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[1]
 
 

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR Data is current as of October 23, 2014

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.

§1.401-0   Scope and definitions.
§1.401-1   Qualified pension, profit-sharing, and stock bonus plans.
§1.401-2   Impossibility of diversion under the trust instrument.
§1.401-3   Requirements as to coverage.
§1.401-4   Discrimination as to contributions or benefits (before 1994).
§1.401-5   Period for which requirements of section 401(a) (3), (4), (5), and (6) are applicable with respect to plans put into effect before September 2, 1974.
§1.401-6   Termination of a qualified plan.
§1.401-7   Forfeitures under a qualified pension plan.
§1.401-8   Custodial accounts prior to January 1, 1974.
§1.401-9   Face-amount certificates—nontransferable annuity contracts.
§1.401-10   Definitions relating to plans covering self-employed individuals.
§1.401-11   General rules relating to plans covering self-employed individuals.
§1.401-12   Requirements for qualification of trusts and plans benefiting owner-employees.
§1.401-13   Excess contributions on behalf of owner-employees.
§1.401-14   Inclusion of medical benefits for retired employees in qualified pension or annuity plans.
§1.401(a)-1   Post-ERISA qualified plans and qualified trusts; in general.
§1.401(a)-2   Impossibility of diversion under qualified plan or trust.
§1.401(a)-4   Optional forms of benefit (before 1994).
§1.401(a)-11   Qualified joint and survivor annuities.
§1.401(a)-12   Mergers and consolidations of plans and transfers of plan assets.
§1.401(a)-13   Assignment or alienation of benefits.
§1.401(a)-14   Commencement of benefits under qualified trusts.
§1.401(a)-15   Requirement that plan benefits are not decreased on account of certain Social Security increases.
§1.401(a)-16   Limitations on benefits and contributions under qualified plans.
§1.401(a)-19   Nonforfeitability in case of certain withdrawals.
§1.401(a)-20   Requirements of qualified joint and survivor annuity and qualified preretirement survivor annuity.
§1.401(a)-21   Rules relating to the use of an electronic medium to provide applicable notices and to make participant elections.
§1.401(a)-30   Limit on elective deferrals.
§1.401(a)-50   Puerto Rican trusts; election to be treated as a domestic trust.
§1.401(a)(2)-1   Refund of mistaken employer contributions and withdrawal liability payments to multiemployer plans.
§1.401(a)(4)-0   Table of contents.
§1.401(a)(4)-1   Nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4).
§1.401(a)(4)-2   Nondiscrimination in amount of employer contributions under a defined contribution plan.
§1.401(a)(4)-3   Nondiscrimination in amount of employer-provided benefits under a defined benefit plan.
§1.401(a)(4)-4   Nondiscriminatory availability of benefits, rights, and features.
§1.401(a)(4)-5   Plan amendments and plan terminations.
§1.401(a)(4)-6   Contributory defined benefit plans.
§1.401(a)(4)-7   Imputation of permitted disparity.
§1.401(a)(4)-8   Cross-testing.
§1.401(a)(4)-9   Plan aggregation and restructuring.
§1.401(a)(4)-10   Testing of former employees.
§1.401(a)(4)-11   Additional rules.
§1.401(a)(4)-12   Definitions.
§1.401(a)(4)-13   Effective dates and fresh-start rules.
§1.401(a)(5)-1   Special rules relating to nondiscrimination requirements.
§1.401(a)(9)-0   Required minimum distributions; table of contents.
§1.401(a)(9)-1   Minimum distribution requirement in general.
§1.401(a)(9)-2   Distributions commencing during an employee's lifetime.
§1.401(a)(9)-3   Death before required beginning date.
§1.401(a)(9)-4   Determination of the designated beneficiary.
§1.401(a)(9)-5   Required minimum distributions from defined contribution plans.
§1.401(a)(9)-6   Required minimum distributions for defined benefit plans and annuity contracts.
§1.401(a)(9)-7   Rollovers and transfers.
§1.401(a)(9)-8   Special rules.
§1.401(a)(9)-9   Life expectancy and distribution period tables.
§1.401(a)(17)-1   Limitation on annual compensation.
§1.401(a)(26)-0   Table of contents.
§1.401(a)(26)-1   Minimum participation requirements.
§1.401(a)(26)-2   Minimum participation rule.
§1.401(a)(26)-3   Rules applicable to a defined benefit plan's prior benefit structure.
§1.401(a)(26)-4   Testing former employees.
§1.401(a)(26)-5   Employees who benefit under a plan.
§1.401(a)(26)-6   Excludable employees.
§1.401(a)(26)-7   Testing methods.
§1.401(a)(26)-8   Definitions.
§1.401(a)(26)-9   Effective dates and transition rules.
§1.401(a)(31)-1   Requirement to offer direct rollover of eligible rollover distributions; questions and answers.
§1.401(a)(35)-1   Diversification requirements for certain defined contribution plans.
§1.401(b)-1   Certain retroactive changes in plan.
§1.401(e)-1   Definitions relating to plans covering self-employed individuals.
§1.401(e)-2   General rules relating to plans covering self-employed individuals.
§1.401(e)-3   Requirements for qualification of trusts and plans benefiting owner-employees.
§1.401(e)-4   Contributions for premiums on annuity, etc., contracts and transitional rule for certain excess contributions.
§1.401(e)-5   Limitation of contribution and benefit bases to first $100,000 of annual compensation in case of plans covering self-employed individuals.
§1.401(e)-6   Special rules for shareholder-employees.
§1.401(f)-1   Certain custodial accounts and annuity contracts.
§1.401(k)-0   Table of contents.
§1.401(k)-1   Certain cash or deferred arrangements.
§1.401(k)-2   ADP test.
§1.401(k)-3   Safe harbor requirements.
§1.401(k)-4   SIMPLE 401(k) plan requirements.
§1.401(k)-5   Special rules for mergers, acquisitions and similar events. [Reserved]
§1.401(k)-6   Definitions.
§1.401(l)-0   Table of contents.
§1.401(l)-1   Permitted disparity in employer-provided contributions or benefits.
§1.401(l)-2   Permitted disparity for defined contribution plans.
§1.401(l)-3   Permitted disparity for defined benefit plans.
§1.401(l)-4   Special rules for railroad plans.
§1.401(l)-5   Overall permitted disparity limits.
§1.401(l)-6   Effective dates and transition rules.
§1.401(m)-0   Table of contents.
§1.401(m)-1   Employee contributions and matching contributions.
§1.401(m)-2   ACP test.
§1.401(m)-3   Safe harbor requirements.
§1.401(m)-4   Special rules for mergers, acquisitions and similar events. [Reserved]
§1.401(m)-5   Definitions.
§1.402(a)-1   Taxability of beneficiary under a trust which meets the requirements of section 401(a).
§1.402(a)(5)-1T   Rollovers of partial distributions from qualified trusts and annuities. (Temporary)
§1.402(b)-1   Treatment of beneficiary of a trust not exempt under section 501(a).
§1.402(c)-1   Taxability of beneficiary of certain foreign situs trusts.
§1.402(c)-2   Eligible rollover distributions; questions and answers.
§1.402(d)-1   Effect of section 402(d).
§1.402(e)-1   Certain plan terminations.
