determined under more than one plan formula. In such a case, the accrued benefits under all such formulas must be aggregated in order to determine whether or not the accrued benefits under the plan for participants satisfy one of the alternative methods. A plan may satisfy different methods with respect to different classifications of employees, or separately satisfy one method with respect to the accrued benefits for each such classification, provided that such classifications are not so structured as to evade the accrued benefit requirements of section 411(b) and this section. (For example, if a plan provides that employees who commence participation at or before age 40 accrue benefits in a manner which satisfies the 13313 percent method of determining accrued benefits and employees who commence participation after age 40 accrue benefits in a manner which satisfies the 3 percent method of determining accrued benefits, the plan would be so structured as to evade the requirements of section 411(b).) A defined benefit plan does not satisfy the requirements of section 411(b) and this section merely because the accrued benefit is defined as the “reserve under the plan”. Special rules are provided for the first two years of service by a participant, certain insured defined benefit plans, and certain reductions in accrued benefits due to increasing age or service. In addition, a special rule is provided with respect to accruals for service before the effective date of section 411.

(2) Cross references—(i) 3 percent method. For rules relating to the 3 percent method of determining accrued benefits, see paragraph (b)(1) of this section.

(ii) 13313 percent method. For rules relating to the 13313 percent method of determining accrued benefits, see paragraph (b)(2) of this section.

(iii) Fractional method. For rules relating to the fractional method of determining accrued benefits, see paragraph (b)(3) of this section.

(iv) Accruals before effective date. For rules relating to accruals for service before the effective date of section 411, see paragraph (c) of this section.

(v) First 2 years of service. For special rules relating to determination of accrued benefit for first 2 continuous years of service, see paragraph (d)(1) of this section.

(vi) Certain insured plans. For special rules relating to determination of accrued benefit under a defined benefit plan funded exclusively by insurance contracts, see paragraph (d)(2) of this section.

(vii) Accruals decreased by increasing age or service. For special rules relating to prohibition of decrease in accrued benefit on account of increasing age or service, see paragraph (d)(3) of this section.

(viii) Separate accounting. For rules relating to requirements for separate accounting, see paragraph (e) of this section.

(ix) Year of participation. For definition of “year of participation”, see paragraph (f) of this section.

(b) Defined benefit plans. A defined benefit plan satisfies the requirements of section 411(b)(1) and this paragrah for a plan year to which section 411 and this section apply if it satisfies the requirements of subparagraph (1), (2), or (3) of this paragraph for such year.

(1) 3 percent method—(i) General rule. A defined benefit plan satisfies the requirements of this paragraph for a plan year if, as of the close of the plan year, the accrued benefit to which each participant is entitled, computed as if the participant separated from the service as of the close of such plan year, is not less than 3 percent of the 3 percent method benefit, multiplied by the number of years (not in excess of 3313 ) of his participation in the plan including years after his normal retirement age. For purposes of this subparagraph, the “3 percent method benefit” is the normal retirement benefit to which the participant would be entitled if he commenced participation at the earliest possible entry age for any individual who is or could be a participant under the plan and if he served continuously until the earlier of age 65 or the normal retirement age under the plan.

(ii) Special rules—(A) Compensation. In the case of a plan providing a retirement benefit based upon compensation during any period, the normal retirement benefit to which a participant would be entitled is determined as if he continued to earn annually the average rate of compensation which he earned during consecutive years of service, not in excess of 10, for which his compensation was the highest. For purposes of this subdivision (A), the number of consecutive years of service used in computing average compensation shall be the number of years of service specified under the plan (not in excess of 10) for computing normal retirement benefits.

(B) Social security, etc. For purposes of this subparagraph, for any plan year, social security benefits and all relevant factors used to compute benefits, e.g., consumer price index, are treated as remaining constant as of the beginning of the current plan year for all subsequent plan years.

(C) Computation in certain cases. In the case of any plan to which the provisions of section 411(b)(1)(D) and paragraph (c) of this section are applicable, for any plan year the accrued benefit of any participant shall not be less than the accrued benefit otherwise determined under this subparagraph, reduced by the excess of the accrued benefit determined under this subparagraph as of the first day of the first plan year to which section 411 applies over the accrued benefit determined under section 411(b)(1)(D) and paragraph (c) of this section and increased by the amount determined under paragraph (c)(2)(v) of this section.

(iii) Examples. The application of this subparagraph is illustrated by the following examples.

Example 1. The M Corporation's defined benefit benefit plan provides an annual retirement benefit commencing at age 65 or $4 per month for each year of participation. As a condition of participation, the plan requires that an employee have attained age 25. The normal retirement age specified under the plan is age 65. The plan provides for no limit on the number of years of credited service. A, age 40, is a participant in the M Corporation's plan.

A has completed 12 years of participation in the plan of the M Corporation as of the close of the plan year. Under subdivision (i) of this subparagraph, the normal retirement benefit commencing at age 65 to which a participant would be entitled if he commenced participation at the earliest possible entry age (25) under the plan and served continuously until normal retirement age (65) is an annual benefit of $1,920 [40×(12×$4)]. Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, the plan does not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph unless A has accrued an annual benefit of at least $691 [0.03×($1,920×12)] as of the close of the plan year. Under the M Corporation plan, A is entitled to an accrued benefit of $576 [(12×12)×$4] as of the close of the plan year. Thus, with respect to A, the accrued benefit provided under the M Corporation plan does not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph.

Example 2. Assume the same facts as in example (1) except that the M Corporation's plan provides that only the first 30 years of participation are taken into account. Under subdivision (i) of this subparagraph, the normal retirement benefit commencing at age 65 to which a participant would be entitled if he commenced participation at the earliest possible entry age under the plan (25) and served continuously until normal retirement age (65) is an annual benefit of $1.440 [30×$48]. Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, the plan does not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph unless A has accrued an annual benefit of at least $518 [0.03×($1,440×12)] as of the close of the plan year. Under the M Corporation plan, A is entitled to an accrued benefit of $576 [(12×$48]. Thus, with respect to A, the accrued benefit provided under the M Corporation plan satisfies the requirements of this subparagraph.
Example 3. The N Corporation's defined benefit plan provides an annual retirement benefit commencing at age 65 of 50 percent of average compensation for the highest 3 consecutive years of compensation for an employee with 25 years of participation. A participant who separates from service before age 65 is entitled to 2 percent of average compensation for the highest 3 consecutive years of compensation for each year of participation not in excess of 25. The plan has no minimum age or service requirement for participation. The normal retirement age specified under the plan is age 65. On December 31, 1990, B, age 40, is a participant in the N Corporation's plan. B began employment with the N Corporation and became a participant in the N Corporation's plan on January 1, 1980. Under this subparagraph, the normal retirement benefit to which a participant would be entitled if he commenced participation at the earliest possible entry age (0) under the plan and served continuously until normal retirement age (65) is 50 percent of average compensation for the highest 3 consecutive years of compensation per year commencing at age 65. Under this subparagraph, B must have accrued an annual benefit of at least 16.5 percent of his highest 3 consecutive years of compensation per year commencing at age 65 [0.03×50 percent of average compensation for the highest 3 consecutive years of compensation×11] as of the close of the plan year. Under the N Corporation plan, B has accrued an annual benefit of 22 percent of average compensation for his highest 3 consecutive years of compensation per year commencing at age 65. Thus, with respect to B, the accrued benefit under the N Corporation plan satisfies the requirements of this subparagraph.
Example 4. The P Corporation's defined benefit plan provides an annual retirement benefit commencing at age 65 of 50 percent of average compensation for the 3 consecutive years of compensation from the P Corporation next preceding normal retirement age. The plan has no minimum age or service requirement for participation. The normal retirement age under the plan is age 65. On December 31, 1990, C, age 55, separates from service with the P Corporation. C began employment with the P Corporation and became a participant in the P Corporation's plan on January 1, 1980. As of December 31, 1990. C's average compensation for the 3 consecutive years preceding his separation from service is $15,000. Under this subparagraph, the normal retirement benefit to which a participant would be entitled if he commenced participation at the earliest possible entry age (0) under the plan and served continuously until normal retirement age (65) is an annual benefit of 50 percent of average compensation for the 3 consecutive years of compensation from the P Corporation next preceding normal retirement age commencing at age 65. C must have accrued an annual benefit of at least $2,475 commencing at age 65 [0.03×(0.050×$15,000)×11] as of his separation from the service with the P Corporation in order for the P Corporation's plan to satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph with respect to C.
Example 5. On December 31, 1985, the R Corporation's defined benefit plan provided an annual retirement benefit commencing at age 65 of $100 for each year of participation, not to exceed 30. As a condition of participation, the plan requires that an employee have attained age 25. The normal retirement age specified under the plan is age 65. The appropriate computation period is the calendar year. On January 1, 1986, the plan is amended to provide an annual retirement benefit commencing at age 65 of $200 for each year of participation (before and after the amendment), not to exceed 30. B, age 40, is a participant in the R Corporation's plan. B has completed 15 years of participation in the plan of the R Corporation as of December 31, 1990. Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, the normal retirement benefit commencing at age 65 to which a participant would be entitled if he commenced participation at the earliest possible entry age (25) under the plan and served continuously until normal retirement age (65) is an annual benefit of $6,000 [30×200]. Under subdivision (i) of this subparagraph, the plan does not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph unless B has accrued an annual benefit of at least $2,700 [0.03×$6,000×15] as of December 31, 1990. Under the R Corporation plan, B is entitled to an accrued benefit of $3,000 [$200×15] as of December 31, 1990. Thus, with respect to B, the accrued benefit provided under the R Corporation plan satisfies the requirements of this subparagraph.
Example 6. On December 31, 1995, the J Corporation's defined benefit plan provided an annual retirement benefit commencing at age 65 of $4,800 after 30 years of participation. The normal retirement age specified under the plan is age 65. The appropriate computation period is the calendar year. On January 1, 1996, the plan is amended to provide an annual retirement benefit commencing at age 65 of $6,000. A, age 40, is a participant in the J Corporation's plan since its adoption on January 1, 1986. Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, on December 31, 1995, the normal retirement benefit commencing at age 5 to which a participant would be entitled if he commenced participation at the earliest possible entry age (0) under the plan and served continuously until normal retirement age (65) is an annual benefit of $4,800. Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, on January 1, 1996, the normal retirement benefit commencing at age 65 to which a participant would be entitled if he commenced participation at the earliest possible entry age (0) under the plan and served continuously until normal retirement age (65) is an annual benefit of $6,000. Under subdivision (i) of this subparagraph, the plan does not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph unless A has an accrued benefit on December 31, 1995 of at least $1,440 [$4,800×0.02×10] and an accrued benefit on January 1, 1996 of at least $1,800 [$6,000×0.03×10].
Example 7. The X Company's defined benefit plan provides an annual retirement benefit commencing at age 65 of $4 per month for each year of participation (not to exceed 30). As a condition of participation, the plan requires that an employee have attained age 25. The normal retirement age specified under the plan is age 65. D, age 68, is a participant in the X Company's plan. D has completed 20 years of participation in the X Company plan as of the close of the plan year. Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, the normal retirement benefit commencing at age 65 to which a participant would be entitled if he commenced participation at the earliest possible entry age (25) under the plan and served continuously until normal retirement age (65) is an annual benefit, commencing at age 65, of $1,440 [30×$48]. Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, the plan does not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph unless D has accrued an annual benefit, commencing at age 65, of $864 [0.03×$1,440×20] as of the close of the plan year. Under the X Company plan, D has accrued an annual benefit, commencing at age 65, of $960 [20×$48]. Thus, with respect to D the accrued benefit provided under the X Company plan satisfies the requirements of this subparagraph.
Example 8. Assume the same facts as in example (7) except that for purposes of determining accrued benefits under the plan the X Company's plan disregards all years of participation after normal retirement age. Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, the normal retirement benefit commencing at age 65 to which a participant would be entitled if he commenced participation at the earliest possible entry age (25) under the plan and served continuously until normal retirement age (65) is an annual benefit of $1,440 [30×$48]. Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section the plan does not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph unless D has accrued an annual benefit, commencing at age 65, of $864 [0.03×$1,440×20] as of the close of the plan year. Under the X Company's plan D has accrued an annual benefit commencing at age 65, of $816 [17×$48]. Thus, with respect to D, the accrued benefit provided under the X Company plan does not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph.

(2) 13313 percent rule—(i) General rule. A defined benefit plan satisfies the requirements of this subparagraph for a particular plan year if—

(A) Under the plan the accrued benefit payable at the normal retirement age (determined under the plan) is equal to the normal retirement benefit (determined under the plan), and

(B) The annual rate at which any individual who is or could be a participant can accrue the retirement benefits payable at normal retirement age under the plan for any later plan year cannot be more than 13313 percent of the annual rate at which he can accrue benefits for any plan year beginning on or after such particular plan year and before such later plan year.

(ii) Special rules. For purposes of this subparagraph—

(A) Plan amendments. Any amendment to the plan which is in effect for the current plan year shall be treated as if it were in effect for all other plan years.

(B) Change in accrual rate. Any change in an accrual rate which change does not apply to any individual who is of could be a participant in the plan year is disregarded. Thus, for example, if for its plan year beginning January 1, 1980, a defined benefit plan provides an accrued benefit in plan year 1980 of 2 percent of a participant's average compensation for his highest 3 years of compensation for each year of service and provides that in plan year 1981 the accrued benefit will be 3 percent of such average compensation, the plan will not be treated as failing to satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph for plan year 1980 because in plan year 1980 the change in the accrual rate does not apply to any individual who is or could be a participant in plan year 1980. However, if, for example, a defined benefit plan provided for an accrued benefit of 1 percent of a participant's average compensation for his highest 3 years of compensation for each of the first 10 years of service and 1.5 percent of such average compensations for each year of service thereafter, the plan will be treated as failing to satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph for the plan year even though no participant is actually accruing at the 1.5 percent rate because an individual who could be a participant and who had over 10 years of service would accrue at the 1.5 percent rate, which rate exceeds 13313 percent of the 1 percent rate.

(C) Early retirement benefits. The fact that certain benefits under the plan may be payable to certain participants before normal retirement age is disregarded. Thus, the requirements of subdivision (i) of this subparagraph must be satisfied without regard to any benefit payable prior to the normal retirement benefit (such as an early retirement benefit which is not the normal retirement benefit (see §1.411(a)-7(c).

(D) Social security, etc. For purposes of this paragraph, for any plan year, social security benefits and all relevant factors used to compute benefits, e.g., consumer price index, are treated as remaining constant as of the beginning of the current plan year for all subsequent plan years.

(E) Postponed retirement. A plan shall not be treated as failing to satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph for a plan year merely because no benefits under the plan accrue to a participant who continues service with the employer after such participant has attained normal retirement age.

(F) Computation of benefit. A plan shall not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph if the base for the computation of retirement benefits changes solely by reason of an increase in the number of years of participation. Thus, for example, a plan will not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph if it provides a benefit, commencing at normal retirement age, of the sum of (1) 1 percent of average compensation for a participant's first 3 years of participation multiplied by his first 10 years of participation (or, if less than 10 his total years of participation) and (2) 1 percent of average compensation for a participant's 3 highest years of participation multiplied by each year of participation subsequent to the 10th year.

(G) Variable interest crediting rate under a statutory hybrid benefit formula. For plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2012 (or an earlier date as elected by the taxpayer), a plan that determines any portion of the participant's accrued benefit pursuant to a statutory hybrid benefit formula (as defined in §1.411(a)(13)-1(d)(4)) that utilizes an interest crediting rate described in §1.411(b)(5)-1(d) that is a variable rate that was less than zero for the prior plan year is not treated as failing to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b)(2) of this section for the current plan year merely because the plan assumes for purposes of paragraph (b)(2) of this section that the variable rate is zero for the current plan year and all future plan years.

(H) Special rule for multiple formulas. [Reserved]

(iii) Examples. The application of this subparagraph is illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. On January 1, 1980, the R Corporation's defined benefit plan provides for an annual benefit (commencing at age 65) of a percentage of a participant's average compensation for the period of 5 consecutive years of participation for which his compensation is the highest. The percentage is 2 percent for each of the first 20 years of participation and 1 percent per year thereafter. The appropriate computation period is the calendar year. The R Corporation's plan satisfies the requirements of this subparagraph because the 13313 percent rule does not restrict subsequent accrual rate decreases.
Example 2. On January 1, 1980, the J Corporation's defined benefit plan provides for an annual benefit (commencing at age 65) of a percentage of a participant's average compensation for the period of his final 5 consecutive years of participation. The percentage is 1 percent for each of the first 5 years of participation; 113 percent for each of the next 5 years of participation; and 179 percent for each year thereafter. The appropriate computation period is the calendar year. Even though no single accrual rate under the J Corporation's plan exceeds 13313 percent of the immediately preceding accrual rate, the J Corporation's plan does not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph because the rate of accrual for all years of participation in excess of 10 (179 percent) exceeds 13313 percent of the rate of accrual for any of the first 5 years of participation (1 percent).
Example 3. On January 1, 1980, the C Corporation's defined benefit plan provides for an annual benefit (commencing at age 65) of a percentage of a participant's average compensation for the period of 3 consecutive years of participation for which his compensation is the highest. The percentage is 2 percent for each of the first 5 years of participation; 1 percent for each of the next 5 years of participation; and 112 percent for each year thereafter. The appropriate computation period is the calendar year. Even though the average rate of accrual under the C Corporation's plan is not less rapidly than ratably, the C Corporation's plan does not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph because the rate of accrual for all years of participation in excess of 10 (112 percent) for any employee who is actually accruing benefits or who could accrue benefits exceeds 13313 percent of the rate of accrual for the sixth through tenth years of participation, respectively (1 percent).

(3) Fractional rule—(i) In general. A defined benefit plan satisfies the requirements of this paragraph if the accrued benefit to which any participant is entitled is not less than the fractional rule benefit multiplied by a fraction (not exceeding 1)—

(A) The numerator of which is his total number of years of participation in the plan, and

(B) The denominator of which is the total number of years he would have participated in the plan if he separated from the service at the normal retirement age under the plan.

(ii) Special rules. For purposes of this subparagraph—

(A) Fractional rule benefit. The “fractional rule benefit” is the annual benefit commencing at the normal retirement age under the plan to which a participant would be entitled if he continued to earn annually until such normal retirement age the same rate of compensation upon which his normal retirement benefit would be computed. Such rate of compensation shall be computed on the basis of compensation taken into account under the plan (but taking into account average compensation for no more than the 10 years of service immediately preceding the determination). For purposes of this subdivision (A), the normal retirement benefit shall be determined as if the participant had attained normal retirement age on the date any such determination is made.

(B) Social security, etc. For purposes of this subparagraph, for any plan year, social security benefits and all relevant factors used to compute benefits, e.g., consumer price index, are treated as remaining constant as of the beginning of the current plan year for all subsequent plan years.

(C) Postponed retirement. A plan shall not be treated as failing to satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph merely because no benefits under the plan accrue to a participant who continues service with the employer after such participant has attained normal retirement age under the plan.

(D) Computation in certain cases. In the case of any plan to which the provisions of section 411(b)(1)(D) and paragraph (c) of this section are applicable, for any plan year the accrued benefit of any participant shall not be less than the accrued benefit otherwise determined under this subparagraph, reduced by the excess of the accrued benefit determined under this subparagraph as of the first day of the first plan year to which section 411 applies over the accrued benefit determined under section 411(b)(1)(D) and paragraph (c) of this section and increased by the amount determined under paragraph (c)(2)(v) of this section.

(iii) Examples. The application of this subparagraph is illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. The R Corporation's defined benefit plan provides an annual retirement benefit commencing at age 65 of 30 percent of a participant's average compensation for his highest 3 consecutive years of participation. If a participant separates from service prior to normal retirement age, the R Corporation's plan provides a benefit equal to an amount which bears the same ratio to 30 percent of such average compensation as the participant's actual number of years of participation in the plan bears to the number of years the participant would have participated in the plan had he separated from service at age 65. The plan further provides that normal retirement age is age 65. A, age 55, is a participant in the R Corporation's plan for the current year, and A has 15 years of participation in the R Corporation's plan. As of the current year, A's average compensation for his highest 3 years of compensation is $20,000. The R Corporation's plan satisfies the requirements of this subparagraph because if A separates from the service in the current year he will be entitled to an annual benefit of $3,600 commencing at age 65 [0.3×$20,000×15/25].
Example 2. The J Corporation's defined benefit plan provides a normal retirement benefit of 1 percent per year of a participant's average compensation from the employer. In the case of a participant who separates from service prior to normal retirement age (65), the plan provides that the annual benefit is an amount which is equal to 1 percent of such compensation multiplied by the number of years of plan participation actually completed by the participant. The plan year of the J Corporation's plan is the calendar year. B, age 55, is a participant in the J Corporation's plan for the current year. B became a participant in the J Corporation's plan on January 1, 1980. As of December 31, 1990, B's compensation history is as follows:
YearCompensation
1980$17,000
198118,000
198220,000
198320,000
198421,000
198522,000
198623,000
198725,000
198826,000
198929,000
199032,000
If B separates from service on December 31, 1990, he would be entitled to an annual benefit of $2,530 commencing at age 65. Because the J Corporation's plan does not limit the number of years of compensation to be taken into account in determining the normal retirement benefit, B's rate of compensation for purposes of determining his normal retirement benefit is $23,600 [$18,000 + $20,000 + $20,000 + $21,000 + $22,000 + $23,000 + $25,000 + $26,000 + $29,000 + $32,000]/10.

Under this subparagraph, B's accrued benefit under the J Corporation's plan as of December 31, 1990 must be not less than $2,561 per year commencing at age 65 [0.01 × ($17,000 + $18,000 + $20,000 + $20,000 + $21,000 + $22,000 + $23,000 + $25,000 + $26,000 + $29,000 + $32,000 + ($23,600 × 10)) × 11/21]. Thus, the J Corporation's plan would not satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph.

(c) Accruals for service before effective date—(1) General rule. For a plan year to which section 411 applies, a defined benefit plan does not satisfy the requirements of section 411(b)(1) and this section unless, under the plan, the accrued benefit of each participant for plan years beginning before section 411 applies is not less than the greater of—

(i) Such participant's accrued benefit (as of the day before section 411 applies) determined under the plan as in effect from time to time prior to September 2, 1974 (without regard to any amendment adopted after such date), or

(ii) One-half of the accrued benefit that would be determined with respect to the participant as of the day before section 411 applies if the participant's accrued benefit were computed for such prior plan years under a method which satisfies the requirements of section 411(b)(1) (A), (B), or (C) and paragraph (b) (1), (2), or (3) of this section. See 29 CFR Part 2530, Department of Labor regulations relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans, for time participation deemed to begin.

(2) Special rules—(i) A plan shall not be deemed to fail to satisfy the requirements of section 411(b) and this section merely because the method for computing the accrued benefit of a participant for years of participation prior to the first plan year for which section 411 is effective with respect to the plan is not the same method for computing the accrued benefit of a participant for years of participation subsequent to such plan year.

(ii) For purposes of paragraph (c)(1)(ii) of this section, section 411(b)(1)(A) and paragraph (b)(1) of this section shall be applied as if the participant separated from service with the employer on the day before the first day of the first plan year to which section 411 applies.

(iii) For purposes of paragraph (c)(1)(ii) of this section, section 411(b)(1)(B) and paragraph (b)(2) of this section shall be applied in the following manner:

(A) Except as provided in (c)(2)(iii)(B) of this section, section 411(b)(1)(B) and paragraph (b)(2) of this section shall be applied as if the participant separated from service with the employer on the day before the first day of the first plan year to which section 411 applies.

(B) In the case that the plan does not satisfy the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(B) and paragraph (b)(2) of this section at any time prior to the day specified in (c)(2)(iii)(A) of this section, the plan shall be deemed revised to the extent necessary to satisfy the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(B) and paragraph (b)(2) of this section for all plan years beginning before the applicable effective date of section 411 and this section. For purposes of the preceding sentence, a plan shall not be deemed revised to the extent necessary to satisfy the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(B) and paragraph (b)(2) of this section for a plan year if the benefit a participant would receive if he were employed until normal retirement age is reduced by such revision or if the revised rate of accrual with respect to such accrued benefit does not otherwise satisfy the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(B) and paragraph (b)(2) of this section.

(iv) For purposes of paragraph (c)(1)(ii) of this section, section 411(b)(1)(C) and paragraph (b)(3) of this section shall be applied as if the participant separated from service on the day before the first day of the first plan year to which section 411 applies.

(v) The excess of the accrued benefit payable at normal retirement age of any participant determined under section 411(b)(1) (A), (B), or (C) (without regard to section 411(b)(1)(D)), and paragraph (b)(1), (2), or (3) of this section (without regard to this paragraph) as of the day before the first day of the first plan year to which section 411 and this section applies over the accrued benefit determined under paragraph (c)(1) of this section shall be accrued in accordance with the provisions of the plan as in effect after the applicable effective date of section 411, as if the plan had been initially adopted on such effective date.

(d) Special rules—(1) First 2 years of service. Notwithstanding paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) of paragraph (b) of this section, under section 411(b)(1)(E) and this subparagraph, a plan shall not be treated as failing to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section solely because the accrual of benefits under the plan does not become effective until the employee has completed 2 continuous years of service. For purposes of this subparagraph, continuous years of service are years of service (within the meaning of section 410(a)(3)(A)) which are not separated by a break in service (within the meaning of section 410(a)(5)). For years of service beginning after such 2 years of service, the accrued benefit of an employee shall not be less than that to which the employee would be entitled if section 411(b)(1)(E) and this subparagraph did not apply. Thus, for example, a plan which otherwise satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b)(2) of this section provides for a rate of accrual of 1 percent of average compensation for the highest 3 years of compensation beginning with the third year of service of a participant shall not be treated as satisfying paragraph (b)(2) of this section because as of the time the employee completes 3 continuous years of service there is no accrual during the first 2 years of service. In addition, a plan which otherwise satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b)(1) of this section and which requires that an employee must attain age 25 and complete 1 year of service prior to becoming a participant will not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b)(1) of this section if an employee who completes 2 years of service prior to attaining age 25 does not begin accruals immediately upon commencement of participation in the plan. For rules relating to years of service, see 29 CFR part 2530, Department of Labor regulations relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans.

(2) Certain insured defined benefit plans. Notwithstanding paragraphs (b) (1), (2), and (3) of this section, a defined benefit plan satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section if such plan is funded exclusively by the purchase of contracts from a life insurance company and such contracts satisfy the requirements of sections 412(i) (2) and (3) and the regulations thereunder. The preceding sentence is applicable only if an employee's accrued benefit as of any applicable date is not less than the cash surrender value such employee's insurance contracts would have on such applicable date if the requirements of section 412(i) (4), (5), and (6) and the regulations thereunder were satisfied.

(3) Accrued benefit may not decrease on account of increasing age or service. Notwithstanding paragraphs (b) (1), (2), and (3) of this section and paragraphs (d) (1) and (2) of this section, a defined benefit plan shall be treated as not satisfying the requirements of paragraphs (b) and (d) of this section if the participant's accrued benefit is reduced on account of any increase in his age or years of service. The preceding sentence shall not apply to social security supplements described in §1.411(a)-7(c)(4).

(e) Separate accounting. A plan satisfies the requirements of this paragraph if the requirements of paragraph (e) (1) or (2) of this paragraph are met.

(1) Defined benefit plan. In the case of a defined benefit plan, the requirements of this paragraph are satisfied if the plan requires separate accounting for the portion of each employee's accrued benefit derived from any voluntary employee contributions permitted under the plan. For purposes of this subparagraph the term “voluntary employee contributions” means all employee contributions which are not mandatory contributions within the meaning of section 411(c)(2)(C) and the regulations thereunder. See §1.411(c)-1(b)(1) for rules requiring the determination of such an accrued benefit by the use of a separate account.

(2) Defined contribution plan. In the case of a defined contribution plan, the requirements of this paragraph are not satisfied unless the plan requires separate accounting for each employee's accrued benefit. If a plan utilizes the break in service rule of section 411(a)(6)(C), an employee could have different percentages of vesting between pre-break and post-break accrued benefits. In such a case, the requirements of this paragraph are not satisfied unless the plan computes accrued benefits in a manner which takes into account different percentages. A plan which provides separate accounts for pre-break and post-break accrued benefits will be deemed to compute benefits in a reasonable manner.

(f) Year of participation—(1) In general. This paragraph is inapplicable to a defined contribution plan. For purposes of determining an employee's accrued benefit, a “year of participation” is a period of service determined under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Labor in 29 CFR Part 2530, relating to minimum standards for employee pension benefit plans.

(2) Additional rule relating to year of participation. A trust shall not constitute a qualified trust if the plan of which such trust is a part provides for the crediting of a year of participation, or part thereof, and such credit results in the discrimination prohibited by section 401(a)(4).

(g) Additional illustrations. The application of this section may be illustrated by the following example:

Example. (i) The S Corporation established a defined benefit plan on January 1, 1980. The plan provides a minimum age for participation of age 25. The normal retirement age under the plan is age 65. The appropriate computation periods are the calendar year. The plan provides an annual benefit, commencing at age 65, equal to $96 per year of service for the first 25 years of service, and $48 per year of service for each additional year of service.

(ii) The plan of the S Corporation does not satisfy the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(A) and paragraph (b)(1) of this section because the accrued benefit under the plan at some point will be less than the accrued benefit required under section 411(b)(1)(A) and paragraph (b)(1) of this section (i.e., 3 percent × normal retirement benefit × years of participation).

(iii) The plan of the S Corporation does satisfy the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(B) and paragraph (b)(2) of this section because the rate of benefit accrual is equal in each of the first 25 years of service and the rate decreases thereafter.

(iv) The plan of the S Corporation does satisfy the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(C) and paragraph (b)(3) of this section because the accrued benefit under the plan will equal or exceed the normal retirement benefit multiplied by the fraction described in paragraph (b)(3)(i) of this section.

(Sec. 411 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42334, Aug. 23, 1977, as amended by T.D. 9693, 79 FR 56459, Sept. 19, 2014]

§1.411(b)(5)-1   Reduction in rate of benefit accrual under a defined benefit plan.

(a) In general—(1) Organization of regulation. This section sets forth certain rules for determining whether a reduction occurs in the rate of benefit accrual under a defined benefit plan because of the attainment of any age for purposes of section 411(b)(1)(H)(i). Paragraph (b) of this section describes safe harbors for certain plan designs (including statutory hybrid plans) that are deemed to satisfy the age discrimination rules under section 411(b)(1)(H). Paragraph (c) of this section describes rules relating to statutory hybrid plan conversion amendments. Paragraph (d) of this section describes rules restricting interest credits (or equivalent amounts) under a statutory hybrid plan to a market rate of return. Paragraph (e) of this section contains additional rules related to market rates of return. Paragraph (f) of this section contains effective/applicability dates.

(2) Definitions. The definitions of accumulated benefit, lump sum-based benefit formula, statutory hybrid benefit formula, statutory hybrid plan, and variable annuity benefit formula in §1.411(a)(13)-1(d) apply for purposes of this section.

(b) Safe harbors for certain plan designs—(1) Accumulated benefit testing—(i) In general. Pursuant to section 411(b)(5)(A), and subject to paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section, a plan is not treated as failing to meet the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(H)(i) with respect to an individual who is or could be a participant if, as of any date, the accumulated benefit of the individual would not be less than the accumulated benefit of any similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant. Thus, this test involves a comparison of the accumulated benefit of an individual who is or could be a participant in the plan with the accumulated benefit of each similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant in the plan. See paragraph (b)(5) of this section for rules regarding whether a younger individual who is or could be a participant is similarly situated to a participant. The comparison described in this paragraph (b)(1)(i) is based on any one of the following benefit measures, each of which is referred to as a safe-harbor formula measure:

(A) The annuity payable at normal retirement age (or current age, if later) if the accumulated benefit of the participant under the terms of the plan is an annuity payable at normal retirement age (or current age, if later).

(B) The current balance of a hypothetical account maintained for the participant if the accumulated benefit of the participant is the current balance of a hypothetical account.

(C) The current value of an accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation if the accumulated benefit of the participant is the current value of an accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation.

(ii) Benefit formulas for comparison—(A) In general. Except as provided in paragraphs (b)(1)(ii)(B), (C), (D) and (E) of this section, the safe harbor provided by section 411(b)(5)(A) and paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section is available only with respect to a participant if the participant's accumulated benefit under the plan is expressed in terms of only one safe-harbor formula measure and no similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant has an accumulated benefit that is expressed in terms of any measure other than that same safe-harbor formula measure. Thus, for example, if a plan provides that the accumulated benefit of participants who are age 55 or older is expressed under the terms of the plan as a life annuity payable at normal retirement age (or current age if later) as described in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(A) of this section and the plan provides that the accumulated benefit of participants who are younger than age 55 is expressed as the current balance of a hypothetical account as described in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B) of this section, then the safe harbor described in section 411(b)(5)(A) and paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section does not apply to individuals who are or could be participants and who are age 55 or older.

(B) Sum-of benefit formulas. If a plan provides that a participant's accumulated benefit is expressed as the sum of benefits determined in terms of two or more benefit formulas, each of which is expressed in terms of a different safe-harbor formula measure, then the plan is deemed to satisfy paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section with respect to the participant, provided that the plan satisfies the comparison described in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section separately for benefits determined in terms of each safe-harbor formula measure and no accumulated benefit of a similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant is expressed other than as—

(1) The sum of benefits under two or more benefit formulas, each of which is expressed in terms of one of those same safe-harbor formula measures as is used for the participant's “sum-of” benefit;

(2) The greater of benefits under two or more benefit formulas, each of which is expressed in terms of any one of those same safe-harbor formula measures;

(3) The choice of benefits under two or more benefit formulas, each of which is expressed in terms of any one of those same safe-harbor formula measures;

(4) A benefit that is determined in terms of only one of those same safe-harbor formula measures; or

(5) The lesser of benefits under two or more benefit formulas, at least one of which is expressed in terms of one of those same safe-harbor formula measures.

(C) Greater-of benefit formulas. If a plan provides that a participant's accumulated benefit is expressed as the greater of benefits under two or more benefit formulas, each of which is determined in terms of a different safe-harbor formula measure, then the plan is deemed to satisfy paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section with respect to the participant, provided that the plan satisfies the comparison described in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section separately for benefits determined in terms of each safe-harbor formula measure and no accumulated benefit of a similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant is expressed other than as—

(1) The greater of benefits determined under two or more benefit formulas, each of which is expressed in terms of one of those same safe-harbor formula measures as is used for the participant's “greater-of” benefit;

(2) The choice of benefits determined under two or more benefit formulas, each of which is expressed in terms of one of those same safe-harbor formula measures;

(3) A benefit that is determined in terms of only one of those same safe-harbor formula measures; or

(4) The lesser of benefits under two or more benefit formulas, at least one of which is expressed in terms of one of those same safe-harbor formula measures.

(D) Choice-of benefit formulas. If a plan provides that a participant's accumulated benefit is determined pursuant to a choice by the participant between benefits determined in terms of two or more different safe-harbor formula measures, then the plan is deemed to satisfy paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section with respect to the participant, provided that the plan satisfies the comparison described in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section separately for benefits determined in terms of each safe-harbor formula measure and no accumulated benefit of a similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant is expressed other than as—

(1) The choice of benefits determined under two or more benefit formulas, each of which is expressed in terms of one of those same safe-harbor formula measures as is used for the participant's “choice-of” benefit;

(2) A benefit that is determined in terms of only one of those same safe-harbor formula measures; or

(3) The lesser of benefits under two or more benefit formulas, at least one of which is expressed in terms of one of those same safe-harbor formula measures.

(E) Lesser-of benefit formulas. If a plan provides that a participant's accumulated benefit is expressed as a single safe-harbor formula measure and no accumulated benefit of a similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant is expressed other than as a benefit that is determined under the same safe-harbor formula measure or as the lesser of benefits under two or more benefit formulas, at least one of which is expressed in terms of the same safe-harbor formula measure, then the plan is deemed to satisfy paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section with respect to the participant only if the plan satisfies the comparison described in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section for benefits determined in terms of the same safe-harbor formula measure. Similarly, if a plan provides that a participant's accumulated benefit is expressed as the lesser of benefits under two or more benefit formulas, each of which is determined in terms of a different safe-harbor formula measure, then the plan is deemed to satisfy paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section with respect to the participant only if the plan satisfies the comparison described in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section separately for benefits determined in terms of each safe-harbor formula measure and no accumulated benefit of a similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant is expressed other than as the lesser of benefits under two or more benefit formulas, expressed in terms of all of those same safe-harbor formula measures (and any other additional formula measures).

(F) Limitations on plan formulas that provide for hypothetical accounts or accumulated percentages of final average compensation. For plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2016, a benefit measure is a safe harbor formula measure described in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B) or (C) of this section only if the formula under which the balance of a hypothetical account or the accumulated percentage of final average compensation is determined is a lump-sum based benefit formula.

(iii) Disregard of certain subsidized benefits. For purposes of paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, any subsidized portion of an early retirement benefit that is included in a participant's accumulated benefit is disregarded. For this purpose, an early retirement benefit includes a subsidized portion only if it provides a higher actuarial present value on account of commencement before normal retirement age. However, for plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2016, if the annual benefit payable before normal retirement age is greater for a participant than the annual benefit under the corresponding form of benefit for any similarly situated, older individual who is or could be a participant and who is currently at or before normal retirement age, then that excess is not part of the subsidized portion of an early retirement benefit and, accordingly, is not disregarded under this paragraph (b)(1)(iii). For purposes of determining whether the annual benefit payable before normal retirement age is greater for a participant than the annual benefit under the corresponding form of benefit for any similarly situated, older individual who is or could be a participant, social security leveling options and social security supplements are disregarded. In addition, a plan is not treated as providing a greater annual benefit to a participant than to a similarly situated, older individual who is or could be a participant merely because the reduction (based on actuarial equivalence, using reasonable actuarial assumptions) in the amount of an annuity to reflect a survivor benefit is smaller for the participant than for a similarly situated, older individual who is or could be a participant.

(iv) Examples. The provisions of this paragraph (b)(1) are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. (i) Facts relating to formulas described in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(A) of this section. Employer X maintains a defined benefit plan that provides a straight life annuity payable commencing at normal retirement age (which is age 65) equal to 1 percent of the participant's highest 3 consecutive years' compensation times years of service and provides for suspension of benefits as permitted under section 411(a)(3)(B). In the case of a participant whose service continues after normal retirement age, the amount payable is the greater of (i) the benefit payable at normal retirement age, and for each year thereafter, actuarially increased to account for delayed commencement, and (ii) the retirement benefit determined under the formula at the date the employee's service ceases (calculated by including years of service and increases in compensation after normal retirement age).

(ii) Conclusion. Under these facts, the plan formula is a formula described in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(A) of this section. The formula is not a statutory hybrid benefit formula merely because the plan formula includes a benefit that is based on the participant's benefit at normal retirement age (and each year thereafter) that is actuarially increased for commencement after attainment of normal retirement age. In addition, the plan formula would satisfy the comparison under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section for each individual who is or could be a participant because, as of any date (including any date after normal retirement age), the accumulated benefit of the individual would not be less than the accumulated benefit of any similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant.

Example 2. (i) Facts relating to formulas described in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B) of this section. Employer Y maintains a defined benefit plan that expresses each participant's accumulated benefit as the balance of a hypothetical account. Under the formula, the hypothetical account balance of each participant is credited monthly with interest at a specified rate and the hypothetical account balance of each employee who is a participant is also credited with a pay credit under the plan equal to 7 percent of the participant's compensation for the month.

(ii) Conclusion. The plan formula is a lump sum-based benefit formula described in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B) of this section and the formula would satisfy the comparison under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section for each individual who is or could be a participant because, as of any date, the hypothetical account balance of the individual would not be less than the hypothetical account balance of any similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant.

Example 3. (i) Facts where plan suspends interest credits after normal retirement age. The facts are the same as in Example 2 except that the plan provides for suspension of benefits as permitted under section 411(a)(3)(B). Pursuant to the plan's suspension of benefits provision, the plan provides for interest credits to cease during service after normal retirement age or for the amount of the interest credits during this service to be reduced to reflect principal credits credited.

(ii) Conclusion. The plan does not satisfy the safe harbor in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section. Applying the rule of paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, the plan formula would fail to satisfy the safe harbor comparison under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section with respect to an individual whose benefits have been suspended because, as of any date after attainment of normal retirement age, the hypothetical account balance of this individual would be less than the hypothetical account balance of one or more similarly situated individuals who have not attained normal retirement age.

Example 4. (i) Facts providing greater-of benefits as described in paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(C) of this section. Employer Z sponsors a defined benefit plan that provides an accumulated benefit expressed as a straight life annuity commencing at the plan's normal retirement age (age 65), based on a percentage of average annual compensation times the participant's years of service. On November 2, 2011, the plan is amended effective as of January 1, 2012, to provide participants who have attained age 55 by January 1, 2012, with a benefit that is the greater of the benefit under the average annual compensation formula and a benefit that is based on the balance of a hypothetical account, which provides for annual pay credits of a specified percentage of the participant's compensation and annual interest credits based on the third segment rate.

(ii) Conclusion where plan provides greater-of benefits to older participants. The plan satisfies the safe harbor of paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section with respect to all individuals who are or could be participants. Pursuant to the rules of paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(C) of this section, the plan satisfies the safe harbor with respect to individuals who have attained age 55 by January 1, 2012, because (A) with respect to the benefit described in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(A) of this section (the benefit based on average annual compensation, disregarding the benefit based on the balance of a hypothetical account), the accumulated benefit for any individual who is or could be a participant and who is at least age 55 on January 1, 2012, would in no event be less than the accumulated benefit for a similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be participant and who has not yet attained age 55 by January 1, 2012, (B) with respect to the benefit described in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B) of this section (the benefit based on the balance of a hypothetical account, disregarding the benefit based on average annual compensation), the accumulated benefit for any individual who is or could be a participant and who is at least age 55 on January 1, 2012, would in no event be less than the accumulated benefit for a similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant and who has not yet attained age 55 by January 1, 2012, and (C) the benefit of any individual who is or could be a participant who has not yet attained age 55 by January 1, 2012, is only expressed as an annuity payable at normal retirement age as described in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(A) of this section, and this safe-harbor formula measure applies also to participants who have attained age 55 by January 1, 2012. Furthermore, the plan satisfies the safe harbor with respect to individuals who have not yet attained age 55 by January 1, 2012, because the benefit of these individuals satisfies the general rule of paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(A) of this section.

(iii) Conclusion where plan provides greater-of benefits only to younger participants. If, instead of the facts in paragraph (i) of this Example 4, the plan had been amended to provide only participants who have not yet attained age 55 by January 1, 2012, with a benefit that is the greater of the benefit under the average annual compensation formula and a benefit that is based on the balance of a hypothetical account, then the safe harbor would not be satisfied with respect to individuals who have attained age 55 by January 1, 2012. Under paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(A) of this section, except as provided in paragraphs (b)(1)(ii)(B), (C), and (D) of this section, the safe harbor of paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section is available only with respect to individuals over age 55, whose benefit is expressed in terms of only one safe-harbor formula measure, if no similarly situated, younger individual has an accumulated benefit that is expressed in terms of any measure other than that same safe-harbor formula measure. This is not the case under these facts. The greater-of rule of paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(C) of this section would not apply to individuals who have attained age 55 because the accumulated benefits of these individuals is not equal to the greater of benefits under two or more benefit formulas.

Example 5. (i) Facts where plan provides choice-of benefits to older participants. The facts are the same as in paragraph (i) of Example 4, except that for service after December 31, 2011, the amendment permits participants who have attained age 55 by January 1, 2012, to choose between benefits under the average annual compensation benefit formula or benefits under the hypothetical account balance formula (but, if a participant chooses the hypothetical account balance formula, his or her benefit under the plan is in no event to be less than the benefit determined under the average annual compensation benefit formula for service before January 1, 2012), while other participants receive benefits solely under the hypothetical account balance formula (but individuals who are participants on December 31, 2011, are in no event to receive less than the benefit determined under the average annual compensation benefit formula for service before January 1, 2012).

(ii) Conclusion where plan provides choice to older participants. The plan satisfies the safe harbor with respect to all individuals who are or could be participants. Pursuant to the rule of paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(D) of this section, the plan satisfies the safe harbor of paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section with respect to individuals who have attained age 55 by January 1, 2012, and, pursuant to the rule of paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(A), the plan satisfies the safe harbor with respect to individuals who have not yet attained 55 by January 1, 2012.