§1.402(f)-1   Required explanation of eligible rollover distributions; questions and answers.
§1.402(g)-0   Limitation on exclusion for elective deferrals, table of contents.
§1.402(g)-1   Limitation on exclusion for elective deferrals.
§1.402(g)-2   Increased limit for catch-up contributions.
§1.402(g)(3)-1   Employer contributions to purchase a section 403(b) contract under a salary reduction agreement.
§1.402A-1   Designated Roth Accounts.
§1.402A-2   Reporting and recordkeeping requirements with respect to designated Roth accounts.
§1.403(a)-1   Taxability of beneficiary under a qualified annuity plan.
§1.403(a)-2   Capital gains treatment for certain distributions.
§1.403(b)-0   Taxability under an annuity purchased by a section 501(c)(3) organization or a public school.
§1.403(b)-1   General overview of taxability under an annuity contract purchased by a section 501(c)(3) organization or a public school.
§1.403(b)-2   Definitions.
§1.403(b)-3   Exclusion for contributions to purchase section 403(b) contracts.
§1.403(b)-4   Contribution limitations.
§1.403(b)-5   Nondiscrimination rules.
§1.403(b)-6   Timing of distributions and benefits.
§1.403(b)-7   Taxation of distributions and benefits.
§1.403(b)-8   Funding.
§1.403(b)-9   Special rules for church plans.
§1.403(b)-10   Miscellaneous provisions.
§1.403(b)-11   Applicable dates.
§1.403(c)-1   Taxability of beneficiary under a nonqualified annuity.
§1.404(a)-1   Contributions of an employer to an employees' trust or annuity plan and compensation under a deferred payment plan; general rule.
§1.404(a)-1T   Questions and answers relating to deductibility of deferred compensation and deferred benefits for employees. (Temporary)
§1.404(a)-2   Information to be furnished by employer claiming deductions; taxable years ending before December 31, 1971.
§1.404(a)-2A   Information to be furnished by employer; taxable years ending on or after December 31, 1971, and before December 31, 1975.
§1.404(a)-3   Contributions of an employer to or under an employees' pension trust or annuity plan that meets the requirements of section 401(a); application of section 404(a)(1).
§1.404(a)-4   Pension and annuity plans; limitations under section 404(a)(1)(A).
§1.404(a)-5   Pension and annuity plans; limitations under section 404(a)(1)(B).
§1.404(a)-6   Pension and annuity plans; limitations under section 404(a)(1)(C).
§1.404(a)-7   Pension and annuity plans; contributions in excess of limitations under section 404(a)(1); application of section 404(a)(1)(D).
§1.404(a)-8   Contributions of an employer under an employees' annuity plan which meets the requirements of section 401(a); application of section 404(a)(2).
§1.404(a)(8)-1T   Deductions for plan contributions on behalf of self-employed individuals. (Temporary)
§1.404(a)-9   Contributions of an employer to an employees' profit-sharing or stock bonus trust that meets the requirements of section 401(a); application of section 404(a)(3)(A).
§1.404(a)-10   Profit-sharing plan of an affiliated group; application of section 404(a)(3)(B).
§1.404(a)-11   Trusts created or organized outside the United States; application of section 404(a)(4).
§1.404(a)-12   Contributions of an employer under a plan that does not meet the requirements of section 401(a); application of section 404(a)(5).
§1.404(a)-13   Contributions of an employer where deductions are allowable under section 404(a) (1) or (2) and also under section 404(a)(3); application of section 404(a)(7).
§1.404(a)-14   Special rules in connection with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
§1.404(b)-1   Method of contribution, etc., having the effect of a plan; effect of section 404(b).
§1.404(b)-1T   Method or arrangement of contributions, etc., deferring the receipt of compensation or providing for deferred benefits. (Temporary)
§1.404(c)-1   Certain negotiated plans; effect of section 404(c).
§1.404(d)-1T   Questions and answers relating to deductibility of deferred compensation and deferred benefits for independent contractors. (Temporary)
§1.404(e)-1   Contributions on behalf of a self-employed individual to or under a pension, annuity, or profit-sharing plan meeting the requirements of section 401; application of section 404(a) (8), (9), and (10) and section 404 (e) and (f).
§1.404(e)-1A   Contributions on behalf of a self-employed individual to or under a qualified pension, annuity, or profit-sharing plan.
§1.404(g)-1   Deduction of employer liability payments.
§1.404(k)-1T   Questions and answers relating to the deductibility of certain dividend distributions. (Temporary)
§1.404(k)-3   Disallowance of deduction for reacquisition payments.
§1.405-1   Qualified bond purchase plans.
§1.405-2   Deduction of contributions to qualified bond purchase plans.
§1.405-3   Taxation of retirement bonds.
§1.406-1   Treatment of certain employees of foreign subsidiaries as employees of the domestic corporation.
§1.407-1   Treatment of certain employees of domestic subsidiaries engaged in business outside the United States as employees of the domestic parent corporation.
§1.408-1   General rules.
§1.408-2   Individual retirement accounts.
§1.408-3   Individual retirement annuities.
§1.408-4   Treatment of distributions from individual retirement arrangements.
§1.408-5   Annual reports by trustees or issuers.
§1.408-6   Disclosure statements for individual retirement arrangements.
§1.408-7   Reports on distributions from individual retirement plans.
§1.408-8   Distribution requirements for individual retirement plans.
§1.408-11   Net income calculation for returned or recharacterized IRA contributions.
§1.408(q)-1   Deemed IRAs in qualified employer plans.
§1.408A-0   Roth IRAs; table of contents.
§1.408A-1   Roth IRAs in general.
§1.408A-2   Establishing Roth IRAs.
§1.408A-3   Contributions to Roth IRAs.
§1.408A-4   Converting amounts to Roth IRAs.
§1.408A-5   Recharacterized contributions.
§1.408A-6   Distributions.
§1.408A-7   Reporting.
§1.408A-8   Definitions.
§1.408A-9   Effective date.
§1.408A-10   Coordination between designated Roth accounts and Roth IRAs.
§1.409-1   Retirement bonds.
§1.409A-0   Table of contents.
§1.409A-1   Definitions and covered plans.
§1.409A-2   Deferral elections.
§1.409A-3   Permissible payments.
§1.409A-4   Calculation of income inclusion. [Reserved]
§1.409A-5   Funding. [Reserved]
§1.409A-6   Application of section 409A and effective dates.
§1.409(p)-1   Prohibited allocation of securities in an S corporation.
§1.409(p)-1T   Prohibited allocations of securities in an S corporation (temporary).
§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.
§§1.432-1.435   [Reserved]
§1.436-0   Table of contents.
§1.436-1   Limits on benefits and benefit accruals under single employer defined benefit plans.
§1.436-1   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 1.401-12 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(d)(1).