(iii) Conclusion where plan provides choice-of benefits to older workers and greater-of benefits to younger participants. If, in addition to the facts in paragraph (i) of this Example 5, the plan were also to provide participants who had not yet attained age 55 by January 1, 2012, the greater of the benefits under the average annual compensation benefit formula or the benefits under the hypothetical account balance formula, then pursuant to the rules of paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(A) and (D) of this section, the safe harbor would not be satisfied with respect to participants who have attained age 55 by January 1, 2012.

(2) Indexed benefits— (i) In general. Except as provided in paragraph (b)(2)(iii) of this section, pursuant to section 411(b)(5)(E) and this paragraph (b)(2)(i), a defined benefit plan is not treated as failing to meet the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(H) with respect to a participant solely because a benefit formula (other than a lump sum-based benefit formula) under the plan provides for the periodic adjustment of the participant's accrued benefit under the plan by means of the application of a recognized index or methodology. An indexing rate that does not exceed a market rate of return, as defined in paragraph (d) of this section, is deemed to be a recognized index or methodology for purposes of the preceding sentence. In addition, for plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2016 (or an earlier date as elected by the taxpayer), any subsidized portion of any early retirement benefit under such a plan that meets the requirements of paragraph (b)(1)(iii) is disregarded in determining whether the plan meets the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(H). However, such a plan must satisfy the qualification requirements otherwise applicable to statutory hybrid plans, including the requirements of §1.411(a)(13)-1(c) (relating to minimum vesting standards) and paragraph (c) of this section (relating to plan conversion amendments) if the plan has an effect similar to a lump sum-based benefit formula, pursuant to the rules of §1.411(a)(13)-1(d)(4)(ii).

(ii) Similarly situated participant test. Paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section does not apply unless the aggregate adjustments made to a participant's accrued benefit under the plan (determined as a percentage of the unadjusted accrued benefit) in a period would not be less than the aggregate adjustments for any similarly situated, younger participant. This test requires a comparison, for each period, of the aggregate adjustments for each individual who is or could be a participant in the plan for the period with the aggregate adjustments of each other similarly situated, younger individual who is or could be a participant in the plan for that period. See paragraph (b)(5) of this section for rules regarding whether each younger individual who is or could be a participant is similarly situated to a participant.

(iii) Protection against loss—(A) In general. Paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section does not apply unless the plan satisfies section 411(b)(5)(E)(ii) and paragraph (d)(2) of this section (relating to preservation of capital).

(B) Exception for variable annuity benefit formulas. The requirement to satisfy section 411(b)(5)(B)(i)(II), as set forth in paragraph (d)(2) of this section, as well as section 411(b)(5)(E)(ii), as set forth in this paragraph (b)(2)(iii), does not apply in the case of a benefit provided under a variable annuity benefit formula as defined in §1.411(a)(13)-1(d)(6).

(3) Certain offsets permitted. A plan is not treated as failing to meet the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(H) solely because the plan provides offsets against benefits under the plan to the extent the offsets are allowable in applying the requirements of section 401(a) and the applicable requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, Public Law 93-406 (88 Stat. 829 (1974)), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Public Law 90-202 (81 Stat. 602 (1967)).

(4) Permitted disparities in plan contributions or benefits. A plan is not treated as failing to meet the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(H) solely because the plan provides a disparity in contributions or benefits with respect to which the requirements of section 401(l) are met.

(5) Definition of similarly situated. For purposes of paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2) of this section, an individual is similarly situated to another individual if the individual is identical to that other individual in every respect that is relevant in determining a participant's benefit under the plan (including period of service, compensation, position, date of hire, work history, and any other respect) except for age. In determining whether an individual is similarly situated to another individual, any characteristic that is relevant for determining benefits under the plan and that is based directly or indirectly on age is disregarded. For example, if a particular benefit formula applies to a participant on account of the participant's age, an individual to whom the benefit formula does not apply and who is identical to the participant in all other respects is similarly situated to the participant. By contrast, an individual is not similarly situated to a participant if a different benefit formula applies to the individual and the application of the different formula is not based directly or indirectly on age.

(c) Special rules for plan conversion amendments—(1) In general. Pursuant to section 411(b)(5)(B)(ii), (iii), and (iv), if there is a conversion amendment within the meaning of paragraph (c)(4) of this section with respect to a defined benefit plan, then the plan is treated as failing to meet the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(H) unless the plan, after the amendment, satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c)(2) of this section.

(2) Separate calculation of post-conversion benefit—(i) In general. A statutory hybrid plan satisfies the requirements of this paragraph (c)(2) if the plan provides that, in the case of an individual who was a participant in the plan immediately before the date of adoption of the conversion amendment, the participant's benefit at any subsequent annuity starting date is not less than the sum of—

(A) The participant's section 411(d)(6) protected benefit (as defined in §1.411(d)-3(g)(14)) with respect to service before the effective date of the conversion amendment, determined under the terms of the plan as in effect immediately before the effective date of the conversion amendment; and

(B) The participant's section 411(d)(6) protected benefit with respect to service on and after the effective date of the conversion amendment, determined under the terms of the plan as in effect after the effective date of the conversion amendment.

(ii) Rules of application. For purposes of this paragraph (c)(2), except as provided in paragraph (c)(3) of this section, the benefits under paragraphs (c)(2)(i)(A) and (c)(2)(i)(B) of this section must each be determined in the same manner as if they were provided under separate plans that are independent of each other (for example, without any benefit offsets), and, except to the extent permitted under §1.411(d)-3 or §1.411(d)-4 (or other applicable law), each optional form of payment provided under the terms of the plan with respect to a participant's section 411(d)(6) protected benefit as in effect before the conversion amendment must be available thereafter to the extent of the plan's benefits for service prior to the effective date of the conversion amendment.

(3) Establishment of opening hypothetical account balance or opening accumulated percentage—(i) Provided that the requirements of paragraph (c)(3)(ii) of this section are satisfied, a statutory hybrid plan under which an opening hypothetical account balance or opening accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation is established as of the effective date of the conversion amendment does not fail to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (c)(2) of this section merely because benefits attributable to that opening hypothetical account balance or opening accumulated percentage (that is, benefits that are not described in paragraph (c)(2)(i)(B) of this section) are substituted for benefits described in paragraph (c)(2)(i)(A) of this section.

(ii) Comparison of benefits at annuity starting date—(A) Testing requirement. The requirements of this paragraph (c)(3)(ii) are satisfied with respect to an optional form of benefit payable at an annuity starting date only if the plan provides that the amount of the benefit payable in that optional form under the lump sum-based benefit formula that is attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance or opening accumulated percentage as described in paragraph (c)(3)(i) of this section is not less than the benefit under the comparable optional form of benefit under paragraph (c)(2)(i)(A) of this section. To satisfy this requirement, if the benefit under the optional form attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance or opening accumulated percentage is less than the benefit under the comparable optional form of benefit described in paragraph (c)(2)(i)(A) of this section, then the benefit attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance or opening accumulated percentage must be increased to the extent necessary to provide the minimum benefit described in this paragraph (c)(3)(ii). Thus, if a plan is using the option under this paragraph (c)(3)(ii) to satisfy paragraph (c)(2) of this section with respect to a participant, the participant must receive a benefit equal to not less than the sum of—

(1) The benefit described in paragraph (c)(2)(i)(B) of this section; and

(2) The greater of—

(i) The benefit attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance or attributable to the opening accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation as described in this paragraph (c)(3)(ii); or

(ii) The benefit described in paragraph (c)(2)(i)(A) of this section.

(B) Comparable optional form of benefit. If there was an optional form of benefit within the same generalized optional form of benefit (within the meaning of §1.411(d)-3(g)(8)) that would have been available to the participant at that annuity starting date under the terms of the plan as in effect immediately before the effective date of the conversion amendment, then that optional form of benefit is the comparable optional form of benefit.

(C) Special rule for new post-conversion optional forms of benefit. If an optional form of benefit is available on the annuity starting date with respect to the benefit attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance or opening accumulated percentage, but no optional form within the same generalized optional form of benefit (within the meaning of §1.411(d)-3(g)(8)) was available at that annuity starting date under the terms of the plan as in effect immediately prior to the effective date of the conversion amendment, then, for purposes of this paragraph (c)(3)(ii), the plan is treated as if such an optional form of benefit were available immediately prior to the effective date of the conversion amendment for purposes of this paragraph (c)(3)(ii). Thus, for example, if a single-sum optional form of payment is not available under the plan terms applicable to the accrued benefit described in paragraph (c)(2)(i)(A) of this section, but a single-sum optional form of payment is available with respect to the benefit attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance or opening accumulated percentage as of the annuity starting date, then, for purposes of this paragraph (c)(3)(ii), the plan is treated as if a single sum (which satisfies the requirements of section 417(e)(3)) were available under the terms of the plan as in effect immediately prior to the effective date of the conversion amendment.

(4) Conversion amendment—(i) In general. An amendment is a conversion amendment that is subject to the requirements of this paragraph (c) with respect to a participant if—

(A) The amendment reduces or eliminates the benefits that, but for the amendment, the participant would have accrued after the effective date of the amendment under a benefit formula that is not a statutory hybrid benefit formula (and under which the participant was accruing benefits prior to the amendment); and

(B) After the effective date of the amendment, all or a portion of the participant's benefit accruals under the plan are determined under a statutory hybrid benefit formula.

(ii) Rules of application—(A) In general. Paragraphs (c)(4)(iii), (iv), and (v) of this section describe special rules that treat certain arrangements as conversion amendments. The rules described in those paragraphs apply both separately and in combination. Thus, for example, in an acquisition described in §1.410(b)-2(f), if the buyer adopts an amendment under which a participant's benefits under the seller's plan that is not a statutory hybrid plan are coordinated with a separate plan of the buyer that is a statutory hybrid plan, such as through an offset of the participant's benefit under the buyer's plan by the participant's benefit under the seller's plan, the seller and buyer are treated as a single employer under paragraph (c)(4)(iv) of this section and they are treated as having adopted a conversion amendment under paragraph (c)(4)(iii) of this section. However, pursuant to paragraph (c)(4)(iii) of this section, if there is no coordination between the two plans, there is no conversion amendment.

(B) Covered amendments. Only amendments that eliminate or reduce accrued benefits described in section 411(a)(7), or a retirement-type subsidy described in section 411(d)(6)(B)(i), that would otherwise accrue as a result of future service are treated as amendments described in paragraph (c)(4)(i)(A) of this section.

(C) Operation of plan terms treated as covered amendment. If, under the terms of a plan, a change in the conditions of a participant's employment results in a reduction of the participant's benefits that would have accrued in the future under a benefit formula that is not a statutory hybrid benefit formula, the plan is treated for purposes of this paragraph (c)(4) as if such plan terms constitute an amendment that reduces the participant's benefits that would have accrued after the effective date of the change under a benefit formula that is not a statutory hybrid benefit formula. Thus, for example, if a participant transfers from an operating division that is covered by a non-statutory hybrid benefit formula to an operating division that is covered by a statutory hybrid benefit formula, there has been a conversion amendment and the effective date of the conversion amendment is the date of the transfer. For purposes of applying the effective date rule of paragraph (f)(1)(ii) of this section, the date that the relevant plan terms were adopted is treated as the adoption date of the amendment.

(iii) Multiple plans. An employer is treated as having adopted a conversion amendment if the employer adopts an amendment under which a participant's benefits under a plan that is not a statutory hybrid plan are coordinated with a separate plan that is a statutory hybrid plan, such as through a reduction (offset) of the benefit under the plan that is not a statutory hybrid plan.

(iv) Multiple employers. If the employer of an employee changes as a result of a transaction described in §1.410(b)-2(f), then the two employers are treated as a single employer for purposes of this paragraph (c)(4).

(v) Multiple amendments—(A) In general—(1) General rule. For purposes of this paragraph (c)(4), a conversion amendment includes multiple amendments that result in a conversion amendment even if the amendments are not conversion amendments individually. For example, an employer is treated as having adopted a conversion amendment if the employer first adopts an amendment described in paragraph (c)(4)(i)(A) of this section and, at a later date, adopts an amendment that adds a benefit under a statutory hybrid benefit formula as described in paragraph (c)(4)(i)(B) of this section, if they are consolidated under paragraph (c)(4)(v)(A)(2) of this section.

(2) Delay between plan amendments. In determining whether a conversion amendment has been adopted, an amendment to provide a benefit under a statutory hybrid benefit formula is consolidated with a prior amendment to reduce non-statutory hybrid benefit formula benefits if the amendment providing benefits under a statutory hybrid benefit formula is adopted within three years after adoption of the amendment reducing non-statutory hybrid benefit formula benefits. Thus, the later adoption of the statutory hybrid benefit formula will cause the earlier amendment to be treated as part of a conversion amendment. In the case of an amendment to provide a benefit under a statutory hybrid benefit formula that is adopted more than three years after adoption of an amendment to reduce benefits under a non-statutory hybrid benefit formula, there is a presumption that the amendments are not consolidated unless the facts and circumstances indicate that adoption of the amendment to provide a benefit under a statutory hybrid benefit formula was intended at the time of reduction in the non-statutory hybrid benefit formula.

(B) Multiple conversion amendments. If an employer adopts multiple amendments reducing benefits described in paragraph (c)(4)(i)(A) of this section, each amendment is treated as a separate conversion amendment, provided that paragraph (c)(4)(i)(B) of this section is applicable at the time of the amendment (taking into account the rules of this paragraph (c)(4)).

(vi) Effective date of a conversion amendment. The effective date of a conversion amendment is, with respect to a participant, the date as of which the reduction of the participant's benefits described in paragraph (c)(4)(i)(A) of this section occurs. In accordance with section 411(d)(6), the date of a reduction of those benefits cannot be earlier than the date of adoption of the conversion amendment.

(5) Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of this paragraph (c):

Example 1. (i) Facts where plan does not establish opening hypothetical account balance for participants and participant elects life annuity at normal retirement age. Employer N sponsors Plan E, a defined benefit plan that provides an accumulated benefit, payable as a straight life annuity commencing at age 65 (which is Plan E's normal retirement age), based on a percentage of highest average compensation times the participant's years of service. Plan E permits any participant who has had a severance from employment to elect payment in the following optional forms of benefit (with spousal consent if applicable), with any payment not made in a straight life annuity converted to an equivalent form based on reasonable actuarial assumptions: A straight life annuity; and a 50 percent, 75 percent, or 100 percent joint and survivor annuity. The payment of benefits may commence at any time after attainment of age 55, with an actuarial reduction if the commencement is before normal retirement age. In addition, the plan offers a single-sum payment after attainment of age 55 equal to the present value of the normal retirement benefit using the applicable interest rate and mortality table under section 417(e)(3) in effect under the terms of the plan on the annuity starting date.

(ii) Facts relating to the conversion amendment. On January 1, 2012, Plan E is amended to eliminate future accruals under the highest average compensation benefit formula and to base future benefit accruals under a hypothetical account balance formula. For service on or after January 1, 2012, each participant's hypothetical account balance is credited monthly with a pay credit equal to a specified percentage of the participant's compensation during the month and also with interest based on the third segment rate described in section 430(h)(2)(C)(iii). With respect to benefits under the hypothetical account balance attributable to service on and after January 1, 2012, a participant is permitted to elect (with spousal consent if applicable) payment in the same generalized optional forms of benefit (even though different actuarial factors apply) as under the terms of the plan in effect before January 1, 2012, and also as a single-sum distribution. The plan provides for the benefit attributable to service before January 1, 2012, to be determined under the terms of the plan as in effect immediately before the effective date of the amendment, and the benefit attributable to service on and after January 1, 2012, to be determined separately, under the terms of the plan as in effect after the effective date of the amendment, with neither benefit offsetting the other in any manner. Thus, each participant's benefit is equal to the sum of the benefit attributable to service before January 1, 2012 (to be determined under the terms of the plan as in effect immediately before the effective date of the amendment), plus the benefit attributable to the participant's hypothetical account balance.

(iii) Facts relating to an affected participant. Participant A is age 62 on January 1, 2012. On December 31, 2011, A's benefit for years of service before January 1, 2012, payable as a straight life annuity commencing at A's normal retirement age (age 65), which is January 1, 2015, is $1,000 per month. On January 1, 2015, when Participant A has a severance from employment, the then-current hypothetical account balance, with pay credits and interest from January 1, 2012, to January 1, 2015, is $11,000. Using the conversion factors applicable under the plan on January 1, 2015, that balance is equivalent to a straight life annuity of $100 per month commencing on January 1, 2015. This benefit is in addition to the benefit attributable to service before January 1, 2012. Participant A elects (with spousal consent) a straight life annuity of $1,100 per month commencing January 1, 2015.

(iv) Conclusion. Participant A's benefit satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section because Participant A's benefit is not less than the sum of Participant A's section 411(d)(6) protected benefit (as defined in §1.411(d)-3(g)(14)) with respect to service before the effective date of the conversion amendment, determined under the terms of the plan as in effect immediately before the effective date of the amendment, and Participant A's section 411(d)(6) protected benefit with respect to service on and after the effective date of the conversion amendment, determined under the terms of the plan as in effect after the effective date of the amendment.

Example 2. (i) Facts involving plan's establishment of opening hypothetical account balance and payment of pre-conversion accumulated benefit in life annuity at normal retirement age. Except as indicated in this Example 2, the facts are the same as the facts under paragraph (i) of Example 1.

(ii) Facts relating to the conversion amendment. On January 1, 2012, Plan E is amended to eliminate future accruals under the highest average compensation benefit formula and to provide future benefit accruals under a hypothetical account balance formula. An opening hypothetical account balance is established for each participant, and, under the plan's terms, that balance is equal to the present value of the participant's accumulated benefit on December 31, 2011 (payable as a straight life annuity at normal retirement age or immediately, if later), using the applicable interest rate and applicable mortality table under section 417(e)(3) on January 1, 2012. Under Plan E, the account based on this opening hypothetical account balance is maintained as a separate account from the account for accruals on or after January 1, 2012. The hypothetical account balance maintained for each participant for accruals on or after January 1, 2012, is credited monthly with a pay credit equal to a specified percentage of the participant's compensation during the month. A participant's hypothetical account balance (including both of the separate accounts) is credited monthly with interest based on the third segment rate described in section 430(h)(2)(C)(iii).

(iii) Facts relating to optional forms of benefit. Following severance from employment and attainment of age 55, a participant is permitted to elect (with spousal consent, if applicable) payment in the same generalized optional forms of benefit as under the plan in effect prior to January 1, 2012, with the amount payable calculated based on the hypothetical account balance on the annuity starting date and the applicable interest rate and applicable mortality table on the annuity starting date. The single-sum distribution is equal to the hypothetical account balance.

(iv) Facts relating to conversion protection. The plan provides that, as of a participant's annuity starting date, the plan will determine whether the benefit attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance payable in the particular optional form of benefit selected is equal to or greater than the benefit accrued under the plan through the date of conversion and payable in the same generalized optional form of benefit with the same annuity starting date. If the benefit attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance is equal to or greater than the pre-conversion benefit, the plan provides that such benefit is paid in lieu of the pre-conversion benefit, together with the benefit attributable to post-conversion pay-based principal credits. If the benefit attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance is less than the pre-conversion benefit, the plan provides that such benefit is increased sufficiently to provide the pre-conversion benefit, together with the benefit attributable to post-conversion pay-based principal credits.

(v) Facts relating to an affected participant. On January 1, 2012, the opening hypothetical account balance established for Participant A is $80,000, which is the present value of Participant A's straight life annuity of $1,000 per month commencing at January 1, 2015, using the applicable interest rate and applicable mortality table under section 417(e)(3) in effect on January 1, 2012. On January 1, 2012, the applicable interest rate for Participant A is equivalent to a level rate of 5.5 percent. Thereafter, Participant A's hypothetical account balance for subsequent accruals is credited monthly with a pay credit equal to a specified percentage of the participant's compensation during the month. In addition, Participant A's hypothetical account balance (including both of the separate accounts) is credited monthly with interest based on the third segment rate described in section 430(h)(2)(C)(iii).

(vi) Facts relating to calculation of the participant's benefit. Participant A has a severance from employment on January 1, 2015 at age 65, and elects (with spousal consent) a straight life annuity commencing January 1, 2015. On January 1, 2015, the opening hypothetical account balance, with interest credits from January 1, 2012, to January 1, 2015, has become $95,000, which, using the conversion factors under the plan on January 1, 2015, is equivalent to a straight life annuity of $1,005 per month commencing on January 1, 2015 (which is greater than the $1,000 a month payable at age 65 under the terms of the plan in effect before January 1, 2012). This benefit is in addition to the benefit determined using the hypothetical account balance for service after January 1, 2012.

(vii) Conclusion. The benefit satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c)(3)(ii)(A) of this section with respect to Participant A because A's benefit is not less than the sum of (A) the greater of Participant A's benefits attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance and A's section 411(d)(6) protected benefit (as defined in §1.411(d)-3(g)(14)) with respect to service before the effective date of the conversion amendment, determined under the terms of the plan as in effect immediately before the effective date of the amendment, and (B) Participant A's section 411(d)(6) protected benefit with respect to service on and after the effective date of the conversion amendment, determined under the terms of the plan as in effect after the effective date of the amendment.

Example 3. (i) Facts involving a subsequent decrease in interest rates. The facts are the same as in Example 2, except that, because of a decrease in bond rates after January 1, 2012, and before January 1, 2015, the rate of interest credited in that period averages less than 5.5 percent, and, on January 1, 2015, the effective applicable interest rate under section 417(e)(3) under the plan's terms is 4.7 percent. As a result, Participant A's opening hypothetical account balance plus attributable interest credits has increased to only $87,000 on January 1, 2015, and, using the conversion factors under the plan on January 1, 2015, is equivalent to a straight life annuity commencing on January 1, 2015, of $775 per month. Under the terms of Plan E, the benefit attributable to A's opening hypothetical account balance is increased so that A's straight life annuity commencing on January 1, 2015, is $1,000 per month. This benefit is in addition to the benefit attributable to the hypothetical account balance for service after January 1, 2012.

(ii) Conclusion. The benefit satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c)(3)(ii)(A) of this section with respect to Participant A because A's benefit is not less than the sum of—

(A) The greater of A's benefits attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance and A's section 411(d)(6) protected benefit (as defined in §1.411(d)-3(g)(14)) with respect to service before the effective date of the conversion amendment, determined under the terms of the plan as in effect immediately before the effective date of the amendment; and

(B) A's section 411(d)(6) protected benefit with respect to service on and after the effective date of the conversion amendment, determined under the terms of the plan as in effect after the effective date of the amendment.

Example 4. (i) Facts involving payment of a subsidized early retirement benefit. The facts are the same as in Example 2, except that under the terms of Plan E on December 31, 2011, a participant who retires before age 65 and after age 55 with 30 years of service has only a 3 percent per year actuarial reduction. Participant A has a severance from employment on January 1, 2013, when A is age 63 and has 30 years of service. On January 1, 2013, A's opening hypothetical account balance, with interest from January 1, 2012, to January 1, 2013, has become $86,000, which, using the conversion factors under the plan (as amended) on January 1, 2013, is equivalent to a straight life annuity commencing on January 1, 2013, of $850 per month.

(ii) Facts relating to calculation of the participant's benefit. Under the terms of Plan E on December 31, 2011, Participant A is entitled to a straight life annuity commencing on January 1, 2013, equal to at least $940 per month ($1,000 reduced by 3 percent for each of the 2 years that A's benefits commence before normal retirement age). Under the terms of Plan E, the benefit attributable to A's opening account balance is increased so that A is entitled to a straight life annuity of $940 per month commencing on January 1, 2015. This benefit is in addition to the benefit determined using the hypothetical account balance for service after January 1, 2012.

(iii) Conclusion. The benefit satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c)(3)(ii)(A) of this section with respect to Participant A because A's benefit is not less than the sum of—

(A) The greater of Participant A's benefits attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance (increased by attributable interest credits) and A's section 411(d)(6) protected benefit (as defined in §1.411(d)-3(g)(14)) with respect to service before the effective date of the conversion amendment, determined under the terms of the plan as in effect immediately before the effective date of the amendment; and

(B) Participant A's section 411(d)(6) protected benefit with respect to service on and after the effective date of the conversion amendment, determined under the terms of the plan as in effect after the effective date of the amendment.

Example 5. (i) Facts involving addition of a single-sum payment option. The facts are the same as in Example 2, except that, before January 1, 2012, Plan E did not offer payment in a single-sum distribution for amounts in excess of $5,000. Plan E, as amended on January 1, 2012, offers payment in any of the available annuity distribution forms commencing at any time following severance from employment as were provided under Plan E before January 1, 2012. In addition, Plan E, as amended on January 1, 2012, offers payment in the form of a single sum attributable to service before January 1, 2012, which is the greater of the opening hypothetical account balance (increased by attributable interest credits) or a single-sum distribution of the straight life annuity payable at age 65 using the same actuarial factors as are used for mandatory cashouts for amounts equal to $5,000 or less under the terms of the plan on December 31, 2011. Participant B is age 40 on January 1, 2012, and B's opening hypothetical account balance (increased by attributable interest credits) is $33,000 (which is the present value, using the conversion factors under the plan (as amended) on January 1, 2012, of Participant B's straight life annuity of $1,000 per month commencing at January 1, 2037, which is when B will be age 65). Participant B has a severance from employment on January 1, 2015, and elects (with spousal consent) an immediate single-sum distribution. Participant B's opening hypothetical account balance (increased by attributable interest) on January 1, 2015, is $45,000. The present value, on January 1, 2015, of Participant B's benefit of $1,000 per month, commencing immediately using the actuarial factors for mandatory cashouts under the terms of the plan on December 31, 2011, would result in a single-sum payment of $44,750. Participant B is paid a single-sum distribution equal to the sum of $45,000 plus an amount equal to B's January 1, 2015, hypothetical account balance for benefit accruals for service after January 1, 2012.

(ii) Conclusion. Because, under Plan E, Participant B is entitled to the sum of—

(A) The greater of the $45,000 opening hypothetical account balance (increased by attributable interest credits) and $44,750 (present value of the benefit with respect to service prior to January 1, 2012, using the actuarial factors for mandatory cashout distributions under the terms of the plan on December 31, 2011); and

(B) An amount equal to B's hypothetical account balance for benefit accruals for service after January 1, 2012, the benefit satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c)(3)(ii)(A) of this section with respect to Participant B. If Participant B's hypothetical account balance under Plan E was instead less than $44,750 on January 1, 2015, Participant B would be entitled to a single-sum payment equal to the sum of $44,750 and an amount equal to B's hypothetical account balance for benefit accruals for service after January 1, 2012.

Example 6. (i) Facts involving addition of new annuity optional form of benefit. The facts are the same as in Example 2, except that, after December 31, 2011, and before January 1, 2015, Plan E is amended to offer payment in a 5-, 10-, or 15-year term certain and life annuity, using the same actuarial assumptions that apply for other optional forms of distribution. When Participant A has a severance from employment on January 1, 2015, A elects (with spousal consent) a 5-year term certain and life annuity commencing immediately equal to $935 per month. Application of the same actuarial assumptions to Participant A's benefit of $1,000 per month (under Plan E as in effect on December 31, 2011), commencing immediately on January 1, 2015, would result in a 5-year term certain and life annuity commencing immediately equal to $955 per month. Under the terms of Plan E, the benefit attributable to A's opening account balance is increased so that, using the conversion factors under the plan (as amended) on January 1, 2015, A's opening hypothetical account balance (increased by attributable interest credits) produces a 5-year term certain and life annuity commencing immediately equal to $955 per month commencing on January 1, 2015. This benefit is in addition to the benefit determined using the January 1, 2015, hypothetical account balance for service after January 1, 2012.

(ii) Conclusion. This benefit satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c)(3)(ii)(A) of this section with respect to Participant A.

Example 7. (i) Facts involving addition of distribution option before age 55. The facts are the same as in Example 5, except that Participant B (age 43) elects (with spousal consent) a straight life annuity commencing immediately on January 1, 2015. Under Plan E, the straight life annuity attributable to Participant B's opening hypothetical account balance at age 43 is $221 per month. Application of the same actuarial assumptions to Participant B's benefit of $1,000 per month commencing at age 65 (under Plan E as in effect on December 31, 2011) would result in a straight life annuity commencing immediately on January 1, 2015, equal to $219 per month.

(ii) Conclusion. Because, under its terms, Plan E provides that Participant B is entitled to an amount not less than the present value (using the same actuarial assumptions as apply on January 1, 2015, in converting the $45,000 hypothetical account balance attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance to the $221 straight life annuity) of Participant B's straight life annuity of $1,000 per month commencing at age 65, and the $221 straight life annuity is in addition to the benefit accruals for service after January 1, 2012, payment of the $221 monthly annuity would satisfy the requirements of paragraph (c)(3)(ii)(A) of this section with respect to Participant B.

Example 8. (i) Facts involving establishment of opening hypothetical account balance. A defined benefit plan provides an accrued benefit expressed as a straight life annuity commencing at the plan's normal retirement age (age 65), based on a percentage of average annual compensation multiplied by the participant's years of service. On January 1, 2009, a conversion amendment is adopted that converts the plan to a statutory hybrid plan. Participant A, age 55, had an accrued benefit under the pre-conversion formula of $1,500 per month payable at normal retirement age. In conjunction with this conversion, the plan provides each participant with an opening hypothetical account balance equal to the present value, determined in accordance with section 417(e)(3) of the participant's pre-conversion benefit. Participant A's opening hypothetical account balance was calculated as $121,146. The opening account balance (along with any subsequent amounts credited to the hypothetical account) is credited annually with interest credits at the rate of 5.0 percent up to the annuity starting date of each participant.

(ii) Facts relating to changes between establishment of opening hypothetical account balance and age 65. Upon attainment of age 65, Participant A elects to receive Participant A's entire benefit under the plan as a single sum distribution. At the annuity starting date, Participant A's hypothetical account balance attributable to Participant A's opening account balance has increased to $197,334. However, under the terms of the plan and in accordance with section 417(e)(3), the present value at the annuity starting date of Participant A's pre-conversion benefit of $1,500 per month is $221,383.

(iii) Conclusion. Pursuant to paragraph (c)(3)(ii)(A) of this section, Participant A must receive the benefit attributable to post-conversion service, plus the greater of the benefit attributable to the opening hypothetical account balance and the pre-conversion benefit (with the determination as to which is greater made at the annuity starting date). Accordingly the single-sum distribution must equal the benefit attributable to post-conversion service plus $221,383.

(d) Market rate of return—(1) In general—(i) Basic test. Subject to the rules of paragraph (e) of this section, a statutory hybrid plan satisfies the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(H) and this paragraph (d) only if, for any plan year, the interest crediting rate with respect to benefits determined under a statutory hybrid benefit formula is not greater than a market rate of return.

(ii) Definitions relating to market rate of return—(A) Interest credit. Subject to other rules in this paragraph (d), an interest credit for purposes of this paragraph (d) and section 411(b)(5)(B) means the following adjustments to a participant's accumulated benefit under a statutory hybrid benefit formula, to the extent not conditioned on current service and not made on account of imputed service (as defined in §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(ii)(B))—

(1) Any increase or decrease for a period, under the terms of the plan at the beginning of the period, that is calculated by applying a rate of interest or rate of return (including a rate of increase or decrease under an index) to the participant's accumulated benefit (or a portion thereof) as of the beginning of the period; and

(2) Any other increase for a period, under the terms of the plan at the beginning of the period.

(B) Treatment of plan amendments. An increase to a participant's accumulated benefit is not treated as an interest credit to the extent the increase is made as a result of a plan amendment providing for a one-time adjustment to the participant's accumulated benefit. However, a pattern of repeated plan amendments each of which provides for a one-time adjustment to a participant's accumulated benefit will cause such adjustments to be treated as provided on a permanent basis under the terms of the plan. See §1.411(d)-4, A-1(c)(1).

(C) Interest crediting rate. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph (d), the interest crediting rate, or effective rate of return, for a period with respect to a participant equals the total amount of interest credits for the period divided by the participant's accumulated benefit at the beginning of the period.

(D) Principal credit. For purposes of this paragraph (d), a principal credit means any increase to a participant's accumulated benefit under a statutory hybrid benefit formula that is not an interest credit. Thus, for example, a principal credit includes an increase to a participant's accumulated benefit to the extent the increase is conditioned on current service or made on account of imputed service. As a result, a principal credit includes an increase to the value of an accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation. For indexed benefits described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, a principal credit includes an increase to the participant's accrued benefit other than an increase provided by indexing. In addition, pursuant to the rule in paragraph (d)(1)(ii)(B) of this section, a principal credit generally includes an increase to a participant's accumulated benefit to the extent the increase is made as a result of a plan amendment providing for a one-time adjustment to the participant's accumulated benefit. As a result, a principal credit includes an opening hypothetical account balance or opening accumulated percentage of the participant's final average compensation, as described in paragraph (c)(3) of this section.

(iii) Market rate of return for single rates. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph (d)(1), an interest crediting rate is not in excess of a market rate of return only if the plan terms provide that the interest credit for each plan year is determined using one of the following specified interest crediting rates:

(A) The interest rate on long-term investment grade corporate bonds (as described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section).

(B) An interest rate that, under paragraph (d)(4) of this section, is deemed to be not in excess of the interest rate described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section.

(C) A rate of return that, under paragraph (d)(5) of this section, is not in excess of a market rate of return.

(iv) Timing and other rules related to interest crediting rate—(A) In general. A plan that provides interest credits must specify how the plan determines interest credits and must specify how and when interest credits are credited. The plan must specify the method for determining interest credits in accordance with the requirements of paragraph (d)(1)(iv)(B) of this section, the frequency of interest crediting in accordance with the requirements of paragraph (d)(1)(iv)(C) of this section, and the treatment of interest credits on distributed amounts, as well as other debits and credits during the period, in accordance with the rules of paragraph (d)(1)(iv)(D) of this section. See paragraph (e) of this section for additional rules that apply to changes in the interest crediting rate.

(B) Methods to determine interest credits. A plan that is using any specified interest crediting rate can determine interest credits for each current interest crediting period based on the effective periodic interest crediting rate that applies over the period. Alternatively, a plan that is using one of the interest crediting rates described in paragraph (d)(3) or (d)(4) of this section can determine interest credits for a stability period based on the interest crediting rate for a specified lookback month with respect to that stability period. For purposes of the preceding sentence, the stability period and lookback month must satisfy the rules for selecting the stability period and lookback month under §1.417(e)-1(d)(4), although the interest crediting rate can be any one of the rates in paragraph (d)(3) or (d)(4) of this section and the stability period and lookback month need not be the same as those used under the plan for purposes of section 417(e)(3).

(C) Frequency of interest crediting. Interest credits under a plan must be provided on an annual or more frequent periodic basis and interest credits for each interest crediting period must be credited as of the end of the period. If a plan provides for the crediting of interest more frequently than annually (for example, daily, monthly or quarterly) based on one of the annual interest rates described in paragraph (d)(3) or (d)(4) of this section, then the plan generally provides an above market rate of return unless each periodic interest credit is determined using an interest crediting rate that is no greater than a pro rata portion of the applicable annual interest crediting rate. However, a plan that credits interest daily based on one of the annual interest rates described in paragraph (d)(3) or (d)(4) of this section is not treated as providing an above market rate of return merely because the plan determines each daily interest credit using a daily interest crediting rate that is 1360 of the applicable annual interest crediting rate. In addition, interest credits determined, under the terms of a plan, based on one of the annual interest rates described in paragraph (d)(3) or (d)(4) of this section are not treated as creating an effective rate of return that is in excess of a market rate of return merely because an otherwise permissible interest crediting rate for a plan year is compounded more frequently than annually. Thus, for example, if a plan's terms provide for interest to be credited monthly and for the interest crediting rate to be equal to the interest rate on long-term investment grade corporate bonds (as described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section) and the applicable annual rate on these bonds for the plan year is 6 percent, then the accumulated benefit at the beginning of each month could be increased as a result of interest credits by as much as 0.5 percent per month during the plan year without resulting in an interest crediting rate that is in excess of a market rate of return.

(D) Debits and credits during the interest crediting period. A plan is not treated as failing to meet the requirements of this paragraph (d) merely because the plan does not provide for interest credits on amounts distributed prior to the end of the interest crediting period. Furthermore, a plan is not treated as failing to meet the requirements of this paragraph (d) merely because the plan calculates increases or decreases to the participant's accumulated benefit by applying a rate of interest or rate of return (including a rate of increase or decrease under an index) to the participant's adjusted accumulated benefit (or portion thereof) for the period. For this purpose, the participant's adjusted accumulated benefit equals the participant's accumulated benefit as of the beginning of the period, adjusted for debits and credits (other than interest credits) made to the accumulated benefit prior to the end of the interest crediting period, with appropriate weighting for those debits and credits based on their timing within the period. For plans that calculate increases or decreases to the participant's accumulated benefit by applying a rate of interest or rate of return to the participant's adjusted accumulated benefit (or portion thereof) for the period, interest credits include these increases and decreases, to the extent provided under the terms of the plan at the beginning of the period and to the extent not conditioned on current service and not made on account of imputed service (as defined in §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(ii)(B)), and the interest crediting rate with respect to a participant equals the total amount of interest credits for the period divided by the participant's adjusted accumulated benefit for the period.

(v) Lesser rates. An interest crediting rate is not in excess of a market rate of return if the rate can never be in excess of a particular rate that is described in paragraph (d)(1)(iii) of this section. Thus, for example, an interest crediting rate that always equals the rate described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section minus 200 basis points is not in excess of a market rate of return because it can never be in excess of the rate described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section. Similarly, an interest crediting rate that always equals the lesser of the yield on 30-year Treasury Constant Maturities and a fixed 7 percent interest rate is not in excess of a market rate of return because it can never be in excess of the yield on 30-year Treasury Constant Maturities.

(vi) Greater-of rates. If a statutory hybrid plan determines an interest credit by applying the greater of 2 or more different rates to the accumulated benefit, the effective interest crediting rate is not in excess of a market rate of return only if each of the different rates would separately satisfy the requirements of this paragraph (d) and the requirements of paragraph (d)(6) of this section are also satisfied.

(vii) Blended rates. A statutory hybrid plan does not provide an effective interest crediting rate that is in excess of a market rate of return merely because the plan determines an interest credit by applying different rates to different predetermined portions of the accumulated benefit, provided each rate would separately satisfy the requirements of this paragraph (d) if the rate applied to the entire accumulated benefit.

(viii) Increases to existing rates and addition of other rates—(A) Increases to existing rates. The Commissioner may, in guidance published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin, see §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b) of this chapter, increase an interest crediting rate set forth in this paragraph (d), so that the increased rate is treated as satisfying the requirement that the rate not exceed a market rate of return for purposes of this paragraph (d) and section 411(b)(5)(B). For this purpose, these increases can include increases to the maximum permitted margin that can be added to one or more of the safe harbor rates set forth in paragraph (d)(4) of this section, increases to the maximum permitted fixed rate set forth in paragraph (d)(4)(v) of this section, or increases to a maximum permitted annual floor set forth in paragraph (d)(6) of this section.

(B) Additional rates. The Commissioner may, in guidance published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin, see §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b) of this chapter, provide for additional interest crediting rates that satisfy the requirement that they not exceed a market rate of return for purposes of this paragraph (d) and section 411(b)(5)(B) (including providing for additional combinations of rates, such as annual minimums in conjunction with rates that are based on rates described in paragraph (d)(5) of this section but that are reduced in order to ensure that the effective rate of return does not exceed a market rate of return).

(2) Preservation of capital requirement—(i) General rule. A statutory hybrid plan satisfies the requirements of section 411(b)(1)(H) only if the plan provides that the participant's benefit under the statutory hybrid benefit formula determined as of the participant's annuity starting date is no less than the benefit determined as if the accumulated benefit were equal to the sum of all principal credits (as described in paragraph (d)(1)(ii)(D) of this section) credited under the plan to the participant as of that date (including principal credits that were credited before the applicable statutory effective date of paragraph (f)(1) of this section). This paragraph (d)(2) applies only as of an annuity starting date, within the meaning of §1.401(a)-20, A-10(b), with respect to which a distribution of the participant's entire vested benefit under the plan's statutory hybrid benefit formula as of that date commences. For a participant who has more than one annuity starting date, paragraph (d)(2)(ii) of this section provides rules to account for prior annuity starting dates when applying this paragraph (d)(2)(i).

(ii) Application to multiple annuity starting dates—(A) In general. If the comparison under paragraph (d)(2)(ii)(B) of this section results in the sum of all principal credits credited to the participant (as of the current annuity starting date) exceeding the sum of the amounts described in paragraphs (d)(2)(ii)(B)(1) through (d)(2)(ii)(B)(3) of this section, then the participant's benefit to be distributed at the current annuity starting date must be no less than would be provided if that excess were included in the current accumulated benefit.

(B) Comparison to reflect prior distributions. For a participant who has more than one annuity starting date, the sum of all principal credits credited to the participant under the plan, as of the current annuity starting date, is compared to the sum of—

(1) The remaining balance of the participant's accumulated benefit as of the current annuity starting date;

(2) The amount of the reduction to the participant's accumulated benefit under the statutory hybrid benefit formula that is attributable to any prior distribution of the participant's benefit under that formula; and

(3) Any amount that was treated as included in the accumulated benefit under the rules of this paragraph (d)(2) as of any prior annuity starting date.

(C) Special rule for participants with 5 or more breaks in service. A plan is permitted to provide that, in the case of a participant who receives a distribution of the entire vested benefit under the plan and thereafter completes 5 consecutive 1-year breaks in service, as defined in section 411(a)(6)(A), the rules of this paragraph (d)(2) are applied without regard to the prior period of service. Thus, in the case of such a participant, the plan is permitted to provide that the rules of this paragraph (d)(2) are applied disregarding the principal credits and distributions that occurred before the breaks in service.

(iii) Exception for variable annuity benefit formulas. See paragraph (b)(2)(iii)(B) of this section for an exception to this paragraph (d)(2).

(3) Long-term investment grade corporate bonds. For purposes of this paragraph (d), the rate of interest on long-term investment grade corporate bonds means the third segment rate described in section 417(e)(3)(D) or 430(h)(2)(C)(iii) (determined with or without regard to section 430(h)(2)(C)(iv) and with or without regard to the transition rules of section 417(e)(3)(D)(ii) or 430(h)(2)(G)). However, for plan years beginning prior to January 1, 2008, the rate of interest on long-term investment grade corporate bonds means the rate described in section 412(b)(5)(B)(ii)(II) prior to amendment by the Pension Protection Act of 2006, Public Law 109-280 (120 Stat. 780 (2006)) (PPA '06).

(4) Safe harbor rates of interest—(i) In general. This paragraph (d)(4) identifies interest rates that are deemed to be not in excess of the interest rate described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section. The Commissioner may, in guidance of general applicability, specify additional interest crediting rates that are deemed to be not in excess of the rate described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section. See §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b).

(ii) Rates based on government bonds with margins. An interest crediting rate is deemed to be not in excess of the interest rate described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section if the rate is equal to the sum of any of the following rates of interest for bonds and the associated margin for that interest rate:

Interest rate bond indexAssociated margin
The discount rate on 3-month Treasury Bills175 basis points.
The discount rate on 12-month or shorter Treasury Bills150 basis points.
The yield on 1-year Treasury Constant Maturities100 basis points.
The yield on 3-year or shorter Treasury Constant Maturities50 basis points.
The yield on 7-year or shorter Treasury Constant Maturities25 basis points.
The yield on 30-year or shorter Treasury Constant Maturities0 basis points.

(iii) Eligible cost-of-living indices. An interest crediting rate is deemed to be not in excess of the interest rate described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section if the rate is adjusted no less frequently than annually and is equal to the rate of increase with respect to an eligible cost-of-living index described in §1.401(a)(9)-6, A-14(b), except that, for purposes of this paragraph (d)(4)(iii), the eligible cost-of-living index described in §1.401(a)(9)-6, A-14(b)(2) is increased by 300 basis points.

(iv) Short and mid-term investment grade corporate bonds. An interest crediting rate equal to the first segment rate is deemed to be not in excess of the interest rate described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section. Similarly, an interest crediting rate equal to the second segment rate is deemed to be not in excess of the interest rate described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section. For this purpose, the first and second segment rates mean the first and second segment rates described in section 417(e)(3)(D) or 430(h)(2)(C), determined with or without regard to section 430(h)(2)(C)(iv) and with or without regard to the transition rules of section 417(e)(3)(D)(ii) or 430(h)(2)(G).

(v) Fixed rate of interest. An annual interest crediting rate equal to a fixed 6 percent is deemed to be not in excess of the interest rate described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section.

(5) Other rates of return—(i) General rule. This paragraph (d)(5) sets forth additional methods for determining an interest crediting rate that is not in excess of a market rate of return.

(ii) Actual rate of return on plan assets—(A) In general. An interest crediting rate equal to the actual rate of return on the aggregate assets of the plan, including both positive returns and negative returns, is not in excess of a market rate of return if the plan's assets are diversified so as to minimize the volatility of returns. This requirement that plan assets be diversified so as to minimize the volatility of returns does not require greater diversification than is required under section 404(a)(1)(C) of Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, Public Law 93-406 (88 Stat. 829 (1974)), as amended (ERISA), with respect to defined benefit pension plans.

(B) Subset of plan assets. An interest crediting rate equal to the actual rate of return on the assets within a specified subset of plan assets, including both positive and negative returns, is not in excess of a market rate of return if—

(1) The subset of plan assets is diversified so as to minimize the volatility of returns, within the meaning of paragraph (d)(5)(ii)(A) of this section (thus, this requirement is satisfied if the subset of plan assets is diversified such that it would meet the requirements of paragraph (d)(5)(ii)(A) of this section if the subset were aggregate plan assets);

(2) The aggregate fair market value of qualifying employer securities and qualifying employer real property (within the meaning of section 407 of ERISA) held in the subset of plan assets does not exceed 10 percent of the fair market value of the aggregate assets in the subset; and

(3) The fair market value of the assets within the subset of plan assets approximates the liabilities for benefits that are adjusted by reference to the rate of return on the assets within the subset, determined using reasonable actuarial assumptions.

(C) Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of paragraph (d)(5)(ii)(B) of this section:

Example 1. (i) Facts. (a) Employer A sponsors a defined benefit plan under which benefit accruals are determined under a formula that is not a statutory hybrid benefit formula. Effective January 1, 2015, the plan is amended to cease future accruals under the existing formula and to provide future benefit accruals under a statutory hybrid benefit formula that uses hypothetical accounts. For service on or after January 1, 2015, the terms of the plan provide that each participant's hypothetical account balance is credited monthly with a pay credit equal to a specified percentage of the participant's compensation during the month. The plan also provides that hypothetical account balance is increased or decreased by an interest credit, which is calculated as the product of the account balance at the beginning of the period and the net rate of return on the assets within a specified subset of plan assets during that period. Under the terms of the plan, the net rate of return is equal to the actual rate of return adjusted to reflect a reduction for specified plan expenses. The plan does not provide for interest credits on amounts that are distributed prior to the end of an interest crediting period.

(b) As of the effective date of the amendment, there are no assets in the specified subset of plan assets. Under the terms of the plan, an amount is added to the specified subset at the time each subsequent contribution for any plan year starting on or after the effective date of the amendment is made to the plan. The amount added (the formula contribution) is the amount deemed necessary to fund benefit accruals under the statutory hybrid benefit formula. Investment of the specified subset is diversified so as to minimize the volatility of returns, within the meaning of paragraph (d)(5)(ii)(A) of this section, and no qualifying employer securities or qualifying employer real property (within the meaning of section 407 of ERISA) are held in the subset. Benefits accrued under the statutory hybrid benefit formula are paid from the specified subset. However, if assets of the specified subset are insufficient to pay benefits accrued under the statutory hybrid benefit formula, the plan provides that assets of the residual legacy subset of plan assets (from which benefits accrued before January 1, 2015 are paid) are available to pay those benefits in accordance with the requirement that all assets of the plan be available to pay all plan benefits. Except as described in this paragraph, no other amounts are added to or subtracted from the specified subset of plan assets.

(c) The formula contribution for each plan year that is added to the specified subset of plan assets is an amount equal to the sum of the target normal cost of the statutory hybrid benefit formula for the plan year plus an additional amount intended to reflect gains or losses. This additional amount is equal to the annual amount necessary to amortize the difference between the funding target attributable to the statutory hybrid benefit formula portion of the plan for the plan year over the value of plan assets included in the specified subset of plan assets for the plan year in level annual installments over a 7-year period. For this purpose, target normal cost and funding target are determined under the rules of §1.430(d)-1 as if the statutory hybrid benefit formula portion of the plan were the entire plan and without regard to special rules that are applicable to a plan in at-risk status, even if the plan is in at-risk status for a plan year. If the formula contribution for a plan year exceeds the amount of the actual contribution to the plan for a year (such as could be the case if all or a portion of the contribution is offset by all or a portion of the plan's prefunding balance), then an amount equal to the excess of the formula contribution over the actual contribution is transferred from the residual legacy subset of plan assets to the specified subset of plan assets on the plan's due date for the minimum required contribution for the year.

(ii) Conclusion. The specified subset is diversified so as to minimize the volatility of returns (within the meaning of paragraph (d)(5)(ii)(A) of this section). The aggregate fair market value of qualifying employer securities and qualifying employer real property (within the meaning of section 407 of ERISA) held in the specified subset do not exceed 10 percent of the fair market value of the aggregate assets in the subset. The fair market value of the assets within the specified subset of plan assets approximates the liabilities for benefits that are adjusted by reference to the rate of return on the assets within the subset, determined using reasonable actuarial assumptions, within the meaning of paragraph (d)(5)(ii)(B)(3) of this section. Therefore, the interest crediting rate under the statutory hybrid benefit formula portion of Employer A's defined benefit plan is not in excess of a market rate of return.

Example 2. (i) Facts. (a) Pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, Employer X, Employer Y and Employer Z maintain and contribute to a multiemployer plan (as defined in section 414(f)) that is established as of January 1, 2015 under which benefit accruals are determined under a variable annuity benefit formula. The plan provides that, on an annual basis, the benefit of each participant who has not yet retired is adjusted by reference to the difference between the actual return on the assets within a specified subset of plan assets and 4 percent. A participant's benefits are fixed at retirement and thereafter are not adjusted.

(b) As of the effective date of the plan, there are no assets in the specified subset. Under the terms of the plan, any amount contributed to the plan by a contributing employer is added to the specified subset at the time of the contribution. Investment of the specified subset is diversified so as to minimize the volatility of returns, within the meaning of paragraph (d)(5)(ii)(A) of this section, and no qualifying employer securities or qualifying employer real property (within the meaning of section 407 of ERISA) are held in the subset. The plan provides that, at the time of a participant's retirement, an amount equal to the present value of the liability for benefits payable to that participant is transferred to a separate subset of plan assets (the retiree pool). The retiree pool is invested in high-quality bonds in an attempt to achieve cash-flow matching of the retiree liabilities. Benefits are paid from the retiree pool. However, if assets of the retiree pool are insufficient to pay benefits, the plan provides that assets of the specified subset are available to pay benefits in accordance with the requirement that all assets of the plan be available to pay all plan benefits. Except as described in this paragraph, no other amounts are added to or subtracted from the specified subset of plan assets.

(ii) Conclusion. The specified subset is diversified so as to minimize the volatility of returns (within the meaning of paragraph (d)(5)(ii)(A) of this section). The aggregate fair market value of qualifying employer securities and qualifying employer real property (within the meaning of section 407 of ERISA) held in the specified subset do not exceed 10 percent of the fair market value of the aggregate assets in the subset. The fair market value of the assets within the specified subset of plan assets approximates the liabilities for benefits that are adjusted by reference to the rate of return on the assets within the subset, determined using reasonable actuarial assumptions, within the meaning of paragraph (d)(5)(ii)(B)(3) of this section. Therefore, the methodology used to adjust participant benefits under the plan's variable annuity benefit formula, which is a statutory hybrid benefit formula under §1.411(a)(13)-1(d)(4), is not in excess of a market rate of return.

(iii) Annuity contract rates. The rate of return on the annuity contract for the employee issued by an insurance company licensed under the laws of a State is not in excess of a market rate of return. However, this paragraph (d)(5)(iii) does not apply if the Commissioner determines that the annuity contract has been structured to provide an interest crediting rate that is in excess of a market rate of return.

(iv) Rate of return on certain RICs. An interest crediting rate is not in excess of a market rate of return if it is equal to the rate of return on a regulated investment company (RIC), as defined in section 851, that is reasonably expected to be not significantly more volatile than the broad United States equities market or a similarly broad international equities market. For example, a RIC that has most of its assets invested in securities of issuers (including other RICs) concentrated in an industry sector or a country other than the United States generally would not meet this requirement. Likewise a RIC that uses leverage, or that has significant investment in derivative financial products, for the purpose of achieving returns that amplify the returns of an unleveraged investment, generally would not meet this requirement. Thus, a RIC that has most of its investments concentrated in the semiconductor industry or that uses leverage in order to provide a rate of return that is twice the rate of return on the Standard & Poor's 500 index (S&P 500) would not meet this requirement. On the other hand, a RIC with investments that track the rate of return on the S&P 500, a broad-based “small-cap” index (such as the Russell 2000 index), or a broad-based international equities index would meet this requirement.

(6) Combinations of rates of return—(i) In general. A plan that determines interest credits based, in whole or in part, on the greater of two or more different interest crediting rates provides an effective interest crediting rate in excess of a market rate of return unless the combination of rates is described in paragraph (d)(6)(ii), (d)(6)(iii), (e)(3)(iii), or (e)(4) of this section. However, a plan is not treated as providing the greater of two or more interest crediting rates merely because the plan satisfies the requirements of paragraph (d)(2) of this section. In addition, a plan is not treated as providing the greater of two or more interest crediting rates merely because a rate of return described in paragraph (d)(5)(iii) of this section is itself based on the greater of two or more rates.

(ii) Annual or more frequent floor—(A) Application to segment rates. An interest crediting rate under a plan does not fail to be described in paragraph (d)(3) or (d)(4)(iv) of this section for an interest crediting period merely because the plan provides that the interest crediting rate for that interest crediting period equals the greater of—

(1) An interest crediting rate described in paragraph (d)(3) or (d)(4)(iv) of this section; and

(2) An annual interest rate of 4 percent or less (or a pro rata portion of an annual interest rate of 4 percent or less for plans that provide interest credits more frequently than annually).

(B) Application to other bond-based rates. An interest crediting rate under a plan does not fail to be described in paragraph (d)(4) of this section for an interest crediting period merely because the plan provides that the interest crediting rate for that interest crediting period equals the greater of—

(1) An interest crediting rate described in paragraph (d)(4)(ii) or (d)(4)(iii) of this section; and

(2) An annual interest rate of 5 percent or less (or a pro rata portion of an annual interest rate of 5 percent or less for plans that provide interest credits more frequently than annually).

(iii) Cumulative floor applied to investment-based or bond-based rates—(A) In general. A plan that determines interest credits under a statutory hybrid benefit formula using a particular interest crediting rate described in paragraph (d)(3), (d)(4), or (d)(5) of this section (or an interest crediting rate that can never be in excess of a particular interest crediting rate described in paragraph (d)(3), (d)(4) or (d)(5) of this section) does not provide an effective interest crediting rate in excess of a market rate of return merely because the plan provides that the participant's benefit under the statutory hybrid benefit formula determined as of the participant's annuity starting date is equal to the benefit determined as if the accumulated benefit were equal to the greater of—

(1) The accumulated benefit determined using the interest crediting rate; and

(2) The accumulated benefit determined as if the plan had used a fixed annual interest crediting rate equal to 3 percent (or a lower rate) for all principal credits that are credited under the plan to the participant during the guarantee period (minimum guarantee amount).

(B) Guarantee period defined. The guarantee period is the prospective period that begins on the date the cumulative floor described in this paragraph (d)(6)(iii) begins to apply to the participant's benefit and that ends on the date on which that cumulative floor ceases to apply to the participant's benefit.

(C) Application to multiple annuity starting dates. The determination under this paragraph (d)(6)(iii) is made only as of an annuity starting date, within the meaning of §1.401(a)-20, A-10(b), with respect to which a distribution of the participant's entire vested benefit under the plan's statutory hybrid benefit formula as of that date commences. For a participant who has more than one annuity starting date, paragraph (d)(6)(iii)(D) of this section provides rules to account for prior annuity starting dates when applying paragraph (d)(6)(iii)(A) of this section. If the comparison under paragraph (d)(6)(iii)(D) of this section results in the minimum guarantee amount exceeding the sum of the amounts described in paragraphs (d)(6)(iii)(D)(1) through (d)(6)(iii)(D)(3) of this section, then the participant's benefit to be distributed at the current annuity starting date must be no less than would be provided if that excess were included in the current accumulated benefit.

(D) Comparison to reflect prior distributions. For a participant who has more than one annuity starting date, the minimum guarantee amount (described in paragraph (d)(6)(iii)(A)(2) of this section), as of the current annuity starting date, is compared to the sum of—

(1) The remaining balance of the participant's accumulated benefit, as of the current annuity starting date, to which a minimum guaranteed rate described in paragraph (d)(6)(iii)(A)(2) of this section applies;

(2) The amount of the reduction to the participant's accumulated benefit under the statutory hybrid benefit formula that is attributable to any prior distribution of the participant's benefit under that formula and to which a minimum guaranteed rate described in paragraph (d)(6)(iii)(A)(2) of this section applied, together with interest at that minimum guaranteed rate annually from the prior annuity starting date to the current annuity starting date; and

(3) Any amount that was treated as included in the accumulated benefit under the rules of this paragraph (d)(6)(iii) as of any prior annuity starting date, together with interest annually at the minimum guaranteed rate that applied to the prior distribution from the prior annuity starting date to the current annuity starting date.

(E) Application to portion of participant's benefit. A cumulative floor described in this paragraph (d)(6)(iii) may be applied to a portion of a participant's benefit, provided the requirements of this paragraph (d)(6)(iii) are satisfied with respect to that portion of the benefit. If a cumulative floor described in this paragraph (d)(6)(iii) applies to a portion of a participant's benefit, only the principal credits that are attributable to that portion of the participant's benefit are taken into account in determining the amount of the guarantee described in paragraph (d)(6)(iii)(A)(2) of this section.

(e) Other rules regarding market rates of return—(1) In general. This paragraph (e) sets forth additional rules regarding the application of the market rate of return requirement with respect to benefits determined under a statutory hybrid benefit formula.

(2) Plan termination—(i) In general. This paragraph (e)(2) provides special rules that apply for purposes of determining certain plan factors under a statutory hybrid benefit formula after the plan termination date of a statutory hybrid plan. The terms of a statutory hybrid plan must reflect the requirements of this paragraph (e)(2). Paragraph (e)(2)(ii) of this section sets forth rules relating to the interest crediting rate for interest crediting periods that end after the plan termination date. Paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section sets forth rules for converting a participant's accumulated benefit to an annuity after the plan termination date. Paragraph (e)(2)(iv) of this section sets forth rules of application. Paragraph (e)(2)(v) of this section contains examples. The Commissioner may, in revenue rulings, notices, or other guidance published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin, provide for additional rules that apply for purposes of this paragraph (e)(2) and the plan termination provisions of section 411(b)(5)(B)(vi). See §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b) of this chapter. See also regulations of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation for additional rules that apply when a pension plan subject to Title IV of ERISA is terminated.

(ii) Interest crediting rates used to determine accumulated benefits—(A) General rule. The interest crediting rate used under the plan to determine a participant's accumulated benefit for interest crediting periods that end after the plan termination date must be equal to the average of the interest rates used under the plan during the 5-year period ending on the plan termination date. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph (e)(2)(ii), the actual annual interest rate (taking into account minimums, maximums, and other adjustments) used to determine interest credits under the plan for each of the interest crediting periods is used for purposes of determining the average of the interest rates.

(B) Special rule for variable interest crediting rates that are other rates of return—(1) Application to interest crediting periods. This paragraph (e)(2)(ii)(B) applies for an interest crediting period if the interest crediting rate that was used for that interest crediting period was a rate of return described in paragraph (d)(5) of this section. This paragraph (e)(2)(ii)(B) also applies for an interest crediting period that begins before the first plan year that begins on or after January 1, 2016, if the interest crediting rate that was used for that interest crediting period had the potential to be negative. For this purpose, a rate is not treated as having the potential to be negative if it is a rate described in paragraph (d)(3) or (d)(4) of this section or is any other rate that is based solely on current bond yields.

(2) Use of substitution rate. For any interest crediting period to which this paragraph (e)(2)(ii)(B) applies, for purposes of determining the average of the interest rates under this paragraph (e)(2)(ii), the interest rate used under the plan for the interest crediting period is deemed to be equal to the substitution rate (as described in paragraph (e)(2)(ii)(C) of this section) for the period.

(C) Definition of substitution rate. The substitution rate for any interest crediting period equals the second segment rate under section 430(h)(2)(C)(ii) (determined without regard to section 430(h)(2)(C)(iv)) for the last calendar month ending before the beginning of the interest crediting period, as adjusted to account for any minimums or maximums that applied in the period (other than cumulative floors under paragraph (d)(6)(iii) of this section), but without regard to other reductions that applied in the period. Thus, for example, if the actual interest crediting rate in an interest crediting period is equal to the rate of return on plan assets, but not greater than 5 percent, then the substitution rate for that interest crediting period is equal to the lesser of the applicable second segment rate for the period and 5 percent. However, if the actual interest crediting rate for an interest crediting period is equal to the rate of return on plan assets minus 200 basis points, then the substitution rate for that interest crediting period is equal to the applicable second segment rate for the period.

(D) Cumulative floors. Cumulative floors under paragraph (d)(6)(iii) of this section that applied during the 5-year period ending on the plan termination date are not taken into account for purposes of determining the average of the interest rates under this paragraph (e)(2)(ii). However, the rules of paragraph (d)(6)(iii) of this section continue to apply to determine benefits as of annuity starting dates on or after the plan termination date. Thus, if, as of an annuity starting date on or after the plan termination date, the benefit provided by applying an applicable cumulative minimum rate under paragraph (d)(6)(iii)(A)(2) of this section exceeds the benefit determined by applying interest credits to the participant's accumulated benefit (with interest credits for interest crediting periods that end after the plan termination date determined under this paragraph (e)(2)), then that cumulative minimum rate is used to determine benefits as of that annuity starting date.

(iii) Annuity conversion rates and factors—(A) Conversion factors where a separate mortality table was used prior to plan termination—(1) Use of a separate mortality table. This paragraph (e)(2)(iii)(A) applies for purposes of converting a participant's accumulated benefit to an annuity after the plan termination date if, for the entire 5-year period ending on the plan termination date, the plan provides for a mortality table in conjunction with an interest rate to be used to convert a participant's accumulated benefit (or a portion thereof) to an annuity. If this paragraph (e)(2)(iii)(A) applies, then the plan is treated as meeting the requirements of section 411(b)(5)(B)(i) and paragraph (d)(1) of this section only if, for purposes of converting a participant's accumulated benefit (or portion thereof) to an annuity for annuity starting dates after the plan termination date, the mortality table used is the table described in paragraph (e)(2)(iii)(A)(2) of this section and the interest rate is the rate described in paragraph (e)(2)(iii)(A)(3) of this section.

(2) Specific mortality table. The mortality table used is the mortality table specified under the plan for purposes of converting a participant's accumulated benefit to an annuity as of the termination date. This mortality table is used regardless of whether it was used during the entire 5-year period ending on the plan termination date. For purposes of applying this paragraph (e)(2)(iii)(A)(2), if the mortality table specified in the plan, as of the plan termination date, is a mortality table that is updated to reflect expected improvements in mortality experience (such as occurs with the applicable mortality table under section 417(e)(3)), then the table used for an annuity starting date after the plan termination date takes into account updates through the annuity starting date.

(3) Specific interest rate. The interest rate used is the interest rate specified under the plan for purposes of converting a participant's accumulated benefit to an annuity for annuity starting dates after the plan termination date. However, if the interest rate used under the plan for purposes of converting a participant's accumulated benefit to an annuity has not been the same fixed rate during the 5-year period ending on the plan termination date, then the interest rate used for purposes of converting a participant's accumulated benefit to an annuity for annuity starting dates after the plan termination date is the average interest rate that applied for this purpose during the 5-year period ending on the plan termination date.

(B) Tabular factors. If, as of the plan termination date, a tabular annuity conversion factor (i.e., a single conversion factor that combines the effect of interest and mortality) is used to convert a participant's accumulated benefit (or a portion thereof) to an annuity and that same fixed tabular annuity conversion factor has been used during the entire 5-year period ending on the plan termination date, then the plan satisfies the requirements of this paragraph (e)(2)(iii) only if that same tabular annuity conversion factor continues to apply after the plan termination date. However, if the tabular annuity conversion factor used to convert a participant's accumulated benefit (or a portion thereof) to an annuity is not described in the preceding sentence (including any case in which the tabular annuity conversion factor was a fixed conversion factor that changed during the 5-year period ending on the plan termination date), then the plan satisfies the requirements of this paragraph (e)(2)(iii) only if the tabular annuity conversion factor used to convert a participant's accumulated benefit (or a portion thereof) to an annuity for annuity starting dates after the plan termination date is equal to the average of the tabular annuity conversion factors used under the plan for that purpose during the 5-year period ending on the plan termination date.

(C) Factor applicable where a separate mortality table was not used for entire 5-year period prior to plan termination. If paragraph (e)(2)(iii)(A) of this section does not apply (including any case in which a separate mortality table was used in conjunction with a separate interest rate to convert a participant's accumulated benefit (or a portion thereof) to an annuity for only a portion of the 5-year period ending on the plan termination date), then the plan is treated as having used a tabular annuity conversion factor to convert a participant's accumulated benefit (or a portion thereof) to an annuity for the entire 5-year period ending on the plan termination date. As a result, the rules of paragraph (e)(2)(iii)(B) of this section apply to determine the annuity conversion factor used for purposes of converting a participant's accumulated benefit (or portion thereof) to an annuity for annuity starting dates after the plan termination date. For this purpose, if a separate mortality table and separate interest rate applied for a portion of the 5-year period, that mortality table and interest rate are used to calculate an annuity conversion factor and that factor is treated as having been the tabular annuity conversion factor that applied for that portion of the 5-year period for purposes of this paragraph (e)(2)(iii).

(D) Separate application with respect to optional forms. This paragraph (e)(2)(iii) applies separately with respect to each optional form of benefit on the date of plan termination. For this purpose, the term optional form of benefit has the meaning given that term in §1.411(d)-3(g)(6)(ii), except that a change in the annuity conversion factor used to determine a particular benefit is disregarded in determining whether different optional forms exist. Thus, for example, if, for the entire 5-year period ending on the plan termination date, the plan provides for a mortality table in conjunction with an interest rate to be used to determine annuities other than qualified joint and survivor annuities, but for specified tabular factors to apply to determine annuities that are qualified joint and survivor annuities, then paragraph (e)(2)(iii)(A) of this section applies for purposes of annuities other than qualified joint and survivor annuities and paragraph (e)(2)(iii)(B) of this section applies for purposes of annuities that are qualified joint and survivor annuities. In addition, if the annuity conversion factor used to determine a particular qualified joint and survivor annuity has changed in the 5-year period ending on the plan termination date, the different factors are averaged for purposes of determining the annuity conversion factor that applies after plan termination for that particular qualified joint and survivor annuity.

(iv) Rules of application—(A) Average of interest rates for crediting interest—(1) In general. For purposes of determining the average of the interest rates under paragraph (e)(2)(ii) of this section, an interest crediting period is taken into account if the interest crediting date for the interest crediting period is within the 5-year period ending on the plan termination date. The average of the interest rates is determined as the arithmetic average of the annual interest rates used for those interest crediting periods. If the interest crediting periods taken into account are not all the same length, then each rate is weighted to reflect the length of the interest crediting period in which it applied. If the plan provides for the crediting of interest more frequently than annually, then interest credits after the plan termination date must be prorated in accordance with the rules of paragraph (d)(1)(iv)(C) of this section.

(2) Section 411(d)(6) protected accumulated benefit. In general, the interest rate that was used for each interest crediting period is the ongoing interest crediting rate that was specified under the plan for that period, without regard to any interest rate that was used prior to an amendment changing the interest crediting rate with respect to a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit. However, if, as of the end of the last interest crediting period that ends on or before the plan termination date, the participant's accumulated benefit is based on a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit that results from a prior amendment to change the rate of interest crediting applicable under the plan, then the pre-amendment interest rate is treated as having been used for each interest crediting period after the date of the interest crediting rate change (so that the amendment is disregarded).

(B) Average annuity conversion rates and factors—(1) In general. For purposes of determining average annuity conversion interest rates and average tabular annuity conversion factors under paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section, an interest rate or tabular annuity conversion factor is taken into account if the rate or conversion factor applied under the terms of the plan to convert a participant's accumulated benefit (or a portion thereof) to a benefit payable in the form of an annuity during the 5-year period ending on the plan termination date. The average is determined as the arithmetic average of the interest rates or tabular factors used during that period. If the periods in which the rates or factors that are averaged are not all the same length, then each rate or factor is weighted to reflect the length of the period in which it applied.

(2) Section 411(d)(6) protected annuity conversion factors. In general, the annuity conversion interest rate or tabular annuity conversion factor that was used for each period is the ongoing interest rate or tabular factor that was specified under the plan for that period, without regard to any rate or factor that was used under the plan prior to an amendment changing the rate or factor with respect to a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit. However, if, as of the plan termination date, the participant's annuity benefit for an annuity commencing at that date would be based on a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit that results from a prior amendment to change the rate or factor under the plan, then the pre-amendment rate or factor is treated as having been used after the date of the amendment (so that the amendment is disregarded).

(C) Blended rates. If, as of the plan termination date, the plan determines interest credits by applying different rates to two or more different predetermined portions of the accumulated benefit, then the interest crediting rate that applies after the plan termination date is determined separately with respect to each portion under the rules of paragraph (e)(2)(ii) of this section.

(D) Participants with less than 5 years of interest credits upon plan termination. If the plan provided for interest credits for any interest crediting period in which, pursuant to the terms of the plan, an individual was not eligible to receive interest credits (including because the individual was not a participant or beneficiary in the relevant interest crediting period), then, for purposes of determining the individual's average interest crediting rate under paragraph (e)(2)(ii) of this section, the individual is treated as though the individual received interest credits in that period using the interest crediting rate that applied in that period under the terms of the plan to a similarly situated participant or beneficiary who was eligible to receive interest credits.

(E) Plan termination date—(1) Plans subject to Title IV of ERISA. In the case of a plan that is subject to Title IV of ERISA, the plan termination date for purposes of this paragraph (e)(2) means the plan's termination date established under section 4048(a) of ERISA.

(2) Other plans. In the case of a plan that is not subject to Title IV of ERISA, the plan termination date for purposes of this paragraph (e)(2) means the plan's termination date established by the plan administrator, provided that the plan termination date may be no earlier than the date on which the actions necessary to effect the plan termination—other than the distribution of plan benefits—are taken. However, a plan is not treated as terminated on the plan's termination date if the assets are not distributed as soon as administratively feasible after that date. See Rev. Rul. 89-87 (1989-2 CB 2), (see §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b) of this chapter).

(v) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules of this paragraph (e)(2). In each case, it is assumed that the plan is terminated in a standard termination.

Example 1. (i) Facts. (A) Plan A is a defined benefit plan with a calendar plan year that expresses each participant's accumulated benefit in the form of a hypothetical account balance to which principal credits are made at the end of each calendar quarter and to which interest is credited at the end of each calendar quarter based on the balance at the beginning of the quarter. Interest credits under Plan A are based on a rate of interest fixed at the beginning of each plan year equal to the third segment rate for the preceding December, except that the plan used the rate of interest on 30-year Treasury bonds (instead of the third segment rate) for plan years before 2013. The plan is terminated on March 3, 2017.

(B) The third segment rate credited under Plan A from January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2016, is assumed to be: 6 percent annually for each of the four quarters in 2016; 6.5 percent annually for each of the four quarters in 2015; 6 percent annually for each of the four quarters in 2014; and 5.5 percent annually for each of the four quarters in 2013. The rate of interest on 30-year Treasury bonds credited under Plan A for each of the four quarters in 2012 is assumed to be 4.4 percent annually.

(ii) Conclusion. Pursuant to paragraph (e)(2)(ii) of this section, the interest crediting rate used to determine accrued benefits under the plan on and after the date of plan termination is an annual rate of 5.68 percent (which is the arithmetic average of 6 percent, 6.5 percent, 6 percent, 5.5 percent, and 4.4 percent). In accordance with the rules of paragraph (d)(1)(iv)(C) of this section, the quarterly interest crediting rate after the plan termination date is 1.42 percent (5.68 divided by 4).

Example 2. (i) Facts. The facts are the same as Example 1. Participant S, who terminated employment before January 1, 2017, has a hypothetical account balance of $100,000 when the plan is terminated on March 3, 2017. Participant S commences distribution in the form of a straight life annuity commencing on January 1, 2020. For the entire 5-year period ending on the plan termination date, the plan has provided that the applicable section 417(e) rates for the preceding August are applied on the annuity starting date in order to convert the hypothetical account balance to an annuity. Based on the 5-year averages of the first segment rates, the second segment rates, and the third segment rates as of the plan termination date, and the applicable mortality table for the year 2020, the resulting conversion rate at the January 1, 2020 annuity starting date is 166.67 for a monthly straight life annuity payable to a participant whose age is the age of Participant S on January 1, 2020.

(ii) Conclusion. In accordance with the conclusion in Example 1, the interest crediting rate after the plan termination date is 1.42 percent for each of the 12 quarterly interest crediting dates in the period from March 3, 2017, through December 31, 2019, so that Participant S's account balance is $118,436 on December 31, 2019. As a result, using the annuity conversion rate of 166.67, the amount payable to Participant S commencing on January 1, 2020 is $711 per month.

Example 3. (i) Facts. The facts are the same as Example 1. In addition, Participant T commenced participation in Plan A on April 17, 2014.

(ii) Conclusion. In accordance with the conclusion in Example 1 and the rule of paragraph (e)(2)(iv)(D) of this section, the quarterly interest crediting rate used to determine Participant T's accrued benefits under Plan A on and after the date of plan termination is 1.42 percent, which is the same rate that applies to all participants and beneficiaries in Plan A after the termination date (and that would have applied to Participant T if Participant T had participated in the plan during the 5-year period preceding the date of plan termination).

Example 4. (i) Facts. (A) Plan B is a defined benefit plan with a calendar plan year that expresses each participant's accumulated benefit in the form of a hypothetical account balance to which principal credits are made at the end of each calendar year and to which interest is credited at the end of each calendar year based on the balance at the end of the preceding year. The plan is terminated on January 27, 2018.

(B) The plan's interest crediting rate for each calendar year during the entire 5-year period ending on the plan termination date is equal to (A) 50 percent of the greater of the rate of interest on 3-month Treasury Bills for the preceding December and an annual rate of 4 percent, plus (B) 50 percent of the rate of return on plan assets. The rate of interest on 3-month Treasury Bills credited under Plan B is assumed to be: 3.4 Percent for 2017; 4 percent for 2016; 4.5 percent for 2015; 3.5 percent for 2014; and 4.2 percent for 2013. Each of these rates applied under Plan B for purposes of determining the interest credits described in clause (A) of this paragraph (i), except that the 4 percent minimum rate applied for 2017 and 2014. The second segment rate is assumed to be: 6 percent for December 2016; 6 percent for December 2015; 6.5 percent for December 2014; 6 percent for December 2013; and 5.5 percent for December 2012.

(ii) Conclusion. Pursuant to paragraph (e)(2)(ii) of this section, the interest crediting rate used to determine accrued benefits under the plan on and after the date of plan termination is 5.07 percent. This number is equal to the sum of 50 percent of 4.14 percent (which is the sum of 4 percent, 4 percent, 4.5 percent, 4 percent, and 4.2 percent, divided by 5), and 50 percent of 6 percent (which is the average second segment rate applicable for the 5 interest crediting periods ending within the 5-year period, as applied pursuant to the substitution rule described in paragraphs (e)(2)(ii)(B) and (C) of this section).

Example 5. (i) Facts. The facts are the same as in Example 4, except that the plan had credited interest before January 1, 2016, using the rate of return on a specified RIC and had been amended effective January 1, 2016, to base interest credits for all plan years after 2015 on the interest rate formula described in paragraph (i) of Example 4. In order to comply with section 411(d)(6), the plan provides that, for each participant or beneficiary who was a participant on December 31, 2015, benefits at any date are based on either the ongoing hypothetical account balance on that date (which is based on the December 31, 2015 balance, with interest credited thereafter at the rate described in the first sentence of paragraph (i) of Example 4 and taking principal credits after 2015 into account) or a special hypothetical account balance (the pre-2016 balance) on that date, whichever balance is greater. For each participant, the pre-2016 balance is a hypothetical account balance equal to the participant's December 31, 2015 balance, with interest credited thereafter at the RIC rate of return, but with no principal credits after 2015. There are 10 participants for whom the pre-2016 balance exceeds the ongoing hypothetical account balance at the end of 2017 (which is the end of the last interest crediting period that ends on or before the January 27, 2018, plan termination date).

(ii) Conclusion. Because Plan B credited interest prior to 2016 using the rate of return on a RIC (a rate described in paragraph (d)(5) of this section), for purposes of determining the average interest crediting rate upon plan termination, the interest crediting rate used to determine accrued benefits under Plan B for all participants during those periods (for the calendar years 2013, 2014, and 2015) is equal to the second segment rate for December of the calendar year preceding each interest crediting period. In addition, because the pre-2016 balances exceeded the ongoing hypothetical account balance for 10 participants in the last interest crediting period prior to plan termination, for purposes of determining the average interest crediting rate upon plan termination, the interest crediting rate used to determine accrued benefits under Plan B for 2016 and 2017 for those participants is equal to the second segment rate for December 2015 and December 2016, respectively. For all other participants, for purposes of determining the average interest crediting rate upon plan termination, the interest crediting rate used to determine accrued benefits under Plan B for 2016 and 2017 is based on the ongoing interest crediting rate (as described in Example 4).

(3) Rules relating to section 411(d)(6)—(i) General rule. The right to future interest credits determined in the manner specified under the plan and not conditioned on future service is a factor that is used to determine the participant's accrued benefit, for purposes of section 411(d)(6). Thus, to the extent that benefits have accrued under the terms of a statutory hybrid plan that entitle the participant to future interest credits, an amendment to the plan to change the interest crediting rate must satisfy section 411(d)(6) if the revised rate under any circumstances could result in interest credits that are smaller as of any date after the applicable amendment date (within the meaning of §1.411(d)-3(g)(4)) than the interest credits that would be provided without regard to the amendment. For additional rules, see §1.411(d)-3(b). Paragraphs (e)(3)(ii) through (e)(3)(vi) of this section set forth special rules that apply regarding the interaction of section 411(d)(6) and changes to a plan's interest crediting rate. The Commissioner may, in guidance of general applicability, prescribe additional rules regarding the interaction of section 411(d)(6) and section 411(b)(5), including changes to a plan's interest crediting rate. See §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b).

(ii) Adoption of long-term investment grade corporate bond rate. For purposes of applying section 411(d)(6) and this paragraph (e) to an amendment to change to the interest crediting rate described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section, a plan is not treated as providing interest credits that are smaller as of any date after the applicable amendment date than the interest credits that would be provided using an interest crediting rate described in paragraph (d)(4) of this section merely because the plan credits interest after the applicable amendment date using the interest crediting rate described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section, provided—

(A) The amendment only applies to interest credits to be credited after the effective date of the amendment;

(B) The effective date of the amendment is at least 30 days after adoption of the amendment;

(C) On the effective date of the amendment, the new interest crediting rate is not lower than the interest crediting rate that would have applied in the absence of the amendment; and

(D) For plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2016, if prior to the amendment the plan used a fixed annual floor in connection with a rate described in paragraph (d)(4)(ii), (iii) or (iv) of this section (as permitted under paragraph (d)(6)(ii) of this section), the floor is retained after the amendment to the maximum extent permissible under paragraph (d)(6)(ii)(A) of this section.

(iii) Coordination of section 411(d)(6) and market rate of return limitation—(A) In general. An amendment to a statutory hybrid plan that preserves a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit is subject to the rules under paragraph (d) of this section relating to market rate of return. However, in the case of an amendment to change a plan's interest crediting rate for periods after the applicable amendment date from one interest crediting rate (the old rate) that satisfies the requirements of paragraph (d) of this section to another interest crediting rate (the new rate) that satisfies the requirements of paragraph (d) of this section, the plan's effective interest crediting rate is not in excess of a market rate of return for purposes of paragraph (d) of this section merely because the plan provides for the benefit of any participant who is benefiting under the plan (within the meaning of §1.410(b)-3(a)) on the applicable amendment date to never be less than what it would be if the old rate had continued but without taking into account any principal credits (as defined in paragraph (d)(1)(ii)(D) of this section) after the applicable amendment date.

(B) Multiple amendments. A pattern of repeated plan amendments each of which provides for a prospective change in the plan's interest crediting rate with respect to the benefit as of the applicable amendment date will be treated as resulting in the ongoing plan terms providing for an effective interest crediting rate that is in excess of a market rate of return. See §1.411(d)-4, A-1(c)(1).

(iv) Change in lookback month or stability period used to determine interest credits—(A) Section 411(d)(6) anti-cutback relief. With respect to a plan using an interest crediting rate described in paragraph (d)(3) or (d)(4) of this section, notwithstanding the general rule of paragraph (e)(3)(i) of this section, if a plan amendment changes the lookback month or stability period used to determine interest credits, the amendment is not treated as reducing accrued benefits in violation of section 411(d)(6) merely on account of this change if the conditions of this paragraph (e)(3)(iv)(A) are satisfied. If the plan amendment is effective on or after the adoption date, any interest credits credited for the one-year period commencing on the date the amendment is effective must be determined using the lookback month and stability period provided under the plan before the amendment or the lookback month and stability period after the amendment, whichever results in the larger interest credits. If the plan amendment is adopted retroactively (that is, the amendment is effective prior to the adoption date), the plan must use the lookback month and stability period resulting in the larger interest credits for the period beginning with the effective date and ending one year after the adoption date.

(B) Section 411(b)(5)(B)(i)(I) market rate of return relief. The plan's effective interest crediting rate is not in excess of a market rate of return for purposes of paragraph (d) of this section merely because a plan amendment complies with the requirements of paragraph (e)(3)(iv)(A) of this section. However, a pattern of repeated plan amendments each of which provides for a change in the lookback month or stability period used to determine interest credits will be treated as resulting in the ongoing plan terms providing for an effective interest crediting rate that is in excess of a market rate of return. See §1.411(d)-4, A-1(c)(1).

(v) RIC ceasing to exist. This paragraph (e)(3)(v) applies in the case of a statutory hybrid plan that credits interest using an interest crediting rate equal to the rate of return on a RIC (pursuant to paragraph (d)(5)(iv) of this section) that ceases to exist, whether as a result of a name change, liquidation, or otherwise. In such a case, the plan is not treated as violating section 411(d)(6) provided that the rate of return on the successor RIC is substituted for the rate of return on the RIC that no longer exists, for purposes of crediting interest for periods after the date the RIC ceased to exist. In the case of a name change or merger of RICs, the successor RIC means the RIC that results from the name change or merger involving the RIC that no longer exists. In all other cases, the successor RIC is a RIC selected by the plan sponsor that has reasonably similar characteristics, including characteristics related to risk and rate of return, as the RIC that no longer exists.

(4) Actuarial increases after normal retirement age. A statutory hybrid plan is not treated as providing an effective interest crediting rate that is in excess of a market rate of return for purposes of paragraph (d) of this section merely because the plan provides that the participant's benefit, as of each annuity starting date after normal retirement age, is equal to the greater of—

(i) The benefit based on the accumulated benefit determined using an interest crediting rate that is not in excess of a market rate of return under paragraph (d) of this section; and

(ii) The benefit that satisfies the requirements of section 411(a)(2).

(5) Plans that permit participant direction of interest crediting rates. [Reserved]

(f) Effective/applicability date—(1) Statutory effective/applicability dates—(i) In general. Except as provided in paragraph (f)(1)(iii) of this section, section 411(b)(5) applies for periods beginning on or after June 29, 2005.

(ii) Conversion amendments. The requirements of section 411(b)(5)(B)(ii), 411(b)(5)(B)(iii), and 411(b)(5)(B)(iv) apply to a conversion amendment (as defined in paragraph (c)(4) of this section) that both is adopted on or after June 29, 2005, and takes effect on or after June 29, 2005.

(iii) Market rate of return—(A) Plans in existence on June 29, 2005—(1) In general. In the case of a plan that was in existence on June 29, 2005 (regardless of whether the plan was a statutory hybrid plan on that date), section 411(b)(5)(B)(i) applies to plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2008.

(2) Exception for plan sponsor election. Notwithstanding paragraph (f)(1)(iii)(A)(1) of this section, a plan sponsor of a plan that was in existence on June 29, 2005 (regardless of whether the plan was a statutory hybrid plan on that date) may elect to have the requirements of section 411(a)(13)(B) and section 411(b)(5)(B)(i) apply for any period on or after June 29, 2005, and before the first plan year beginning after December 31, 2007. In accordance with section 1107 of the PPA '06, an employer is permitted to adopt an amendment to make this election as late as the last day of the first plan year that begins on or after January 1, 2009 (January 1, 2011, in the case of a governmental plan as defined in section 414(d)) if the plan operates in accordance with the election.

(B) Plans not in existence on June 29, 2005. In the case of a plan not in existence on June 29, 2005, section 411(b)(5)(B)(i) applies to the plan on and after the later of June 29, 2005, and the date the plan becomes a statutory hybrid plan.

(iv) Collectively bargained plans—(A) In general. Notwithstanding paragraph (f)(1)(iii) of this section, in the case of a collectively bargained plan maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements between employee representatives and one or more employers ratified on or before August 17, 2006, the requirements of section 411(b)(5)(B)(i) do not apply to plan years that begin before the earlier of—

(1) The later of—

(i) The date on which the last of those collective bargaining agreements terminates (determined without regard to any extension thereof on or after August 17, 2006); or

(ii) January 1, 2008; or

(2) January 1, 2010.

(B) Treatment of plans with both collectively bargained and non-collectively bargained employees. In the case of a plan with respect to which a collective bargaining agreement applies to some, but not all, of the plan participants, the plan is considered a collectively bargained plan for purposes of this paragraph (f)(1)(iv) if it is considered a collectively bargained plan under the rules of §1.436-1(a)(5)(ii)(B).

(2) Effective/applicability date of regulations—(i) In general—(A) General effective date. Except as provided in paragraph (f)(2)(i)(B) of this section, this section applies to plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2011.

(B) Special effective date. Paragraphs (d)(1)(iii), (d)(1)(iv)(D), (d)(1)(vi), (d)(2)(ii), (d)(4)(v), (d)(5)(ii)(B), (d)(5)(iv), (d)(6), (e)(2), (e)(3)(iii), (e)(3)(iv), (e)(3)(v) and (e)(4) of this section apply to plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2016 (or an earlier date as elected by the taxpayer).

(ii) Conversion amendments. With respect to a conversion amendment (within the meaning of paragraph (c)(4) of this section), where the effective date of the conversion amendment (as defined in paragraph (c)(4)(vi) of this section) is on or after the statutory effective date set forth in paragraph (f)(1)(ii) of this section, the requirements of paragraph (c)(2) of this section apply only to a participant who has an hour of service on or after the regulatory effective date set forth in paragraph (f)(2)(i) of this section.

(iii) Reliance before regulatory effective date. For the periods after the statutory effective date set forth in paragraph (f)(1) of this section and before the regulatory effective date set forth in paragraph (f)(2)(i) of this section, the safe harbor and other relief of section 411(b)(5) apply and the market rate of return and other requirements of section 411(b)(5) must be satisfied. During these periods, a plan is permitted to rely on the provisions of this section for purposes of applying the relief and satisfying the requirements of section 411(b)(5).

[T.D. 9505, 75 FR 64137, Oct. 19, 2010, as amended by T.D. 9505, Dec. 28, 2010; T.D. 9693, 79 FR 56460, Sept. 19, 2014]

§1.411(c)-1   Allocation of accrued benefits between employer and employee contributions.

(a) Accrued benefit derived from employer contributions. For purposes of section 411 and the regulations thereunder, under section 411(c)(1), an employee's accrued benefit derived from employer contributions under a plan as of any applicable date is the excess, if any, of—

(1) The total accrued benefit under the plan provided for the employee as of such date, over

(2) The accrued benefit provided for the employee, derived from contributions made by the employee under the plan as of such date.

For computation of accrued benefit derived from employee contributions to a defined contribution plan or from voluntary employee contributions to a defined benefit plan, see paragraph (b) of this section. For computation of accrued benefit derived from mandatory employee contributions to a defined benefit plan, see paragraph (c) of this section.

(b) Accrued benefit derived from employee contribution to defined contribution plan, etc. For purposes of section 411 and the regulations thereunder, under section 411(c)(2)(A) the accrued benefit derived from employee contributions to a defined contribution plan is determined under paragraph (b) (1) or (2) of this section, whichever applies. Under section 411(d)(5), the accrued benefit derived from voluntary employee contributions to a defined benefit plan is determined under paragraph (b)(1) of this section.