Section 1.401(a)-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401

Section 1.401(a)(2)-1 also issued under Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act, Public Law 96-364, 410, (94 Stat. 1208, 1308)(1980).

Section 1.401(a)(5)-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(5).

Section 1.401(a)(9)-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(9).

Section 1.401(a)(9)-2 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(9).

Section 1.401(a)(9)-3 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(9).

Section 1.401(a)(9)-4 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(9).

Section 1.401(a)(9)-5 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(9).

Section 1.401(a)(9)-6 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(9).

Section 1.401(a)(9)-7 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(9).

Section 1.401(a)(9)-8 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(9).

Section 1.401(a)(9)-9 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(9).

Section 1.401(a)(17)-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(17).

Sections 1.401(a)(26)-1 through (a)(26)-9 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(26).

Section 1.401(a)(35)-1 is also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(35).

Section 1.401(a)-21 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401 and section 104 of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, Public Law 106-229 (114 Stat. 464).

Section 1.401(b)-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(b).

Section 1.401(k)-3 is also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(m)(9).

Section 1.401(l)-0 through 1.401(l)-6 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 401(l).

Section 1.402A-1 is also issued under 26 U.S.C. 402A

Section 1.403(b)-6 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 403(b)(10).

Section 1.408-2 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408(a) and 26 U.S.C. 408(q).

Section 1.404(k)-3 is also issued under sections 26 U.S.C. 162(k) and 404(k)(5)(A).

Section 1.408-4 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408.

Section 1.408-8 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408(a)(6) and (b)(3).

Section 1.408-11 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408.

Section 1.408(q)-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408(q).

Section 1.408A-1 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408A.

Section 1.408A-2 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408A.

Section 1.408A-3 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408A.

Section 1.408A-4 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408A.

Section 1.408A-5 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408A.

Section 1.408A-6 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408A.

Section 1.408A-7 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408A.

Section 1.408A-8 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408A.

Section 1.408A-9 also issued under 26 U.S.C. 408A.

Section 1.409(p)-1 is also issued under 26 U.S.C. 409(p)(7).

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.

§1.401-0   Scope and definitions.

(a) In general. Sections 1.401 through 1.401-14 (inclusive) reflect the provisions of section 401 prior to amendment by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. The sections following §1.401-14 and preceding §1.402(a)-1 (hereafter referred to in this section as the “Post-ERISA Regulations”) reflect the provisions of section 401 after amendment by such Act.

(b) Definitions. For purposes of the Post-ERISA regulations—

(1) Qualified plan. The term “qualified plan” means a plan which satisfies the requirements of section 401(a).

(2) Qualified trust. The term “qualified trust” means a trust which satisfies the requirements of section 401(a).

(Sec. 411 Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42320, Aug. 23, 1977]

§1.401-1   Qualified pension, profit-sharing, and stock bonus plans.

(a) Introduction. (1) Sections 401 through 405 relate to pension, profit- sharing, stock bonus, and annuity plans, compensation paid under a deferred-payment plan, and bond purchase plans. Section 401(a) prescribes the requirements which must be met for qualification of a trust forming part of a pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan.

(2) A qualified pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan is a definite written program and arrangement which is communicated to the employees and which is established and maintained by an employer—

(i) In the case of a pension plan, to provide for the livelihood of the employees or their beneficiaries after the retirement of such employees through the payment of benefits determined without regard to profits (see paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section);

(ii) In the case of a profit-sharing plan, to enable employees or their beneficiaries to participate in the profits of the employer's trade or business, or in the profits of an affiliated employer who is entitled to deduct his contributions to the plan under section 404(a)(3)(B), pursuant to a definite formula for allocating the contributions and for distributing the funds accumulated under the plan (see paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section); and

(iii) In the case of a stock bonus plan, to provide employees or their beneficiaries benefits similar to those of profit-sharing plans, except that such benefits are distributable in stock of the employer, and that the contributions by the employer are not necessarily dependent upon profits. If the employer's contributions are dependent upon profits, the plan may enable employees or their beneficiaries to participate not only in the profits of the employer, but also in the profits of an affiliated employer who is entitled to deduct his contributions to the plan under section 404(a)(3)(B) (see paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section).

(3) In order for a trust forming part of a pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan to constitute a qualified trust under section 401(a), the following tests must be met:

(i) It must be created or organized in the United States, as defined in section 7701(a)(9), and it must be maintained at all times as a domestic trust in the United States;

(ii) It must be part of a pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan established by an employer for the exclusive benefit of his employees or their beneficiaries (see paragraph (b)(2) through (5) of this section);

(iii) It must be formed or availed of for the purpose of distributing to the employees or their beneficiaries the corpus and income of the fund accumulated by the trust in accordance with the plan, and, in the case of a plan which covers (as defined in paragraph (a)(2) of §1.401-10) any self-employed individual, the time and method of such distribution must satisfy the requirements of section 401(a)(9) with respect to each employee covered by the plan (see paragraph (e) of §1.401-11);

(iv) It must be impossible under the trust instrument at any time before the satisfaction of all liabilities with respect to employees and their beneficiaries under the trust, for any part of the corpus or income to be used for, or diverted to, purposes other than for the exclusive benefit of the employees or their beneficiaries (see §1.401-2);

(v) It must be part of a plan which benefits prescribed percentages of the employees, or which benefits such employees as qualify under a classification set up by the employer and found by the Commissioner not to be discriminatory in favor of certain specified classes of employees (see §1.401-3 and, in addition, see §1.401-12 for special rules as to plans covering owner-employees);

(vi) It must be part of a plan under which contributions or benefits do not discriminate in favor of certain specified classes of employees (see §1.401-4);

(vii) It must be part of a plan which provides the nonforfeitable rights described in section 401(a)(7) (see §1.401-6);

(viii) If the trust forms part of a pension plan, the plan must provide that forfeitures must not be applied to increase the benefits any employee would receive under such plan (see §1.401-7);

(ix) It must, if the plan benefits any self-employed individual who is an owner-employee, satisfy the additional requirements for qualification contained in section 401(a)(10) and (d).

(4) For taxable years beginning after December 31, 1962, self-employed individuals may be included in qualified plans. See §§1.401-10 through 1.401-13.

(b) General rules. (1)(i) A pension plan within the meaning of section 401(a) is a plan established and maintained by an employer primarily to provide systematically for the payment of definitely determinable benefits to his employees over a period of years, usually for life, after retirement. Retirement benefits generally are measured by, and based on, such factors as years of service and compensation received by the employees. The determination of the amount of retirement benefits and the contributions to provide such benefits are not dependent upon profits. Benefits are not definitely determinable if funds arising from forfeitures on termination of service, or other reason, may be used to provide increased benefits for the remaining participants (see §1.401-7, relating to the treatment of forfeitures under a qualified pension plan). A plan designed to provide benefits for employees or their beneficiaries to be paid upon retirement or over a period of years after retirement will, for the purposes of section 401(a), be considered a pension plan if the employer contributions under the plan can be determined actuarially on the basis of definitely determinable benefits, or, as in the case of money purchase pension plans, such contributions are fixed without being geared to profits. A pension plan may provide for the payment of a pension due to disability and may also provide for the payment of incidental death benefits through insurance or otherwise. However, a plan is not a pension plan if it provides for the payment of benefits not customarily included in a pension plan such as layoff benefits or benefits for sickness, accident, hospitalization, or medical expenses (except medical benefits described in section 401(h) as defined in paragraph (a) of §1.401-14).