(1) Separate accounts maintained. If a separate account is maintained with respect to an employee's contributions and all income, expenses, gains, and losses attributable thereto, the accrued benefit determined under this subparagraph as of any applicable date is the balance of such account as of such date.

(2) Separate accounts not maintained. If a separate account is not maintained with respect to an employee's contributions and the income, expenses, gains, and losses attributable thereto, the accrued benefit determined under this subparagraph is the employee's total accrued benefit determined under the plan multiplied by a fraction—

(i) The numerator of which is the total amount of the employee's contributions under the plan less withdrawals, and

(ii) The denominator of which is the sum of (A) the amount described in paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section, and (B) the total contributions made under the plan by the employer on behalf of the employee less withdrawals.

For purposes of this subparagraph, contributions include all amounts which are contributed to the plan even if such amounts are used to provide ancillary benefits, such as incidental life insurance, health insurance, or death benefits, and withdrawals include only amounts distributed to the employee and do not reflect the cost of any death benefits under the plan.

(c) Accrued benefit derived from mandatory employee contributions to a defined benefit plan—(1) General rule. In the case of a defined benefit plan (as defined in section 414(j)) the accrued benefit derived from contributions made by an employee under the plan as of any applicable date is an annual benefit, in the form of a single life annuity (without ancillary benefits) commencing at normal retirement age, equal to the amount of the employee's accumulated contributions (determined under paragraph (c)(3) of this section) multiplied by the appropriate conversion factor (determined under paragraph (c)(2) of this section). Paragraph (e) of this section provides rules for actuarial adjustments where the benefit is to be determined in a form other than the form described in this paragraph.

(2) Appropriate conversion factor. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “appropriate conversion factor” means the factor necessary to convert an amount equal to the accumulated contributions to a single life annuity (without ancillary benefits) commencing at normal retirement age and shall be 10 percent for a normal retirement age of 65 years. For other normal retirement ages the appropriate conversion factor shall be the factor as determined by the Commissioner.

(3) Accumulated contributions. For purposes of section 411(c) and this section, the term “accumulated contributions” means the total of—

(i) All mandatory contributions made by the employee (determined under paragraph (c)(4) of this section),

(ii) Interest (if any) on such contributions, computed at the rate provided by the plan to the end of the last plan year to which section 411(a)(2) does not apply (by reason of the applicable effective date), and

(iii) Interest on the sum of the amounts determined under paragraphs (c)(3)(i) and (ii) of this section compounded annually at the rate of 5 percent per annum from the beginning of the first plan year to which section 411(a)(2) applies (by reason of the applicable effective date) to the date on which the employee would attain normal retirement age.

For example, if under section 1017 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, section 411(a)(2) of the Code applies for plan years beginning after December 31, 1975, and for plan years beginning before 1975, the plan provided for 3 percent interest on employee contributions, an employee's accumulated contributions would be computed by crediting interest at the rate provided by the plan (3 percent) for plan years beginning before 1976 and by crediting interest at the rate of 5 percent (or another rate prescribed under section 411(c)(2)(D)) thereafter. Section 1017 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and §1.411(a)-2 provide the effective dates for the application of section 411(a)(2).

(4) Mandatory contributions. For purposes of section 411(c) and this section the term “mandatory contributions” means amounts contributed to the plan by the employee which are required as a condition of his employment, as a condition of his participation in the plan, or as a condition of obtaining benefits (or additional benefits) under the plan attributable to employer contributions. For example, if the benefit derived from employer contributions depends upon a specified level of employee contributions, employee contributions up to that level would be treated as mandatory contributions. Mandatory contributions, otherwise satisfying the requirements of this subparagraph, include amounts contributed to the plan which are used to provide ancillary benefits such as incidental life insurance, health insurance, or death benefits.

(d) Limitation on accrued benefit. The accrued benefit derived from mandatory employee contributions under a defined benefit plan (determined under paragraph (c) of this section) shall not exceed the greater of—

(1) The accrued benefit of the employee under the plan, or

(2) The accrued benefit derived from employee contributions determined without regard to any interest under section 411(c)(2)(C) (ii) and (iii) and under paragraphs (c)(3) (ii) and (iii) of this section.

(e) Actuarial adjustments for defined benefit plans—(1) Accrued benefit. In the case of a defined benefit plan (as defined in section 414(j)) if an employee's accrued benefit is to be determined as an amount other than an annual benefit commencing at normal retirement age, such benefit (determined under section 411(c)(1) and paragraph (a) of this section) shall be the actuarial equivalent of such benefit, as determined by the Commissioner.

(2) Accrued benefit derived from employee contributions. In the case of a defined benefit plan (as defined in section 414(j) if the accrued benefit derived from mandatory contributions made by an employee is to be determined with respect to a benefit other than an annual benefit in the form of a single life annuity (without ancillary benefits) commencing at normal retirement age, such benefit shall be the actuarial equivalent of such benefit (determined under section 411(c)(2)(B) and paragraph (c) of this section) as determined by the Commissioner.

(f) Suspension of benefits, etc.—(1) Suspensions. No adjustment to an accrued benefit is required on account of any suspension of benefits if such suspension is permitted under section 203(a)(3)(B) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (88 Stat. 855) (Code section 411(a)(3)(B)).

(2) Employment after retirement. No actuarial adjustment to an accrued benefit is required on account of employment after normal retirement age. For example, if a plan with a normal retirement age of 65 provides a benefit of $400 a month payable at age 65 the same $400 benefit (with no upward adjustment) could be paid to an employee who retires at age 68.

(Sec. 411 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42338, Aug. 23, 1977]

§1.411(d)-1   Coordination of vesting and discrimination requirements. [Reserved]

§1.411(d)-2   Termination or partial termination; discontinuance of contributions.

(a) General rule—(1) Required nonforfeitability. A plan is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of such plan is not a qualified trust) unless the plan provides that—

(i) Upon the termination or partial termination of the plan, or

(ii) In addition, in the case of a plan to which section 412 (relating to minimum funding standards) does not apply, upon the complete discontinuance of contributions under the plan,

the rights of each affected employee to benefits accrued to the date of such termination or partial termination (or, in the case of a plan to which section 412 does not apply, discontinuance), to the extent funded, or the rights of each employee to the amounts credited to his account at such time, are nonforfeitable (within the meaning of §1.411(a)-4.

(2) Required allocation. (i) A plan is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of such plan is not a qualified trust) unless the plan provides for the allocation of any previously unallocated funds to the employes covered by the plan upon the termination or partial termination of the plan (or, in the case of a plan to which section 412 does not apply, upon the complete discontinuance of contributions under the plan). Such provision may be incorporated in the plan at its inception or by an amendment made prior to the termination or partial termination of the plan for the discontinuance of contributions thereunder. In the case of a defined contribution plan under which unallocated forfeitures are held in a suspense account in order to satisfy the requirements of section 415, this subdivision shall not require such plan to provide for allocations from the suspense account to the extent that such allocations would result in annual additions to participants' accounts in excess of amounts permitted under section 415 for the year for which such allocations would be made.

(ii) Any provision for the allocation of unallocated funds which is found by the Secretary of Labor or the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (whichever is appropriate) to satisfy the requirements of section 4044 or section 403(d)(1) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 is acceptable if it specifies the method to be used and does not conflict with the provisions of section 401(a)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 and the regulations thereunder. Any allocation of funds required by paragraph (1), (2), (3), or (4)(A) of section 4044(a) of such Act shall be deemed not to result in discrimination prohibited by section 401(a)(4) of the Code (see, however, paragraph (e) of this section). Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, in the case of a plan which establishes subclasses or categories pursuant to section 4044(b)(6) of such Act, the allocation of funds by the use of such subclasses or categories shall not be deemed not to result in discrimination prohibited by the Code. The allocation of unallocated funds may be in cash or in the form of other benefits provided under the plan. However, the allocation of the funds contributed by the employer among the employees need not necessarily benefit all the employees covered by the plan.

(iii) Paragraphs (a)(2) (i) and (ii) of this section do not require the allocation of amounts to the account of any employee if such amounts are not required to be used to satisfy the liabilities with respect to employees and their beneficiaries under the plan (see section 401(a)(2)).

(b) Partial termination—(1) General rule. Whether or not a partial termination of a qualified plan occurs (and the time of such event) shall be determined by the Commissioner with regard to all the facts and circumstances in a particular case. Such facts and circumstances include: the exclusion, by reason of a plan amendment or severance by the employer, of a group of employees who have previously been covered by the plan; and plan amendments which adversely affect the rights of employees to vest in benefits under the plan.

(2) Special rule. If a defined benefit plan ceases or decreases future benefit accruals under the plan, a partial termination shall be deemed to occur if, as a result of such cessation or decrease, a potential reversion to the employer, or employers, maintaining the plan (determined as of the date such cessation or decrease is adopted) is created or increased. If no such reversion is created or increased, a partial termination shall be deemed not to occur by reason of such cessation or decrease. However, the Commissioner may determine that a partial termination of such a plan occurs pursuant to subparagraph (1) of this paragraph for reasons other than such cessation or decrease.

(3) Effect of partial termination. If a termination of a qualified plan occurs, the provisions of section 411(d)(3) apply only to the part of the plan that is terminated.

(c) Termination—(1) Application. This paragraph applies to a plan other than a plan described in section 411(e)(1) (relating to governmental, certain church plans, etc.).

(2) Plans subject to termination insurance. For purposes of this section, a plan to which title IV of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 applies is considered terminated on a particular date if, as of that date—

(i) The plan is voluntarily terminated by the plan administrator under section 4041 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, or

(ii) The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation terminates the plan under section 4042 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

For purposes of this subparagraph, the particular date of termination shall be the date of termination determined under section 4048 of such Act.

(3) Other plans. In the case of a plan not described in paragraph (c)(2) of this section, a plan is considered terminated on a particular date if, as of that date, the plan is voluntarily terminated by the employer, or employers, maintaining the plan.

(d) Complete discontinuance—(1) General rule. For purposes of this section, a complete discontiuance of contributions under the plan is contrasted with a suspension of contributions under the plan which is merely a temporary cessation of contributions by the employer. A complete discontinuance of contributions may occur although some amounts are contributed by the employer under the plan if such amounts are not substantial enough to reflect the intent on the part of the employer to continue to maintain the plan. The determination of whether a complete discontinuance of contributions under the plan has occurred will be made with regard to all the facts and circumstances in the particular case, and without regard to the amount of any contributions made under the plan by employees. Among the factors to be considered in determining whether a suspension constitutes a discontinuance are:

(i) Whether the employer may merely be calling an actual discontinuance of contributions a suspension of such contributions in order to avoid the requirement of full vesting as in the case of a discontinuance, or for any other reason;

(ii) Whether contributions are recurring and substantial; and

(iii) Whether there is any reasonable probability that the lack of contributions will continue indefinitely.

(2) Time of discontinuance. In any case in which a suspension of a profit-sharing plan maintained by a single employer is considered a discontinuance, the discontinuance becomes effective not later than the last day of the taxable year of the employer following the last taxable year of such employer for which a substantial contribution was made under the profit-sharing plan. In the case of a profit-sharing plan maintained by more than one employer, the discontinuance becomes effective not later than the last day of the plan year following the plan year within which any employer made a substantial contribution under the plan.

(e) Contributions or benefits which remain forfeitable. Under section 411 (d) (2) and (3), section 411(a) and this section do not apply to plan benefits which may not be provided for designated employees in the event of early termination of the plan under provisions of the plan adopted pursuant to regulations prescribed by the Secretary or his delegate to preclude the discrimination prohibited by section 401(a)(4). Accordingly, in such a case, plan benefits may be required to be reallocated without regard to this section. See §1.401-4(c).

(Sec. 411 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42339, Aug. 23, 1977]

§1.411(d)-3   Section 411(d)(6) protected benefits.

(a) Protection of accrued benefits—(1) General rule. Under section 411(d)(6)(A), a plan is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of such plan is not a qualified trust) if a plan amendment decreases the accrued benefit of any plan participant, except as provided in section 412(d)(2) (section 412(c)(8) for plan years beginning before January 1, 2008), section 4281 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 as amended (ERISA), or other applicable law (see, for example, sections 418D and 418E of the Internal Revenue Code, and section 1107 of the Pension Protection Act of 2006, Public Law 109-280 (120 Stat. 780, 1063)). For purposes of this section, a plan amendment includes any changes to the terms of a plan, including changes resulting from a merger, consolidation, or transfer (as defined in section 414(l)) or a plan termination. The protection of section 411(d)(6) applies to a participant's entire accrued benefit under the plan as of the applicable amendment date, without regard to whether the entire accrued benefit was accrued before a participant's severance from employment or whether any portion was the result of an increase in the accrued benefit of the participant pursuant to a plan amendment adopted after the participant's severance from employment.

(2) Plan provisions taken into account—(i) Direct or indirect reduction in accrued benefit. For purposes of determining whether a participant's accrued benefit is decreased, all of the amendments to the provisions of a plan affecting, directly or indirectly, the computation of accrued benefits are taken into account. Plan provisions indirectly affecting the computation of accrued benefits include, for example, provisions relating to years of service and compensation.

(ii) Amendments effective with the same applicable amendment date. In determining whether a reduction in a participant's accrued benefit has occurred, all plan amendments with the same applicable amendment date are treated as one amendment. Thus, if two amendments have the same applicable amendment date and one amendment, standing alone, increases participants' accrued benefits and the other amendment, standing alone, decreases participants' accrued benefits, the amendments are treated as one amendment and will only violate section 411(d)(6) if, for any participant, the net effect is to decrease participants' accrued benefit as of that applicable amendment date.

(iii) Multiple amendments—(A) General rule. A plan amendment violates the requirements of section 411(d)(6) if it is one of a series of plan amendments that, when taken together, have the effect of reducing or eliminating a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit in a manner that would be prohibited by section 411(d)(6) if accomplished through a single amendment.

(B) Determination of the time period for combining plan amendments. For purposes of applying the rule in paragraph (a)(2)(iii)(A) of this section, generally only plan amendments adopted within a 3-year period are taken into account.

(3) Application of section 411(a) nonforfeitability provisions with respect to section 411(d)(6) protected benefits—(i) In general. The rules of this paragraph (a) apply to a plan amendment that decreases a participant's accrued benefits, or otherwise places greater restrictions or conditions on a participant's rights to section 411(d)(6) protected benefits, even if the amendment merely adds a restriction or condition that is permitted under the vesting rules in section 411(a)(3) through (11). However, such an amendment does not violate section 411(d)(6) to the extent it applies with respect to benefits that accrue after the applicable amendment date. See section 411(a)(10) and §1.411(a)-8 for additional rules relating to changes in a plan's vesting schedule.

(ii) Exception for changes in a plan's vesting computation period. Notwithstanding paragraph (a)(3)(i) of this section, a plan amendment that satisfies the applicable requirements under 29 CFR 2530.203-2(c) (rules relating to vesting computation periods) does not fail to satisfy the requirements of section 411(d)(6) merely because the plan amendment changes the plan's vesting computation period.

(4) Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of this paragraph (a):

Example 1. (i) Facts. Plan A provides an annual benefit of 2% of career average pay times years of service commencing at normal retirement age (age 65). Plan A is amended on November 1, 2006, effective as of January 1, 2007, to provide for an annual benefit of 1.3% of final pay times years of service, with final pay computed as the average of a participant's highest 3 consecutive years of compensation. As of January 1, 2007, Participant M has 16 years of service, M's career average pay is $37,500, and the average of M's highest 3 consecutive years of compensation is $67,308. Thus, Participant M's accrued benefit as of the applicable amendment date is increased from $12,000 per year at normal retirement age (2% times $37,500 times 16 years of service) to $14,000 per year at normal retirement age (1.3% times $67,308 times 16 years of service). As of January 1, 2007, Participant N has 6 years of service, N's career average pay is $50,000, and the average of N's highest 3 consecutive years of compensation is $51,282. Participant N's accrued benefit as of the applicable amendment date is decreased from $6,000 per year at normal retirement age (2% times $50,000 times 6 years of service) to $4,000 per year at normal retirement age (1.3% times $51,282 times 6 years of service).

(ii) Conclusion. While the plan amendment increases the accrued benefit of Participant M, the plan amendment fails to satisfy the requirements of section 411(d)(6)(A) because the amendment decreases the accrued benefit of Participant N below the level of the accrued benefit of Participant N immediately before the applicable amendment date.

Example 2. (i) Facts. The facts are the same as Example 1, except that Plan A includes a provision under which Participant N's accrued benefit cannot be less than what it was immediately before the applicable amendment date (so that Participant N's accrued benefit could not be less than $6,000 per year at normal retirement age).

(ii) Conclusion. The amendment does not violate the requirements of section 411(d)(6)(A) with respect to Participant M (whose accrued benefit has been increased) or with respect to Participant N (although Participant N would not accrue any benefits until the point in time at which the new formula amount would exceed the amount payable under the minimum provision, approximately 3 years after the amendment becomes effective).

Example 3. (i) Facts. Employer N maintains Plan C, a qualified defined benefit plan under which an employee becomes a participant upon completion of 1 year of service and is vested in 100% of the employer-derived accrued benefit upon completion of 5 years of service. Plan C provides that a former employee's years of service prior to a break in service will be reinstated upon completion of 1 year of service after being rehired. Plan C has participants who have fewer than 5 years of service and who are accordingly 0% vested in their employer-derived accrued benefits. On December 31, 2007, effective January 1, 2008, Plan C is amended, in accordance with section 411(a)(6)(D), to provide that any nonvested participant who has at least 5 consecutive 1-year breaks in service and whose number of consecutive 1-year breaks in service exceeds his or her number of years of service before the breaks will have his or her pre-break service disregarded in determining vesting under the plan.

(ii) Conclusion. Under paragraph (a)(3) of this section, the plan amendment does not satisfy the requirements of this paragraph (a), and thus violates section 411(d)(6), because the amendment places greater restrictions or conditions on the rights to section 411(d)(6) protected benefits, as of January 1, 2008, for participants who have fewer than 5 years of service, by restricting the ability of those participants to receive further vesting protections on benefits accrued as of that date.

Example 4. (i) Facts. (A) Employer O sponsors Plan D, a qualified profit sharing plan under which each employee has a nonforfeitable right to a percentage of his or her employer-derived accrued benefit based on the following table:
Completed years of service Nonforfeitable percentage
Fewer than 30
320
440
560
680
7100
(B) In January 2006, Employer O acquires Company X, which maintains Plan E, a qualified profit sharing plan under which each employee who has completed 5 years of service has a nonforfeitable right to 100% of the employer-derived accrued benefit. In 2007, Plan E is merged into Plan D. On the effective date for the merger, Plan D is amended to provide that the vesting schedule for participants of Plan E is the 7-year graded vesting schedule of Plan D. In accordance with section 411(a)(10)(A), the plan amendment provides that any participant of Plan E who had completed 5 years of service prior to the amendment is fully vested. In addition, as required under section 411(a)(10)(B), the amendment provides that any participant in Plan E who has at least 3 years of service prior to the amendment is permitted to make an irrevocable election to have the vesting of his or her nonforfeitable right to the employer-derived accrued benefit determined under either the 5-year cliff vesting schedule or the 7-year graded vesting schedule. Participant G, who has an account balance of $10,000 on the applicable amendment date, is a participant in Plan E with 2 years of service as of the applicable amendment date. As of the date of the merger, Participant G's nonforfeitable right to G's employer-derived accrued benefit is 0% under both the 7-year graded vesting schedule of Plan D and the 5-year cliff vesting schedule of Plan E.

(ii) Conclusion. Under paragraph (a)(3) of this section, the plan amendment does not satisfy the requirements of this paragraph (a) and violates section 411(d)(6), because the amendment places greater restrictions or conditions on the rights to section 411(d)(6) protected benefits with respect to G and any participant who has fewer than 5 years of service and who elected (or was made subject to) the new vesting schedule. A method of avoiding a section 411 (d)(6) violation with respect to account balances attributable to benefits accrued as of the applicable amendment date and earnings thereon would be for Plan D to provide for the vested percentage of G and each other participant in Plan E to be no less than the greater of the vesting percentages under the two vesting schedules (for example, for G and each other participant in Plan E to be 20% vested upon completion of 3 years of service, 40% vested upon completion of 4 years of service, and fully vested upon completion of 5 years of service) for those account balances and earnings.

(b) Protection of section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits—(1) General rule—(i) Prohibition against plan amendments eliminating or reducing section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits. Except as provided in this section, a plan is treated as decreasing an accrued benefit if it is amended to eliminate or reduce a section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit as defined in paragraph (g)(15) of this section. This paragraph (b)(1) applies to participants who satisfy (either before or after the plan amendment) the preamendment conditions for a section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit.

(ii) Contingent benefits. The rules of paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section apply to participants who satisfy (either before or after the plan amendment) the preamendment conditions for the section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit even if the condition on which the eligibility for the section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit depends is an unpredictable contingent event (e.g., a plant shutdown).

(iii) Application of general rules in paragraph (a) of this section to section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits. For purposes of determining whether a participant's section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit is eliminated or reduced, the rules of paragraph (a) of this section apply to section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits in the same manner as they apply to accrued benefits described in section 411(d)(6)(A). As an example of the application of paragraph (a)(2)(ii) of this section to section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits, if there are two amendments with the same applicable amendment date and one amendment increases accrued benefits and the other amendment decreases the early retirement factors that are used to determine the early retirement annuity, the amendments are treated as one amendment and only violate section 411(d)(6) if, after the two amendments, the net dollar amount of any early retirement annuity with respect to the accrued benefit of any participant as of the applicable amendment date is lower than it would have been without the two amendments. As an example of the application of paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of this section to section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits, a series of amendments made within a 3-year period that, when taken together, have the effect of reducing or eliminating early retirement benefits or retirement-type subsidies in a manner that adversely affects the rights of any participant in a more than de minimis manner violates section 411(d)(6)(B) even if each amendment would be permissible pursuant to paragraphs (c), (d), or (f) of this section.

(2) Permissible elimination of section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits—(i) In general. A plan is permitted to be amended to eliminate a section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit if the elimination is in accordance with this section or §1.411(d)-4.

(ii) Increases in payment amounts do not eliminate an optional form of benefit. An amendment is not treated as eliminating an optional form of benefit or eliminating or reducing an early retirement benefit or retirement-type subsidy under the plan, if, effective after the plan amendment, there is another optional form of benefit available to the participant under the plan that is of inherently equal or greater value (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-4(d)(4)(i)(A)). Thus, for example, a change in the method of calculating a joint and survivor annuity from using a 90% adjustment factor on account of the survivorship payment at particular ages for a participant and a spouse to using a 91% adjustment factor at the same ages is not treated as an elimination of an optional form of benefit. Similarly, a plan that offers a subsidized qualified joint and survivor annuity option for married participants under which the amount payable during the participant's lifetime is not less than the amount payable under the plan's straight life annuity is permitted to be amended to eliminate the straight life annuity option for married participants.

(3) Permissible elimination of benefits that are not section 411(d)(6) protected benefits—(i) In general. Section 411(d)(6) does not provide protection for benefits that are ancillary benefits, other rights and features, or any other benefits that are not described in section 411(d)(6). See §1.411(d)-4, Q&A-1(d). However, a plan may not be amended to recharacterize a retirement-type benefit as an ancillary benefit. Thus, for example, a plan amendment to recharacterize any portion of an early retirement subsidy as a social security supplement that is an ancillary benefit violates section 411(d)(6).

(ii) No protection for future benefit accruals. Section 411(d)(6) only protects benefits that accrue before the applicable amendment date. Thus, a plan is permitted to be amended to eliminate or reduce an early retirement benefit, a retirement-type subsidy, or an optional form of benefit with respect to benefits that accrue after the applicable amendment date without violating section 411(d)(6). However, section 4980F(e) of the Internal Revenue Code and section 204(h) of ERISA require notice of an amendment to an applicable pension plan that either provides for a significant reduction in the rate of future benefit accrual or that eliminates or significantly reduces an early retirement benefit or a retirement-type subsidy. See §54.4980F-1 of this chapter generally, and see §54.4980F-1, Q&A-7(b) and Q&A-8(c) of this chapter, with respect to the circumstances under which such notice is required for a reduction in an early retirement benefit or retirement-type subsidy.

(4) Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of this paragraph (b):

Example 1. (i) Facts involving amendments to an early retirement subsidy. Plan A provides an annual benefit of 2% of career average pay times years of service commencing at normal retirement age (age 65). Plan A is amended on November 1, 2006, effective as of January 1, 2007, to provide for an annual benefit of 1.3% of final pay times years of service, with final pay computed as the average of a participant's highest 3 consecutive years of compensation. Participant M is age 50, M has 16 years of service, M's career average pay is $37,500, and the average of M's highest 3 consecutive years of compensation is $67,308. Thus, M's accrued benefit as of the effective date of the amendment is increased from $12,000 per year at normal retirement age (2% times $37,500 times 16 years of service) to $14,000 per year at normal retirement age (1.3% times $67,308 times 16 years of service). (These facts are similar to the facts in Example 1 in paragraph (a)(4) of this section.) Before the amendment, Plan A permitted a former employee to commence distribution of benefits as early as age 55 and, for a participant with at least 15 years of service, actuarially reduced the amount payable in the form of a straight life annuity commencing before normal retirement age by 3% per year from age 60 to age 65 and by 7% per year from age 55 through age 59. Thus, before the amendment, the amount of M's early retirement benefit that would be payable for commencement at age 55 was $6,000 per year ($12,000 per year minus 3% for 5 years and minus 7% for 5 more years). The amendment also alters the actuarial reduction factor so that, for a participant with at least 15 years of service, the amount payable in a straight life annuity commencing before normal retirement age is reduced by 6% per year. As a result, the amount of M's early retirement benefit at age 55 becomes $5,600 per year after the amendment ($14,000 minus 6% for 10 years).

(ii) Conclusion. The straight life annuity payable under Plan A at age 55 is an optional form of benefit that includes an early retirement subsidy. The plan amendment fails to satisfy the requirements of section 411(d)(6)(B) because the amendment decreases the optional form of benefit payable to Participant M below the level that Participant M was entitled to receive immediately before the effective date of the amendment. If instead Plan A had included a provision under which M's straight life annuity payable at any age could be not be less than what it was immediately before the amendment (so that M's straight life annuity payable at age 55 could not be less than $6,000 per year), then the amendment would not fail to satisfy the requirements of section 411(d)(6)(B) with respect to M's straight life annuity payable at age 55 (although the straight life annuity payable to M at age 55 would not increase until the point in time at which the new formula amount with the new actuarial reduction factors exceeds the amount payable under the minimum provision, approximately 14 months after the amendment becomes effective).

Example 2. (i) Facts involving plant shutdown benefits. Plan B permits participants who have a severance from employment before normal retirement age (age 65) to commence distributions at any time after age 55 with the amount payable to be actuarially reduced using reasonable actuarial assumptions regarding interest and mortality specified in the plan, but provides that the annual reduction for any participant who has at least 20 years of service and who has a severance from employment after age 55 is only 3% per year (which is a smaller reduction than would apply under reasonable actuarial reductions). Plan B also provides 2 plant shutdown benefits to participants who have a severance of employment as a result of a plant shutdown. First, the favorable 3% per year actuarial reduction applies for commencement of benefits after age 55 and before age 65 for any participant who has at least 10 years of service and who has a severance from employment as a result of a plant shutdown. Second, all participants who have at least 20 years of service and who have a severance from employment after age 55 (and before normal retirement age at age 65) as a result of a plant shutdown will receive supplemental payments. Under the supplemental payments, an additional amount equal to the participant's estimated old-age insurance benefit under the Social Security Act is payable until age 65. The supplemental payments are not a QSUPP, as defined in §1.401(a)(4)-12, because the plan's terms do not state that the supplement is treated as an early retirement benefit that is protected under section 411(d)(6).

(ii) Conclusion with respect to plant shutdown benefits. The benefits payable with the 3% annual reduction are retirement-type benefits. The excess of the actuarial present value of the early retirement benefit using the 3% annual reduction over the actuarial present value of the normal retirement benefit is a retirement-type subsidy and the right to receive payments of the benefit at age 55 is an early retirement benefit. These conclusions apply not only with respect to the rights that apply to participants who have at least 20 years of service, but also to participants with at least 10 years of service who have a severance from employment as a result of a plant shutdown. Thus, the right to receive benefits based on a 3% annual reduction for participants with at least 10 years of service at the time of a plant shutdown is an early retirement benefit that provides a retirement-type subsidy and is a section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit (even though no plant shutdown has occurred). Therefore, a plan amendment cannot eliminate this benefit with respect to benefits accrued before the applicable amendment date, even before the occurrence of the plant shutdown. Because the plan provides that the supplemental payments cannot exceed the OASDI benefit under the Social Security Act, the supplemental payments constitute a social security supplement (but not a QSUPP as defined in §1.401(a)(4)-12), which is an ancillary benefit that is not a section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit and accordingly is not taken into account in determining whether a prohibited reduction has occurred.

Example 3. (i) Facts. Plan C, a multiemployer defined benefit plan in which participation is limited to electricians in the construction industry, provides that a participant may elect to commence distributions only if the participant is not currently employed by a participating employer and provides that, if the participant has a specified number of years of service and attains a specified age, the distribution is without any actuarial reduction for commencement before normal retirement age. Since the plan's inception, Plan C has provided for suspension of pension benefits during periods of disqualifying employment (ERISA section 203(a)(3)(B) service). Before 2007, the plan defined disqualifying employment to include any job as an electrician in the particular industry and geographic location to which Plan C applies. This definition of disqualifying employment did not cover a job as an electrician supervisor. In 2005, Participant E, having rendered the specified number of years of service and attained the specified age to retire with a fully subsidized early retirement benefit, retires from E's job as an electrician with Employer Y and starts a position with Employer Z as an electrician supervisor. Employer Z is not a participating employer in Plan C but is an employer in the same industry and geographic location as Employer Y. When E left service with Employer Y, E's position as an electrician supervisor was not disqualifying employment for purposes of Plan C's suspension of pension benefit provision, and E elected to commence benefit payments in 2005. In 2006, effective January 1, 2007, Plan C is amended to expand the definition of disqualifying employment to include any job (including supervisory positions) as an electrician in the same industry and geographic location to which Plan C applies. The plan's definition of disqualifying employment satisfies the requirements of section 411(a)(3)(B). On January 1, 2007, E's pension benefits are suspended because of E's disqualifying employment as an electrician supervisor.

(ii) Conclusion. Under paragraphs (a)(3) and (b)(1) of this section, the 2007 plan amendment violates section 411(d)(6), because the amendment places greater restrictions or conditions on a participant's rights to section 411(d)(6) protected benefits to the extent it applies with respect to benefits that accrued before January 1, 2007. The result would be the same even if the amendment did not apply to former employees and instead applied only to participants who were actively employed at the time of the applicable amendment.

(c) Permissible elimination of optional forms of benefit that are redundant—(1) General rule. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (c)(5) of this section, a plan is permitted to be amended to eliminate an optional form of benefit for a participant with respect to benefits accrued before the applicable amendment date if—

(i) The optional form of benefit is redundant with respect to a retained optional form of benefit, within the meaning of paragraph (c)(2) of this section;

(ii) The plan amendment is not applicable with respect to an optional form of benefit with an annuity commencement date that is earlier than the number of days in the maximum QJSA explanation period (as defined in paragraph (g)(9) of this section) after the date the amendment is adopted; and

(iii) The requirements of paragraph (e) of this section are satisfied in any case in which either:

(A) The retained optional form of benefit for the participant does not commence on the same annuity commencement date as the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated; or

(B) As of the date the amendment is adopted, the actuarial present value of the retained optional form of benefit for the participant is less than the actuarial present value of the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated.

(2) Similar types of optional forms of benefit are redundant—(i) General rule. An optional form of benefit is redundant with respect to a retained optional form of benefit if, after the amendment becomes applicable—

(A) There is a retained optional form of benefit available to the participant that is in the same family of optional forms of benefit, within the meaning of paragraphs (c)(3) and (4) of this section, as the optional form of benefit being eliminated; and

(B) The participant's rights with respect to the retained optional form of benefit are not subject to materially greater restrictions (such as conditions relating to eligibility, restrictions on a participant's ability to designate the person who is entitled to benefits following the participant's death, or restrictions on a participant's right to receive an in-kind distribution) than applied to the optional form of benefit being eliminated.

(ii) Special rule for core options. An optional form of benefit that is a core option as defined in paragraph (g)(5) of this section may not be eliminated as a redundant benefit under the rules of this paragraph (c) unless the retained optional form of benefit and the eliminated core option are identical except for differences described in paragraph (c)(3)(ii) of this section. Thus, for example, a particular 10-year term certain and life annuity may not be eliminated by plan amendment unless the retained optional form of benefit is another 10-year term certain and life annuity.

(3) Family of optional forms of benefit—(i) In general. Paragraph (c)(4) of this section describes certain families of optional forms of benefits. Not every optional form of benefit that is offered under a plan necessarily fits within a family of optional forms of benefit as described in paragraph (c)(4) of this section. Each optional form of benefit that is not included in any particular family of optional forms of benefit listed in paragraph (c)(4) of this section is in a separate family of optional forms of benefit with other optional forms of benefit that would be identical to that optional form of benefit but for differences that are disregarded under paragraph (c)(3)(ii) of this section.

(ii) Certain differences among optional forms of benefit—(A) Differences in actuarial factors and annuity starting dates. The determination of whether two optional forms of benefit are within a family of optional forms of benefit is made without regard to actuarial factors or annuity starting dates. Thus, any optional forms of benefit that are part of the same generalized optional form (within the meaning of paragraph (g)(8) of this section) are in the same family of optional forms of benefit. For example, if a plan has a single-sum distribution option for some participants that is calculated using a 5% interest rate and a specific mortality table (but no less than the minimum present value as determined under section 417(e)) and another single-sum distribution option for other participants that is calculated using the applicable interest rate as defined in section 417(e)(3)(A)(ii)(II) and the applicable mortality table as defined in section 417(e)(3)(A)(ii)(I), both single-sum distribution options are part of the same generalized optional form and thus in the same family of optional forms of benefit under the rules of paragraph (c)(3)(i) of this section. However, differences in actuarial factors and annuity starting dates are taken into account for purposes of the requirements in paragraph (e)(3) of this section.

(B) Differences in pop-up provisions and cash refund features for joint and contingent options. The determination of whether two optional forms of benefit are within a family of optional forms of benefit relating to joint and contingent families (as described in paragraph (c)(4)(i) and (ii) of this section) is made without regard to the following features—

(1) Pop-up provisions (under which payments increase upon the death of the beneficiary or another event that causes the beneficiary not to be entitled to a survivor annuity);

(2) Cash refund features (under which payment is provided upon the death of the last annuitant in an amount that is not greater than the excess of the present value of the annuity at the annuity starting date over the total of payments before the death of the last annuitant); or

(3) Term-certain provisions for optional forms of benefit within a joint and contingent family.

(C) Differences in social security leveling features, refund of employee contributions features, and retroactive annuity starting date features. The determination of whether 2 optional forms of benefit are within a family of optional forms of benefit is made without regard to social security leveling features, refund of employee contributions features, or retroactive annuity starting date features. But see paragraph (c)(5) of this section for special rules relating to social security leveling, refund of employee contributions, and retroactive annuity starting date features in optional forms of benefit.

(4) List of families. The following are families of optional forms of benefit for purposes of this paragraph (c):

(i) Joint and contingent options with continuation percentages of 50% to 100%. An optional form of benefit is within the 50% or more joint and contingent family if it provides a life annuity to the participant and a survivor annuity to an individual that is at least 50% and no more than 100% of the annuity payable during the joint lives of the participant and the participant's survivor.

(ii) Joint and contingent options with continuation percentages less than 50%. An optional form of benefit is within the less than 50% joint and contingent family if it provides a life annuity to the participant and a survivor annuity to an individual that is less than 50% of the annuity payable during the joint lives of the participant and the participant's survivor.

(iii) Term certain and life annuity options with a term of 10 years or less. An optional form of benefit is within the 10 years or less term certain and life family if it is a life annuity with a guarantee that payments will continue to the participant's beneficiary for the remainder of a fixed period that is 10 years or less if the participant dies before the end of the fixed period.

(iv) Term certain and life annuity options with a term longer than 10 years. An optional form of benefit is within the longer than 10 years term certain and life family if it is a life annuity with a guarantee that payments will continue to the participant's beneficiary for the remainder of a fixed period that is in excess of 10 years if the participant dies before the end of the fixed period.

(v) Level installment payment options over a period of 10 years or less. An optional form of benefit is within the 10 years or less installment family if it provides for substantially level payments to the participant for a fixed period of at least 2 years and not in excess of 10 years with a guarantee that payments will continue to the participant's beneficiary for the remainder of the fixed period if the participant dies before the end of the fixed period.

(vi) Level installment payment options over a period of more than 10 years. An optional form of benefit is within the more than 10 years installment family if it provides for substantially level payments to the participant for a fixed period that is in excess of 10 years with a guarantee that payments will continue to the participant's beneficiary for the remainder of the fixed period if the participant dies before the end of the fixed period.

(5) Special rules for certain features included in optional forms of benefit. For purposes of applying this paragraph (c), to the extent an optional form of benefit that is being eliminated includes either a social security leveling feature or a refund of employee contributions feature, the retained optional form of benefit must also include that feature, and, to the extent that the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated does not include a social security leveling feature or a refund of employee contributions feature, the retained optional form of benefit must not include that feature. For purposes of applying this paragraph (c), to the extent an optional form of benefit that is being eliminated does not include a retroactive annuity starting date feature, the retained optional form of benefit must not include the feature.

(6) Separate application of redundancy rules for bifurcated benefits. If a plan permits the participant to make different distribution elections with respect to two or more separate portions of the participant's benefit, the rules of this paragraph (c) are permitted to be applied separately to each such portion of the participant's benefit as if that portion were the participant's entire benefit. Thus, for example, if one set of distribution elections applies to a portion of the participant's accrued benefit and another set of distribution elections applies to the other portion of the participant's accrued benefit, then with respect to one portion of the participant's benefit, the determination of whether any optional form of benefit is within a family of optional forms of benefit is permitted to be made disregarding elections that apply to the other portion of the participant's benefit. Similarly, if a participant can elect to receive any portion of the accrued benefit in a single sum and the remainder pursuant to a set of distribution elections, the rules of this paragraph (c) are permitted to be applied separately to the set of distribution elections that apply to the portion of the participant's accrued benefit that is not payable in a single sum (for example, for the portion of a participant's benefit that is not paid in a single sum, the determination of whether any optional form of benefit is within a family of optional forms of benefit is permitted to be made disregarding the fact that the other portion of the participant's benefit is paid in a single sum).

(d) Permissible elimination of noncore optional forms of benefit where core options are offered—(1) General rule. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (d)(2) of this section, a plan is permitted to be amended to eliminate an optional form of benefit for a participant with respect to benefits accrued before the applicable amendment date if—

(i) After the amendment becomes applicable, each of the core options described in paragraph (g)(5) of this section is available to the participant with respect to benefits accrued before and after the amendment;

(ii) The plan amendment is not applicable with respect to an optional form of benefit with an annuity commencement date that is earlier than 4 years after the date the amendment is adopted; and

(iii) The requirements of paragraph (e) of this section are satisfied in any case in which either:

(A) One or more of the core options are not available commencing on the same annuity commencement date as the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated; or

(B) As of the date the amendment is adopted, the actuarial present value of the benefit payable under any core option with the same annuity commencement date is less than the actuarial present value of benefits payable under the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated.

(2) Special rules—(i) Treatment of certain features included in optional forms of benefit. For purposes of applying this paragraph (d), to the extent an optional form of benefit that is being eliminated includes either a social security leveling feature or a refund of employee contributions feature, at least one of the core options must also be available with that feature, and, to the extent that the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated does not include a social security leveling feature or a refund of employee contributions feature, each of the core options must be available without that feature. For purposes of applying this paragraph (d), to the extent an optional form of benefit that is being eliminated does not include a retroactive annuity starting date feature, each of the core options must be available without that feature.

(ii) Eliminating the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy. For purposes of applying this paragraph (d), if the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy (as defined in paragraph (g)(5)(iii) of this section) is eliminated, then, after the plan amendment, an optional form of benefit that is identical, except for differences described in paragraph (c)(3)(ii) of this section, must be available to the participant. However, such a plan amendment cannot eliminate a refund of employee contributions feature from the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy.

(iii) Single-sum distributions. A plan amendment is not treated as satisfying this paragraph (d) if it eliminates an optional form of benefit that includes a single-sum distribution that applies with respect to at least 25% of the participant's accrued benefit as of the date the optional form of benefit is eliminated. But see §1.411(d)-4, Q&A-2(b)(2)(v), relating to involuntary single-sum distributions for benefits with a present value not in excess of the maximum dollar amount in section 411(a)(11).

(iv) Application of multiple amendment rule to core option rule. Notwithstanding paragraph (a)(2)(iii)(B) of this section, if a plan is amended to eliminate an optional form of benefit using the core options rule in this paragraph (d), then the employer must wait 3 years after the first annuity commencement date for which the optional form of benefit is no longer available before making any changes to the core options offered under the plan (other than a change that is not treated as an elimination under paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section). Thus, for example, if a plan amendment eliminates an optional form of benefit for a participant using the core options rule under this paragraph (d), with an adoption date of January 1, 2006 and an effective date of January 1, 2010, the plan would not be permitted to be amended to make changes to the core options offered under the plan (and the core options would continue to apply with respect to the participant's accrued benefit) until January 1, 2013.

(v) Special rule for joint and contingent annuity core option. If a plan offers joint and contingent annuities under which a participant is entitled to a life annuity with a survivor annuity for the individual designated by the participant (including a non-spousal contingent annuitant) with continuation percentage options of both 50% and 100% (after adjustments permitted under paragraph (g)(5)(ii) of this section to comply with applicable law), the plan is permitted to treat both of these options as core options for purposes of this paragraph (d), in lieu of a 75% joint and contingent annuity. Thus, such a plan is permitted to use the rules of this paragraph (d) if the plan satisfies all of the requirements of this paragraph (d) (taking into account the modification rule in paragraph (g)(5)(ii) of this section) other than the requirement of offering a 75% joint and contingent annuity as described in paragraph (g)(5)(i)(B) of this section.

(e) Permissible plan amendments under paragraphs (c) and (d) eliminating or reducing section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits that are burdensome and of de minimis value—(1) In general. A plan amendment that, pursuant to paragraph (c)(1)(iii) or (d)(1)(iii) of this section, is required to satisfy this paragraph (e) satisfies this paragraph (e) if—

(i) The amendment eliminates section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits that create significant burdens or complexities for the plan and its participants as described in paragraph (e)(2) of this section; and

(ii) The amendment does not adversely affect the rights of any participant in a more than de minimis manner as described in paragraph (e)(3) of this section.

(2) Plan amendments eliminating section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits that create significant burdens and complexities—(i) Facts and circumstances analysis—(A) In general. The determination of whether a plan amendment eliminates section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits that create significant burdens or complexities for the plan and its participants is based on facts and circumstances.

(B) Early retirement benefits. In the case of an amendment that eliminates an early retirement benefit, relevant factors include whether the annuity starting dates under the plan considered in the aggregate are burdensome or complex (e.g., the number of categories of early retirement benefits, whether the terms and conditions applicable to the plan's early retirement benefits are difficult to summarize in a manner that is concise and readily understandable to the average plan participant, and whether those different early retirement benefits were added to the plan as a result of a plan merger, transfer, or consolidation), and whether the effect of the plan amendment is to reduce the number of categories of early retirement benefits.

(C) Retirement-type subsidies and actuarial factors. In the case of a plan amendment eliminating a retirement-type subsidy or changing the actuarial factors used to determine optional forms of benefit, relevant factors include whether the actuarial factors used for determining optional forms of benefit available under the plan considered in the aggregate are burdensome or complex (e.g., the number of different retirement-type subsidies and other actuarial factors available under the plan, whether the terms and conditions applicable to the plan's retirement-type subsidies are difficult to summarize in a manner that is concise and readily understandable to the average plan participant, whether the plan is eliminating one or more generalized optional forms, whether the plan is replacing a complex optional form of benefit that contains a retirement-type subsidy with a simpler form, and whether the different retirement-type subsidies and other actuarial factors were added to the plan as a result of a plan merger, transfer, or consolidation), and whether the effect of the plan amendment is to reduce the number of categories of retirement-type subsidies or other actuarial factors.

(D) Example. The following example illustrates the application of this paragraph (e)(2)(i):

Example. (i) Facts. Plan A is a defined benefit plan under which employees may select a distribution in the form of a straight life annuity, a straight life annuity with cost-of-living increases, a 50% qualified joint and survivor annuity with a pop-up provision, or a 10-year term certain and life annuity. On January 15, 2007, Plan A is amended, effective June 1, 2007, to eliminate the 50% qualified joint and survivor annuity with a pop-up provision as described in paragraph (c)(3)(ii)(B)(1) of this section and replace it with a 50% qualified joint and survivor annuity without the pop-up provision (and using the same actuarial factor).

(ii) Conclusion. Plan A satisfies the requirements of paragraph (e)(2)(i)(B) of this section because, based on the relevant facts and circumstances (e.g., the amendment replaces a complex optional form of benefit with a simpler form), the amendment eliminates section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits that create significant burdens and complexities. Accordingly, the plan amendment is permitted to eliminate the pop-up provision, provided that the plan amendment satisfies all the other applicable requirements in paragraph (c) or (d) of this section. For example, the plan amendment must not eliminate the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy (as defined in paragraph (g)(5)(iii) of this section) and the plan amendment must not adversely affect the rights of any participant in a more than de minimis manner, taking into account the actuarial factors for the joint and survivor annuity with the pop-up provision and the joint and survivor annuity without the pop-up provision, as described in paragraph (e)(3) of this section.

(ii) Presumptions for certain amendments—(A) Presumption for amendments eliminating certain annuity starting dates. If the annuity starting dates under the plan considered in the aggregate are burdensome or complex, then elimination of any one of the annuity starting dates is presumed to eliminate section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits that create significant burdens or complexities for the plan and its participants. However, if the effect of a plan amendment with respect to a set of optional forms of benefit is merely to substitute one set of annuity starting dates for another set of annuity starting dates, without any reduction in the number of different annuity starting dates, then the plan amendment does not satisfy the requirements of this paragraph (e)(2).

(B) Presumption for amendments changing certain actuarial factors. If the actuarial factors used for determining benefit distributions available under a generalized optional form considered in the aggregate are burdensome or complex, then replacing some of the actuarial factors for the generalized optional form is presumed to eliminate section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits that create significant burdens or complexities for the plan and its participants. However, if the effect is merely to substitute one set of actuarial factors for another set of actuarial factors, without any reduction in the number of different actuarial factors or the complexity of those factors, then the plan amendment does not satisfy the requirements of this paragraph (e)(2) unless the change of actuarial factors is merely to replace one or more of the plan's actuarial factors for determining optional forms of benefit with new actuarial factors that are more accurate (e.g., reflecting more recent mortality experience or more recent market rates of interest).

(iii) Restrictions against creating burdens or complexities. See paragraphs (a)(2)(iii) and (b)(1)(iii) of this section for general rules applicable to multiple amendments. In accordance with these rules, a plan amendment does not eliminate a section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit that creates burdens and complexities for a plan and its participants if, less than 3 years earlier, a plan was previously amended to add another retirement-type subsidy in order to facilitate the elimination of the original retirement-type subsidy, even if the elimination of the other subsidy would not adversely affect the rights of any plan participant in a more than de minimis manner as provided in paragraph (e)(3) of this section.

(3) Elimination of early retirement benefits or retirement-type subsidies that are de minimis—(i) Rules for retained optional forms of benefit under paragraph (c) of this section. For purposes of paragraph (c) of this section, the elimination of an optional form of benefit does not adversely affect the rights of any participant in a more than de minimis manner if—

(A) The retained optional form of benefit described in paragraph (c) of this section has substantially the same annuity commencement date as the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated, as described in paragraph (e)(4) of this section; and

(B) Either the actuarial present value of the benefit payable in the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated does not exceed the actuarial present value of the benefit payable in the retained optional form of benefit by more than a de minimis amount, as described in paragraph (e)(5) of this section, or the amendment satisfies the requirements of paragraph (e)(6) of this section relating to a delayed effective date.

(ii) Rules for core options under paragraph (d) of this section. For purposes of paragraph (d) of this section, the elimination of an optional form of benefit does not adversely affect the rights of any participant in a more than de minimis manner if, with respect to each of the core options—

(A) The core option is available after the amendment with substantially the same annuity commencement date as the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated, as described in paragraph (e)(4) of this section; and

(B) Either the actuarial present value of the benefit payable in the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated does not exceed the actuarial present value of the benefit payable under the core option by more than a de minimis amount, as described in paragraph (e)(5) of this section, or the amendment satisfies the requirements of paragraph (e)(6) of this section.

(4) Definition of substantially the same annuity starting dates. For purposes of applying paragraphs (e)(3)(i)(A) and (ii)(A) of this section, annuity starting dates are considered substantially the same if they are within 6 months of each other.

(5) Definition of de minimis difference in actuarial present value. For purposes of applying paragraph (e)(3)(i)(B) and (ii)(B) of this section, a difference in actuarial present value between the optional form of benefit being eliminated and the retained optional form of benefit or core option is not more than a de minimis amount if, as of the date the amendment is adopted, the difference between the actuarial present value of the eliminated optional form of benefit and the actuarial present value of the retained optional form of benefit or core option is not more than the greater of—

(i) 2% of the present value of the retirement-type subsidy (if any) under the eliminated optional form of benefit prior to the amendment; or

(ii) 1% of the greater of the participant's compensation (as defined in section 415(c)(3)) for the prior plan year or the participant's average compensation for his or her high 3 years (within the meaning of section 415(b)(1)(B) and (b)(3)).

(6) Delayed effective date—(i) General rule. For purposes of applying paragraph (e)(3)(i)(B) and (ii)(B) of this section, an amendment that eliminates an optional form of benefit satisfies the requirements of this paragraph (e)(6) if the elimination of the optional form of benefit is not applicable to any annuity commencement date before the end of the expected transition period for that optional form of benefit.

(ii) Determination of expected transition period—(A) General rule. The expected transition period for a plan amendment eliminating an optional form of benefit is the period that begins when the amendment is adopted and ends when it is reasonable to expect, with respect to a section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit (i.e., not taking into account benefits that accrue in the future), that the form being eliminated would be subsumed by another optional form of benefit after taking into account expected future benefit accruals.

(B) Determination of expected transition period using conservative actuarial assumptions. The expected transition period for a plan amendment eliminating an optional form of benefit must be determined in accordance with actuarial assumptions that are reasonable at the time of the amendment and that are conservative (i.e., reasonable actuarial assumptions that are likely to result in the longest period of time until the eliminated optional form of benefit would be subsumed). For this purpose, actuarial assumptions are not treated as conservative unless they include assumptions that a participant's compensation will not increase and that future benefit accruals will not exceed accruals in recent periods.

(C) Effect of subsequent amendments reducing future benefit accruals on the expected transition period. If, during the expected transition period for a plan amendment eliminating an optional form of benefit, the plan is subsequently amended to reduce the rate of future benefit accrual (or otherwise to lengthen the expected transition period), thus that subsequent plan amendment must provide that the elimination of the optional form of benefit is void or must provide for the effective date for elimination of the optional form of benefit to be further extended to a new expected transition period that satisfies this paragraph (e)(6) taking into account the subsequent amendment.

(iii) Applicability of the delayed effective date rule limited to employees who continue to accrue benefits through the end of expected transition period. An amendment eliminating an optional form of benefit under this paragraph (e)(6) must be limited to participants who continue to accrue benefits under the plan through the end of the expected transition period. Thus, for example, the plan amendment may not apply to any participant who has a severance from employment during the expected transition period.

(iv) Special rule for section 204(h) notice. See §54.4980F-1(b), Q&A-8(c) of this chapter for a special rule relating to this paragraph (e)(6).

(f) Utilization test—(1) General rule. A plan is permitted to be amended to eliminate all of the optional forms of benefit that comprise a generalized optional form (as defined in paragraph (g)(8) of this section) for a participant with respect to benefits accrued before the applicable amendment date if—

(i) None of the optional forms of benefit being eliminated is a core option, within the meaning of paragraph (g)(5) of this section;

(ii) The plan amendment is not applicable with respect to an optional form of benefit with an annuity commencement date that is earlier than the number of days in the maximum Qualified Joint and Survivor Annuity explanation period (as defined in paragraph (g)(9) of this section) after the date the amendment is adopted;

(iii) During the look-back period—

(A) The generalized optional form has been available to at least the applicable number of participants who are taken into account under paragraph (f)(3) and (4) of this section; and

(B) No participant has elected any optional form of benefit that is part of the generalized optional form with an annuity commencement date that is within the look-back period.

(2) Look-back period—(i) In general. For purposes of this paragraph (f), the look-back period is the period that includes—

(A) The portion of the plan year in which such plan amendment is adopted that precedes the date of adoption (the pre-adoption period); and

(B) The 2 plan years immediately preceding the pre-adoption period.

(ii) Special look-back period rules—(A) 12-month plan year. In the look-back period, at least 1 of the plan years must be a 12-month plan year.

(B) Permitted 3-month exclusion in the pre-adoption period. A plan is permitted to exclude from the look-back period the calendar month in which the amendment is adopted and the preceding 1 or 2 calendar months to the extent those preceding months are contained within the pre-adoption period.

(C) Permission to extend the look-back period. In order to have a look-back period that satisfies the minimum applicable number of participants requirement in paragraph (f)(1)(iii)(A) of this section, the look-back period described in paragraph (f)(2)(i)(B) of this section is permitted to be expanded, so as to include the 3, 4, or 5 plan years immediately preceding the plan year in which the amendment is adopted. Thus, in determining the look-back period, a plan is permitted to substitute the 3, 4, or 5 plan years immediately preceding the pre-adoption period for the 2 plan years described in paragraph (f)(2)(i)(B) of this section. However, if a plan does not satisfy the minimum applicable number of participants requirement of paragraph (f)(1)(iii)(A) of this section using the pre-adoption period and the immediately preceding 5 plan years, the plan is not permitted to be amended in accordance with the utilization test in this paragraph (f).

(3) Participants taken into account. A participant is taken into account for purposes of this paragraph (f) only if the participant was eligible to elect to commence payment of an optional form of benefit that is part of the generalized optional form being eliminated with an annuity commencement date that is within the look-back period. However, a participant is not taken into account if the participant—

(i) Did not elect any optional form of benefit with an annuity commencement date that was within the look-back period;

(ii) Elected an optional form of benefit that included a single-sum distribution that applied with respect to at least 25% of the participant's accrued benefit;

(iii) Elected an optional form of benefit that was only available during a limited period of time and that contained a retirement-type subsidy where the subsidy that is part of the generalized optional form being eliminated was not extended to any optional form of benefit with the same annuity commencement date; or

(iv) Elected an optional form of benefit with an annuity commencement date that was more than 10 years before normal retirement age.

(4) Determining the applicable number of participants. For purposes of applying the rules in this paragraph (f), the applicable number of participants is 50 participants. However, notwithstanding paragraph (f)(3)(ii) of this section, a plan is permitted to take into account any participant who elected an optional form of benefit that included a single-sum distribution that applied with respect to at least 25% of the participant's accrued benefit, but only if the applicable number of participants is increased to 1,000 participants.

(5) Default elections. For purposes of this paragraph (f), an election includes the payment of an optional form of benefit that applies in the absence of an affirmative election.

(g) Definitions and use of terms. The definitions in this paragraph (g) apply for purposes of this section.

(1) Actuarial present value. The term actuarial present value means actuarial present value (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-12) determined using reasonable actuarial assumptions.

(2) Ancillary benefit. The term ancillary benefit means—

(i) A social security supplement under a defined benefit plan (other than a QSUPP as defined in §1.401(a)(4)-12);

(ii) A benefit payable under a defined benefit plan in the event of disability (to the extent that the benefit exceeds the benefit otherwise payable), but only if the total benefit payable in the event of disability does not exceed the maximum qualified disability benefit, as defined in section 411(a)(9);

(iii) A life insurance benefit;

(iv) A medical benefit described in section 401(h);

(v) A death benefit under a defined benefit plan other than a death benefit which is a part of an optional form of benefit; or

(vi) A plant shutdown benefit or other similar benefit in a defined benefit plan that does not continue past retirement age and does not affect the payment of the accrued benefit, but only to the extent that such plant shutdown benefit, or other similar benefit (if any), is permitted in a qualified pension plan (see §1.401-1(b)(1)(i)).

(3) Annuity commencement date. The term annuity commencement date generally means the annuity starting date, except that, in the case of a retroactive annuity starting date under section 417(a)(7), annuity commencement date means the date of the first payment of benefits pursuant to a participant election of a retroactive annuity starting date, as defined in §1.417(e)-1(b)(3)(iv).

(4) Applicable amendment date. The term applicable amendment date, with respect to a plan amendment, means the later of the effective date of the amendment or the date the amendment is adopted.

(5) Core options—(i) General rule. With respect to a plan, the term core options means—

(A) A straight life annuity generalized optional form under which the participant is entitled to a level life annuity with no benefit payable after the participant's death;

(B) A 75% joint and contingent annuity generalized optional form under which the participant is entitled to a life annuity with a survivor annuity for any individual designated by the participant (including a non-spousal contingent annuitant) that is 75% of the amount payable during the participant's life (but see paragraph (d)(2)(v) of this section for a special rule relating to the joint and contingent annuity core option);

(C) A 10-year term certain and life annuity generalized optional form under which the participant is entitled to a life annuity with a guarantee that payments will continue to any person designated by the participant for the remainder of a fixed period of 10 years if the participant dies before the end of the 10-year period; and

(D) The most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy (as defined in paragraph (g)(5)(iii) of this section).

(ii) Modification of core options to satisfy other requirements. An annuity does not fail to be a core option (e.g., a joint and contingent annuity described in paragraph (g)(5)(i)(B) of this section or a 10-year term certain and life annuity described in paragraph (g)(5)(i)(C) of this section) as a result of differences to comply with applicable law, such as limitations on death benefits to comply with the incidental benefit requirement of §1.401-1(b)(1)(i) or on account of the spousal consent rules of section 417.

(iii) Most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy—(A) General definition. Except as provided in paragraph (g)(5)(iii)(B) of this section, most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy means, for an annuity starting date, the optional form of benefit that is reasonably expected to result in payments that have the largest actuarial present value in the case of a participant who dies shortly after the annuity starting date, taking into account both payments due to the participant prior to the participant's death and any payments due after the participant's death. For this purpose, a plan is permitted to assume that the spouse of the participant is the same age as the participant. In addition, a plan is permitted to assume that the optional form of benefit that is the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy when the participant is age 7012 also is the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy at all older ages, and that the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy at age 55 is the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy at all younger ages.

(B) Safe harbor hierarchy—(1) A plan is permitted to treat a single-sum distribution option with an actuarial present value that is not less than the actuarial present value of any optional form of benefit eliminated by the plan amendment as the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy for all of a participant's annuity starting dates if such single-sum distribution option is available at all such dates, without regard to whether the option was available before the plan amendment.

(2) If the plan before the amendment does not offer a single-sum distribution option as described in paragraph (g)(5)(iii)(B)(1) of this section, a plan is permitted to treat a joint and contingent annuity with a continuation percentage that is at least 75% and that is at least as great as the highest continuation percentage available before the amendment as the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy for all of a participant's annuity starting dates if such joint and contingent annuity is available at all such dates, without regard to whether the option was available before the plan amendment.

(3) If the plan before the amendment offers neither a single-sum distribution option as described in paragraph (g)(5)(iii)(B)(1) of this section nor a joint and contingent annuity with a continuation percentage as described in paragraph (g)(5)(iii)(B)(2) of this section, a plan is permitted to treat a term certain and life annuity with a term certain period no less than 15 years as the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy for each annuity starting date if such 15-year term certain and life annuity is available at all annuity starting dates, without regard to whether the option was available before the plan amendment.

(6) Definitions of types of section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefits—(i) Early retirement benefit. The term early retirement benefit means the right, under the terms of a plan, to commence distribution of a retirement-type benefit at a particular date after severance from employment with the employer and before normal retirement age. Different early retirement benefits result from differences in terms relating to timing.

(ii) Optional form of benefit—(A) In general. The term optional form of benefit means a distribution alternative (including the normal form of benefit) that is available under the plan with respect to an accrued benefit or a distribution alternative with respect to a retirement-type benefit. Different optional forms of benefit exist if a distribution alternative is not payable on substantially the same terms as another distribution alternative. The relevant terms include all terms affecting the value of the optional form, such as the method of benefit calculation and the actuarial factors or assumptions used to determine the amount distributed. Thus, for example, different optional forms of benefit may result from differences in terms relating to the payment schedule, timing, commencement, medium of distribution (e.g., in cash or in kind), election rights, differences in eligibility requirements, or the portion of the benefit to which the distribution alternative applies. Likewise, differences in the normal retirement ages of employees or in the form in which the accrued benefit of employees is payable at normal retirement age under a plan are taken into account in determining whether a distribution alternative constitutes one or more optional forms of benefit.

(B) Death benefits. If a death benefit is payable after the annuity starting date for a specific optional form of benefit and the same death benefit would not be provided if another optional form of benefit were elected by a participant, then that death benefit is part of the specific optional form of benefit and is thus protected under section 411(d)(6). A death benefit is not treated as part of a specific optional form of benefit merely because the same benefit is not provided to a participant who has received his or her entire accrued benefit prior to death. For example, a $5,000 death benefit that is payable to all participants except any participant who has received his or her accrued benefit in a single-sum distribution is not part of a specific optional form of benefit.

(iii) Retirement-type benefit. The term retirement-type benefit means—

(A) The payment of a distribution alternative with respect to an accrued benefit; or

(B) The payment of any other benefit under a defined benefit plan (including a QSUPP as defined in §1.401(a)(4)-12) that is permitted to be in a qualified pension plan, continues after retirement, and is not an ancillary benefit.

(iv) Retirement-type subsidy. The term retirement-type subsidy means the excess, if any, of the actuarial present value of a retirement-type benefit over the actuarial present value of the accrued benefit commencing at normal retirement age or at actual commencement date, if later, with both such actuarial present values determined as of the date the retirement-type benefit commences. Examples of retirement-type subsidies include a subsidized early retirement benefit and a subsidized qualified joint and survivor annuity.

(v) Subsidized early retirement benefit or early retirement subsidy. The terms subsidized early retirement benefit or early retirement subsidy mean the right, under the terms of a plan, to commence distribution of a retirement-type benefit at a particular date after severance from employment with the employer and before normal retirement age where the actuarial present value of the optional forms of benefit available to the participant under the plan at that annuity starting date exceeds the actuarial present value of the accrued benefit commencing at normal retirement age (with such actuarial present values determined as of the annuity starting date). Thus, an early retirement subsidy is an early retirement benefit that provides a retirement-type subsidy.

(7) Eliminate; elimination; reduce; reduction. The terms eliminate or elimination when used in connection with a section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit mean to eliminate or the elimination of an optional form of benefit or an early retirement benefit and to reduce or a reduction in a retirement-type subsidy. The terms reduce or reduction when used in connection with a retirement-type subsidy mean to reduce or a reduction in the amount of the subsidy. For purposes of this section, an elimination includes a reduction and a reduction includes an elimination.

(8) Generalized optional form. The term generalized optional form means a group of optional forms of benefit that are identical except for differences due to the actuarial factors that are used to determine the amount of the distributions under those optional forms of benefit and the annuity starting dates.

(9) Maximum QJSA explanation period. The term maximum QJSA explanation period means the maximum number of days before an annuity starting date for a qualified joint and survivor annuity for which a written explanation relating to the qualified joint and survivor annuity would satisfy the timing requirements of section 417(a)(3) and §1.417(e)-1(b)(3)(ii).

(10) Other right and feature. The term other right or feature has the meaning set forth at §1.401(a)(4)-4(e)(3)(ii).

(11) Refund of employee contributions feature. The term refund of employee contributions features means a feature with respect to an optional form of benefit that provides for employee contributions and interest thereon to be paid in a single sum at the annuity starting date with the remainder to be paid in another form beginning on that date.

(12) Retirement; retirement age. For purposes of this section, the date of retirement means the annuity starting date. Thus, retirement age means a participant's age at the annuity starting date.

(13) Retroactive annuity starting date feature. The term retroactive annuity starting date feature means a feature with respect to an optional form of benefit under which the annuity starting date for the distribution occurs on or before the date the written explanation required by section 417(a)(3) is provided to the participant.

(14) Section 411(d)(6) protected benefit. The term section 411(d)(6) protected benefit means the accrued benefit of a participant as of the applicable amendment date described in section 411(d)(6)(A) and any section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit.

(15) Section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit. The term section 411(d)(6)(B) protected benefit means the portion of an early retirement benefit, a retirement-type subsidy, or an optional form of benefit attributable to benefits accrued before the applicable amendment date.

(16) Social security leveling feature. The term social security leveling feature means a feature with respect to an optional form of benefit commencing prior to a participant's expected commencement of social security benefits that provides for a temporary period of higher payments which is designed to result in an approximately level amount of income when the participant's estimated old age benefits from Social Security are taken into account.

(h) Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of paragraphs (c) through (g) of this section:

Example 1. (i) Facts involving elimination of optional forms of benefit as redundant. Plan C is a defined benefit plan under which employees may elect to commence distributions at any time after the later of termination of employment or attainment of age 55. At each potential annuity commencement date, Plan C permits employees to select, with spousal consent where required, a straight life annuity or any of a number of actuarially equivalent alternative forms of payment, including a straight life annuity with cost-of-living increases and a joint and contingent annuity with the participant having the right to select any beneficiary and any continuation percentage from 1% to 100%, subject to modification to the extent necessary to satisfy the requirements of the incidental benefit requirement of §1.401-1(b)(1)(i). The amount of any alternative payment is determined as the actuarial equivalent of the straight life annuity payable at the same age using reasonable actuarial assumptions. On June 2, 2006, Plan C is amended to delete all continuation percentages for joint and contingent options other than 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100%, effective with respect to annuity commencement dates that are on or after January 1, 2007.

(ii) Conclusion—(A) Categorization of family members under the redundancy rule. The optional forms of benefit described in paragraph (i) of this Example 1 are members of 4 families: a straight life annuity; a straight life annuity with cost-of-living increases; joint and contingent options with continuation percentages of less than 50%; and joint and contingent options with continuation percentages of 50% or more. The amendment does not affect either of the first 2 families, but affects the 2 families relating to joint and contingent options.

(B) Conclusion for elimination of optional forms of benefit as redundant. The amendment satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section. First, the eliminated optional forms of benefit are redundant with respect to the retained optional forms of benefit because each eliminated joint and contingent annuity option with a continuation percentage of less than 50% is redundant with respect to the 25% continuation option and each eliminated joint and contingent annuity option with a continuation percentage of 50% or higher is redundant with respect to any one of the retained 50%, 75%, or 100% continuation options. In addition, to the extent that the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated does not include a social security leveling feature, return of employee contribution feature, or retroactive annuity starting date feature, the retained optional form of benefit does not include that feature. Second, the amendment is not effective with respect to annuity commencement dates before September 1, 2006, as required under paragraph (c)(1)(ii) of this section. Third, the plan amendment does not eliminate any available core option, including the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy, treating a joint and contingent annuity with a 100% continuation percentage as this optional form of benefit pursuant to paragraph (g)(5)(iii)(B)(2) of this section. Finally, the amendment need not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (e) of this section because the retained optional forms of benefit are available on the same annuity commencement dates and have the same actuarial present value as the optional forms of benefit that are being eliminated.

Example 2. (i) Facts involving elimination of optional forms of benefit as redundant if additional restrictions are imposed. The facts are the same as Example 1, except that the plan amendment also restricts the class of beneficiaries that may be elected under the 4 retained joint and contingent annuities to the employee's spouse.

(ii) Conclusion. The amendment fails to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (c)(2)(i)(B) of this section because the retained joint and contingent annuities have materially greater restrictions on the beneficiary designation than did the eliminated joint and contingent annuities. Thus, the joint and contingent annuities being eliminated are not redundant with respect to the retained joint and contingent annuities. In addition, the amendment fails to satisfy the requirements of the core option rules in paragraph (d) of this section because the amendment fails to be limited to annuity commencement dates that are at least 4 years after the date the amendment is adopted, the amendment fails to include the core option in paragraph (g)(5)(i)(B) of this section because the participant does not have the right to designate any beneficiary, and the amendment fails to include the core option described in paragraph (g)(5)(i)(C) of this section because the plan does not provide a 10-year term certain and life annuity.

Example 3. (i) Facts involving elimination of a social security leveling feature and a period certain annuity as redundant. Plan D is a defined benefit plan under which participants may elect to commence distributions in the following actuarially equivalent forms, with spousal consent if applicable: a straight life annuity; a 50%, 75%, or 100% joint and contingent annuity; a 5-year, 10-year, or a 15-year term certain and life annuity; and an installment refund annuity (i.e., an optional form of benefit that provides a period certain, the duration of which is based on the participant's age), with the participant having the right to select any beneficiary. In addition, each annuity offered under the plan, if payable to a participant who is less than age 65, is available both with and without a social security leveling feature. The social security leveling feature provides for an assumed commencement of social security benefits at any age selected by the participant between age 62 and 65. Plan D is amended on June 2, 2006, effective as of January 1, 2007, to eliminate the installment refund form of benefit and to restrict the social security leveling feature to an assumed social security commencement age of 65.

(ii) Conclusion. The amendment satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section. First, the installment refund annuity option is redundant with respect to the 15-year certain and life annuity (except for advanced ages where, because of shorter life expectancies, the installment refund annuity option is redundant with respect to the 5-year certain and life annuity and also redundant with respect to the 10-year certain and life annuity). Second, with respect to restricting the social security leveling feature to an assumed social security commencement age of 65, under paragraph (c)(3)(ii)(C) of this section, straight life annuities with social security leveling features that have different social security commencement ages are treated as members of the same family as straight life annuities without social security leveling features. To the extent an optional form of benefit that is being eliminated includes a social security leveling feature, the retained optional form of benefit must also include that feature, but it is permitted to have a different assumed age for commencement of social security benefits. Third, to the extent that the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated does not include a social security leveling feature, a return of employee contribution feature, or retroactive annuity starting date feature, the retained optional form of benefit must not include that feature. Fourth, the plan amendment does not eliminate any available core option, including the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy, treating a joint and contingent annuity with a 100% continuation percentage as this optional form of benefit pursuant to paragraph (g)(5)(iii)(B)(2) of this section. Fifth, the amendment is not effective with respect to annuity commencement dates before September 1, 2006, as required under paragraph (c)(1)(ii) of this section. The amendment need not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (e) of this section because the retained optional forms of benefit are available on the same annuity commencement dates and have the same actuarial present value as the optional forms of benefit that are being eliminated.

Example 4. (i) Facts involving elimination of noncore options. Employer N sponsors Plan E, a defined benefit plan that permits every participant to elect payment in the following actuarially equivalent optional forms of benefit (Plan E's uniformly available options), with spousal consent if applicable: a straight life annuity; a 50%, 75%, or 100% joint and contingent annuity with no restrictions on designation of beneficiaries; and a 5-, 10-, or 15-year term certain and life annuity. In addition, each can be elected in conjunction with a social security leveling feature, with the participant permitted to select a social security commencement age from age 62 to age 67. None of Plan E's uniformly available options include a single-sum distribution. The plan has been in existence for over 30 years, during which time Employer N has acquired a large number of other businesses, including merging over 20 defined benefit plans of acquired entities into Plan E. Many of the merged plans offered optional forms of benefit that were not among Plan E's uniformly available options, including some plans funded through insurance products, often offering all of the insurance annuities that the insurance carrier offers, and with some of the merged plans offering single-sum distributions. In particular, under the XYZ acquisition that occurred in 1990, the XYZ acquired plan offered a single-sum distribution option that was frozen at the time of the acquisition. On April 1, 2006, each single-sum distribution option applies to less than 25% of the XYZ participants' accrued benefits. Employer N has generally, but not uniformly, followed the practice of limiting the optional forms of benefit for an acquired unit to an employee's service before the date of the merger, and has uniformly followed this practice with respect to each of the early retirement subsidies in the acquired unit's plan. As a result, as of April 1, 2007, Plan E includes a large number of generalized optional forms which are not members of families of optional forms of benefit identified in paragraph (c)(4) of this section, but there are no participants who are entitled to any early retirement subsidies because any subsidies have been subsumed by the actuarially reduced accrued benefit. Plan E is amended in April of 2007 to eliminate all of the optional forms of benefit that Plan E offers other than Plan E's uniformly available options, except that the amendment does not eliminate any single-sum distribution option except with respect to XYZ participants and permits any commencement date that was permitted under Plan E before the amendment. Plan E also eliminates the single-sum distribution option for XYZ participants. Further, each of Plan E's uniformly available options has an actuarial present value that is not less than the actuarial present value of any optional form of benefit offered before the amendment. The amendment is effective with respect to annuity commencement dates that are on or after May 1, 2011.

(ii) Conclusion. The amendment satisfies the requirements of paragraph (d) of this section. First, Plan E, as amended, does not eliminate any single-sum distribution option as provided in paragraph (d)(2)(iii) of this section except for single-sum distribution options that apply to less than 25% of a plan participant's accrued benefit as of the date the option is eliminated (May 1, 2011). Second, Plan E, as amended, includes each of the core options as defined in paragraph (g)(5) of this section, including offering the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy (treating the 100% joint and contingent annuity as this benefit, under paragraph (g)(5)(iii)(B)(2) of this section). The 100% joint and contingent annuity option (and not the grandfathered single-sum distribution option) is the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy because the grandfathered single-sum distribution option is not available with respect to a participant's entire accrued benefit. In addition, as required under paragraph (d)(2) of this section, to the extent an optional form of benefit that is being eliminated includes either a social security leveling feature or a refund of employee contributions feature, at least one of the core options is available with that feature and, to the extent that the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated does not include a social security leveling feature or a refund of employee contributions feature, each of the core options is available without that feature. Third, the amendment is not effective with respect to annuity commencement dates that are less than 4 years after the date the amendment is adopted. Finally, the amendment need not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (e) of this section because the retained optional forms of benefit are available on the same annuity commencement date and have the same actuarial present value as the optional forms of benefit that are being eliminated. The conclusion that the amendment satisfies the requirements of paragraph (d) of this section assumes that no amendments are made to change the core options before May 1, 2014.

Example 5. (i) Facts involving reductions in actuarial present value. (A) Plan F is a defined benefit plan providing an accrued benefit of 1% of the average of a participant's highest 3 consecutive years' pay times years of service, payable as a straight life annuity beginning at the normal retirement age at age 65. Plan F permits employees to elect to commence actuarially reduced distributions at any time after the later of termination of employment or attainment of age 55. At each potential annuity commencement date, Plan F permits employees to select, with spousal consent, either a straight life annuity, a joint and contingent annuity with the participant having the right to select any beneficiary and a continuation percentage of 50%, 66 2/3%, 75%, or 100%, or a 10-year certain and life annuity with the participant having the right to select any beneficiary, subject to modification to the extent necessary to satisfy the requirements of the incidental benefit requirement of §1.401-1(b)(1)(i). The amount of any joint and contingent annuity and the 10-year certain and life annuity is determined as the actuarial equivalent of the straight life annuity payable at the same age using reasonable actuarial assumptions. The plan covers employees at 4 divisions, one of which, Division X, was acquired on January 1, 1999. The plan provides for distributions before normal retirement age to be actuarially reduced, but, if a participant retires after attainment of age 55 and completion of 10 years of service, the applicable early retirement reduction factor is 3% per year for the years between age 65 and 62 and 6% per year for the ages from 62 to 55 for all employees at any division, except for employees who were in Division X on January 1, 1999, for whom the early retirement reduction factor for retirement after age 55 and 10 years of service is 5% for each year before age 65. On June 2, 2006, effective January 1, 2007, Plan F is amended to change the early retirement reduction factors for all employees of Division X to be the same as for other employees, effective with respect to annuity commencement dates that are on or after January 1, 2008, but only with respect to participants who are employees on or after January 1, 2008 and only if Plan F continues accruals at the current rate through January 1, 2008 (or the effective date of the change in reduction factors is delayed to reflect the change in the accrual rate). For purposes of this Example 5, it is assumed that an actuarially equivalent early retirement factor would have a reduction shown in column 4 of the following table, which compares the reduction factors for Division X before and after the amendment:
Age
(1)
Old division X factor
(as a %)
(2)
New factor
(as a %)
(3)
Actuarially equivalent factor
(as a %)
(4)
Column 3 minus column 2
(5)
65NANANANA
64959791.1+2
63909483.2+4
62859176.1+5
61808569.8+5
60757964.1+4
59707359.0+3
58656754.3+2
57606150.1+1
56555546.30
55504942.8-1
(B) On January 1, 2007, the employee with the largest number of years of service is Employee E, who is age 54 and has 20 years of service. For 2006, Employee E's compensation is $80,000 and E's highest 3 consecutive years of pay on January 1, 2007 is $75,000. Employee E's accrued benefit as of the January 1, 2007 effective date of the amendment is a life annuity of $15,000 per year at normal retirement age (1% times $75,000 times 20 years of service) and E's early retirement benefit commencing at age 55 has a present value of $91,397 as of January 1, 2007. It is assumed for purposes of this example that the longest expected transition period for any active employee does not exceed 5 months (20 years and 5 months, times 1% times 49% exceeds 20 years times 1% times 50%). Finally, it is assumed for purposes of this example that the amendment reduces optional forms of benefit which are burdensome or complex.

(ii) Conclusion concerning application of section 411(d)(6)(B). The amendment reducing the early retirement factors has the effect of eliminating the existing optional forms of benefit (where the amount of the benefit is based on preamendment early retirement factors in any case where the new factors result in a smaller amount payable) and adding new optional forms of benefit (where the amount of benefit is based on the different early retirement factors). Accordingly, the elimination must satisfy the requirements of paragraph (c) or (d) of this section if the amount payable at any date is less than would have been payable under the plan before the amendment.

(iii) Conclusion concerning application of redundancy rules. The amendment satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c)(1)(i) and (ii) of this section (see paragraphs (iv) through (vi) of this Example 5 below for the requirements of paragraph (c)(1)(iii) of this section). First, with respect to each eliminated optional form of benefit (i.e., with respect to each optional form of benefit with the Old Division X Factor), after the amendment there is a retained optional form of benefit that is in the same family of optional forms of benefit (i.e., the optional form of benefit with the New Factor). Second, the amendment is not effective with respect to annuity commencement dates that are less than the time period required under paragraph (c)(1)(ii) of this section. Third, to the extent that the plan amendment eliminates the most valuable option for a participant with a short life expectancy, the retained optional form of benefit is identical except for differences in actuarial factors.

(iv) Conclusion concerning application of the requirements under paragraph (e) of this section. The plan amendment must satisfy the requirements of paragraph (e) of this section because, as of the December 2, 2006 adoption date, the actuarial present value of the early retirement subsidy is less than the actuarial present value of the early retirement subsidy being eliminated. The plan amendment satisfies the requirements under paragraph (e)(1)(i) and (2) of this section because the amendment eliminates optional forms of benefit that create significant burdens or complexities for the plan and its participants. See below for the de minimis requirement under paragraph (e)(1)(ii) and (3) of this section.

(v) Conclusion concerning application of de minimis rules under paragraph (e)(5) of this section. In order to satisfy the requirements under paragraph (e)(1)(ii) and (3) of this section, the amendment must satisfy the requirements of either paragraph (e)(5) or paragraph (e)(6) of this section. The amendment does not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (e)(5) of this section because the reduction in the actuarial present value is more than a de minimis amount under paragraph (e)(5) of this section. For example, for Employee E, the amount of the joint and contingent annuity payable at age 55 is reduced from $7,500 (50% of $15,000) to $7,350 (49% of $15,000) and the reduction in present value as a result of the amendment is $1,828 ($91,397—$89,569). In this case, the retirement-type subsidy at age 55 is the excess of the present value of the 50% early retirement benefit over the present value of the deferred payment of the accrued benefit, or $13,921 ($97,269—$83,348) and the present value at age 54 of the retirement-type subsidy is $13,081. The reduction in present value is more than the greater of 2% of the present value of the retirement-type subsidy and 1% of E's compensation because the reduction in present value exceeds $800 (the greater of $262, which is 2% of the present value of the retirement-type subsidy for the benefit being eliminated, and $800, which is 1% of E's compensation of $80,000).

(vi) Conclusion involving application of de minimis rules under paragraph (e)(6) of this section relating to expected transition period. The amendment satisfies the requirements of paragraph (e)(6) of this section and, thus, satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section, including the requirement in paragraph (c)(1)(iii) of this section that paragraph (e) of this section be satisfied. First, as assumed under the facts above, the amendment reduces optional forms of benefit that are burdensome or complex. Second, the plan amendment is not effective for annuity commencement dates before January 1, 2008, and that date is not earlier than the longest expected transition period for any participant in Plan F on the date of the amendment. Third, the amendment does not apply to any participant who has a severance from employment during the transition period. If, however, a later plan amendment reduces accruals under Plan F, the initial plan amendment will no longer satisfy the requirements of paragraph (e)(6) of this section (and must be voided) unless, as part of the later amendment, the expected transition period is extended to reflect the reduction in accruals under Plan F.

Example 6. (i) Facts involving elimination of noncore options using utilization test—(A) In general. Plan G is a calendar year defined benefit plan under which participants may elect to commence distributions after termination of employment in the following actuarially equivalent forms, with spousal consent, if applicable: a straight life annuity; a 50%, 75%, or 100% joint and contingent annuity; or a 5-year, 10-year, or a 15-year term certain and life annuity. A participant is permitted to elect a single-sum distribution if the present value of the participant's nonforfeitable accrued benefit is not greater than $5,000. The annuities offered under the plan are generally available both with and without a social security leveling feature. The social security leveling feature provides for an assumed commencement of social security benefits at any age selected by the participant between the ages of 62 and 67. Under Plan G, the normal retirement age is defined as age 65.

(B) Utilization test. In 2007, the plan sponsor of Plan G, after reviewing participants' benefit elections, determines that, during the period from January 1, 2005, through June 30, 2007, no participant has elected a 5-year term certain and life annuity with a social security leveling option. During that period, Plan G has made the 5-year term certain and life annuity with a social security leveling option available to 142 participants who were at least age 55 and who elected optional forms of benefit with an annuity commencement dates during that period. In addition, during that period, 20 of the 142 participants elected a single-sum distribution and there was no retirement-type subsidy available for a limited period of time. Plan G, in accordance with paragraph (f)(1) of this section, is amended on September 15, 2007, effective as of January 1, 2008, to eliminate all 5-year term certain and life annuities with a social security leveling option for all annuity commencement dates on or after January 1, 2008.

(ii) Conclusion. The amendment satisfies the requirements of paragraph (f) of this section. First, the 5-year term certain and life annuity with a social security leveling option is not a core option as defined in paragraph (g)(5) of this section. Second, the plan amendment is not applicable with respect to an optional form of benefit with an annuity commencement date that is earlier than the number of days in the maximum QJSA explanation period after the date the amendment is adopted. Third, the 5-year term certain and life annuity with a social security leveling option has been available to at least 50 participants who are taken into account for purposes of paragraph (f) of this section during the look-back period. Fourth, during the look-back period, no participant elected any optional form that is part of the generalized optional form being eliminated (for example, the 5-year term and life annuity with a social security leveling option).

(i) [Reserved]

(j) Effective dates—(1) General effective date. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph (j), the rules of this section apply to amendments adopted on or after August 12, 2005.

(2) Effective date for rules relating to contingent event benefits. Paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section applies to amendments adopted after December 31, 2005.

(3) Effective dates for rules relating to section 411(a) nonforfeitability provisions—(i) Application of suspension of benefit rules to section 411(d)(6) protected benefits. With respect to a plan amendment that places greater restrictions or conditions on a participant's rights to section 411(d)(6) protected benefits by adding or modifying a plan provision relating to suspension of benefit payments during a period of employment or reemployment, the rules provided in paragraph (a)(3) of this section apply to periods beginning on or after June 7, 2004.

(ii) Application of section 411(a) nonforfeitability provisions to section 411(d)(6) protected benefits. With respect to a plan amendment that places greater restrictions or conditions on a participant's rights to section 411(d)(6) protected benefits other than a plan amendment described in paragraph (j)(3)(i) of this section, the rules provided in paragraph (a)(3) of this section apply to plan amendments adopted after August 9, 2006.

(4) Effective date for change to redundancy rule regarding bifurcation of benefits. The rules provided in paragraph (c)(6) of this section are applicable for amendments adopted after August 9, 2006.

(5) Effective date for rules relating to utilization test. The rules provided in paragraph (f) of this section are applicable for amendments adopted after December 31, 2006.

[T.D. 9219, 70 FR 47116, Aug. 12, 2005, as amended by T.D. 9280, 71 FR 45383, Aug. 9, 2006; 71 FR 55108, Sept. 21, 2006; T.D. 9472, 74 FR 61276, Nov. 24, 2009]

§1.411(d)-4   Section 411(d)(6) protected benefits.

Q-1: What are “section 411(d)(6) protected benefits”?

A-1: (a) In general. The term “section 411(d)(6) protected benefit” includes any benefit that is described in one or more of the following categories—

(1) Benefits described in section 411(d)(6)(A),

(2) Early retirement benefits (as defined in §1.411(d)-3(g)(6)(i)) and retirement-type subsidies (as defined in §1.411(d)-3(g)(6)(iv)), and

(3) Optional forms of benefit described in section 411(d)(6)(B)(ii).

Such benefits, to the extent they have accrued, are subject to the protection of section 411(d)(6) and, where applicable, the definitely determinable requirement of section 401(a) (including section 401(a)(25)) and cannot, therefore, be reduced, eliminated, or made subject to employer discretion except to the extent permitted by regulations.

(b) Optional forms of benefit—(1) In general. The term optional form of benefit has the same meaning as in §1.411(d)-3(g)(6)(ii). Under this definition, different optional forms of benefit exist if a distribution alternative is not payable on substantially the same terms as another distribution alternative. Thus, for example, different optional forms of benefit may result from differences in terms relating to the payment schedule, timing, commencement, medium of distribution (e.g., in cash or in kind), election rights, differences in eligibility requirements, or the portion of the benefit to which the distribution alternative applies.

(2) Examples. The following examples illustrate the meaning of the term “optional form of benefit.” Other issues, such as the requirement that the optional forms satisfy section 401(a)(4), are not addressed in these examples and no inferences are intended with respect to such requirements. Assume that the distribution forms, including those not described in these examples, provided under the plan in each of the following examples are identical in all respects not described.

Example 1. A plan permits each participant to receive his benefit under the plan as a single sum distribution; a level monthly distribution schedule over 15 years; a single life annuity; a joint and 50 percent survivor annuity; a joint and 75 percent survivor annuity; a joint and 50 percent survivor annuity with a benefit increase for the participant if the beneficiary dies before a specified date; and joint and 50 percent survivor annuity with a 10 year certain feature. Each of these benefit distribution options is an optional form of benefit (without regard to whether the values of these options are actuarially equivalent).
Example 2. A plan permits each participant who is employed by division A to receive his benefit in a single sum distribution payable upon termination from employment and each participant who is employed by division B in a single sum distribution payable upon termination from employment on or after the attainment of age 50. This plan provides two single sum optional forms of benefit.
Example 3. A plan permits each participant to receive his benefit in a single life annuity that commences in the month after the participant's termination from employment or in a single life annuity that commences upon the completion of five consecutive one year breaks in service. These are two optional forms of benefit.
Example 4. A profit-sharing plan permits each participant who is employed by division A to receive an in-service distribution upon the satisfaction of objective criteria set forth in the plan designed to determine whether the participant has a heavy and immediate financial need, and each participant who is employed by division B to receive an in-service distribution upon the satisfaction of objective criteria set forth in the plan designed to determine whether the participant has a heavy and immediate financial need attributable to extraordinary medical expenses. These in-service distribution options are two optional forms of benefits.
Example 5. A profit-sharing plan permits each participant who is employed by division A to receive an in-service distribution up to $5,000 and each participant who is employed by division B to receive an in-service distribution of up to his total benefit. These in-service distribution options differ as to the portion of the accrued benefit that may be distributed in a particular form and are, therefore, two optional forms of benefit.
Example 6. A profit-sharing plan provides for a single sum distribution on termination of employment. The plan is amended in 1991 to eliminate the single sum optional form of benefit with respect to benefits accrued after the date of amendment. This single sum optional form of benefit continues to be a single optional form of benefit although, over time, the percentage of various employees' accrued benefits that are potentially payable under this single sum may vary because the form is only available with respect to benefits accrued up to and including the date of the amendment.
Example 7. A profit-sharing plan permits each participant to receive a single sum distribution of his benefit in cash or in the form of a specified class of employer stock. This plan provides two single sum distribution optinal forms of benefit.
Example 8. A stock bonus plan permits each participant to receive a single sum distribution of his benefit in cash or in the form of the property in which such participant's benefit was invested prior to the distribution. This plan's single sum distribution option provides two optional forms of benefit.
Example 9. A defined benefit plan provides for an early retirement benefit payable upon termination of employment after attainment of age 55 and either after ten years of service or, if earlier, upon plan termination to employees of Division A and provides for an identical early retirement benefit payable on the same terms with the exception of payment on plan termination to employees of Division B. The plan provides for two optional forms of benefit.
Example 10. A profit-sharing plan provides for loans secured by an employee's account balance. In the event of default on such a loan, there is an execution on such account balances. Such execution is a distribution of the employee's accrued benefits under the plan. A distribution of an accrued benefit contingent on default under a plan loan secured by such accrued benefits is an optional form of benefit under the plan.