(ii) A profit-sharing plan is a plan established and maintained by an employer to provide for the participation in his profits by his employees or their beneficiaries. The plan must provide a definite predetermined formula for allocating the contributions made to the plan among the participants and for distributing the funds accumulated under the plan after a fixed number of years, the attainment of a stated age, or upon the prior occurrence of some event such as layoff, illness, disability, retirement, death, or severance of employment. A formula for allocating the contributions among the participants is definite if, for example, it provides for an allocation in proportion to the basic compensation of each participant. A plan (whether or not it contains a definite predetermined formula for determining the profits to be shared with the employees) does not qualify under section 401(a) if the contributions to the plan are made at such times or in such amounts that the plan in operation discriminates in favor of officers, shareholders, persons whose principal duties consist in supervising the work of other employees, or highly compensated employees. For the rules with respect to discrimination, see §§1.401-3 and 1.401-4. A profit-sharing plan within the meaning of section 401 is primarily a plan of deferred compensation, but the amounts allocated to the account of a participant may be used to provide for him or his family incidental life or accident or health insurance. See §§1.72-15, 1.72-16, and 1.402(a)-1(e) for rules regarding the tax treatment of incidental life or accident or health insurance.

(iii) A stock bonus plan is a plan established and maintained by an employer to provide benefits similar to those of a profit-sharing plan, except that the contributions by the employer are not necessarily dependent upon profits and the benefits are distributable in stock of the employer company. For the purpose of allocating and distributing the stock of the employer which is to be shared among his employees or their beneficiaries, such a plan is subject to the same requirements as a profit-sharing plan.

(iv) As to inclusion of full-time life insurance salesmen within the class of persons considered to be employees, see section 7701(a)(20).

(2) The term “plan” implies a permanent as distinguished from a temporary program. Thus, although the employer may reserve the right to change or terminate the plan, and to discontinue contributions thereunder, the abandonment of the plan for any reason other than business necessity within a few years after it has taken effect will be evidence that the plan from its inception was not a bona fide program for the exclusive benefit of employees in general. Especially will this be true if, for example, a pension plan is abandoned soon after pensions have been fully funded for persons in favor of whom discrimination is prohibited under section 401(a). The permanency of the plan will be indicated by all of the surrounding facts and circumstances, including the likelihood of the employer's ability to continue contributions as provided under the plan. In the case of a profit-sharing plan, other than a profit-sharing plan which covers employees and owner-employees (see section 401(d)(2)(B)), it is not necessary that the employer contribute every year or that he contribute the same amount or contribute in accordance with the same ratio every year. However, merely making a single or occasional contribution out of profits for employees does not establish a plan of profit-sharing. To be a profit-sharing plan, there must be recurring and substantial contributions out of profits for the employees. In the event a plan is abandoned, the employer should promptly notify the district director, stating the circumstances which led to the discontinuance of the plan.

(3) If the plan is so designed as to amount to a subterfuge for the distribution of profits to shareholders, it will not qualify as a plan for the exclusive benefit of employees even though other employees who are not shareholders are also included under the plan. The plan must benefit the employees in general, although it need not provide benefits for all of the employees. Among the employees to be benefited may be persons who are officers and shareholders. However, a plan is not for the exclusive benefit of employees in general if, by any device whatever, it discriminates either in eligibility requirements, contributions, or benefits in favor of employees who are officers, shareholders, persons whose principal duties consist in supervising the work of other employees, or the highly compensated employees. See section 401(a) (3), (4), and (5). Similarly, a stock bonus or profit-sharing plan is not a plan for the exclusive benefit of employees in general if the funds therein may be used to relieve the employer from contributing to a pension plan operating concurrently and covering the same employees. All of the surrounding and attendant circumstances and the details of the plan will be indicative of whether it is a bona fide stock bonus, pension, or profit-sharing plan for the exclusive benefit of employees in general. The law is concerned not only with the form of a plan but also with its effects in operation. For example, section 401(a)(5) specifies certain provisions which of themselves are not discriminatory. However, this does not mean that a plan containing these provisions may not be discriminatory in actual operation.

(4) A plan is for the exclusive benefit of employees or their beneficiaries even though it may cover former employees as well as present employees and employees who are temporarily on leave, as, for example, in the Armed Forces of the United States. A plan covering only former employees may qualify under section 401(a) if it complies with the provisions of section 401(a)(3)(B), with respect to coverage, and section 401(a)(4), with respect to contributions and benefits, as applied to all of the former employees. The term “beneficiaries” of an employee within the meaning of section 401 includes the estate of the employee, dependents of the employee, persons who are the natural objects of the employee's bounty, and any persons designated by the employee to share in the benefits of the plan after the death of the employee.

(5)(i) No specific limitations are provided in section 401(a) with respect to investments which may be made by the trustees of a trust qualifying under section 401(a). Generally, the contributions may be used by the trustees to purchase any investments permitted by the trust agreement to the extent allowed by local law. However, such a trust will be subject to tax under section 511 with respect to any “unrelated business taxable income” (as defined in section 512) realized by it from its investments.

(ii) Where the trust funds are invested in stock or securities of, or loaned to, the employer or other person described in section 503(b), full disclosure must be made of the reasons for such arrangement and the conditions under which such investments are made in order that a determination may be made whether the trust serves any purpose other than constituting part of a plan for the exclusive benefit of employees. The trustee shall report any of such investments on the return which under section 6033 it is required to file and shall with respect to any such investment furnish the information required by such return. See §1.6033-1.

(c) Portions of years. A qualified status must be maintained throughout the entire taxable year of the trust in order for the trust to obtain any exemption for such year. But see section 401(a)(6) and §1.401-3.

(d) Plan of several employers. A trust forming part of a plan of several employers for their employees will be qualified if all the requirements are otherwise satisfied.

(e) Determination of exemptions and returns. (1) An employees' trust may request a determination letter as to its qualification under section 401 and exemption under section 501. For the procedure for obtaining such a determination letter see paragraph (l) of §601.201 of this chapter (Statement of Procedural Rules).

(2) A trust which qualifies under section 401(a) and which is exempt under section 501(a) must file a return in accordance with section 6033 and the regulations thereunder. See §§1.6033-1 and 1.6033-2(a)(3). In case such a trust realizes any unrelated business taxable income, as defined in section 512, such trust is also required to file a return with respect to such income. See paragraph (e) of §1.6012-2 and paragraph (a)(5) of §1.6012-3 for requirements with respect to such returns. For information required to be furnished periodically by an employer with respect to the qualification of a plan, see §§1.404(a)-2, 1.404(a)-2A, and 1.6033-2(a)(2)(ii)(i).

[T.D. 6500, 25 FR 11670, Nov. 26, 1960, as amended by T.D. 6675, 28 FR 10118, Sept. 17, 1963; T.D. 6722, 29 FR 5071, Apr. 14, 1964; T.D. 7168, 37 FR 5024, Mar. 9, 1972; T.D. 7428, 41 FR 34619, Aug. 16, 1976; T.D. 9665, 79 FR 26842, May 12, 2014]

§1.401-2   Impossibility of diversion under the trust instrument.