(c) Plan terms—(1) General rule. Generally, benefits described in section 411(d)(6)(A), early retirement benefits, retirement-type subsidies, and optional forms of benefit are section 411(d)(6) protected benefits only if they are provided under the terms of a plan. However, if an employer establishes a pattern of repeated plan amendments providing for similar benefits in similar situations for substantially consecutive, limited periods of time, such benefits will be treated as provided under the terms of the plan, without regard to the limited periods of time, to the extent necessary to carry out the purposes of section 411(d)(6) and, where applicable, the definitely determinable requirement of section 401(a), including section 401(a)(25). A pattern of repeated plan amendments providing that a particular optional form of benefit is available to certain named employees for a limited period of time is within the scope of this rule and may result in such optional form of benefit being treated as provided under the terms of the plan to all employees covered under the plan without regard to the limited period of time and the limited group of named employees.

(2) Effective date. The provisions of paragraph (c)(1)of this Q&A-1 are effective as of July 11, 1988. Thus, patterns or repeated plan amendments adopted and effective before July 11, 1988 will be disregarded in determining whether such amendments have created an ongoing optional form of benefit under the plan.

(d) Benefits that are not section 411(d)(6) protected benefits. The following benefits are examples of items that are not section 411(d)(6) protected benefits:

(1) Ancillary life insurance protection;

(2) Accident or health insurance benefits;

(3) Social security supplements described in section 411(a)(9), except qualified social security supplements as defined in §1.401(a)(4)-12;

(4) The availability of loans (other than the distribution of an employee's accrued benefit upon default under a loan);

(5) The right to make after-tax employee contributions or elective deferrals described in section 402(g)(3);

(6) The right to direct investments;

(7) The right to a particular form of investment (e.g., investment in employer stock or securities or investment in certain types of securities, commercial paper, or other investment media);

(8) The allocation dates for contributions, forfeitures, and earnings, the time for making contributions (but not the conditions for receiving an allocation of contributions or forfeitures for a plan year after such conditions have been satisfied), and the valuation dates for account balances;

(9) Administrative procedures for distributing benefits, such as provisions relating to the particular dates on which notices are given and by which elections must be made; and

(10) Rights that derive from administrative and operational provisions, such as mechanical procedures for allocating investment experience among accounts in defined contribution plans.

Q-2: To what extent may section 411(d)(6) protected benefits under a plan be reduced or eliminated?

A-2:

(a) Reduction or elimination of section 411(d)(6) protected benefits—(1) In general. A plan is not permitted to be amended to eliminate or reduce a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit that has already accrued, except as provided in §1.411(d)-3 or this section. This is generally the case even if such elimination or reduction is contingent upon the employee's consent. However, a plan may be amended to eliminate or reduce section 411(d)(6) protected benefits with respect to benefits not yet accrued as of the later of the amendment's adoption date or effective date without violating section 411(d)(6).

(2) Selection of optional forms of benefit—(i) General rule. A plan may treat a participant as receiving his entire nonforfeitable accrued benefit under the plan if the participant receives his benefit in an optional form of benefit in an amount determined under the plan that is at least the actuarial equivalent of the employee's nonforfeitable accrued benefit payable at normal retirement age under the plan. This is true even though the participant could have elected to receive an optional form of benefit with a greater actuarial value than the value of the optional form received, such as an optional form including retirement-type subsidies, and without regard to whether such other, more valuable optional form could have commenced immediately or could have become available only upon the employee's future satisfaction of specified eligibility conditions.

(ii) Election of an optional form. Except as provided in paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of this Q&A-2, a plan does not violate section 411(d)(6) merely because an employee's election to receive a portion of his nonforfeitable accrued benefit in one optional form of benefit precludes the employee from receiving that portion of his benefit in another optional form of benefit. Such employee retains all 411(d)(6) protected rights with respect to the entire portion of such employee's nonforfeitable accrued benefit for which no distribution election was made. For purposes of this rule, an elective transfer of an otherwise distributable benefit is treated as the selection of an optional form of benefit. See Q&A-3 of this section.

(iii) Buy-back rule. Notwithstanding paragraph (a)(2)(ii) of this Q&A-2, an employee who received a distribution of his nonforfeitable benefit from a plan that is required to provide a repayment opportunity to such employee if he returns to service within the applicable period pursuant to the requirements of section 411(a)(7) and who, upon subsequent reemployment, repays the full amount of such distribution in accordance with section 411(a)(7)(C) must be reinstated in the full array of section 411(d)(6) protected benefits that existed with respect to such benefit prior to distribution.

(iv) Examples. The rules in this paragraph (a)(2) can be illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Defined benefit plan X provides, among its optional forms of benefit, for a subsidized early retirement benefit payable in the form of an annuity and available to employees who terminate from employment on or after their 55th birthdays. In addition plan X provides for a single sum distribution available on termination from employment or termination of the plan. The single sum distribution is determined on the basis of the present value of the accrued normal retirement benefit and does not take the early retirement subsidy into account. Plan X is terminated December 31, 1991. Employees U, age 47, V, age 55, and W, age 47, all continue in the service of the employer. Employees X, age 47, Y, age 55 and Z, age 47, terminate from employment with the employer during 1991. Employees U and V elect to take the single sum optional form of distribution at the time of plan termination. Employees X and Y elect to take the single sum distribution on termination from employment with the employer. The elimination of the subsidized early retirement benefit with respect to employees U, V, X and Y does not result in a violation of section 411(d)(6). This is the result even though employees U and X had not yet satisfied the conditions for the subsidized early retirement benefit. Because employees W and Z have not selected an optional form of benefit, they continue to have a 411(d)(6) protected right to the full array of section 411(d)(6) protected benefits provided under the plan, including the single sum distribution form and the subsidized early retirement benefit.
Example 2. A partially vested employee receives a single sum distribution of the present value of his entire nonforfeitable benefit on account of separation from service under a defined benefit plan providing for a repayment provision. Upon reemployment with the employer such employee makes repayment in the required amount in accordance with section 411(a)(7). Such employee may, upon subsequent termination of employment, elect to take such repaid benefits in any optional form provided under the plan as of the time of the employee's initial separation from service. If the plan was amended prior to such repayment, to eliminate the single sum optional form of benefit with respect to benefits accrued after the date of the amendment, such participant has a 411(d)(6) protected right to take distribution of the repaid benefit in the form of a single sum distribution.

(3) Certain transactions—(i) Plan mergers and benefit transfers. The prohibition against the reduction or elimination of section 411(d)(6) protected benefits already accrued applies to plan mergers, spinoffs, transfers, and transactions amending or having the effect of amending a plan or plans to transfer plan benefits. Thus, for example, if plan A, a profit-sharing plan that provides for distribution of plan benefits in annual installments over ten or twenty years, is merged with plan B, a profit-sharing plan that provides for distribution of plan benefits in annual installments over life expectancy at time of retirement, the merged plan must retain the ten or twenty year installment option for participants with respect to benefits already accrued under plan A as of the merger and the installments over life expectancy for participants with benefits already accrued under plan B. Similarly, for example, if an employee's benefit under a defined contribution plan is transferred to another defined contribution plan (whether or not of the same employer), the optional forms of benefit available with respect to the employee's benefit accrued under the transferor plan may not be eliminated or reduced except as otherwise permitted under this regulation. See Q&A-3 of this section with respect to the transfer of benefits between and among defined benefit and defined contribution plans.

(ii) Annuity contracts—(A) General rule. The right of a participant to receive a benefit in the form of cash payments from the plan and the right of a participant to receive that benefit in the form of the distribution of an annuity contract that provides for cash payments that are identical in all respects to the cash payments from the plan except with respect to the source of the payments are not separate optional forms of benefit. Therefore, for example, if a plan includes an optional form of benefit under which benefits are distributed in the medium of an annuity contract that provides for cash payments, that optional form of benefit may be modified by a plan amendment that substitutes cash payments from the plan for the annuity contract, where those cash payments from the plan are identical to the cash payments payable from the annuity contract in all respects except with respect to the source of the payments. The protection provided by section 411(d)(6) may not be avoided by the use of annuity contracts. Thus, section 411(d)(6) protected benefits already accrued may not be eliminated or reduced merely because a plan uses annuity contracts to provide such benefits, without regard to whether the plan, a participant, or a beneficiary of a participant holds the contract or whether such annuity contracts are purchased as a result of the termination of the plan. However, to the extent that an annuity contract constitutes payment of benefits in a particular optional form elected by the participant, the plan does not violate section 411(d)(6) merely because it provides that other optional forms are no longer available with respect to such participant. See paragraph (a)(2) of this Q&A-2.

(B) Examples. The provisions of this paragraph (a)(3)(ii) can be illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. A profit-sharing plan that is being terminated satisfies section 411(d)(6) only if the plan makes available to participants annuity contracts that provide for all section 411(d)(6) protected benefits under the plan that may not otherwise be reduced or eliminated pursuant to this Q&A-2. Thus, if such a plan provided for a single sum distribution upon attainment of early retirement age, and a provision for payment in the form of 10 equal annual installments, the plan would satisfy section 411(d)(6) only if the participants had the opportunity to elect to have their benefits provided under an annuity contract that provided for the same single sum distribution upon the attainment of the participant's early retirement age and the same 10 year installment optional form of benefit.
Example 2. A defined benefit plan permits each participant who separates from service on or after age 62 to receive a qualified joint and survivor annuity or a single life annuity commencing 45 days after termination from employment. For a participant who separates from service before age 62, payments under these optional forms of benefit commence 45 days after the participant's 62nd birthday. Under the plan, a participant is to elect among these optional forms of benefit during the 90-day period preceding the annuity starting date. However, during such period, a participant may defer both benefit commencement and the election of a particular benefit form to any later date, subject to section 401(a)(9). In January 1990, the employer decides to terminate the plan as of July 1, 1990. The plan will fail to satisfy section 411(d)(6) unless the optional forms of benefit provided under the plan are preserved under the annuity contract purchased on plan termination. Thus, such annuity contract must provide a participant the same optional benefit commencement rights that the plan provided. In addition, such contract must provide the same election rights with respect to such benefit options. This is the case even if, for example, in conjunction with the termination, the employer amended the plan to permit participants to elect a qualified joint and survivor annuity, single life annuity, or single sum distribution commencing on July 1, 1990.

(4) Benefits payable to a spouse or beneficiary. Section 411(d)(6) protected benefits may not be eliminated merely because they are payable with respect to a spouse or other beneficiary.

(b) Section 411(d)(6) protected benefits that may be eliminated or reduced only as permitted by the Commissioner—(1) In general. The Commissioner may, consistent with the provisions of this section, provide for the elimination or reduction of section 411(d)(6) protected benefits that have already accrued only to the extent that such elimination or reduction does not result in the loss to plan participants of either a valuable right or an employer-subsidized optional form of benefit where a similar optional form of benefit with a comparable subsidy is not provided or to the extent such elimination or reduction is necessary to permit compliance with other requirements of section 401(a) (e.g., sections 401(a)(4), 401(a)(9) and 415). The Commissioner may exercise this authority only through the publication of revenue rulings, notices, and other documents of general applicability.

(2) Section 411(d)(6) protected benefits that may be eliminated or reduced. The elimination or reduction of certain section 411(d)(6) protected benefits that have already accrued in the following situations does not violate section 411(d)(6). The rules with respect to permissible eliminations and reductions provided in this paragraph (b)(2) generally are effective January 30, 1986; however, the rules of paragraphs (b)(2)(iii) (A) and (B) and (b)(2)(viii) of this Q&A-2 are effective for plan amendments that are adopted and effective on or after September 6, 2000. These exceptions create no inference with respect to whether any other applicable requirements are satisfied (for example, requirements imposed by section 401(a)(9) and section 401(a)(14)).

(i) Change in statutory requirement. A plan may be amended to eliminate or reduce a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit if the following three requirements are met: the amendment constitutes timely compliance with a change in law affecting plan qualification; there is an exercise of section 7805(b) relief by the Commissioner; and the elimination or reduction is made only to the extent necessary to enable the plan to continue to satisfy the requirements for qualified plans. In general, the elimination or reduction of a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit will not be treated as necessary if it is possible through other modifications to the plan (e.g., by expanding the availability of an optional form of benefit to additional employees) to satisfy the applicable qualification requirement.

(ii) Joint and survivor annuity. A plan that provides a range of three or more actuarially equivalent joint and survivor annuity options may be amended to eliminate any of such options, other than the options with the largest and smallest optional survivor payment percentages, even if the effect of such amendment is to change which of the options is the qualified joint and survivor annuity under section 417. Thus, for example, if a money purchase pension plan provides three joint and survivor annuity options with survivor payments of 50%, 75% and 100%, respectively, that are uniform with respect to age and are actuarially equivalent, then the employer may eliminate the option with the 75% survivor payment, even if this option had been the qualified joint and survivor annuity under the plan.

(iii) In-kind distributions—(A) In-kind distributions payable under defined contribution plans in the form of marketable securities other than employer securities. If a defined contribution plan includes an optional form of benefit under which benefits are distributed in the form of marketable securities, other than securities of the employer, that optional form of benefit may be modified by a plan amendment that substitutes cash for the marketable securities as the medium of distribution. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(2)(iii)(A) and paragraph (b)(2)(iii)(B) of this Q&A-2, the term marketable securities means marketable securities as defined in section 731(c)(2), and the term securities of the employer means securities of the employer as defined in section 402(e)(4)(E)(ii).

(B) Amendments to defined contribution plans to specify medium of distribution. If a defined contribution plan includes an optional form of benefit under which benefits are distributable to a participant in a medium other than cash, the plan may be amended to limit the types of property in which distributions may be made to the participant to the types of property specified in the amendment. For this purpose, the types of property specified in the amendment must include all types of property (other than marketable securities that are not securities of the employer) that are allocated to the participant's account on the effective date of the amendment and in which the participant would be able to receive a distribution immediately before the effective date of the amendment if a distributable event occurred. In addition, a plan amendment may provide that the participant's right to receive a distribution in the form of specified types of property is limited to the property allocated to the participant's account at the time of distribution that consists of property of those specified types.

(C) In-kind distributions after plan termination. If a plan includes an optional form of benefit under which benefits are distributed in specified property, that optional form of benefit may be modified for distributions after plan termination by substituting cash for the specified property as the medium of distribution to the extent that, on plan termination, an employee has the opportunity to receive the optional form of benefit in the form of the specified property. This exception is not available, however, if the employer that maintains the terminating plan also maintains another plan that provides an optional form of benefit under which benefits are distributed in the specified property.

(D) Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of this paragraph (b)(2)(iii):

Example 1. (i) An employer maintains a profit-sharing plan under which participants may direct the investment of their accounts. One investment option available to participants is a fund invested in common stock of the employer. The plan provides that the participant has the right to a distribution in the form of cash upon termination of employment. In addition, the plan provides that, to the extent a participant's account is invested in the employer stock fund, the participant may receive an in-kind distribution of employer stock upon termination of employment. On October 18, 2000, the plan is amended, effective on January 1, 2001, to remove the fund invested in employer common stock as an investment option under the plan and to provide for the stock held in the fund to be sold. The amendment permits participants to elect how the sale proceeds are to be reallocated among the remaining investment options, and provides for amounts not so reallocated as of January 1, 2001, to be allocated to a specified investment option.

(ii) The plan does not fail to satisfy section 411(d)(6) solely on account of the plan amendment relating to the elimination of the employer stock investment option, which is not a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit. See paragraph (d)(7) of Q&A-1 of this section. Moreover, because the plan did not provide for distributions of employer securities except to the extent participants' accounts were invested in the employer stock fund, the plan is not required operationally to offer distributions of employer securities following the amendment. In addition, the plan would not fail to satisfy section 411(d)(6) on account of a further plan amendment, effective after the plan has ceased to provide for an employer stock fund investment option (and participants' accounts have ceased to be invested in employer securities), to eliminate the right to a distribution in the form of employer stock. See paragraph (b)(2)(iii)(B) of this Q&A-2.

Example 2. (i) An employer maintains a profit-sharing plan under which a participant, upon termination of employment, may elect to receive benefits in a single-sum distribution either in cash or in kind. The plan's investments are limited to a fund invested in employer stock, a fund invested in XYZ mutual funds (which are marketable securities), and a fund invested in shares of PQR limited partnership (which are not marketable securities).

(ii) The following alternative plan amendments would not cause the plan to fail to satisfy section 411(d)(6):

(A) A plan amendment that limits non-cash distributions to a participant on termination of employment to a distribution of employer stock and shares of PQR limited partnership. See paragraph (b)(2)(iii)(A) of this Q&A-2.

(B) A plan amendment that limits non-cash distributions to a participant on termination of employment to a distribution of employer stock and shares of PQR limited partnership, and that also provides that only participants with employer stock allocated to their accounts as of the effective date of the amendment have the right to distributions in the form of employer stock, and that only participants with shares of PQR limited partnership allocated to their accounts as of the effective date of the amendment have the right to distributions in the form of shares of PQR limited partnership. To comply with the plan amendment, the plan administrator retains a list of participants with employer stock allocated to their accounts as of the effective date of the amendment, and a list of participants with shares of PQR limited partnership allocated to their accounts as of the effective date of the amendment. See paragraphs (b)(2)(iii) (A) and (B) of this Q&A-2.

(C) A plan amendment that limits non-cash distributions to a participant on termination of employment to a distribution of employer stock and shares of PQR limited partnership to the extent that those assets are allocated to the participant's account at the time of the distribution. See paragraphs (b)(2)(iii) (A) and (B) of this      Q&A-2.

(D) A plan amendment that limits non-cash distributions to a participant on termination of employment to a distribution of employer stock and shares of PQR limited partnership, and that provides that only participants with employer stock allocated to their accounts as of the effective date of the amendment have the right to distributions in the form of employer stock, and that only participants with shares of PQR limited partnership allocated to their accounts as of the effective date of the amendment have the right to distributions in the form of shares of PQR limited partnership, and that further provides that the distribution of that stock or those shares is available only to the extent that those assets are allocated to those participants' accounts at the time of the distribution. To comply with the plan amendment, the plan administrator retains a list of participants with employer stock allocated to their accounts as of the effective date of the amendment, and a list of participants with shares of PQR limited partnership allocated to their accounts as of the effective date of the amendment. See paragraphs (b)(2)(iii) (A) and (B) of this      Q&A-2.

Example 3. (i) An employer maintains a stock bonus plan under which a participant, upon termination of employment, may elect to receive benefits in a single-sum distribution in employer stock. This is the only plan maintained by the employer under which distributions in employer stock are available. The employer decides to terminate the stock bonus plan.

(ii) If the plan makes available a single-sum distribution in employer stock on plan termination, the plan will not fail to satisfy section 411(d)(6) solely because the optional form of benefit providing a single-sum distribution in employer stock on termination of employment is modified to provide that such distribution is available only in cash. See paragraph (b)(2)(iii)(C) of this Q&A-2.

(iv) Coordination with diversification requirement. A tax credit employee stock ownership plan (as defined in section 409(a)) or an employee stock ownership plan (as defined in section 4975(e)(7)) may be amended to provide that a distribution is not available in employer securities to the extent that an employee elects to diversify benefits pursuant to section 401(a)(28).

(v) Involuntary distributions. A plan may be amended to provide for the involuntary distribution of an employee's benefit to the extent such involuntary distribution is permitted under sections 411(a)(11) and 417(e). Thus, for example, an involuntary distribution provision may be amended to require that an employee who terminates from employment with the employer receive a single sum distribution in the event that the present value of the employee's benefit is not more than $3,500, by substituting the cash-out limit in effect under §1.411(a)-11(c)(3)(ii) for $3,500, without violating section 411(d)(6). In addition, for example, the employer may amend the plan to reduce the involuntary distribution threshold from the cash-out limit in effect under §1.411(a)-11(c)(3)(ii) to any lower amount and to eliminate the involuntary single sum option for employees with benefits between the cash-out limit in effect under §1.411(a)-11(c)(3)(ii) and such lower amount without violating section 411(d)(6). This rule does not permit a plan provision permitting employer discretion with respect to optional forms of benefit for employees the present value of whose benefit is less than the cash-out limit in effect under §1.411(a)-11(c)(3)(ii).

(vi) Distribution exception for certain profit-sharing plans—(A) In general. If a defined contribution plan that is not subject to section 412 and does not provide for an annuity option is terminated, the plan may be amended to provide for the distribution of a participant's accrued benefit upon termination in a single sum optional form without the participant's consent. The preceding sentence does not apply if the employer maintains any other defined contribution plan (other than an employee stock ownership plan as defined in section 4975(e)(7)).

(B) Examples. The provisions of this paragraph (b)(2)(vi) can be illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Employer X maintains a defined contribution plan that is not subject to section 412. The plan provides for distribution in the form of equal installments over five years or equal installments over twenty years. X maintains no other defined contribution plans. X terminates its defined contribution plan after amending the plan to provide for the distribution of all participants' accrued benefits in the form of single sum distributions, without obtaining participant consent. Pursuant to the rule in this paragraph (b)(2)(iv), this amendment does not violate the requirements of section 411(d)(6).
Example 2. Corporations X and Y are members of controlled group employer XY. Both X and Y maintain defined contribution plans. X's plan, which is not subject to section 412, covers only employees working for X. Y's plan, which is subject to section 412, covers only employees working for Y. X terminates its defined contribution plan. Because employer XY maintains another defined contribution plan, plan X may not provide for the distribution of participants' accrued benefits upon termination without a participants' consent.

(vii) Distribution of benefits on default of loans. Notwithstanding that the distribution of benefits arising from an execution on an account balance used to secure a loan on which there has been a default is an optional form of benefit, a plan may be amended to eliminate or change a provision for loans, even if such loans would be secured by an employee's account balance.

(viii) Provisions for transfer of benefits between and among defined contribution plans and defined benefit plans. A plan may be amended to eliminate provisions permitting the transfer of benefits between and among defined contribution plans and defined benefit plans.

(ix) De minimis change in the timing of an optional form of benefit. A plan may be amended to modify an optional form of benefit by changing the timing of the availability of such optional form if, after the change, the optional form is available at a time that is within two months of the time such optional form was available before the amendment. To the extent the optional form of benefit is available prior to termination of employment, six months may be substituted for two months in the prior sentence. Thus, for example, a plan that makes in-service distributions available to employees once every month may be amended to make such in-service distributions available only once every six months. This exception to section 411(d)(6) relates only to the timing of the availability of the optional form of benefit. Other aspects of an optional form of benefit may not be modified and the value of such optional form may not be reduced merely because of an amendment permitted by this exception.

(x) Amendment of hardship distribution standards. A qualified cash or deferred arrangement that permits hardship distributions under §1.401(k)-1(d)(3) may be amended to specify or modify nondiscriminatory and objective standards for determining the existence of an immediate and heavy financial need, the amount necessary to meet the need, or other conditions relating to eligibility to receive a hardship distribution. For example, a plan will not be treated as violating section 411(d)(6) merely because it is amended to specify or modify the resources an employee must exhaust to qualify for a hardship distribution or to require employees to provide additional statements or representations to establish the existence of a hardship. A qualified cash or deferred arrangement may also be amended to eliminate hardship distributions. The provisions of this paragraph also apply to profit-sharing or stock bonus plans that permit hardship distributions, whether or not the hardship distributions are limited to those described in §1.401(k)-1(d)(3).

(xi) Section 415 benefit limitations. Accrued benefits under a plan as of the first day of the first limitation year beginning after December 31, 1986, that exceed the benefit limitations under section 415 (b) or (e), effective on the first day of the plan's first limitation year beginning after December 31, 1986, because of a change in the terms and conditions of the plan made after May 5, 1986, or the establishment of a plan after that date, may be reduced to the level permitted under section 415 (b) or (e).

(xii) Prohibited payment option under single-employer defined benefit plan of plan sponsor in bankruptcy. A single-employer plan that is covered under section 4021 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, Public Law 93-406 (88 Stat. 829 (1974)), as amended (ERISA), may be amended, effective for a plan amendment that is both adopted and effective after November 8, 2012, to eliminate an optional form of benefit that includes a prohibited payment described in section 436(d)(5), provided that the following conditions are satisfied on the applicable amendment date (as defined in §1.411(d)-3(g)(4)):

(A) The enrolled actuary of the plan has certified that the plan's adjusted funding target attainment percentage (as defined in section 436(j)(2)) for the plan year that contains the applicable amendment date is less than 100 percent.

(B) The plan is not permitted to pay any prohibited payment, due to application of the requirements of section 436(d)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code and section 206(g)(3)(B) of ERISA, because the plan sponsor is a debtor in a bankruptcy case (that is, a case under title 11, United States Code, or under similar Federal or State law).

(C) The court overseeing the bankruptcy case has issued an order, after notice to the affected parties (as defined in section 4001(a)(21) of ERISA) and a hearing, within the meaning of 11 U.S.C. 102(1), finding that the adoption of the amendment eliminating that optional form of benefit is necessary to avoid a distress termination of the plan pursuant to section 4041(c) of ERISA or an involuntary termination of the plan pursuant to section 4042 of ERISA before the plan sponsor emerges from bankruptcy (or before the bankruptcy case is otherwise completed).

(D) The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation has issued a determination that—

(1) The adoption of the amendment eliminating that optional form of benefit is necessary to avoid a distress or involuntary termination of the plan before the plan sponsor emerges from bankruptcy (or before the bankruptcy case is otherwise completed); and

(2) The plan is not sufficient for guaranteed benefits within the meaning of section 4041(d)(2) of ERISA.

(c) Multiple amendments—(1) General rule. A plan amendment violates the requirements of section 411(d)(6) if it is one of a series of plan amendments that, when taken together, have the effect of reducing or eliminating a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit in a manner that would be prohibited by section 411(d)(6) if accomplished through a single amendment.

(2) Determination of time period for combining plan amendments. For purposes of paragraph (c)(1) of this Q&A-2, generally only plan amendments adopted within a 3-year period are taken into account. But see Q&A-1(c)(1) of this section for rules relating to repeated plan amendments.

(d) ESOP and stock bonus plan exception—(1) In general. Subject to the limitations in paragraph (d)(2) of this Q&A-2, a tax credit employee stock ownership plan (as defined in section 409(a)) or an employee stock ownership plan (as defined in section 4975(e)(7)) will not be treated as violating the requirements of section 411(d)(6) merely because of any of the circumstances described in paragraphs (d)(1)(i) through (d)(1)(iv) of this Q&A-2. In addition, a stock bonus plan that is not an employee stock ownership plan will not be treated as violating the requirements of section 411(d)(6) merely because of any of the circumstances described in paragraphs (d)(1)(ii) and (d)(1)(iv) of this Q&A-2.

(i) Single sum or installment optional forms of benefit. The employer eliminates, or retains the discretion to eliminate, with respect to all participants, a single sum optional form or installment optional form with respect to benefits that are subject to section 409(h)(1)(B), provided such elimination or retention of discretion is consistent with the distribution and payment requirements otherwise applicable to such plans (e.g., those required by section 409).

(ii) Employer becomes substantially employee-owned or is an S corporation. The employer eliminates, or retains the discretion to eliminate, with respect to all participants, optional forms of benefit by substituting cash distributions for distributions in the form of employer stock with respect to benefits subject to section 409(h) in the circumstances described in paragraph (d)(1)(ii)(A) or (B) of this Q&A-2, but only if the employer otherwise meets the requirements of section 409(h)(2)—

(A) The employer becomes substantially employee-owned; or

(B) For taxable years of the employer beginning after December 31, 1997, the employer is an S corporation as defined in section 1361.

(iii) Employer securities become readily tradable. The employer eliminates, or retains the discretion to eliminate, with respect to all participants, in cases in which the employer securities become readily tradable, optional forms of benefit by substituting distributions in the form of employer securities for distributions in cash with respect to benefits that are subject to section 409(h).

(iv) Employer securities cease to be readily tradable or certain sales. The employer eliminates, or retains the discretion to eliminate, with respect to all participants, optional forms of benefit by substituting cash distributions for distributions in the form of employer stock with respect to benefits that are subject to section 409(h) in the following circumstances:

(A) The employer stock ceases to be readily tradable;

(B) The employer stock continues to be readily tradable but there is a sale of substantially all of the stock of the employer or a sale of substantially all of the assets of a trade or business of the employer and, in either situation, the purchasing employer continues to maintain the plan.

In the situation described in paragraph (d)(1)(iv)(B) of this Q&A-2, the employer may also substitute distributions in the purchasing employer's stock for distributions in the form of employer stock of the predecessor employer.

(2) Limitations on ESOP and stock bonus plan exceptions—(i) Nondiscrimination requirement. Plan amendments and the retention and exercise of discretion permitted under the exceptions in paragraph (d)(1) must meet the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4).

(ii) ESOP investment requirement. Except as provided in paragraph (d)(2)(iii) of this Q&A-2, benefits provided by employee stock ownership plans will not be eligible for the exceptions in paragraph (d)(1) of this Q&A-2 unless the benefits have been held in a tax credit employee stock ownership plan (as defined in section 409 (a)) or an employee stock ownership plan (as defined in section 4975 (e)(7)) subject to section 409 (h) for the five-year period prior to the exercise of employer discretion or any amendment affecting such benefits and permitted under paragraph (d)(1) of this Q&A-2. For purposes of the preceding sentence, if benefits held under an employee stock ownership plan are transferred to a plan that is an employee stock ownership plan at the time of transfer, then the consecutive periods under the transferor and transferee employee stock ownership plans may be aggregated for purposes of meeting the five-year requirement. If the benefits are held in an employee stock ownership plan throughout the entire period of their existence, and such total period of existence is less than five years, then such lesser period may be substituted for the five year requirement.

(3) Effective date. The provisions of this paragraph (d) are effective beginning with the first day of the first plan year commencing on or after January 1, 1989. Prior to this effective date the reduction or elimination of a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit by a tax credit employee stock ownership plan (as defined in section 409(a)) or an employee stock ownership plan (as defined in section 4975(e)(7)) will not be treated as violating the requirements of section 411(d)(6) if such reduction or elimination reflects a reasonable interpretation of the statutory language of section 411(d)(6)(C).

(4) Additional exceptions and requirements. The Commissioner may, in revenue rulings, notices or other documents of general applicability, prescribe such additional rules and exceptions, consistent with the purposes of this section, as may be necessary or appropriate.

(e) Permitted plan amendments affecting alternative forms of payment under defined contribution plans—(1) General rule. A defined contribution plan does not violate the requirements of section 411(d)(6) merely because the plan is amended to eliminate or restrict the ability of a participant to receive payment of accrued benefits under a particular optional form of benefit for distributions with annuity starting dates after the date the amendment is adopted if, after the plan amendment is effective with respect to the participant, the alternative forms of payment available to the participant include payment in a single-sum distribution form that is otherwise identical to the optional form of benefit that is being eliminated or restricted.

(2) Otherwise identical single-sum distribution. For purposes of this paragraph (e), a single-sum distribution form is otherwise identical to an optional form of benefit that is eliminated or restricted pursuant to paragraph (e)(1) of this Q&A-2 only if the single-sum distribution form is identical in all respects to the eliminated or restricted optional form of benefit (or would be identical except that it provides greater rights to the participant) except with respect to the timing of payments after commencement. For example, a single-sum distribution form is not otherwise identical to a specified installment form of benefit if the single-sum distribution form is not available for distribution on the date on which the installment form would have been available for commencement, is not available in the same medium of distribution as the installment form, or imposes any condition of eligibility that did not apply to the installment form. However, an otherwise identical distribution form need not retain rights or features of the optional form of benefit that is eliminated or restricted to the extent that those rights or features would not be protected from elimination or restriction under section 411(d)(6) or this section.

(3) Example. The following example illustrates the application of this paragraph (e):

Example. (i) P is a participant in Plan M, a qualified profit-sharing plan with a calendar plan year that is invested in mutual funds. The distribution forms available to P under Plan M include a distribution of P's vested account balance under Plan M in the form of distribution of various annuity contract forms (including a single life annuity and a joint and survivor annuity). The annuity payments under the annuity contract forms begin as of the first day of the month following P's severance from employment (or as of the first day of any subsequent month, subject to the requirements of section 401(a)(9)). P has not previously elected payment of benefits in the form of a life annuity, and Plan M is not a direct or indirect transferee of any plan that is a defined benefit plan or a defined contribution plan that is subject to section 412. Distributions on the death of a participant are made in accordance with plan provisions that comply with section 401(a)(11)(B)(iii)(I). On September 2, 2005, Plan M is amended so that, effective for payments that begin on or after November 1, 2005, P is no longer entitled to any distribution in the form of the distribution of an annuity contract. However, after the amendment is effective, P is entitled to receive a single-sum cash distribution of P's vested account balance under Plan M payable as of the first day of the month following P's severance from employment (or as of the first day of any subsequent month, subject to the requirements of section 401(a)(9)).

(ii) Plan M does not violate the requirements of section 411(d)(6) (or section 401(a)(11)) merely because, as of November 1, 2005, the plan amendment has eliminated P's option to receive a distribution in any of the various annuity contract forms previously available.

(4) Effective date. This paragraph (e) is applicable on January 25, 2005.

Q-3   Does the transfer of benefits between and among defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans (or similar transactions) violate the requirements of section 411(d)(6)?

A-3   (a) Transfers and similar transactions—(1) General rule. Section 411(d)(6) protected benefits may not be eliminated by reason of transfer or any transaction amending or having the effect of amending a plan or plans to transfer benefits. Thus, for example, except as otherwise provided in this section, an employer who maintains a money purchase pension plan that provides for a single sum optional form of benefit may not establish another plan that does not provide for this optional form of benefit and transfer participants' account balances to such new plan.

(2) Defined benefit feature and separate account feature. The defined benefit feature of an employee's benefit under a defined benefit plan and the separate account feature of an employee's benefit under a defined contribution plan are section 411(d)(6) protected benefits. Thus, for example, the elimination of the defined benefit feature of an employee's benefit under a defined benefit plan, through transfer of benefits from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan or plans, will violate section 411(d)(6).

(3) Waiver prohibition. In general, except as provided in paragraph (b) of this Q&A-3, a participant may not elect to waive section 411(d)(6) protected benefits. Thus, for example, the elimination of the defined benefit feature of a participant's benefit under a defined benefit plan by reason of a transfer of such benefits to a defined contribution plan pursuant to a participant election, at a time when the benefit is not distributable to the participant, violates section 411(d)(6).

(4) Direct rollovers. A direct rollover described in Q&A-3 of §1.401(a)(31)-1 that is paid to a qualified plan is not a transfer of assets and liabilities that must satisfy the requirements of section 414(l), and is not a transfer of benefits for purposes of applying the requirements under section 411(d)(6) and paragraph (a)(1) of this Q&A-3. Therefore, for example, if such a direct rollover is made to another qualified plan, the receiving plan is not required to provide, with respect to amounts paid to it in a direct rollover, the same optional forms of benefit that were provided under the plan that made the direct rollover. See §1.401(a)(31)-1, Q&A-14.

(b) Elective transfers of benefits between defined contribution plans—(1) General rule. A transfer of a participant's entire benefit between qualified defined contribution plans (other than any direct rollover described in Q&A-3 of §1.401(a)(31)-1) that results in the elimination or reduction of section 411(d)(6) protected benefits does not violate section 411(d)(6) if the following requirements are met—

(i) Voluntary election. The plan from which the benefits are transferred must provide that the transfer is conditioned upon a voluntary, fully-informed election by the participant to transfer the participant's entire benefit to the other qualified defined contribution plan. As an alternative to the transfer, the participant must be offered the opportunity to retain the participant's section 411(d)(6) protected benefits under the plan (or, if the plan is terminating, to receive any optional form of benefit for which the participant is eligible under the plan as required by section 411(d)(6)).

(ii) Types of plans to which transfers may be made. To the extent the benefits are transferred from a money purchase pension plan, the transferee plan must be a money purchase pension plan. To the extent the benefits being transferred are part of a qualified cash or deferred arrangement under section 401(k), the benefits must be transferred to a qualified cash or deferred arrangement under section 401(k). To the extent the benefits being transferred are part of an employee stock ownership plan as defined in section 4975(e)(7), the benefits must be transferred to another employee stock ownership plan. Benefits transferred from a profit-sharing plan other than from a qualified cash or deferred arrangement, or from a stock bonus plan other than an employee stock ownership plan, may be transferred to any type of defined contribution plan.

(iii) Circumstances under which transfers may be made. The transfer must be made either in connection with an asset or stock acquisition, merger, or other similar transaction involving a change in employer of the employees of a trade or business (i.e., an acquisition or disposition within the meaning of §1.410(b)-2(f)) or in connection with the participant's change in employment status to an employment status with respect to which the participant is not entitled to additional allocations under the transferor plan.

(2) Applicable qualification requirements. A transfer described in this paragraph (b) is a transfer of assets or liabilities within the meaning of section 414(l)(1) and, thus, must satisfy the requirements of section 414(l). In addition, this paragraph (b) only provides relief under section 411(d)(6); a transfer described in this paragraph must satisfy all other applicable qualification requirements. Thus, for example, if the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply to the plan from which the benefits are transferred, as described in this paragraph (b), but do not otherwise apply to the receiving plan, the requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 must be met with respect to the transferred benefits under the receiving plan. In addition, the vesting provisions under the receiving plan must satisfy the requirements of section 411(a)(10) with respect to the amounts transferred.

(3) Status of elective transfer as other right or feature. A right to a transfer of benefits from a plan pursuant to the elective transfer rules of this paragraph (b) is an other right or feature within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-4(e)(3), the availability of which is subject to the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4) and §1.401(a)(4)-4. However, for purposes of applying the rules of §1.401(a)(4)-4, the following conditions are to be disregarded in determining the employees to whom the other right or feature is available—

(i) A condition restricting the availability of the transfer to benefits of participants who are transferred to a different employer in connection with a specified asset or stock disposition, merger, or other similar transaction involving a change in employer of the employees of a trade or business (i.e., a disposition within the meaning of §1.410(b)-2(f)), or in connection with any such disposition, merger, or other similar transaction.

(ii) A condition restricting the availability of the transfer to benefits of participants who have a change in employment status to an employment status with respect to which the participant is not entitled to additional allocations under the transferor plan.

(c) Elective transfers of certain distributable benefits between qualified plans—(1) In general. A transfer of a participant's benefits between qualified plans that results in the elimination or reduction of section 411(d)(6) protected benefits does not violate section 411(d)(6) if—

(i) The transfer occurs at a time at which the participant's benefits are distributable (within the meaning of paragraph (c)(3) of this Q&A-3);

(ii) For a transfer that occurs on or after January 1, 2002, the transfer occurs at a time at which the participant is not eligible to receive an immediate distribution of the participant's entire nonforfeitable accrued benefit in a single-sum distribution that would consist entirely of an eligible rollover distribution within the meaning of section 401(a)(31)(C);

(iii) The voluntary election requirements of paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this Q&A-3 are met;

(iv) The participant is fully vested in the transferred benefit in the transferee plan;

(v) In the case of a transfer from a defined contribution plan to a defined benefit plan, the defined benefit plan provides a minimum benefit, for each participant whose benefits are transferred, equal to the benefit, expressed as an annuity payable at normal retirement age, that is derived solely on the basis of the amount transferred with respect to such participant; and

(vi) The amount of the benefit transferred, together with the amount of any contemporaneous section 401(a)(31) direct rollover to the transferee plan, equals the entire nonforfeitable accrued benefit under the transferor plan of the participant whose benefit is being transferred, calculated to be at least the greater of the single-sum distribution provided for under the plan for which the participant is eligible (if any) or the present value of the participant's accrued benefit payable at normal retirement age (calculated by using interest and mortality assumptions that satisfy the requirements of section 417(e) and subject to the limitations imposed by section 415).

(2) Treatment of transfer—(i) In general. A transfer of benefits pursuant to this paragraph (c) generally is treated as a distribution for purposes of section 401(a). For example, the transfer is subject to the cash-out rules of section 411(a)(7), the early termination requirements of section 411(d)(2), and the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417. A transfer pursuant to the elective transfer rules of this paragraph (c) is not treated as a distribution for purposes of the minimum distribution requirements of section 401(a)(9).

(ii) Status of elective transfer as optional form of benefit. A right to a transfer of benefits from a plan pursuant to the elective transfer rules of this paragraph (c) is an optional form of benefit under section 411(d)(6), the availability of which is subject to the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4) and §1.401(a)(4)-4.

(3) Distributable benefits. For purposes of paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this Q&A-3, a participant's benefits are distributable on a particular date if, on that date, the participant is eligible, under the terms of the plan from which the benefits are transferred, to receive an immediate distribution of these benefits (e.g., in the form of an immediately commencing annuity) from that plan under provisions of the plan not inconsistent with section 401(a).

(d) Effective date. This Q&A-3 is applicable for transfers made on or after September 6, 2000.

Q-4: May a plan provide that the employer may, through the exercise of discretion, deny a participant a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit for which the participant is otherwise eligible?

A-4: (a) In general. Except as provided in paragraph (d) of Q&A-2 of this section with respect to certain employee stock ownership plans, a plan that permits the employer, either directly or indirectly, through the exercise of discretion, to deny a participant a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit provided under the plan for which the participant is otherwise eligible (but for the employer's exercise of discretion) violates the requirements of section 411(d)(6). A plan provision that makes a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit available only to those employees as the employer may designate is within the scope of this prohibition. Thus, for example, a plan provision under which only employees who are designated by the employer are eligible to receive a subsidized early retirement benefit constitutes an impermissible provision under section 411(d)(6). In addition, a pension plan that permits employer discretion to deny the availability of a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit violates the definitely determinable requirement of section 401(a), including section 401(a)(25). See §1.401-1(b)(1)(i). This is the result even if the plan specifically limits the employer's discretion to choosing among section 411(d)(6) protected benefits, including optional forms of benefit, that are actuarially equivalent. In addition, the provisions of sections 411(a)(11) and 417(e) that allow a plan to make involuntary distributions of certain amounts are not excepted from this limitation on employer discretion. Thus, for example, a plan may not permit employer discretion with respect to whether benefits will be distributed involuntarily in the event that the present value of the employee's benefit is not more than the cash-out limit in effect under §1.411(a)-11(c)(3)(ii) within the meaning of sections 411(a)(11) and 417(e). (An exception is provided for such provisions with respect to the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4). See §1.401(a)(4)-4(b)(2)(ii)(C).)

(b) Exception for administrative discretion. A plan may permit limited discretion with respect to the ministerial or mechanical administration of the plan, including the application of objective plan criteria specifically set forth in the plan. Such plan provisions do not violate the requirements of section 411(d)(6) or the definitely determinable requirement of section 401(a), including section 401(a)(25). For example, these requirements are not violated by the following provisions that permit limited administrative discretion:

(1) Commencement of benefit payments as soon as administratively feasible after a stated date or event;

(2) Employer authority to determine whether objective criteria specified in the plan (e.g., objective criteria designed to identify those employees with a heavy and immediate financial need or objective criteria designed to determine whether an employee has a permanent and total disability) have been satisfied; and

(3) Employer authority to determine, pursuant to specific guidelines set forth in the plan, whether the participant or spouse is dead or cannot be located.

Q-5: When will the exercise of discretion by some person or persons, other than the employer, be treated as employer discretion?

A-5: For purposes of applying the rules of this section and §1.401(a)-4, the term “employer” includes plan administrator, fiduciary, trustee, actuary, independent third party, and other persons. Thus, if a plan permits any person, other than the participant (and other than the participant's spouse), the discretion to deny or limit the availability of a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit for which the employee is otherwise eligible under the plan (but for the exercise of such discretion), such plan violates the requirements of sections 401(a), including section 411(d)(6) and, where applicable, the definitely determinable requirement of section 401(a), including section 401(a)(25).

Q-6: May a plan condition the availability of a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit on the satisfaction of objective conditions that are specifically set forth in the plan?

A-6: (a) Certain objective conditions permissible—(1) In general. The availability of a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit may be limited to employees who satisfy certain objective conditions provided the conditions are ascertainable, clearly set forth in the plan and not subject to the employer's discretion except to the extent reasonably necessary to determine whether the objective conditions have been met. Also, the availability of the section 411(d)(6) protected benefit must meet the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4). See §1.401(a)-4.