(a) In general. (1) Under section 401(a)(2) a trust is not qualified unless under the trust instrument it is impossible (in the taxable year and at any time thereafter before the satisfaction of all liabilities to employees or their beneficiaries covered by the trust) for any part of the trust corpus or income to be used for, or diverted to, purposes other than for the exclusive benefit of such employees or their beneficiaries. This section does not apply to funds of the trust which are allocated to provide medical benefits described in section 401(h) as defined in paragraph (a) of §1.401-14. For the rules prohibiting diversion of such funds and the requirement of reversion to the employer after satisfaction of all liabilities under the medical benefits account, see paragraph (c) (4) and (5) of §1.401-14. For rules permitting reversion to the employer of amounts held in a section 415 suspense acount, see §1.401(a)-2(b).

(2) As used in section 401(a)(2), the phrase “if under the trust instrument it is impossible” means that the trust instrument must definitely and affirmatively make it impossible for the nonexempt diversion or use to occur, whether by operation or natural termination of the trust, by power of revocation or amendment, by the happening of a contingency, by collateral arrangement, or by any other means. Although it is not essential that the employer relinquish all power to modify or terminate the rights of certain employees covered by the trust, it must be impossible for the trust funds to be used or diverted for purposes other than for the exclusive benefit of his employees or their beneficiaries.

(3) As used in section 401(a)(2), the phrase “purposes other than for the exclusive benefit of his employees or their beneficiaries” includes all objects or aims not solely designed for the proper satisfaction of all liabilities to employees or their beneficiaries covered by the trust.

(b) Meaning of “liabilities”. (1) The intent and purpose in section 401(a)(2) of the phrase “prior to the satisfaction of all liabilities with respect to employees and their beneficiaries under the trust” is to permit the employer to reserve the right to recover at the termination of the trust, and only at such termination, any balance remaining in the trust which is due to erroneous actuarial computations during the previous life of the trust. A balance due to an “erroneous actuarial computation” is the surplus arising because actual requirements differ from the expected requirements even though the latter were based upon previous actuarial valuations of liabilities or determinations of costs of providing pension benefits under the plan and were made by a person competent to make such determinations in accordance with reasonable assumptions as to mortality, interest, etc., and correct procedures relating to the method of funding. For example, a trust has accumulated assets of $1,000,000 at the time of liquidation, determined by acceptable actuarial procedures using reasonable assumptions as to interest, mortality, etc., as being necessary to provide the benefits in accordance with the provisions of the plan. Upon such liquidation it is found that $950,000 will satisfy all of the liabilities under the plan. The surplus of $50,000 arises, therefore, because of the difference between the amounts actuarially determined and the amounts actually required to satisfy the liabilities. This $50,000, therefore, is the amount which may be returned to the employer as the result of an erroneous actuarial computation. If, however, the surplus of $50,000 had been accumulated as a result of a change in the benefit provisions or in the eligibility requirements of the plan, the $50,000 could not revert to the employer because such surplus would not be the result of an erroneous actuarial computation.

(2) The term “liabilities” as used in section 401(a)(2) includes both fixed and contingent obligations to employees. For example, if 1,000 employees are covered by a trust forming part of a pension plan, 300 of whom have satisfied all the requirements for a monthly pension, while the remaining 700 employees have not yet completed the required period of service, contingent obligations to such 700 employees have nevertheless arisen which constitute “liabilities” within the meaning of that term. It must be impossible for the employer (or other non employee) to recover any amounts other than such amounts as remain in the trust because of “erroneous actuarial computations” after the satisfaction of all fixed and contingent obligations. Furthermore, the trust instrument must contain a definite affirmative provision to this effect, irrespective of whether the obligations to employees have their source in the trust instrument itself, in the plan of which the trust forms a part, or in some collateral instrument or arrangement forming a part of such plan, and regardless of whether such obligations are, technically speaking, liabilities of the employer, of the trust, or of some other person forming a part of the plan or connected with it.

[T.D. 6500, 25 FR 11672, Nov. 26, 1960, as amended by T.D. 6722, 29 FR 5072, Apr. 14, 1964; T.D. 7748, 46 FR 1695, Jan. 7, 1981]

§1.401-3   Requirements as to coverage.

(a)(1) In order to insure that stock bonus, pension, and profit-sharing plans are utilized for the welfare of employees in general, and to prevent the trust device from being used for the principal benefit of shareholders, officers, persons whose principal duties consist in supervising the work of other employees, or highly paid employees, or as a means of tax avoidance, a trust will not be qualified unless it is part of a plan which satisfies the coverage requirements of section 401(a)(3). However, if the plan covers any individual who is an owner-employee, as defined in section 401(c)(3), the requirements of section 401(a)(3) and this section are not applicable to such plan, but the plan must satisfy the requirements of section 401(d) (see §1.401-12).

(2) The percentage requirements in section 401(a)(3)(A) refer to a percentage of all the 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.

(3) The application of section 401(a)(3)(A) may be illustrated by the following example:

Example. A corporation adopts a plan at a time when it has 1,000 employees. The plan provides that all full-time employees who have been employed for a period of two years and have reached the age of 30 shall be eligible to participate. The plan also requires participating employees to contribute 3 percent of their monthly pay. At the time the plan is made effective 100 of the 1,000 employees had not been employed for a period of two years. Fifty of the employees were seasonal employees whose customary employment did not exceed five months in any calendar year. Twenty-five of the employees were part-time employees whose customary employment did not exceed 20 hours in any one week. One hundred and fifty of the full-time employees who had been employed for two years or more had not yet reached age 30. The requirements of section 401(a)(3)(A) will be met if 540 employees are covered by the plan, as shown by the following computation:
(i) Total employees with respect to whom the percentage requirements are applicable (1,000 minus 175 (100 plus 50 plus 25))825
(ii) Employees not eligible to participate because of age requirements150
(iii) Total employees eligible to participate675
(iv) Percentage of employees in item (i) eligible to participate81+%
(v) Minimum number of participating employees to qualify the plan (80 percent of 675)540

If only 70 percent, or 578, of the 825 employees satisfied the age and service requirements, then 462 (80 percent of 578) participating employees would satisfy the percentage requirements.

(b) If a plan fails to qualify under the percentage requirements of section 401(a)(3)(A), it may still qualify under section 401(a)(3)(B) provided always that (as required by section 401(a) (3) and (4)) the plan's eligibility conditions, benefits, and contributions do not discriminate in favor of employees who are officers, shareholders, persons whose principal duties consist in supervising the work of other employees, or the highly compensated employees.

(c) Since, for the purpose of section 401, a profit-sharing plan is a plan which provides for distributing the funds accumulated under the plan after a fixed number of years, the attainment of a stated age, or upon the prior occurrence of some event such as illness, disability, retirement, death, layoff, or severance of employment, employees who receive the amounts allocated to their accounts before the expiration of such a period of time or the occurrence of such a contingency shall not be considered covered by a profit-sharing plan in determining whether the plan meets the coverage requirements of section 401(a)(3) (A) and (B). 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, for the purpose of section 401, be considered covered by a profit-sharing plan.