(2) Examples of permissible conditions. The following examples illustrate of permissible objective conditions: a plan may deny a single sum distribution form to employees for whom life insurance is not available at standard rates as defined under the terms of the plan at the time the single sum distribution would otherwise be payable; a plan may provide that a single sum distribution is available only if the employee is in extreme financial need as defined under the terms of the plan at the time the single sum distribution would otherwise be payable; a plan my condition the availability of a single sum distribution on the execution of a covenant not to compete, provided that objective conditions with respect to the terms of such covenant and the employees and circumstances requiring execution of such covenant are set forth in the plan.

(b) Conditions based on factors within employer's discretion generally impermissible. A plan may not limit the availability of section 411(d)(6) protected benefits permitted under the plan on objective conditions that are within the employer's discretion. For example, the availability of section 411(d)(6) protected benefits in a plan may not be conditioned on a determination with respect to the level of the plan's funded status, because the amount of plan funding is within the employer's discretion. However, for example, although conditions based on the plan's funded status are impermissible, a plan may limit the availability of a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit (e.g., a single sum distribution) in an objective manner, such as the following:

(1) Single sum distributions of $25,000 and less are available without limit; and

(2) Single sum distributions in excess of $25,000 are available for a year only to the extent that the total amount of such single sum distributions for the year is not greater than $5,000,000; and

(3) An objective and nondiscriminatory method for determining which particular single sum distributions will not be available during a year in order for the $5,000,000 limit to be satisfied is set forth in the plan.

Q-7: May a plan be amended to add employer discretion or conditions restricting the availability of a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit?

A-7: No. The addition of employer discretion or objective conditions with respect to a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit that has already accrued violates section 411(d)(6). Also, the addition of conditions (whether or not objective) or any change to existing conditions with respect to section 411(d)(6) protected benefits that results in any further restriction violates section 411(d)(6). However, the addition of objective conditions to a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit may be made with respect to benefits accrued after the later of the adoption or effective date of the amendment. In addition, objective conditions may be imposed on section 411(d)(6) protected benefits accrued as of the date of an amendment where permitted under the transitional rules of §1.401(a)-4 Q&A-5 and Q&A-8 of this section. Finally, objective conditions may be imposed on section 411(d)(6) protected benefits to the extent permitted by the permissible benefit cutback provisions of Q&A-2 of this section.

Q-8: If a plan contains an impermissible employer discretion provision with respect to a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit, what acceptable alternative exist for amending the plan without violating the requirements of section 411(d)(6)?

A-8: (a) In general. The following rules apply for purposes of making necessary amendments to existing plans (as defined in Q&A-9 of this section) that contain discretion provisions with respect to the availability of section 411(d)(6) protected benefits that violate the requirements of section 401(a), including sections 401(a)(25) and 411(d)(6), and this section. These transitional rules are provided under the authority of section 411(d)(6) and section 7805(b).

(b) Transitional alternatives. If the availability of an optional forms of benefit, early or late retirement benefit, or retirement-type subsidy under an existing plan is conditioned on the exercise of employer discretion, the plan must be amended either to eliminate the optional form of benefit, early or late retirement benefit, or retirement-type subsidy to make such benefit available to all participants without limitation, or to apply objective and nondiscriminatory conditions to the availability of the optional form of benefit, early or later retirement benefit, or retirement-type subsidy. See paragraph (d) of this Q&A-8 for rules limiting the period during which section 411(d)(6) protected benefits may be eliminated or reduced under this paragraph.

(c) Compliance and amendment date provisions—(1) Operational compliance requirement. On or before the applicable effective date for the plan (as determined under Q&A-9 of this section), the plan sponsor must select one of the alternatives permitted under paragraph (b) of the Q&A-8 with respect to each affected section 411(d)(6) protected benefit and the plan must be operated in accordance with this selection. This is an operational requirement and does not require a plan amendment prior to the period set forth in paragraph (c)(2) of this Q&A-8. There are no special reporting requirements under the Code or this section with respect to this selection.

(2) Deferred amendment date. If paragraph (c)(1) of this Q&A-8 is satisfied, a plan amendment conforming the plan to the particular alternative selected under paragraph (b) of this Q&A-8 must be adopted within the time period permitted for amending plans in order to meet the requirements of section 410(b) as amended by TRA '86. The plan amendment to conform the plan to these regulations may be made at an earlier date. Such conforming amendment must be consistent with the sponsor's selection as reflected by plan practice during the period from the effective date to the date the amendment is adopted. Thus, for example, if any existing calendar year noncollectively bargained defined benefit plan has a single sum distribution option that is subject to employer discretion as of August 1, 1986, and such employer makes one or more single sum distributions available on or after January 1, 1989 and before the effective date by which plan amendment is required pursuant to this section, then such employer may not adopt a plan amendment eliminating the single sum distribution, but rather must adopt an amendment eliminating the discretion provision. Any objective conditions that are adopted as part of such amendment must not be inconsistent with the plan practice for the applicable period prior to the amendment. A conforming amendment under this paragraph (c)(2) must be made with respect to each section 411(d)(6) protected benefit for which such amendment is required and must be retroactive to the applicable effective date.

(d) Limitation on transitional alternatives. The transitional alternatives permitting the elimination or reduction of section 411(d)(6) protected benefits are only permissible until the applicable effective date for the plan (see Q&A-9 of this section). After the applicable effective date, any amendment (other than one permitted under paragraph (c)(2) of this Q&A-8) that eliminates or reduces a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit or imposes new objective conditions on the availability of such benefit will fail to qualify for the exception to section 411(d)(6) provided in this Q&A-8. This is the case without regard to whether the section 411(d)(6) protected benefit is subject to employer discretion.

Q-9: What are the applicable effective date rules for purposes of this section?

A-9: (a) General effective date. Except as otherwise provided in this section, the provisions of this section are effective January 30, 1986.

(b) New plans—(1) In general. Unless otherwise provided in paragraph (b)(2) of this Q&A-9, plans that are either adopted or made effective on or after August 1, 1986, are “new plans”. With respect to such new plans, this section is effective August 1, 1986. This effective date is applicable to such plans whether or not they are collectively bargained.

(2) Exception with respect to certain new plans. Plans that are new plans as defined in paragraph (b)(1) of this Q&A-9; under which the availability of a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit is subject to employer discretion; and that receive a favorable determination letter that covered such plan provisions with respect to an application submitted prior to July 11, 1988, will be treated as existing plans with respect to such section 411(d)(6) protected benefit for purposes of the transitional rules of this section. Thus, such plans are eligible for the compliance and amendment alternatives set forth in the transitional rule in Q&A-8 of this section.

(c) Existing plans—(1) In general. Plans, including plans that are adoptions of master or prototype plans, that are both adopted and in effect prior to August 1, 1986, are “existing plans” for purposes of this section. In addition, a plan that is established after July 31, 1986, but before January 1, 1989, as an initial adoption of a master or prototype plan for which a favorable opinion letter was issued by the Service after July 18, 1985 and before January 1, 1989, will be deemed to be an existing plan for purposes of this section. See sections 4.01 and 4.02 of Rev. Proc. 84-23, 1984-1 C.B. 457, 459, for the definitions of master prototype plans. However, if such plan ceases to be covered under an opinion letter of the type described above, as a result of amendment of the plan or adoption of a new plan, prior to the first day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 1989, then the effective date for such plan will be determined as though the plan were a new plan initially adopted as of the date of such amendment or adoption of a new plan. Finally, new plans described in paragraph (b)(2) of this Q&A-9 are treated as existing plans with respect to certain section 411(d)(6) protected benefits. Subject to the limitations in paragraph (c) of this Q&A-9, the effective dates set forth in paragraphs (c)(2), (c)(3), and (c)(4) of this Q&A-9 apply to these existing plans for purposes of this section:

(2) Existing noncollectively bargained plans. With respect to existing plans other than collectively bargained plans this section is effective for the first day of the first plan year commencing on or after January 1, 1989.

(3) Existing collectively bargained plans. With respect to existing collectively bargained plans this section is effective for the later of the first day of the first plan year commencing on or after January 1, 1989, or the first day of the first plan year that the requirements of section 410(b) as amended by TRA '86 apply to such plan.

(4) Existing master and prototype plans. With respect to existing plans that are adoptions of master or prototype plans the effective date will be the first day of the first plan year commencing on or after January 1, 1989.

(d) Delayed effective date not applicable to new alternatives or conditions—(1) In general. The delayed effective dates in paragraphs (c)(2) and (c)(3) of this Q&A-9 for existing plans are only applicable with respect to a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit if both the section 411(d)(6) protected benefit and the condition providing employer discretion as to the availability of such benefit are both adopted and in effect prior to August 1, 1986. If the preceding sentence is not satisfied with respect to a particular section 411(d)(6) protected benefit, this section is effective with respect to such section 411(d)(6) protected benefit as if the plan were a new plan.

(2) Addition of discretion on or after January 30, 1986. The delayed effective dates in paragraphs (c)(2) and (c)(3) of this Q&A-9 are not available with respect to any section 411(d)(6) protected benefit if the section 411(d)(6) protected benefit was provided for in the plan prior to January 30, 1986, and the availability of such benefit was made subject to the exercise of employer discretion on or after January 30, 1986. If the conditions set forth in this paragraph are not satisfied with respect to a particular section 411(d)(6) protected benefit, this section is effective with respect to such section 411(d)(6) protected benefit as if the plan were a new plan. A limited exception is provided with respect to existing plans that provided a particular section 411(d)(6) protected benefit prior to January 30, 1986, and then amended the plan after January 30, 1986, and before August 1, 1986, to add a provision for employer discretion with respect to the availability of such benefit. Such plans are required to have been amended retroactively by December 31, 1987, to remove such provision for employer discretion, and, if the benefit made subject to such discretion was subsequently eliminated, the plan is required to have been further amended, by the same date, to retroactively reinstate the benefit.

(3) Exception for certain amendments covered by a favorable determination letter. If an amendment adding a section 411(d)(6) protected benefit subject to employer discretion was adopted or made effective after August 1, 1986, and the plan receives a favorable determination letter covering such provision with respect to an application for such letter made prior to July 11, 1988, then the effective date for purposes of amending such provision under the transitional rules is the applicable effective date determined under the rules with respect to existing plans.

(e) Transitional rule effective date. The transitional rule provided in Q&A-8 of this section is effective January 30, 1986.

Q-10: If a plan provides for an age 7012 distribution option that commences prior to retirement from employment with the employer maintaining the plan, to what extent may the plan be amended to eliminate this distribution option?

A-10: (a) In general. The right to commence benefit distributions in a particular form and at a particular time prior to retirement from employment with the employer maintaining the plan is a separate optional form of benefit within the meaning of section 411(d)(6)(B) and Q&A-1 of this section, even if the plan provision creating this right was included in the plan solely to comply with section 401(a)(9), as in effect for years before January 1, 1997. Therefore, except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of this Q&A-10 or any other Q&A in this section, a plan amendment violates section 411(d)(6) if it eliminates an age 7012 distribution option (within the meaning of paragraph (c) of this Q&A-10) to the extent that it applies to benefits accrued as of the later of the adoption date or effective date of the amendment.

(b) Permitted elimination of age 7012 distribution option. An amendment of a plan will not violate the requirements of section 411(d)(6) merely because the amendment eliminates an age 7012 distribution option to the extent that the option provides for distribution to an employee prior to retirement from employment with the employer maintaining the plan, provided that—

(1) The amendment eliminating this optional form of benefit applies only to benefits with respect to employees who attain age 7012 in or after a calendar year, specified in the amendment, that begins after the later of—

(i) December 31, 1998; or

(ii) The adoption date of the amendment;

(2) The plan does not, except to the extent required by section 401(a)(9), preclude an employee who retires after the calendar year in which the employee attains age 7012 from receiving benefits in any of the same optional forms of benefit (except for the difference in the timing of the commencement of payments) that would have been available had the employee retired in the calendar year in which the employee attained age 7012 ; and

(3) The amendment is adopted no later than—

(i) The last day of the remedial amendment period that applies to the plan for changes under the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 (110 Stat. 1755); or

(ii) Solely in the case of a plan maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements between employee representatives and one or more employers ratified before September 3, 1998, the last day of the twelfth month beginning after the date on which the last of such collective bargaining agreements terminates (determined without regard to any extension thereof on or after September 3, 1998), if later than the date described in paragraph (b)(3)(i) of this Q&A-10. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(3)(ii), the rules of §1.410(b)-10(a)(2) apply for purposes of determining whether a plan is maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements, except that September 3, 1998 is substituted for March 1, 1986, as the date before which the collective bargaining agreements must be ratified.

(c) Age 7012 distribution option. For purposes of this Q&A-10, an age 7012 distribution option is an optional form of benefit under which benefits payable in a particular distribution form (including any modifications that may be elected after benefit commencement) commence at a time during the period that begins on or after January 1 of the calendar year in which an employee attains age 7012 and ends April 1 of the immediately following calendar year.

(d) Examples. The provisions of this Q&A-10 are illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Plan A, a defined benefit plan, provides each participant with a qualified joint and survivor annuity (QJSA) that is available at any time after the later of age 65 or retirement. However, in accordance with section 401(a)(9) as in effect prior to January 1, 1997, Plan A provides that if an employee does not retire by the end of the calendar year in which the employee attains age 7012 , then the QJSA commences on the following April 1. On October 1, 1998, Plan A is amended to provide that, for an employee who is not a 5-percent owner and who attains age 7012 after 1998, benefits may not commence before the employee retires but must commence no later than the April 1 following the later of the calendar year in which the employee retires or the calendar year in which the employee attains age 7012 . This amendment satisfies this Q&A-10 and does not violate section 411(d)(6).
Example 2. Plan B, a money purchase pension plan, provides each participant with a choice of a QJSA or a single sum distribution commencing at any time after the later of age 65 or retirement. In addition, in accordance with section 401(a)(9) as in effect prior to January 1, 1997, Plan B provides that benefits will commence in the form of a QJSA on April 1 following the calendar year in which the employee attains age 7012 , except that, with spousal consent, a participant may elect to receive annual installment payments equal to the minimum amount necessary to satisfy section 401(a)(9) (calculated in accordance with a method specified in the plan) until retirement, at which time a participant may choose between a QJSA and a single sum distribution (with spousal consent). On June 30, 1998, Plan B is amended to provide that, for an employee who is not a 5-percent owner and who attains age 7012 after 1998, benefits may not commence prior to retirement but benefits must commence no later than April 1 after the later of the calendar year in which the employee retires or the calendar year in which the employee attains age 7012 . The amendment further provides that the option described above to receive annual installment payments prior to retirement will not be available under the plan to an employee who is not a 5-percent owner and who attains age 7012 after 1998. This amendment satisfies this Q&A-10 and does not violate section 411(d)(6).
Example 3. Plan C, a profit-sharing plan, contains two distribution provisions. Under the first provision, in any year after an employee attains age 5912 , the employee may elect a distribution of any specified amount not exceeding the balance of the employee's account. In addition, the plan provides a section 401(a)(9) override provision under which, if, during any year following the year that the employee attains age 7012 , the employee does not elect an amount at least equal to the minimum amount necessary to satisfy section 401(a)(9) (calculated in accordance with a method specified in the plan), Plan C will distribute the difference by December 31 of that year (or for the year the employee attains age 7012 , by April 1 of the following year). On December 31, 1996, Plan C is amended to provide that, for an employee other than an employee who is a 5-percent owner in the year the employee attains age 7012 , in applying the section 401(a)(9) override provision, the later of the year of retirement or year of attainment of age 7012 , is substituted for the year of attainment of age 7012 . After the amendment, Plan C still permits each employee to elect to receive the same amount as was available before the amendment. Because this amendment does not eliminate an optional form of benefit, the amendment does not violate section 411(d)(6). Accordingly, the amendment is not required to satisfy the conditions of paragraph (b) of this Q&A-10.

(e) Effective date. This Q&A-10 applies to amendments adopted and effective after June 5, 1998.

Q-11: To what extent may a plan amendment that is made pursuant to the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (TRA '97) (Public Law 105-34, 111 Stat. 788), reduce or eliminate section 411(d)(6) protected benefits?

A-11: A plan amendment does not violate the requirements of section 411(d)(6) merely because the plan amendment reduces or eliminates section 411(d)(6) protected benefits as of the effective date of the plan amendment, provided that—

(a) The plan amendment is made pursuant to an amendment made by title XV, or subtitle H of title X, of TRA '97; and

(b) The plan amendment is adopted no later than the last day of any remedial amendment period that applies to the plan pursuant to §§1.401(b)-1 and 1.401(b)-1T for changes under TRA '97.

Q-12. Is there a transition period during which a plan is permitted to eliminate a right to in-service distributions in connection with an amendment to ensure that the plan's normal retirement age satisfies the requirements of §1.401(a)-1(b)(2)?

A-12. (a) In general. A plan amendment that changes the normal retirement age under the plan to a later normal retirement age pursuant to §1.401(a)-1(b)(2) does not violate section 411(d)(6) merely because it eliminates a right to an in-service distribution prior to the amended normal retirement age. However, this paragraph does not provide relief from any other applicable requirements; for example, this relief does not permit the amendment to violate section 411(a)(9) (requiring that the normal retirement benefit not be less than the greater of any early retirement benefit payable under the plan or the benefit under the plan commencing at normal retirement age), section 411(a)(10) (if the amendment changes the plan's vesting rules), section 411(d)(6) (other than elimination of the right to an in-service distribution prior to the amended normal retirement age), or section 4980F (relating to an amendment that reduces the rate of future benefit accrual). This paragraph only applies to a plan amendment that is adopted after May 22, 2007 and on or before the last day of the applicable remedial amendment period under §1.401(b)-1 with respect to the requirements of §1.401(a)-1(b)(2) and (3).

(b) Example. The following example illustrates the application of this section:

(i) Facts. (A) Plan A is a defined benefit plan intended to be qualified under section 401(a). Plan A is maintained by a calendar year taxpayer and has a normal retirement age that is age 45. For employees who cease employment before normal retirement age with a vested benefit, Plan A permits benefits to commence at any date after the attainment of normal retirement age through attainment of age 7012 and provides for benefits to be actuarially increased to the extent they commence after normal retirement age. For employees who continue employment after attainment of normal retirement age, Plan A provides for benefits to continue to accrue and permits benefits to commence at any time, with an actuarial increase in benefits to apply to the extent benefits do not commence after normal retirement age. Age 45 is an age that is earlier than the earliest age that is reasonably representative of the typical retirement age for the industry in which the covered workforce is employed.

(B) On February 18, 2008, Plan A is amended, effective May 22, 2007, to change its normal retirement age to the later of age 65 or the fifth anniversary of participation in the plan. The amendment provides full vesting for any participating employee who is employed on May 21, 2007, and who terminates employment on or after attaining age 45. The amendment provides employees who cease employment before the revised normal retirement age and who are entitled to a vested benefit with the right to be able to commence benefits at any date from age 45 to age 7012 . The plan amendment also revises the plan's benefit accrual formula so that the benefit for prior service (payable commencing at the revised normal retirement age or any other age after age 45) is not less than would have applied under the plan's formula before the amendment (also payable commencing at the corresponding dates), based on the benefit accrued on May 21, 2007, and provides for service thereafter to have the same rate of future benefit accrual. Thus, for any participant employed on May 21, 2007, with respect to benefits accrued for service after May 21, 2007, the amount payable under the plan (as amended) at any benefit commencement date after age 45 is the same amount that would have been payable at that benefit commencement date under the plan prior to amendment. The plan amendment also eliminates the right to an in-service distribution between age 45 and the revised normal retirement age. Plan A has been operated since May 22, 2007, in conformity with the amendment adopted on February 18, 2008.

(ii) Conclusion. The plan amendment does not violate section 411(d)(6). Although the amendment eliminates the right to commence benefits in-service between age 45 and the revised normal retirement age, the amendment is made before the last day of the remedial amendment period applicable to the plan under §1.401(b)-1 with respect to the requirements of §1.401(a)-1(b)(2) and (3), and therefore the amendment is permitted under paragraph (a) of this A-12. Further, the amendment does not result in a reduction in any benefit for service after May 22, 2007.

Thus, the amendment does not result in a reduction in any benefit for future service, and advance notice of a significant reduction in the rate of future benefit accrual is not required under section 4980F.

[53 FR 26058, July 11, 1988]

Editorial Note: For Federal Register citations affecting §1.411(d)-4, see the List of CFR Sections Affected, which appears in the Finding Aids section of the printed volume and at www.fdsys.gov.

§1.411(d)-5   Class year plans; plan years beginning after October 22, 1986.

(a) Plan years beginning prior to 1989. (1) The requirements of section 411(a)(2) shall be treated as satisfied in the case of a class-year plan if such plan provides that 100 percent of each employee's right to or derived from the contributions of the employer on the employee's behalf with respect to any plan year is nonforfeitable not later than when such participant was performing services for the employer as of the close of each of 5 plan years (whether or not consecutive) after the plan year for which the contributions were made.

(2) For purposes of paragraph (a)(1) of this section if—

(i) Any contributions are made on behalf of a participant with respect to any plan year, and

(ii) Before such participant meets the requirements of paragraph (a)(1) of this section, such participant was not performing services for the employer as of the close of each of any 5 consecutive plan years after such plan year, then the plan may provide that the participant forfeits any right to or derived from the contributions made with respect to such plan year.

(3) This paragraph (a) applies to contributions made for plan years beginning after October 22, 1986.

(b) Plan years beginning after 1988. (1) The special class year vesting rule in section 411(d)(4) was repealed by section 1113(b) of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (1986 Act). The repeal is generally effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 1988. See section 1111(e) of the 1986 Act for a special effective date rule applicable to certain plans maintained pursuant to collective bargaining agreements.

(2)(i) This subparagraph (2) provides a special rule for class year plans that were in compliance with section 411(d)(4) immediately before the first plan year beginning after section 411(d)(4) is repealed. These plans are not required to retroactively compute years of service under the general section 411(a)(2) rules. Instead, a participant must receive a year of service for each such prior plan year if the employee was performing services on the last day of such year. Similarly, if the participant was not performing services on the last day of such years, the participant will be treated as if a one-year break-in-service occurred for such plan year. This subdivision (i) applies to plan years to which this section applies.

(ii) In the case of a plan year to which §1.411(d)-3 applied, a class year plan must compute years of service and breaks in service in a manner consistent with the rules in this paragraph (b)(2)(i), giving appropriate regard to the statutory changes made to section 411(d)(4).

[T.D. 8219, 53 FR 31854, Aug. 22, 1988; 53 FR 48534, Dec. 1, 1988]

§1.412(b)-2   Amortization of experience gains in connection with certain group deferred annuity contracts.

(a) Experience gain treatment. Dividends, rate credits, and credits for forfeitures arising in a plan described in paragraph (b) of this section are experience gains described in section 412(b)(3)(B)(ii) (relating to the amortization of experience gains).

(b) Plan. A plan is described in this paragraph (b) if—

(1) The plan is funded solely through a group deferred annuity contract,

(2) The annual single premium required under the contract for the purchase of the benefits accruing during the plan year is treated as the normal cost of the plan for that year, and

(3) The amount necessary to pay in equal annual installments, over the appropriate amortization period, an amount equal to the single premium necessary to provide all past service benefits not initially funded, together with interest thereon, is treated as the annual amortization amount determined under section 412(b)(2)(B) (i), (ii) or (iii).

(c) Effective date. This section applies for the first plan year to which section 412 applies that begins after May 22, 1981.

[T.D. 7764, 46 FR 6923, Jan. 22, 1981]

§1.412(b)-5   Election of the alternative amortization method of funding.

(a) Alternative amortization method in general. Section 1013(d) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 provides an alternative method which may be used by certain multiemployer plans (as defined in section 414(f)) which were in existence on January 1, 1974, for funding certain unfunded past service liability. The multiemployer plans which may elect to use this alternative method are those plans (1) under which, on January 1, 1974, contributions were based on a percentage of pay, (2) which use actuarial assumptions with respect to pay that are reasonably related to past and projected experience, and (3) which use rates of interest that are determined on the basis of reasonable acturial assumptions. The unfunded past service liability to which this method applies is that amount existing as of the date 12 months after the date on which section 412 first applies to the plan. The alternative method allows the plan to fund this liability over a period of 40 plan years by charging the funding standard account with an equal annual percentage of the aggregate pay of all participants in the plan instead of the level dollar charges required under section 412(b)(2)(B). Paragraphs (b), (c), (d) and (e) of this section contain procedural rules for electing this alternative method.

(b) Election procedure. To elect the alternative amortization method, a multiemployer plan must attach a statement to the annual report required under section 6058(a) for the plan year for which the election is made, stating that the alternative method for funding unfunded past service liability is being adopted. Advance approval from the Internal Revenue Service is not required. The alternative method must be adopted on or before the last day prescribed for filing the annual report corresponding to the last plan year beginning before January 1, 1982.

(c) Charges to which the alternative amortization method is applicable. Once elected, the alternative amortization method is applicable to the unfunded past service liability existing as of the date 12 months after the date on which section 412 first applies to the plan. This results in charges to the funding standard account which are in lieu of—

(1) Charges required under clause (i) of section 412(b)(2)(B), and

(2) Charges required under clause (iii) of section 412(b)(2)(B) if the plan amendments referred to in such clause result in a net increase in the unfunded past service liability existing as of the date 12 months after the date on which section 412 first applies to the plan. Such charges generally will arise only with respect to plan amendments adopted in the first plan year to which section 412 applies.

If the election is made on an annual report corresponding to a plan year after the first plan year to which section 412 applies, recomputation of the contributions due in the prior years (to which section 412 applied) will be necessary.

(d) Limitation. The sum of the charges described in this paragraph may not be less than the interest on the unfunded past service liabilities described in section 412(b)(2)(B) (i) and (iii), determined as of the date 12 months after the date on which section 412 first applies to the plan.

(e) Reporting requirements. Each annual report required by section 6058(a) and periodic report of the actuary required by section 6059 must include all additional information relevant to the use of the alternative amortization method as may be required by the applicable forms and the instructions for such forms.

[T.D. 7702, 45 FR 40113, June 13, 1980]

§1.412(c)(1)-1   Determinations to be made under funding method—terms defined.

(a) Actuarial cost method and funding method. Section 3 (31) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) provides certain acceptable (and unacceptable) actuarial cost methods which may (or may not) be used by employee plans. The term “funding method” when used in section 412 has the same meaning as the term “actuarial cost method” in section 3 (31) of ERISA. For shortfall method for certain collectively bargained plans, see §1.412(c)(1)-2; for principles applicable to funding methods in general, see regulations under section 412(c)(3).

(b) Computations included in funding method. The funding method of a plan includes not only the overall funding method used by the plan but also each specific method of computation used in applying the overall method. However, the choice of which actuarial assumptions are appropriate to the overall method or to the specific method of computation is not a part of the funding method. For example, the decision to use or not to use a mortality factor in the funding method of a plan is not a part of such funding method. Similarly, the specific mortality rate determined to be applicable to a particular plan year is not part of the funding method. See section 412(c)(5) for the requirement of approval to change the funding method used by a plan.

[T.D. 7733, 45 FR 75202, Nov. 14, 1980]

§1.412(c)(1)-2   Shortfall method.

(a) In general—(1) Shortfall method. The shortfall method is a funding method that adapts a plan's underlying funding method for purposes of section 412. As such, the use of the shortfall method is subject to section 412(c)(3). A plan described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section may elect to determine the charges to the funding standard account required by section 412(b) under the shortfall method. These charges are computed on the basis of an estimated number of units of service or production (for which a certain amount per unit is to be charged). The difference between the net amount charged under this method and the net amount that otherwise would have been charged under section 412 for the same period is a shortfall loss (gain) and is to be amortized over certain subsequent plan years.

(2) Eligibility for use of shortfall. No plan may use the shortfall method unless—

(i) The plan is a collectively bargained plan described in section 413(a), and

(ii) Contributions to the plan are made at a rate specified under the terms of a legally binding agreement applicable to the plan.

For purposes of this section, a plan maintained by a labor organization which is exempt from tax under section 501(c)(5) is treated as a collectively bargained plan and the governing rules of the organization (such as its constitution, bylaws, or other document that can be altered only through action of a convention of the organization) are treated as a collectively bargained agreement.

(b) Computation and effect of net shortfall charge—(1) In general. The “net shortfall charge” to the funding standard account under the shortfall method is the product of (i) the estimated unit charge described in paragraph (c) of this section that applies for a particular plan year, multiplied by (ii) the actual number of base units (for example, units of service or production) which occurred during that plan year. When the shortfall method is used, the net shortfall charge is a substitute for the specific charges and credits to the funding standard account described in section 412 (b)(2) and (3)(B).

(2) Example. Paragraph (b)(1) of this section may be illustrated by the following example:

Example. A pension plan uses the calendar year as the plan year and the shortfall method. Its estimated unit charge applicable to 1980 is 80 cents per hour of covered employment. During 1980, there were 125,000 hours of covered employment. The net shortfall charge for the plan year is $100,000 (i.e., 125,000×$.80), regardless of the amount which would be charged and credited to the funding standard account under section 412 (b)(2) and (3)(B) had the shortfall method not applied. The funding standard account for 1980 will be separately credited for the amount considered contributed for the plan year under section 412 (b)(3)(A). The other items which may be credited, if applicable, are a waived funding deficiency and the alternative minimum funding standard credit adjustment under section 412(b)(3)(C) and (D) because these items are not credits under section 412(b)(3)(B).

(3) Plans with more than one contract, contribution rate, employer, or benefit level—(i) General rule. A single plan with more than one contract, contribution rate, employer, or benefit level may compute a separate net shortfall charge for each contract, contribution rate, each employer, or each benefit level. The sum of these charges is the plan's total net shortfall charge. under §1.412(c)(1)-1(b), the use of separate computations would be a specific method of computation used in applying the overall funding method. See also paragraph (f)(5) of this section.

(ii) Single valuation. Only one actuarial valuation shall be made for the single plan on each actuarial valuation date.

(iii) Reasonableness test. The specific method of computation of the net shortfall charge must be reasonable, determined in the light of the facts and circumstances.

(c) Estimated unit charge. The estimated unit charge is the annual computation charge described in paragraph (d) of this section divided by the estimated base units of service or production described in paragraph (e) of this section.

(d) Annual computation charge. The annual computation charge for a plan year is the sum of the following amounts:

(1) The net charges and credits which, but for using the shortfall method, would be made under section 412 (b)(2) and (b)(3)(B).

(2) The amount described in paragraph (g)(3) of this section, if applicable, for amortization of shortfall gain or loss.

(e) Estimated base units—(1) In general. The estimated base units are the expected units of service or production for a plan year (hours, days, tons, dollars of compensation, etc.), determined as of the base unit estimation date for that plan year under paragraph (f) of this section. This estimate must be based on the past experience of the plan and the reasonable expectations of the plan for the plan year. The specific type of unit used must be described in the statement of funding method for the plan year. (See paragraph (i)(3) of this section for reporting requirements.)

(2) Reasonable expectations. The reasonableness of expectations used under paragraph (e)(1) of this section is determined under the facts and circumstances of the plan for each plan year as of the relevant base unit estimation date. Expectations will be considered unreasonable if, for example, they do not reflect a consistent and substantial decline or growth in actual base units that has occurred over the course of recent years and that is likely to continue beyond the base unit estimation date. This determination of reasonableness is independent of determinations made under section 412(c)(3) of the reasonableness of actuarial assumptions.

(f) Base unit estimation date—(1) In general. The base unit estimation date for the current plan year is determined under this paragraph (f). This date shall be an actuarial valuation date no earlier than the last actuarial valuation date occurring at least one year before the earliest date any current collectively bargained agreement in existence during the plan year came into effect.

(2) Four-month rule. For purposes of this paragraph (f), a current collectively bargained agreement is one in effect during at least four months of the current plan year.

(3) Effective date of agreement. For purposes of this paragraph (f), a collectively bargained agreement shall be deemed to have come into effect on the effective date of the agreement containing the currently effective provision for contributions to the plan or the benefits provided under the plan.

(4) Long-term contract rule. The effective date of a collectively bargained agreement shall be deemed not to occur prior to the first day of the third plan year preceding the current year.

(5) Special rule for plans computing separate net shortfall charge. A plan that computes a separate net shortfall charge for each contract, contribution rate, employer, or benefit level under paragraph (b)(3) of this section shall determine the base unit estimation date for each separate charge without regard to any collectively bargained agreement that does not relate to that contract, contribution rate, employer, or benefit level. If a collective bargaining agreement requiring contributions by a certain employer, or prescribing a certain benefit level, is in effect on December 31, 1980, the preceding sentence shall not apply to the computation of a separate net shortfall charge for that employer or benefit level until the earlier of—

(i) The first plan year beginning after the date on which expires the collective bargaining agreement requiring contributions by that employer (or the last collective bargaining agreement relating to that benefit level), or

(ii) The first plan year beginning after December 31, 1983.

(6) Example. The rules contained in paragraph (f) of this section are illustrated by the following table. In the table, “V” signifies actuarial valuation date (January 1 in each case shown); “B” signifies beginning of a contract; and “E” signifies end of a contract. The table shows the resulting earliest base unit estimation date with respect to the following assumed items:

Computation of Earliest Base Unit Estimation Date

Example Plan year (calendar year basis)
197319741975197619771978197919801981198219831984
Plan AV         V         V         V   
Contract 1E/BE/BE/BE/B
Base unit estimation date1         197319731973197619761979197919791979
Plan BV         V         V         V   
Contract 2222B*E/BE/B*
Contract 3E/BE/BE/BE/B
Base unit estimation date1197319731973197619761976197619791979
Plan CV   V   V   V   V   V   V   V   V   V   V   V   
Contract 4E/BE/B*E/B*
Contract 5E/BE/B*E/B*
Base unit estimation date1         197419741977197719771977197819791981

1The base unit estimation date may be on or any time after the actuarial valuation date in the year indicated on this line.

2No contract.

*Denotes that a prior contract ends and a new contract begins prior to the fifth month of a plan year.

(g) Amortization of shortfall gain or loss—(1) Definition. The shortfall gain for a plan is the excess for the plan year of—

(i) The net shortfall charge computed under paragraph (b) of this section over

(ii) The annual computation charge described in paragraph (d) of this section.

The shortfall loss for a plan is the excess for the plan year of the annual computation charge over the net shortfall charge.

(2) Shortfall amortization period—(i) First year. The plan year in which the amortization of a shortfall gain or loss must begin is the earlier of two years: the fifth plan year following the plan year in which the shortfall gain or loss arose, or the first plan year beginning after the latest scheduled expiration date of a collectively bargained agreement in effect with respect to the plan during the plan year in which the shortfall gain or loss arose. For purposes of this subparagraph, a contract expiring on the last day of a plan year shall be deemed to be renewed on such last day for the same period of years as the contract that succeeds the expiring contract.

(ii) Last year. The plan year in which the amortization of a shortfall gain or loss must end is the 15th plan year following the plan year in which the shortfall gain or loss arose. For a multiemployer plan described in section 414(f), the amortization must end with the 20th plan year instead of the 15th.

(3) Annual amortization amount. The shortfall gain or loss must be amortized in equal annual installments. The total amount to be amortized must be adjusted for interest at the rate used for determining the plan's normal cost.

(4) Shortfall gain or loss under spread gain type of funding method—(i) In general. A spread gain type of funding method spreads experience gains and losses over future periods as part of a plan's normal cost. (Examples of spread gain types of funding methods are the aggregate cost method, the frozen initial liability method, and the attained age normal method.) However, a shortfall gain or loss is not an experience gain or loss. Therefore, a plan using a spread gain type of funding method together with the shortfall method must amortize shortfall gains and losses and otherwise meet the requirements of paragraph (g) of this section.

(ii) Asset adjustment for aggregate method. A plan using the shortfall method with the aggregate cost method of funding must adjust its plan assets for a shortfall gain or loss in calculating normal cost. The unamortized portion of any shortfall gain is subtracted from plan assets. The unamortized portion of any shortfall loss is added to plan assets.

(5) Reconciliation of shortfall gain or loss with funding standard account. At the beginning of each year, the actual unfunded liability under the method used by the plan must equal the outstanding balance of all amortization bases, including bases for shortfall gains and losses, less the credit balance under the funding standard account at the end of the prior year.

(6) Example. This paragraph is illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. A multiemployer plan described in section 414 (f) is maintained with the calendar year as the plan year and uses the shortfall method. The plan uses the frozen initial liability funding method. A five percent interest assumption is used by the plan, with payments computed as of the first day of each plan year for all items. The expiration dates of contracts in effect during plan years 1976, 1977, and 1978 are such that the amortization of gains or losses for each year must begin in the fifth following plan year. The assumed plan costs and estimated base units for selected years, and the computations under this section which follow from such assumptions are shown in the following table. In the table, “*” denotes an assumed item. The remaining figures have been calculated on the basis of these assumptions.

(A) Computation of Net Shortfall Charge and Shortfall Gain or Loss

Plan year197619771978
1. Normal cost*$100,000$100,000$100,000
2. Amortization of unfunded liability*50,00050,00050,000
3. Total annual computation charges$150,000$150,000$150,000
4. Estimated base units*100,000100,000100,000
5. Estimated unit charge (line 3÷line 4)$1.50$1.50$1.50
6. Actual units during year*80,00090,000110,000
7. Net shortfall charge for year (line 5×line 6)120,000135,000165,000
8. Shortfall (gain) or loss (line 3−line 7)30,00015,000($15,000)

(B) Annual Amortization Amount

9. Year of shortfall gain or loss197619771978
10. First year of amortization198119821983
11. Last year of amortization199619971998
12. (Gain) or loss adjusted for interest to year amortization begins (1-1-76 to 1-1-81, etc.)$38,288$19,144($19,144)
13. Annual amortization (16 years)$3,364$1,682($1,682)

(C) Computation of Net Shortfall Charges for Selected Years (Including Shortfall Amortization)

Plan year198119821983
14. Normal cost*$120,000$125,000$130,000
15. Amortization of unfunded liability*50,00050,00050,000
16. Shortfall amortization (see line 13) from:
19763,3643,3643,364
19771,6821,682
1978(1,682)
17. Total annual computation charges173,364180,046183,364
18. Estimated base units*110,000110,000110,000
19. Estimated unit charge (line 17÷line 18)1.5761.6371.667
20. Actual units during year*105,000110,000105,000
21. Net shortfall charge for year (line 19×line 20)165,480180,070175,035
22. Shortfall (gain) loss (line 17−line 21)7,884(24)8,329
The amounts in line 22 will be amortized beginning 1986, 1987, and 1988, respectively. The $24 gain in 1982 results from rounding the estimated unit charge.
Example 2. Assume the facts in Example 1. Also assume that the plan uses the frozen initial liability funding method, that the unfunded liability as of January 1, 1976 (corresponding to a 40-year charge of $50,000 due at the beginning of the year) is $900,850, and that actual contributions at the rate of $1.75 per unit are paid at mid-year in 1976.

(A) Computation of the Unfunded Liability as of December 31, 1976

1. Unfunded liability as of 1/1/76$900,850
2. Normal cost (that used in the calculation of the total annual computation charges)100,000
3. Interest at 5% due on items 1 and 250,043
4. Contribution with interest: $1.75×80,000×1.025 (actual contribution rate times acutal base units times interest adjustment from mid-year)143,500
5. Unfunded liability as of 12/31/76: item 1+item 2+item 3 −item 4907,393

(B) Computation of the Outstanding Balance of the Bases as of December 31, 1976

1. Original base: ($900,850−$50,000)×1.05$893,393
2. Shortfall loss $30,000×1.0531,500
3. Total924,893

(C) Computation of the Credit Balance as of December 31, 1976

1. Net shortfall charge (§1.412 (c) (1)-2 (b)) adjusted for interest: $120,000×1.05$126,000
2. Actual contributions with interest143,500
3. Credit balance as of 12/31/76: item 2−item 117,500

(D) Reconciliation of computations

As of January 1, 1977, the unfunded liability ($907,393) equals the outstanding balance of the bases minus the credit balance ($924,893−$17,500=$907,393).

(h) Amortization of experience gain or loss—(1) General rule. In the case of a plan using an immediate gain type of funding method, an experience gain or loss shall be amortized pursuant to section 412 (b)(2)(B)(iv) or (b)(3)(B)(ii). (Examples of the immediate gain type of funding method are the unit credit method, the entry age normal cost method, and the individual level premium cost method.) For purposes of this section, a shortfall gain or loss is not an experience gain or loss. The amount of the experience gain or loss must be adjusted for interest at the rate used for determining the plan's normal cost.

(2) Experience amortization period under shortfall method—(i) First year. The plan year in which the amortization of an experience gain or loss must begin in the case of a plan using the shortfall method is the earlier of two years: the fifth plan year following the plan year in which the experience gain or loss arose, or the first plan year beginning after the last scheduled expiration date of a contract in effect during the plan year in which the experience gain or loss arose. For purposes of this subparagraph a contract expiring on the last day of the plan year shall be deemed to be renewed on such last day for the same period of years as the contract that succeeds the expiring contract.

(ii) Last year. The plan year in which the amortization of an experience gain or loss must end in the case of a plan using the shortfall method is the 15th plan year following the plan year in which the experience gain or loss arose. For a multi-employer plan described in section 414 (f), the amortization must end with the 20th plan year instead of the 15th.

(3) Use of annual computation charge in determining experience gain or loss. In the case of a plan using an immediate gain type of funding method, an experience gain or loss is the difference between the expected unfunded liability and the actual unfunded liability under the plan. The expected unfunded liability as of the end of a plan year equals the actual unfunded liability as of the beginning of the year plus normal cost, minus contributions, all adjusted for interest. If the plan adopts the shortfall method, the expected unfunded liability is computed by using the normal cost applicable for the plan year in determining the annual computation charge under paragraph (d) of this section. The same normal cost is used in computing the unfunded liability under the frozen initial liability funding method.

(4) Example. This paragraph is illustrated by the following example:

Example. Assume the facts in Example 2 from paragraph (g) (6) of this section, except that the entry age normal funding method is used. Also assume that as of December 31, 1976, the actual unfunded liability is $900,000.

(A) Computation of Expected Unfunded Liability

1. Actual unfunded liability as of 1-1-76$900,850
2. Normal cost portion of annual computation charge as of 1-1-76100,000
3. Interest at 5% due on items 1 and 250,043
4. Contribution received with interest: $1.75 × 80,000 × 1.025 (actual contribution rate times actual base units times interest adjustment at mid-year)143,500
5. Expected unfunded liability as of 12-31-76 (item 1 + item 2 + item 3 − item 4)907,393

(B) Computation of Gain or Loss

1. Expected unfunded liability as of 12-31-76$907,393
2. Actual unfunded liability as of 12-31-76900,000
3. Gain (or loss) (item 1 − item 2)7,393

(i) Election procedure—(1) In general. To elect the shortfall method, a collectively bargained plan must attach a statement to the annual report required under section 6058 (a) for the first plan year to which it is applied. The statement shall state that the shortfall method is adopted, beginning with the plan year covered by such report. Advance approval from the Internal Revenue Service is not required if the shortfall method is first adopted on or before the later of—

(i) The first plan year to which section 412 applies or

(ii) The last plan year commencing before December 31, 1981.

However, approval must be received pursuant to section 412(c)(5) prior to the adoption of the shortfall method at a later time, or the discontinuance of such method, once adopted.

(2) Use of specific computation method. A specific method of computation under the shortfall method is described in paragraph (b)(3) of this section, regarding the treatment of more than one contract, employer, or benefit level under the plan. This specific method may be adopted with respect to any plan year to which the shortfall method applies. Approval from the Commissioner must be received under section 412(c)(5) prior to the adoption of this specific computation method for a plan year subsequent to the first plan year to which the shortfall method applies, or prior to the discontinuance of a specific computation method, once adopted.

(3) Reporting requirements. Each annual report required by section 6058(a) and periodic report of the actuary required by section 6059 must include all additional information relevant to the use of the shortfall method as may be required by the applicable forms and the instructions for such forms.

(j) Transitional rule. In lieu of paragraphs (g)(2) and (h)(2) of this section relating to the amortization period for shortfall and experience gains and losses, for gains and losses arising in plan years beginning before January 1, 1981, a plan may rely on the prior published position of the Internal Revenue Service with respect to the amortization period for shortfall and experience gains and losses.

(k) Supersession. This section and §1.412 (c) (1)-1 supersede §§11.412 (c) (1)-1 and (c) (1)-2 of the Temporary Income Tax Regulations Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

(Secs. 412, 7805, Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (88 Stat. 914 and 68A Stat. 917; (26 U.S.C. 412 and 7805)), and sec. 3 (31) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (88 Stat. 837; (29 U.S.C. 1002)))

[T.D. 7733, 45 FR 75202, Nov. 14, 1980]

§1.412(c)(1)-3   Applying the minimum funding requirements to restored plans.