(d) Section 401(a)(5) sets out certain classifications that will not in themselves be considered discriminatory. However, those so designated are not intended to be exclusive. Thus, plans may qualify under section 401(a)(3)(B) even though coverage thereunder is limited to employees who have either reached a designated age or have been employed for a designated number of years, or who are employed in certain designated departments or are in other classifications, provided the effect of covering only such employees does not discriminate in favor of officers, shareholders, employees whose principal duties consist in supervising the work of other employees, or highly compensated employees. For example, if there are 1,000 employees, and the plan is written for only salaried employees, and consequently only 500 employees are covered, that fact alone will not justify the conclusion that the plan does not meet the coverage requirements of section 401(a)(3)(B). Conversely, if a contributory plan is offered to all of the employees but the contributions required of the employee participants are so burdensome as to make the plan acceptable only to the highly paid employees, the classification will be considered discriminatory in favor of such highly paid employees.

(e)(1) Section 401(a)(5) contains a provision to the effect that a classification shall not be considered discriminatory within the meaning of section 401(a)(3)(B) merely because all employees whose entire annual remuneration constitutes “wages” under section 3121(a)(1) (for purposes of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, chapter 21 of the Code) are excluded from the plan. A reference to section 3121(a)(1) for years after 1954 shall be deemed a reference to section 1426(a)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1939 for years before 1955. This provision, in conjunction with section 401(a)(3)(B), is intended to permit the qualification of plans which supplement the old-age, survivors, and disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. ch. 7). Thus, a classification which excludes all employees whose entire remuneration constitutes “wages” under section 3121(a)(1), will not be considered discriminatory merely because of such exclusion. Similarly, a plan which includes all employees will not be considered discriminatory solely because the contributions or benefits based on that part of their remuneration which is excluded from wages under section 3121(a)(1) differ from the contributions or benefits based on that part of their remuneration which is not so excluded. However, in making his determination with respect to discrimination in classification under section 401(a)(3)(B), the Commissioner will consider whether the total benefits resulting to each employee under the plan and under the Social Security Act, or under the Social Security Act only, establish an integrated and correlated retirement system satisfying the tests of section 401(a). If, therefore, a classification of employees under a plan results in relatively or proportionately greater benefits for employees earning above any specified salary amount or rate than for those below any such salary amount or rate, it may be found to be discriminatory within the meaning of section 401(a)(3)(B). If, however, the relative or proportionate differences in benefits which result from such classification are approximately offset by the old-age, survivors, and disability insurance benefits which are provided by the Social Security Act and which are not attributable to employee contributions under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, the plan will be considered to be properly integrated with the Social Security Act and will, therefore, not be considered discriminatory.

(2)(i) For purposes of determining whether a plan is properly integrated with the Social Security Act, the amount of old-age, survivors, and disability insurance benefits which may be considered as attributable to employer contributions under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act is computed on the basis of the following:

(A) The rate at which the maximum monthly old-age insurance benefit is provided under the Social Security Act is considered to be the average of (1) the rate at which the maximum benefit currently payable under the Act (i.e., in 1971) is provided to an employee retiring at age 65, and (2) the rate at which the maximum benefit ultimately payable under the Act (i.e., in 2010) is provided to an employee retiring at age 65. The resulting figure is 43 percent of the average monthly wage on which such benefit is computed.

(B) The total old-age, survivors, and disability insurance benefits with respect to an employee is considered to be 162 percent of the employee's old-age insurance benefits. The resulting figure is 70 percent of the average monthly wage on which it is computed.

(C) In view of the fact that social security benefits are funded through equal contributions by the employer and employee, 50 percent of such benefits is considered attributable to employer contributions. The resulting figure is 35 percent of the average monthly wage on which the benefit is computed.

Under these assumptions, the maximum old-age, survivors, and disability insurance benefits which may be attributed to employer contributions under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act is an amount equal to 35 percent of the earnings on which they are computed. These computations take into account all amendments to the Society Security Act through the Social Security Amendments of 1971 (85 Stat. 6). It is recognized, however, that subsequent amendments to this Act may increase the percentages described in (A) or (B) of this subdivision (i), or both. If this occurs, the method used in this subparagraph for determining the integration formula may result in a figure under (C) of this subdivision (i) which is greater than 35 percent and a plan could be amended to adopt such greater figure in its benefit formula. In order to minimize future plan amendments of this nature, an employer may anticipate future changes in the Social Security Act by immediately utilizing such a higher figure, but not in excess of 3712 percent, in developing its benefit formula.

(ii) Under the rules provided in this subparagraph, a classification of employees under a noncontributory pension or annuity plan which limits coverage to employees whose compensation exceeds the applicable integration level under the plan will not be considered discriminatory within the meaning of section 401(a)(3)(B), where:

(A) The integration level applicable to an employee is his covered compensation, or is (1) in the case of an active employee, a stated dollar amount uniformly applicable to all active employees which is not greater than the covered compensation of any active employee, and (2) in the case of a retired employee an amount which is not greater than his covered compensation. (For rules relating to determination of an employee's covered compensation, see subdivision (iv) of this subparagraph.)

(B) The rate at which normal annual retirement benefits are provided for any employee with respect to his average annual compensation in excess of the plan's integration level applicable to him does not exceed 3712 percent.

(C) Average annual compensation is defined to mean the average annual compensation over the highest 5 consecutive years.

(D) There are no benefits payable in case of death before retirement.

(E) The normal form of retirement benefits is a straight life annuity, and if there are optional forms, the benefit payments under each optional form are actuarially equivalent to benefit payments under the normal form.

(F) In the case of any employee who reaches normal retirement age before completion of 15 years of service with the employer, the rate at which normal annual retirement benefits are provided for him with respect to his average annual compensation in excess of the plan's integration level applicable to him does not exceed 212 percent for each year of service.

(G) Normal retirement age is not lower than age 65.

(H) Benefits payable in case of retirement or any other severance of employment before normal retirement age cannot exceed the actuarial equivalent of the maximum normal retirement benefits, which might be provided in accordance with (A) through (G) of this subdivision (ii), multiplied by a fraction, the numerator of which is the actual number of years of service of the employee at retirement or severance, and the denominator of which is the total number of years of service he would have had if he had remained in service until normal retirement age. A special disabled life mortality table shall not be used in determining the actuarial equivalent in the case of severance due to disability.

(iii) (A) If a plan was properly integrated with old-age and survivors insurance benefits on July 5, 1968 (hereinafter referred to as an “existing plan”), then, notwithstanding the fact that such plan does not satisfy the requirements of subdivision (ii) of this subparagraph, it will continue to be considered properly integrated with such benefits until January 1, 1972. Such plan will be considered properly integrated after December 31, 1971, so long as the benefits provided under the plan for each employee equal the sum of—

(1) The benefits to which he would be entitled under a plan which, on July 5, 1968, would have been considered properly integrated with old-age and survivors insurance benefits, and under which benefits are provided at the same (or a lesser) rate with respect to the same portion of compensation with respect to which benefits are provided under the existing plan, multiplied by the percentage of his total service with the employer performed before a specified date not later than January 1, 1972; and

(2) The benefits to which he would be entitled under a plan satisfying the requirements of subdivision (ii) of this subparagraph, multiplied by the percentage of his total service with the employer performed on and after such specified date.

(B) A plan which, on July 5, 1968, was properly integrated with old-age and survivors insurance benefits will not be considered not to be properly integrated with such benefits thereafter merely because such plan provides a minimum benefit for each employee (other than an employee who owns, directly or indirectly, stock possessing more than 10 percent of the total combined voting power or value of all classes of stock of the employer corporation) equal to the benefit to which he would be entitled under the plan as in effect on July 5, 1968, if he continued to earn annually until retirement the same amount of compensation as he earned in 1967.

(C) If a plan was properly integrated with old-age and survivors insurance benefits on May 17, 1971, notwithstanding the fact that such plan does not satisfy the requirements of subdivision (ii) of this subparagraph, it will continue to be considered properly integrated with such benefits until January 1, 1972.

(iv) For purposes of this subparagraph, an employee's covered compensation is the amount of compensation with respect to which old-age insurance benefits would be provided for him under the Social Security Act (as in effect at any uniformly applicable date occurring before the employee's separation from the service) if for each year until he attains age 65 his annual compensation is at least equal to the maximum amount of earnings subject to tax in each such year under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act. A plan may provide that an employee's covered compensation is the amount determined under the preceding sentence rounded to the nearest whole multiple of a stated dollar amount which does not exceed $600.

(v) In the case of an integrated plan providing benefits different from those described in subdivision (ii) or (iii) (whichever is applicable) of this subparagraph, or providing benefits related to years of service, or providing benefits purchasable by stated employer contributions, or under the terms of which the employees contribute, or providing a combination of any of the foregoing variations, the plan will be considered to be properly integrated only if, as determined by the Commissioner, the benefits provided thereunder by employer contributions cannot exceed in value the benefits described in subdivision (ii) or (iii) (whichever is applicable) of this subparagraph. Similar principles will govern in determining whether a plan is properly integrated if participation therein is limited to employees earning in excess of amounts other than those specified in subdivision (iv) of this subparagraph, or if it bases benefits or contributions on compensation in excess of such amounts, or if it provides for an offset of benefits otherwise payable under the plan on account of old-age, survivors, and disability insurance benefits. Similar principles will govern in determining whether a profit-sharing or stock bonus plan is properly integrated with the Social Security Act.

(3) A plan supplementing the Social Security Act and excluding all employees whose entire annual remuneration constitutes “wages” under section 3121(a)(1) will not, however, be deemed discriminatory merely because, for administrative convenience, it provides a reasonable minimum benefit not to exceed $20 a month.

(4) Similar considerations, to the extent applicable in any case, will govern classifications under a plan supplementing the benefits provided by other Federal or State laws. See section 401(a)(5).

(5) If a plan provides contributions or benefits for a self-employed individual, the rules relating to the integration of such a plan with the contributions or benefits under the Social Security Act are set forth in paragraph (c) of §1.401-11 and paragraph (h) of §1.401-12.

(6) This paragraph (e) does not apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1989.

(f) An employer may designate several trusts or a trust or trusts and an annuity plan or plans as constituting one plan which is intended to qualify under section 401(a)(3), in which case all of such trusts and plans taken as a whole may meet the requirements of such section. The fact that such combination of trusts and plans fails to qualify as one plan does not prevent such of the trusts and plans as qualify from meeting the requirements of section 401(a).

(g) It is provided in section 401(a)(6) that a plan will satisfy the requirements of section 401(a)(3), if on at least one day in each quarter of the taxable year of the plan it satisfies such requirements. This makes it possible for a new plan requiring contributions from employees to qualify if by the end of the quarter-year in which the plan is adopted it secures sufficient contributing participants to meet the requirements of section 401(a)(3). It also affords a period of time in which new participants may be secured to replace former participants, so as to meet the requirements of either subparagraph (A) or (B) of section 401(a)(3).

[T.D. 6500, 25 FR 11672, Nov. 26, 1960, as amended by T.D. 6675, 28 FR 10119, Sept. 17, 1963; T.D. 6982, 33 FR 16499, Nov. 13, 1968; T.D. 7134, 36 FR 13592, July 22, 1971; 36 FR 13990, July 29, 1971; T.D. 8359, 56 FR 47614, Sept. 19, 1991]

§1.401-4   Discrimination as to contributions or benefits (before 1994).

(a)(1)(i) In order to qualify under section 401(a), a trust must not only meet the coverage requirements of section 401(a)(3), but, as provided in section 401(a)(4), it must also be part of a plan under which there is no discrimination in contributions or benefits in favor of officers, shareholders, employees whose principal duties consist in supervising the work of other employees, or highly compensated employees as against other employees whether within or without the plan.

(ii) Since, for the purpose of section 401, a profit-sharing plan is a plan which provides for distributing the funds accumulated under the plan after a fixed number of years, the attainment of a stated age, or upon the prior occurrence of some event such as illness, disability, retirement, death, layoff, or severance of employment, any amount allocated to an employee which is withdrawn before the expiration of such a period of time or the occurrence of such a contingency shall not be considered in determining whether the contributions under the plan discriminate in favor of officers, shareholders, employees whose principal duties consist in supervising the work of other employees, or highly compensated employees. Thus, in case a plan permits employees to receive immediately the whole or any part of the amounts allocated to their accounts, or to have the whole or any part of such amounts paid to a profit-sharing plan for them, any amounts which are received immediately shall not, for the purpose of section 401, be considered contributed to a profit-sharing plan.

(iii) Funds in a stock bonus or profit-sharing plan arising from forfeitures on termination of service, or other reason, must not be allocated to the remaining participants in such a manner as will effect the prohibited discrimination. With respect to forfeitures in a pension plan, see §1.401-7.

(2)(i) Section 401(a)(5) sets out certain provisions which will not in and of themselves be discriminatory within the meaning of section 401 a) (3) or (4). See §1.401-3. Thus, a plan will not be considered discriminatory merely because the contributions or benefits bear a uniform relationship to total compensation or to the basic or regular rate of compensation, or merely because the contributions or benefits based on that part of the annual compensation of employees which is subject to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (chapter 21 of the Code) differ from the contributions or benefits based on any excess of such annual compensation over such part. With regard to the application of the rules of section 401(a)(5) in the case of a plan which benefits a self-employed individual, see paragraph (c) of §1.401-11.

(ii) The exceptions specified in section 401(a)(5) are not an exclusive enumeration, but are merely a recital of provisions frequently encountered which will not of themselves constitute forbidden discrimination in contributions or benefits.

(iii) Variations in contributions or benefits may be provided so long as the plan, viewed as a whole for the benefit of employees in general, with all its attendant circumstances, does not discriminate in favor of employees within the enumerations with respect to which discrimination is prohibited. Thus, benefits in a stock bonus or profit-sharing plan which vary by reason of an allocation formula which takes into consideration years of service, or other factors, are not prohibited unless they discriminate in favor of such employees.