(a) In general—(1) Restoration method. The restoration method is a funding method that adapts the underlying funding method of section 412 in the case of certain plans that are or have been terminated and are later restored by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). The normal operation of the funding standard account, and all other provisions of section 412 and the regulations thereunder, are unchanged except as provided in this §1.412(c)(1)-3. Under the restoration method, the PBGC shall determine a restoration payment schedule, extending over no more than 30 years, that replaces all charges and credits to the funding standard account attributable to pre-restoration amortization bases. The restoration payment schedule is determined on the basis of an actuarial valuation of the accrued liability of the plan on the initial post-restoration valuation date less the actuarial value of the plan assets on that date. The initial post-restoration valuation date is the date of the valuation that falls in the first plan year beginning on or after the date of the restoration order.

(2) Applicability of restoration method. A plan must use the restoration method if, and only if—

(i) The plan is being or has been terminated pursuant to section 4041(c) or section 4042 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA); and

(ii) The plan has been restored by the PBGC pursuant to its authority under section 4047 of ERISA.

(b) Computation and effect of the initial restoration amortization base—(1) In general. The initial restoration amortization base is determined under the underlying funding method used by the plan. When the plan uses a spread gain funding method that does not maintain an unfunded liability, the plan must change either to an immediate gain method that directly calculates an accrued liability or to a spread gain method that maintains an unfunded liability. A plan may adopt any cost method that satisfies this requirement and that is acceptable under section 412 and the regulations thereunder, provided that the plan administrator follows the procedures established by the Commissioner for changes in funding methods. The initial restoration amortization base is determined using the valuation for the plan year in which the initial post-restoration valuation date falls. The initial restoration amortization base equals the accrued liability with respect to plan benefit liabilities returned by the PBGC less the value of the plan assets returned by the PBGC. The initial restoration amortization base replaces all prior amortization bases including those under section 412(b)(2) (B), (C), and (D) and under section 412(b)(3)(B). Any base resulting from a change in funding method, including a change required under this paragraph, is treated as a prior amortization base within the meaning of this paragraph (b). Any accumulated funding deficiency or credit balance in the funding standard account is set equal to zero when the initial restoration amortization base is established.

(2) Example. The following example illustrates the provisions of this paragraph (b):

Example. A pension plan uses the calendar year as its plan year, makes its annual periodic valuation as of January 1, and uses the unit credit actuarial cost method for funding purposes. The plan is in the process of being terminated. By order of the PBGC the plan is restored as of July 1, 1991. The initial post-restoration valuation date is January 1, 1992, and a restoration payment schedule order is issued on October 31, 1992. If, as of January 1, 1992, the accrued liability of the plan is $1,000,000 and the value of the plan assets is $200,000, the initial restoration amortization base is $800,000.

(c) Establishment of a restoration payment schedule—(1) Certification requirement. When the PBGC establishes a restoration payment schedule, the Executive Director of the PBGC must certify to the PBGC's Board of Directors, and to the Internal Revenue Service, that the PBGC has reviewed the funding of the plan, the financial condition of the plan sponsor and its controlled group members, the payments required under the restoration payment schedule (taking into account the availability of deferrals authorized under paragraph (c)(4) of this section), and any other factor that the PBGC deems relevant, and, based on that review, determines that it is in the best interests of participants and beneficiaries of the plan and the pension insurance program that the restored plan not be reterminated.

(2) Requirements for restoration payment schedule—(i) Amortization of base over period of no more than 30 years. The restoration payment schedule must be prescribed in an order requiring the employer to make stated contributions to the plan sufficient to amortize the initial restoration amortization base over a period extending not more than 30 years after the initial post-restoration valuation date (the restoration payment period). Payments included in the restoration payment schedule order are charged to the funding standard account of the plan at the end of each plan year in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section. The restoration payment schedule must provide for total charges that are sufficient to amortize the entire amount of the initial restoration amortization base by the end of the restoration payment period. The scheduled charges need not be in level amounts, but the present value of the prescribed charges on the initial post-restoration valuation date, computed with interest at the valuation rate, must equal the initial restoration amortization base.

(ii) Minimum annual charge. The restoration payment schedule must prescribe annual charges that are sufficient to prevent the outstanding balance of the initial restoration amortization base from exceeding whichever of the following amounts is applicable—

(A) During the first 10 plan years on the restoration payment schedule, the amount of the initial restoration amortization base on the date the base was established; or

(B) During plan years 11 through 20 on the restoration payment schedule, the maximum permitted outstanding balance of the initial restoration amortization base at the end of the tenth plan year, as calculated under paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section; or

(C) During plan years 21 through the end of the restoration payment schedule, the maximum permitted outstanding balance of the initial restoration amortization base at the end of the twentieth plan year, as calculated under paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section.

(iii) Interim amortization requirements. The restoration payment schedule must provide for sufficient periodic charges so that the outstanding balance of the initial restoration amortization base at the end of the tenth plan year and at the end of the twentieth plan year of the restoration payment period will not be larger than the outstanding balance that would have remained at the end of the tenth plan year and at the end of the twentieth plan year, respectively, if the initial restoration amortization base had been amortized in level annual amounts over the restoration payment period at the valuation rate.

(3) Amendments to the restoration payment schedule. The order establishing the restoration payment schedule may be amended by the PBGC from time to time with respect to any remaining payments, provided that no amendment may extend the restoration payment period beyond 30 years from the initial post-restoration valuation date, and provided further that the restoration payment schedule, as amended, satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c)(2) of this section.

(4) Deferral of minimum scheduled annual payment amounts—(i) Authority to grant deferral. Not later than 212 months following the end of the plan year, the PBGC may grant a deferral of the charges required in the restoration payment schedule for that plan year if the requirements in paragraph (c)(4)(ii) of this section are satisfied. The PBGC may require the plan sponsor and its controlled group members to provide security to the plan as a condition to granting a deferral.

(ii) Determination of business hardship. Before granting a deferral under this paragraph (c)(4), the PBGC must make a determination that the granting of the deferral is in the best interests of plan participants and the plan termination insurance system, and that the plan sponsor and its controlled group members are unable to make the scheduled restoration payments without experiencing temporary substantial business hardship. In making these determinations, the factors the PBGC shall consider, include, but are not limited to, the following—

(A) Whether the plan sponsor and its controlled group members are operating at an economic loss;

(B) Whether there is substantial unemployment or underemployment in the trades or businesses of the plan sponsor and its controlled group members;

(C) Whether the sales and profits of the industry or industries are depressed or declining; and

(D) Whether it is reasonable to expect that the plan termination insurance system will suffer a greater loss if the plan is terminated than if it is continued as a restored plan.

(iii) Amount of deferral. The amount of the deferral for any particular plan year may not exceed the lesser of the amount that would have been required to be contributed under the restoration payment schedule for that year or interest at the valuation rate on the outstanding balance of the initial restoration amortization base for that year. An amortization payment for a deferral granted for a prior plan year may not be deferred. No deferral may extend the overall restoration payment period beyond 30 years.

(iv) Modification of payment schedule. The restoration payment schedule must be adjusted to reflect any deferral granted for a plan year in the manner prescribed in this paragraph (c). The charge otherwise specified in the schedule is reduced by the amount of any deferral. The charges under the restoration payment schedule for the subsequent plan years are increased by the amounts in paragraph (c)(4)(v) of this section.

(v) Amortization of deferred amount. The amount of any deferral granted by the PBGC for any plan year must be amortized in level amounts over five years or such shorter period as may be prescribed by the PBGC, at the valuation rate, beginning with the plan year following the year of the deferral.

(vi) Number of deferrals permitted. The PBGC may not grant more than five deferrals of the minimum scheduled payments as required by this section during the restoration payment period and no more than three of these deferrals may be granted during the first ten years of that period.

(vii) Deferrals override minimum annual charges and interim amortization requirements. In determining the minimum annual charge under paragraph (c)(2)(ii) of this section and in applying the interim amortization requirements of paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section, the unamortized balances of any deferrals granted by the PBGC under this paragraph shall be added to the outstanding balance of the initial restoration amortization base otherwise allowable.

(d) Charging the scheduled restoration payments to the funding standard account. In addition to any other charges and credits prescribed in the normal operation of the funding standard account under section 412, the amount of each payment specified in the restoration payment schedule shall be charged against the funding standard account of the plan for the plan year to which that payment is attributed in the restoration payment schedule. To the extent that the restoration payment schedule provides for payments before the end of the plan year, the annual charge to the funding standard account attributable to the restoration payment schedule is equal to the sum of the periodic payments for the plan year accumulated with interest at the valuation rate to the last day of the plan year.

(e) Changes in actuarial assumptions or methods. The plan administrator must notify the PBGC of any changes in the actuarial assumptions or methods used by the plan. Upon notification of any such change, the PBGC may make any changes to the restoration payment schedule that it deems appropriate.

(f) Change to restoration method. A plan that has been restored must use the restoration method until the initial restoration amortization base has been fully amortized. The use of this method does not require prior approval from the Commissioner. A plan using the restoration method must compute the charges to the funding standard account to amortize the initial restoration amortization base in accordance with the order of the PBGC and in accordance with this section.

(g) Deficit reduction contribution—(1) Calculation of deficit reduction contribution. For any plan using the restoration method, the deficit reduction contribution under section 412(l)(2) is equal to the sum of—

(i) The unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability amount; plus

(ii) The unfunded new liability amount.

(2) Unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability amount. The unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability amount is the amount necessary to amortize fully the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability in installments, as prescribed by the PBGC, over not more than 30 years. The annual amount need not be level, but at all times the present value of the future amortization charges prescribed under the restoration payment schedule, at the current liability interest rate, must equal the outstanding balance of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability and the schedule must provide that at the end of no more than 30 years the entire amount of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability base will have been fully amortized. The schedule prescribed for amortization of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability must comply with the requirements imposed in paragraph (c) of this section on the restoration payment schedule, except as provided in paragraph (g)(7) of this section and except that the maximum permitted outstanding balance of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability at the end of the tenth plan year must not be greater than the outstanding balance of the section 412(l) restoration liability that would have remained at the end of the tenth plan year if the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability had been amortized in level amounts over the restoration payment period at the actual current liability interest rate for each year, increased by the current liability interest rate differential as defined under paragraph (g)(7) of this section. The unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability amount for the tenth plan year otherwise prescribed under the restoration payment schedule is increased by any outstanding current liability interest rate differential. By issuing an appropriate order, the PBGC may permit the outstanding current liability interest rate differential to be amortized over the tenth through the fourteenth plan years. If the PBGC permits the amortization of the outstanding current liability interest rate differential, then the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability amount for each year to which an amortization payment is attributed under the order shall be increased by such payment. The outstanding balance otherwise required by paragraph (g)(2) of this section is increased by the outstanding balance, if any, of the base resulting from the amortization of the current liability interest rate differential. The PBGC may amend the amortization schedule for the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability subject to the limits on amendments to the amortization schedule prescribed for the initial restoration amortization base.

(3) Establishment of unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability. In the plan year in which the initial post-restoration valuation date falls, the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability is equal to the unfunded current liability of the plan.

(4) Unfunded new liability amount. In the case of a plan using the restoration method, the unfunded new liability amount is the applicable percentage, as defined in section 412(l)(4)(C), of the unfunded new liability determined under paragraph (g)(5) of this section.

(5) Unfunded new liability. The unfunded new liability of a plan using the restoration method is the excess, if any, of the unfunded current liability of the plan, within the meaning of section 412(l)(8)(A) for the plan year (determined without taking into account any unpredictable contingent event benefits, even if the event has occurred) over the outstanding balance of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability determined under paragraph (g)(3) of this section.

(6) Offset of amortization charges. The amounts charged to the funding standard account pursuant to the restoration payment schedule in order to amortize the initial restoration base, as described in paragraph (d) of this section, must be offset against the deficit reduction contribution in paragraph (g)(1) of this section along with any other applicable amounts provided in section 412(l)(1)(A)(ii).

(7) Interest rate differential. During the first 10 plan years after the initial post-restoration valuation date, the restoration payment schedule must prescribe an unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability amount for each plan year that is sufficient to prevent the outstanding balance of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability from exceeding the initial amount of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability increased by the current liability interest rate differential. The current liability interest rate differential at any point during the first ten years of the restoration payment period is the excess, if any, of the outstanding balance of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability determined using the actual current liability interest rate for each year, taking into account the charges described in paragraph (d) of this section, over the outstanding balance of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability determined using the lowest, for each year, of the initial current liability interest rate, the current liability interest rate for the computation year, and the valuation interest rate, taking into account the charges described in paragraph (d) of this section.

(h) Election of the alternative minimum funding standard. A plan using the restoration method may not elect the alternative minimum funding standard under section 412(g).

(i) Funding review by the PBGC. The PBGC must review the funding of any plan using the restoration method at least once in each plan year. As a result of a funding review, the PBGC may amend the restoration payment schedule as provided in paragraph (c)(3) of this section. As part of the funding review, the Executive Director of the PBGC must certify to the PBGC's Board of Directors, and to the Internal Revenue Service, that the PBGC has reviewed the funding of the plan, the financial condition of the plan sponsor and its controlled group members, the payments required under the restoration payment schedule (taking into account the availability of deferrals authorized under paragraph (c)(4) of this section), and any other factor that the PBGC deems relevant, and, based on that review, determines that it is in the best interests of participants and beneficiaries of the plan and the pension insurance program that the restored plan not be reterminated.

[T.D. 8494, 58 FR 54491, Oct. 22, 1993]

§1.412(c)(1)-3T   Applying the minimum funding requirements to restored plans (temporary).

(a) In general—(1) Restoration method. The restoration method is a funding method that adapts the underlying funding method of section 412 in the case of certain plans that are or have been terminated and are later restored by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The normal operation of the funding standard account, and all other provisions of section 412 and the regulations thereunder, are unchanged except as provided in this §1.412(c)(1)-3T. Under the restoration method, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation shall determine a restoration payment schedule, extending over no more than 30 years, that replaces all charges and credits to the funding standard account attributable to pre-restoration amortization bases. The restoration payment schedule is determined on the basis of an actuarial valuation of the accrued liability of the plan on the initial post-restoration valuation date less the actuarial value of the plan assets on that date. The initial post-restoration valuation date is the date of the first valuation that falls in the first plan year beginning on or after the later of October 23, 1990, or the date of the restoration order.

(2) Applicability of restoration method. A plan must use the restoration method if, and only if:

(i) The plan is being or has been terminated pursuant to section 4041(c) or section 4042 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), and

(ii) The plan has been restored by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation pursuant to its authority under section 4047 of ERISA.

(b) Computation and effect of the initial restoration amortization base—(1) In general. The initial restoration amortization base is determined under the underlying funding method used by the plan. When the plan uses a spread gain funding method that does not maintain an unfunded liability, the plan must change either to an immediate gain method that directly calculates an accrued liability or to a spread gain method that maintains an unfunded liability. A plan may adopt any cost method that satisfies this requirement and that is acceptable under section 412 and the regulations thereunder, provided that the plan follows the procedures established by the Commissioner for changes in funding methods. The initial restoration amortization base is determined using the valuation for the plan year in which the initial post-restoration valuation date falls. The initial restoration amortization base equals the accrued liability with respect to plan benefit liabilities returned by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation less the value of the plan assets returned by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The initial restoration amortization base replaces all prior amortization bases including those under subparagraphs (B), (C), and (D) of section 412(b)(2) and under subparagraph (B) of section 412(b)(3). Any base resulting from a change in funding method is treated as a prior amortization base within the meaning of this paragraph (b). Any accumulated funding deficiency or credit balance in the funding standard account is set equal to zero when the initial restoration amortization base is established.

(2) Example. A pension plan uses the calendar year as its plan year, makes its annual periodic valuation as of January 1, and uses the unit credit actuarial cost method for funding purposes. The plan is in the process of being terminated. By order of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation the plan is restored as of July 1, 1991, and a restoration payment schedule order issued on October 31, 1992. The initial post-restoration valuation date is January l, 1993. If, as of that date, the accrued liability of the plan is $1,000,000 and the value of the plan assets is $200,000, the initial restoration amortization base is $800,000.

(c) Establishment of a restoration payment schedule—(1) Certification requirement. When the PBGC establishes a restoration payment schedule, the Executive Director of the PBGC must certify to the Corporation's Board of Directors, and to the Internal Revenue Service, that the Corporation has reviewed the funding of the plan, the financial condition of the plan sponsor and its controlled group members, the payments required under the restoration payment schedule (taking into account the availability of deferrals authorized under paragraph (c)(4) of this section), and any other factor that the Corporation deems relevant, and, based on that review, determines that it is in the best interests of participants and beneficiaries of the plan and the pension insurance program that the restored plan not be reterminated.

(2) Requirements for restoration payment schedule—(i) Amortization of base over period of no more than 30 years. The restoration payment schedule must be prescribed in an order requiring the employer to make stated contributions to the plan sufficient to amortize the initial restoration amortization base over a period extending not more than 30 years after the initial post-restoration valuation date (the restoration payment period). The restoration payment schedule must be sufficient to amortize the entire amount of the initial restoration amortization base by the end of the restoration payment period. The scheduled charges need not be in level amounts, but the present value of the prescribed charges on the initial post-restoration valuation date, computed with interest at the valuation rate, must equal the initial restoration amortization base.

(ii) Minimum annual charge. The restoration payment schedule must require annual charges that are sufficient to prevent the outstanding balance of the initial restoration amortization base from exceeding whichever of the following amounts is applicable:

(A) During the first 10 plan years on the restoration payment schedule, the amount of the initial restoration amortization base on the date the base was established, or

(B) During plan years 11 through 20 on the restoration payment schedule, the maximum permitted outstanding balance of the initial restoration amortization base at the end of the tenth plan year, as calculated under paragraph (c)(2)(iii) below, or

(C) During plan years 21 through the end of the restoration payment schedule, the maximum permitted outstanding balance of the initial restoration amortization base at the end of the twentieth plan year, as calculated under paragraph (c)(2)(iii) below.

(iii) Interim amortization requirements. The restoration payment schedule must provide for sufficient periodic charges so that the outstanding balance of the initial restoration amortization base at the end of the tenth plan year and at the end of the twentieth plan year of the restoration payment period will not be larger than the outstanding balance that would have remained at the end of the tenth plan year and at the end of the twentieth plan year, respectively, if the initial restoration amortization base had been amortized in level amounts over the restoration payment period at the valuation rate.

(3) Amendments to the restoration payment schedule. The order establishing the restoration payment schedule may be amended by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation from time to time with respect to any remaining payments, provided that no amendment may extend the restoration payment period beyond 30 years from the initial post-restoration valuation date, and provided further that the restoration payment schedule, as amended, satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c)(2) of this section.

(4) Deferral of minimum scheduled annual payment amounts—(i) Authority to grant deferral. Not later than 212 months following the end of the plan year, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation may grant a deferral of the charges required in the restoration payment schedule for that plan year if the requirements in paragraph (c)(4)(ii) of this section are satisfied. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation may require the plan sponsor and its controlled group members to provide security to the plan as a condition to granting a deferral.

(ii) Determination of business hardship. Before granting a deferral under this paragraph (c)(4), the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation must make a determination that the granting of the deferral is in the best interests of plan participants and the plan termination insurance system, and that the plan sponsor and its controlled group members are unable to make the scheduled restoration payments without experiencing temporary substantial business hardship. In making these determinations, the factors the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation shall consider, include, but are not limited to, the following:

(A) Whether the plan sponsor and its controlled group members are operating at an economic loss,

(B) Whether there is substantial unemployment or underemployment in the trades or businesses of the plan sponsor and its controlled group members,

(C) Whether the sales and profits of the industry or industries are depressed or declining, and

(D) Whether it is reasonable to expect that the plan termination insurance system will suffer a greater loss if the plan is terminated than if it is continued as a restored plan.

(iii) Amount of deferral. The amount of the deferral for any particular plan year may not exceed the lesser of the amount that would have been required to be contributed under the restoration payment schedule for that year or interest on the outstanding balance of the initial restoration amortization base for that year. An amortization payment for a deferral granted for a prior plan year may not be deferred. No deferral may extend the overall restoration payment period beyond 30 years.

(iv) Modification of payment schedule. The restoration payment schedule must be adjusted to reflect any deferral granted for a plan year in the manner prescribed in this paragraph (c). The charge otherwise specified in the schedule is reduced by the amount of any deferral. The charges under the restoration payment schedule for the subsequent plan years are increased by the amounts in paragraph (c)(4)(v) of this section.

(v) Amortization of deferred amount. The amount of any deferral granted by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation for any plan year must be amortized in level amounts over five years or such shorter period as may be prescribed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, at the valuation rate, beginning with the plan year following the year of the deferral.

(vi) Number of deferrals permitted. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation may not grant more than five deferrals of the minimum scheduled payments as required by this section during the restoration payment period and no more than three of these deferrals may be granted during the first ten years of that period.

(d) Charging the scheduled restoration charges to the funding standard account. In addition to any other charges and credits prescribed in the normal operation of the funding standard account under section 412, the amount of each charge specified in the restoration payment schedule shall be charged against the funding standard account of the plan for the plan year to which that payment is attributed in the restoration payment schedule.

(e) Changes in actuarial assumptions. If changes in actuarial assumptions increase or decrease the charges that would be required to amortize the outstanding balance of the initial restoration amortization base over the remaining years of the restoration payment schedule, the plan must notify the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation of the changes so that it may make appropriate changes to the restoration payment schedule.

(f) Change to restoration method. A plan that has been restored must use the restoration method until the initial restoration amortization base has been fully amortized. The use of this method does not require prior approval from the Commissioner. A plan using the restoration method must compute the charges and credits to the initial restoration amortization base in accordance with the order of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and in accordance with this section.

(g) Deficit reduction contribution—(1) Calculation of deficit reduction contribution. For any plan using the restoration method, the deficit reduction contribution under section 412(l)(2) is equal to the sum of—

(i) The unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability amount, plus

(ii) The unfunded new liability amount.

(2) Unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability amount. The unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability amount is the amount necessary to amortize fully the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability in installments, as prescribed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, over not more than 30 years. The annual amount need not be level, but at all times the present value of the future amortization charges under the restoration payment schedule, at the current liability interest rate, must equal the outstanding balance of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability and the schedule must provide that at the end of no more than 30 years the entire amount of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability base will have been fully amortized. The schedule prescribed for amortization of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability must comply with the requirements imposed in paragraph (c) of this section on the restoration payment schedule, except as provided in paragraph (g)(7) of this section and except that the maximum permitted outstanding balance of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability at the end of the tenth plan year must not be greater than the outstanding balance of the section 412(l) restoration liability that would have remained at the end of the tenth plan year if the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability had been amortized in level amounts over the restoration payment period at the current liability interest rate, increased by the current liability interest rate differential as defined under paragraph (g)(7) of this section. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation may amend the amortization schedule for the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability subject to the limits on amendments to the amortization schedule prescribed for the initial restoration amortization base.

(3) Establishment of unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability. In the plan year in which the initial post-restoration valuation date falls, the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability is equal to the unfunded current liability of the plan.

(4) Unfunded new liability amount. In the case of a plan using the restoration method, the unfunded new liability amount is the applicable percentage, as defined in section 412(l)(4)(C), of the unfunded new liability determined under paragraph (g)(5) of this section.

(5) Unfunded new liability. The unfunded new liability of a plan using the restoration method is the unfunded current liability of the plan for the plan year less the outstanding balance of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability determined under paragraph (g)(3) of this section and less any unpredictable contingent event benefit liabilities (without regard to whether or not the event has occurred).

(6) Offset of amortization charges. The charges specified in the restoration payment schedule to amortize the initial restoration amortization base, must be offset against the deficit reduction contribution in paragraph (g)(1) of this section along with any other applicab1e amounts provided in section 412 (l)(1)(A)(ii).

(7) Interest rate differential. During the first 10 plan years after the initial post-restoration valuation date, the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability amount for the plan as determined for purposes of this section must be sufficient to prevent the outstanding balance of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability from exceeding the initial amount of the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability increased by the current liability interest rate differential. The current liability interest rate differential at any point during the first ten years of the restoration payment period is the excess if any of the accumulated interest on the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability computed at the current liability interest rate over the accumulated interest on the unfunded section 412(l) restoration liability computed at the least of the valuation rate, the current liability interest rate and current liability interest rate for the plan year in which the initial post restoration valuation date falls. The current liability interest rate differential is charged to the funding standard account at the end of the tenth plan year, but the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation may, as part of the restoration payment schedule order, or a modification to that order, direct that the charging of this amount must be spread over not more than 5 years, beginning with the eleventh plan year.

(h) Election of the alternative minimum funding standard. A plan using the restoration method may not elect the alternative minimum funding standard under section 412(g).

(i) Funding review by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation must review the funding of any plan using the restoration method at least once in each plan year. As a result of a funding review, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation may amend the restoration payment schedule as provided in paragraph (c)(3) of this section. As part of the funding review, the Executive Director of the PBGC must certify to the Corporation's Board of Directors, and to the Internal Revenue Service, that the Corporation has reviewed the funding of the plan, the financial condition of the plan sponsor and its controlled group members, the payments required under the restoration payment schedule (taking into account the availability of deferrals authorized under paragraph (c)(4) of this section), and any other factor that the Corporation deems relevant, and, based on that review, determines that it is in the best interests of participants and beneficiaries of the plan and the pension insurance program that the restored plan not be reterminated.

[T.D. 8317, 55 FR 42707, Oct. 23, 1990; 56 FR 19038, Apr. 25, 1991]

§1.412(c)(2)-1   Valuation of plan assets; reasonable actuarial valuation methods.

(a) Introduction—(1) In general. This section prescribes rules for valuing plan assets under an actuarial valuation method which satisfies the requirements of section 412(c)(2)(A). An actuarial valuation method is a funding method within the meaning of section 412(c)(3) and the regulations thereunder. Therefore, certain changes affecting the actuarial valuation method are identified in this section as changes in a plan's funding method.

(2) Exception for certain bonds, etc. The rules of this section do not apply to bonds or other evidences of indebtedness for which the election described in section 412(c)(2)(B) has been made, nor are such assets counted in applying paragraphs (b) or (c) of this section. Also, an election under section 412(c)(2)(B) is not a change in funding method within the meaning of section 412(c)(5).

(3) Money purchase pension plan. A money purchase pension plan must value assets for the purpose of satisfying the requirements of section 412(c)(2)(A) solely on the basis of their fair market value (under paragraph (c) of this section).

(4) Defined benefit plans. (i) To satisfy the requirements of section 412(c)(2)(A), an actuarial method valuing assets of a defined benefit plan must meet the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section.

(ii) In general, the purpose of paragraph (b) of this section is to permit use of reasonble actuarial valuation methods designed to mitigate short-run changes in the fair market value of plan assets. The funding of plan benefits and the charges and credits to the funding standard account required by section 412 are generally based upon the assumption that the defined benefit plan will be continued by the employer. Thus, short-run changes in the value of plan assets presumably will offset one another in the long term. Accordingly, in the determination of the amount required to be contributed under section 412 it is generally not necessary to recognize fully each change in fair market value of the assets in the period in which it occurs.

(iii) The asset valuation rules contained in paragraph (b) produce a “smoothing” effect. Thus, investment performance, including appreciation or depreciation in the market value of the assets occurring in each plan year, may be recognized gradually over several plan years. This “smoothing” is in addition to the “smoothing” effect which results, for example, from amortizing experience losses and gains over 15 or 20 years under section 412(b)(2 (B)(iv) and (3)(B)(ii).

(b) Asset valuation method requirements—(1) Consistent basis. (i) The actuarial asset valuation method must be applied on a consistent basis. Any change in meeting the requirements of this paragraph (b) is a change in funding method subject to section 412(c)(5).

(ii) A method may satisfy the consistency requirement even though computations are based only on the period elapsed since the adoption of the method or on asset values occurring during that period.

(2) Statement of plan's method. The method of determining the actuarial value (but not fair market value) of the assets must be specified in the plan's actuarial report (required under section 6059). The method must be described in sufficient detail so that another actuary employing the method described would arrive at a reasonably similar result. Whether a deviation from the stated actuarial valuation method is a change in funding method is to be determined in accordance with section 412(c)(5) and the regulations thereunder. A deviation to include a type of asset not previously held by the plan would not be a change in funding method.

(3) Consistent valuation dates. The same day or days (such as the first or the last day of a plan year) must be used for all purposes to value the plan's assets for each plan year, or portion of plan year, for which a valuation is made. For purposes of this section, each such day is a valuation date. A change in the day or days used is a change in funding method.

(4) Reflect fair market value. The valuation method must take into account fair market value by making use of the—

(i) Fair market value (determined under paragraph (c) of this section), or

(ii) Average value (determined under paragraph (b)(7) of this section) of the plan's assets as of the applicable asset valuation date. This is done either directly in the computation of their actuarial value or indirectly in the computation of upper or lower limits placed on that value.

(5) Results above and below fair market or average value. A method will not satisfy the requirements of this paragraph (b) if it is designed to produce a result which will be consistently above or below the values described in paragraph (b)(4) (i) and (ii). However, a method designed to produce a result which consistently falls between fair market value and average value will satisfy this requirement. See Example 5 in paragraph (b)(9) of this section for an illustration of a method described in the preceding sentence.

(6) Corridor limits. (i) Regardless of how the method reflects fair market value under paragraph (b)(4), the method must result in an actuarial value of the plan's assets which is not less than a minimum amount and not more than a maximum amount. The minimum amount is the lesser of 80 percent of the current fair market value of plan assets as of the applicable asset valuation date or 85 percent of the average value (as described in subparagraph (7)) of plan assets as of that date. The maximum amount is the greater of 120 percent of the current fair market value of plan assets as of the applicable asset valuation date or 115 percent of the average value of plan assets as of that date.

(ii) Under a plan's method, a preliminary computation of the expected actuarial value may fall outside the prescribed corridor. A method meets the requirements of paragraph (b)(6)(i) of this section is such a case only by adjusting the expected actuarial value to the nearest corridor limit applicable under the method. A plan may use an actuarial valuation method with a narrower corridor than the general corridor required under paragraph (b)(6)(i). The adjustment to the nearest corridor limit of such a method for purposes of this subdivision (ii) would be determined by the narrower corridor stated in the description of the plan's method.

(7) Average value. the average value of plan assets is computed by—

(i) Determining the fair market value of plan assets at least annually,

(ii) Adding the current fair market value of the assets (as of the applicable valuation date) and their adjusted values (as described in paragraph (b)(8) of this section) for a stated period not to exceed the five most recent plan years (including the current year), and

(iii) Dividing this sum by the number of values (including the current fair market value) considered in computing the sum described in subdivision (ii).

(8) Adjusted value. (i) the adjusted value of plan assets for a prior valuation date is their fair market value on that date with certain positive and negative adjustments. These adjustments reflect changes that occur between the prior asset valuation date and the current valuation date. However, no adjustment is made for increases or decreases in the total value of plan assets that result from the purchase, sale, or exchange of plan assets or from the receipt of payment on a debt obligation held by the plan.

(ii) In determining the adjusted value of plan assets for a prior valuation date, there is added to the fair market value of the plan assets of that date the sum of all additions to the plan assets since that date, excluding appreciation in the fair market value of the assets. The additions would include, for example, any contribution to the plan; any interest or dividend paid to the plan; and any asset not taken into account in a prior valuation of assets, but taken into account for the current year, in computing the fair market value of plan assets under paragraph (c) of this section.

(iii) In determining the adjusted value of plan assets for a prior valuation date, there is subtracted from the fair market value of the plan assets on that date the sum of all reductions in plan assets since that date, excluding depreciation in the fair market value of the assets. The reductions would include, for example, any benefit paid from plan assets; any expense paid from plan assets; and any asset taken into account in a prior valuation of assets but not taken into account for the current year, in computing the fair market value of plan assets under paragraph (c) of this section.

(9) Examples. This paragraph (b) may be illustrated by the following examples. In each example, assume that the pension plan uses a consistent actuarial method of valuing its assets within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1), (2), and (3) of this section.

Example 1. Plan A considers the value of its assets to be initial cost, increased by an assumed rate of growth of X percent annually. Under the circumstances, the X-percent factor used by the plan is a reasonable assumption. Thus, this method is not designed to produce results consistently above or below fair market value as prohibited by paragraph (b)(5) of this section. Also, the method requires that the actuarial value be adjusted as required to fall within the corridor under paragraph (b) (6) and (7) of this section. Therefore, the method reflects fair market value as required by paragraph (b)(4) of this section.
Example 2. Plan B computes the actuarial value of its assets as follows: It determines the fair market value of the plan assets. Then the fair market value is adjusted to the extent necessary to make the actuarial value fall within a “5 percent” corridor. This corridor is plus or minus 5 percent of the following amount: the fair market value of the assets at the beginning of the valuation period plus an assumed annual growth of 4 percent with adjustments for contributions and benefit payments during the period. This method reflects fair market value in a manner prescribed by paragraph (b)(4) of this section. If the 4 percent factor used by the plan is a reasonable assumption, this method is not designed to produce results consistently above or below fair market value, and thus it satisfies paragraph (b)(5). However, this method is unacceptable because in some instances it may result in an actuarial value outside the corridor described in paragraph (b)(6) of this section. This method would be permitted if a second corridor were imposed which would adjust the value of the total plan assets to the corridor limits as required by paragraph (b)(6).
Example 3. Plan C values its assets by multiplying their fair market value by an index number. The use of the index results in the hypothetical average value that plan assets present on the valuation date would have had if they had been held during the current and four preceding years, and had appreciated or depreciated at the actual yield rates including appreciation and depreciation experienced by the plan during that period. However, the method requires an adjustment to the extent necessary to bring the resulting actuarial value of the assets inside the corridor described in the statement of the plan's actuarial valuation method. In this case, the stated corridor is 90 to 110 percent of fair market value, a corridor narrower than that described in paragraph (b)(7) of this section. This method is permitted.
Example 4. Plan D values its assets by multiplying their fair market value by 95 percent. Although the method reflects fair market value and the results of this method will always be within the required corridor, it is not acceptable because it will consistently result in a value less than fair market value.
Example 5. Plan E values its assets by using a five-year average method with appropriate adjustments for the period. Under the particular method used by Plan E, assets are not valued below 80 percent of fair market value or above 100 percent of fair market value. If the average produces a value that exceeds 100 percent of fair market value, the excess between 100 and 120 percent is recorded in a “value reserve account.” In years after one in which the average exceeds 100 percent of fair market value, amounts are subtracted from this account and added, to the extent necessary, to raise the value produced by the average for that year to 100 percent of fair market value. This method is permitted because it reflects fair market value under paragraph (b)(4) of this section by appropriately computing an average value, it satisfies paragraph (b)(5) by producing a result that falls consistently between fair market value and average value, and it properly reflects the corridor described in paragraph (b)(7).
Example 6. All assets of Plan F are invested in a trust fund and the plan year is the calendar year. The actuarial value is determined by averaging fair market value over 4 years. An actuarial valuation is performed as of December 31, 1988.

(i) The average value as of December 31, 1988, is computed as follows:

  198619861987198719881988
Fair market value: Jan. 1$150,000  $196,500  $238,000  
Contributions$65,000  $62,000  $66,000  
Benefit payments(22,000)(24,000)(25,000)
Expenses(6,500)(7,000)(7,500)
Interest and dividends8,00044,500  7,50038,500  7,000  240,500  
Net realized gains (losses)(2,000)6,000  (8,000)
Balancing item14,000  (3,000)(42,000)
Fair market value: Dec. 31196,500  238,000  228,000  

1This equals the increase (decrease) in unrealized appreciation.

Adjusted values 1985198619871988
Fair market value: Dec. 31$150,000$196,500$238,000$228,000
Net adjustments:
198840,50040,50040,500
198738,50038,500
198644,500
   Total273,500275,500278,500228,000
Average value: 1988=$273,500 + $275,500 + $278,500 + $228,000 ÷ 4=$263,875
(ii) Plan F properly determines an average value under paragraph (b)(7) of this section for use as an actuarial value. Therefore, the valuation method meets the requirements of this section.
Example 7. Plan G computes the actuarial value of the plan assets as follows: The current fair market value of the plan assets is averaged with the most recent prior adjusted actuarial value. This average value is adjusted up or down toward the current fair market value by 20 percent of the difference between it and the current fair market value of the assets. This value is further adjusted to the extent necessary to fall within the corridor described in the statement of the plan's actuarial valuation method. The lower end of the corridor is the lesser of 80 percent of the fair market value of the plan assets or 85 percent of the average value of the plan assets. The higher end of the corridor is the greater of 120 percent of the fair market value of plan assets or 115 percent of the average value of plan assets. Average value for purposes of the corridor is determined under paragraph (b)(7) of this section. Assuming the numerical data of Example 6, the application of the corridor is as follows. The actuarial asset value as of December 31, 1988, must not be less than $182,400 (80 percent of current fair market value, $228,000) nor greater than $303,456 (115 percent of average value, 263,875). This method is permitted because it reflects fair market value in a manner permitted by paragraph (b)(4) of this section, it produces an actuarial value which is neither consistently above nor consistently below fair market or average value to satisfy paragraph (b)(5), and it is appropriately limited by the corridor described in paragraph (b)(6).

(c) Fair market value of assets—(1) General rules. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph (c), the fair market value of a plan's assets for purposes of this section is the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.

(d) Methods for taking into account the fair market value of certain agreements. [Reserved]

(e) Effective date and transition rules—(1) Effective date. This section applies to plan years to which section 412, or section 302 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, applies.

(2) Special rule for certain plan years. For plan years beginning prior to November 12, 1980, the amounts required to be determined under section 412 may be computed on the basis of any reasonable actuarial method of asset valuation which takes into account the fair market value of the plan's assets, even if the method does not meet all of the requirements of paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section.

(3) Plan years beginning on or after November 12, 1980. Paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section apply beginning with the first valuation of plan assets made for a plan year to which section 412 applies that begins on or after November 12, 1980. The statement of the plan's actuarial asset valuation method required by paragraph (b)(2) of this section must be included with the plan's actuarial report for that year, in addition to any subsequent reports.

(4) Effect of change of asset valuation method. A plan which is required to change its asset valuation method to comply with paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section must make the change no later than the time when the plan is first required to comply with this section under paragraph (e)(3). A method of adjustment must be used to take account of any difference in the actuarial value of the plan's assets based on the old and new valuation methods. The plan may use either—

(i) A method of adjustment described in paragraph (e)(5) or (e)(6) of this section without prior approval by the Commissioner, or

(ii) Any other method of adjustment if the Commissioner gives prior approval under section 412(c)(5).

(5) Retroactive recomputation method. (i) Under this method of adjustment, the plan recomputes the balance of the funding standard account as of the beginning of the first plan year for which it uses its new asset valuation method to comply with paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section. This new balance is recomputed by retroactively applying the plan's new method as of the first day of the first plan year to which section 412 applies.

(ii) Beginning with the first plan year for which it uses its new method, the plan computes the normal cost and amortization charges and credits to the funding standard account based on the retroactive application of its new method as of the first day of the first plan year to which section 412 applies.

(iii) If the recomputed aggregate charges exceed the recomputed aggregate credits to the funding standard account as of the end of the first plan year for which the plan uses its new method, an additional contribution to the plan may be necessary to avoid an accumulated funding deficiency in that year. The use of the retroactive recomputation method may also result in an accumulated funding deficiency for years prior to that first year. In such cases, the rules of section 412(c)(10), relating to the time when certain contributions are deemed to have been made, apply.

(6) Prospective gain or loss adjustment method. (i) Under this method of adjustment the plan values its assets under its new method no later than the valuation date for the first plan year beginning after [the publication date of this section]

(ii) Regardless of the type of funding method used by a plan, the difference in the value of the assets under the old and the new asset valuation methods may be treated as arising from an experience loss or gain; or alternatively it may be treated as arising from a change in actuarial assumptions.

(iii) The treatment of this difference as an experience gain or loss or as a change in actuarial assumptions must be consistent with the treatment of such gains, losses, or changes under the funding method used by the plan. Thus, if a plan uses a spread gain type funding method other than the aggregate cost method, the difference in the value of assets under the old and the new asset valuation methods may be either amortized or spread over future periods as a part of normal cost. Examples of this type of funding method are the frozen initial liability cost method and the attained age normal cost method. With an aggregate method, the difference in the value of assets under the old and the new asset valuation methods must be spread over future periods as a part of normal cost.

(Secs. 412(c)(2) and 7805 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (88 Stat. 916 and 68A Stat. 917; 26 U.S.C. 412(c)(2) and 7805))

[T.D. 7734, 45 FR 74718, Nov. 12, 1980]

§1.412(c)(3)-1   Reasonable funding methods.

(a) Introduction—(1) In general. This section prescribes rules for determining whether or not, in the case of an ongoing plan, a funding method is reasonable for purposes of section 412(c)(3). A method is unreasonable only if it is found to be inconsistent with a rule prescribed in this section. The term “reasonable funding method” under this section has the same meaning as the term “acceptable actuarial cost method” under section 3(31) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

(2) Computations included in method. See §1.412(c)(1)-1(b) for a discussion of matters that are, and are not, included in the funding method of a plan.

(3) Plans using shortfall. The shortfall method is a method of determining charges to the funding standard account by adapting the underlying funding method of certain collectively bargained plans in the manner described in §1.412(c)(1)-2. As such, the shortfall method is a funding method. The underlying method of a plan that uses the shortfall method must be a reasonable funding method under this section. The rules contained in this section, relating to cost under a reasonable funding method, apply in the shortfall method to the annual computation charge under §1.412(c)(1)-2(d).

(4) Scope of funding method. Except for the shortfall method, a reasonable funding method is applied to the computation of—

(i) The normal cost of a plan for a plan year; and, if applicable,

(ii) The bases established under section 412(b)(2)(B), (C), and (D), and (3) (B) (“amortizable bases”).

(b) General rules for reasonable funding methods—(1) Basic funding formula. At any time, except as provided by the Commissioner, the present value of future benefits under a reasonable funding method must equal the sum of the following amounts:

(i) The present value of normal costs (taking into account future mandatory employee contributions, within the meaning of section 411(c)(2)(C), in the case of a contributory plan) over the future working lifetime of participants;

(ii) The sum of the unamortized portions of amortizable bases, if any, treating credit bases under section 412(b)(3)(B) as negative numbers; and

(iii) The plan assets, decreased by a credit balance (and increased by a debit balance) in the funding standard account under section 412(b).

(2) Normal cost. Normal cost under a reasonable funding method must be expressed as—

(i) A level dollar amount, or a level percentage of pay, that is computed from year to year on either an individual basis or an aggregate basis; or

(ii) An amount equal to the present value of benefits accruing under the method for a particular plan year.

(3) Application to shortfall. Paragraph (b)(2) will not fail to be satisfied merely because an amount described in (i) or (ii) is expressed as permitted under the shortfall method.

(c) Additional requirements—(1) Inclusion of all liabilities. Under a reasonable funding method, all liabilities of the plan for benefits, whether vested or not, must be taken into account.

(2) Production of experience gains and losses. If each actuarial assumption is exactly realized under a reasonable funding method, no experience gains or losses are produced.

(3) Plan population—(i) In general. Under a reasonable funding method, the plan population must include three classes of individuals: participants currently employed in the service of the employer; former participants who either terminated service with the employer, or retired, under the plan; and all other individuals currently entitled to benefits under the plan. See §1.412(c)(3)-1(d)(2) for rules concerning anticipated future participants.

(ii) Limited exclusion for certain recent participants. Under a reasonable funding method, certain individuals may be excluded from the first class of individuals described in paragraph (c)(3)(i) of this section unless otherwise provided by the Commissioner. The excludable individuals are participants who would be excluded from participation by the minimum age or service requirement of section 410 but who, under the terms of the plan, participate immediately upon entering the service of the employer.

(iii) Special exclusion for “rule of parity” cases. Under a reasonable funding method, certain individuals may be excluded from the second class of individuals described in paragraph (c)(3)(i) of this section. The excludable individuals are those former participants who have terminated service with the employer without vested benefits and whose service might be taken into account in future years because the “rule of parity” of section 411(a)(6)(D) does not permit that service to be disregarded. However if the plan's experience as to separated employees' returning to service has been such that the exclusion described in this subparagraph would be unreasonable, the exclusion would no longer apply.

(4) Use of salary scale—(i) General acceptability. The use of a salary scale assumption is not inappropriate merely because of the funding method with which it is used. Therefore, in determining whether actuarial assumptions are reasonable, a salary scale will not be considered to be prohibited merely because a particular funding method is being used.

(ii) Projection to app