(b) A plan which excludes all employees whose entire remuneration constitutes wages under section 3121(a)(1) (relating to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act), or a plan under which the contributions or benefits based on that part of an employee's remuneration which is excluded from “wages” under such act differs from the contributions or benefits based on that part of the employee's remuneration which is not so excluded, or a plan under which the contributions or benefits differ because of any retirement benefit created under State or Federal law, will not be discriminatory because of such exclusion or difference, provided the total benefits resulting under the plan and under such law establish an integrated and correlated retirement system satisfying the tests of section 401(a).

(c)(1) Although a qualified plan may provide for termination at will by the employer or discontinuance of contributions thereunder, this will not of itself prevent a trust from being a qualified trust. However, a qualified pension plan must expressly incorporate provisions which comply with the restrictions contained in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph at the time the plan is established, unless (i) it is reasonably certain at the inception of the plan that such restrictions would not affect the amount of contributions which may be used for the benefit of any employee, or (ii) the Commissioner determines that such provisions are not necessary to prevent the prohibited discrimination that may occur in the event of any early termination of the plan. Although these provisions are the only provisions required to be incorporated in the plan to prevent the discrimination that may arise because of an early termination of the plan, the plan may in operation result in the discrimination prohibited by section 401(a)(4), unless other provisions are later incorporated in the plan. Any pension plan containing a provision described in this paragraph shall not fail to satisfy section 411(a), (d)(2) and (d)(3) merely by reason of such a plan provision. Paragraph (c)(7) of this section sets forth special early termination rules applicable to certain qualified defined benefit plans for plan years affected by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). Paragraph (c)(7) of this section does not contain all the rules required by the enactment of ERISA.

(2)(i) If employer contributions under a qualified pension plan may be used for the benefit of an employee who is among the 25 highest paid employees of the employer at the time the plan is established and whose anticipated annual pension under the plan exceeds $1,500, such plan must provide that upon the occurrence of the conditions described in subdivision (ii) of this subparagraph, the employer contributions which are used for the benefit of any such employee are restricted in accordance with subdivision (iii) of this subparagraph.

(ii) The restrictions described in subdivision (iii) of this subparagraph become applicable if—

(A) The plan is terminated within 10 years after its establishment,

(B) The benefits of an employee described in subdivision (i) of this subparagraph become payable within 10 years after the establishment of the plan, or

(C) The benefits of an employee described in subdivision (i) of this subparagraph become payable after the plan has been in effect for 10 years, and the full current costs of the plan for the first 10 years have not been funded. In the case of an employee described in (B) of this subdivision, the restrictions will remain applicable until the plan has been in effect for 10 years, but if at that time the full current costs have been funded the restrictions will no longer apply to the benefits payable to such an employee. In the case of an employee described in (B) or (C) of this subdivision, if at the end of the first 10 years the full current costs are not met, the restrictions will continue to apply until the full current costs are funded for the first time.

(iii) The restrictions required under subdivision (i) of this subparagraph must provide that the employer contributions which may be used for the benefit of an employee described in such subdivision shall not exceed the greater of $20,000, or 20 percent of the first $50,000 of the annual compensation of such employee multiplied by the number of years between the date of the establishment of the plan and—

(A) The date of the termination of the plan,

(B) In the case of an employee described in subdivision (ii)(B) of this subparagraph, the date the benefit of the employee becomes payable, if before the date of the termination of the plan, or

(C) In the case of an employee described in subdivision (ii)(C) of this subparagraph, the date of the failure to meet the full current costs of the plan. However, if the full current costs of the plan have not been met on the date described in (A) or (B) of this subdivision, whichever is applicable, then the date of the failure to meet such full current costs shall be substituted for the date referred to in (A) or (B) of this subdivision. For purposes of determining the contributions which may be used for the benefit of an employee when (b) of this subdivision applies, the number of years taken into account may be recomputed for each year if the full current costs of the plan are met for such year.

(iv) For purposes of this subparagraph, the employer contributions which, at a given time, may be used for the benefits of an employee include any unallocated funds which would be used for his benefits if the plan were then terminated or the employee were then to withdraw from the plan, as well as all contributions allocated up to that time exclusively for his benefits.

(v) The provisions of this subparagraph apply to a former or retired employee of the employer, as well as to an employee still in the employer's service.

(vi) The following terms are defined for purposes of this subparagraph—

(A) The term “benefits” includes any periodic income, any withdrawal values payable to a living employee, and the cost of any death benefits which may be payable after retirement on behalf of an employee, but does not include the cost of any death benefits with respect to an employee before retirement nor the amount of any death benefits actually payable after the death of an employee whether such death occurs before or after retirement.

(B) The term full current costs means the normal cost, as defined in §1.404(a)-6, for all years since the effective date of the plan, plus interest on any unfunded liability during such period.

(C) The term annual compensation of an employee means either such employee's average regular annual compensation, or such average compensation over the last five years, or such employee's last annual compensation if such compensation is reasonably similar to his average regular annual compensation for the five preceding years.

(3) The amount of the employer contributions which can be used for the benefit of a restricted employee may be limited either by limiting the annual amount of the employer contributions for the designated employee during the period affected by the limitation, or by limiting the amount of funds under the plan which can be used for the benefit of such employee, regardless of the amount of employer contributions.

(4) The restrictions contained in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph may be exceeded for the purpose of making current retirement income benefit payments to retired employees who would otherwise be subject to such restrictions, if—

(i) The employer contributions which may be used for any such employee in accordance with the restrictions contained in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph are applied either (A) to provide level amounts of annuity in the basic form of benefit provided for under the plan for such employee at retirement (or, if he has already retired, beginning immediately), or (B) to provide level amounts of annuity in an optional form of benefit provided under the plan if the level amount of annuity under such optional form of benefit is not greater than the level amount of annuity under the basic form of benefit provided under the plan;

(ii) The annuity thus provided is supplemented, to the extent necessary to provide the full retirement income benefits in the basic form called for under the plan, by current payments to such employee as such benefits come due; and

(iii) Such supplemental payments are made at any time only if the full current costs of the plan have then been met, or the aggregate of such supplemental payments for all such employees does not exceed the aggregate employer contributions already made under the plan in the year then current.

If disability income benefits are provided under the plan, the plan may contain like provisions with respect to the current payment of such benefits.

(5) If a plan has been changed so as to increase substantially the extent of possible discrimination as to contributions and as to benefits actually payable in event of the subsequent termination of the plan or the subsequent discontinuance of contributions thereunder, then the provisions of this paragraph shall be applied to the plan as so changed as if it were a new plan established on the date of such change. However, the provision in subparagraph (2)(iii) of this paragraph that the unrestricted amount of employer contributions on behalf of any employee is at least $20,000 is applicable to the aggregate amount contributed by the employer on behalf of such employee from the date of establishment of the original plan, and, for purposes of determining if the employee's anticipated annual pension exceeds $1,500, both the employer contributions on the employee's behalf prior to the date of the change in the plan and those expected to be made on his behalf subsequent to the date of the change (based on the employee's rate of compensation on the date of the change) are to be taken into account.

(6) This paragraph shall apply to taxable years of a qualified plan commencing after September 30, 1963. In the case of an early termination of a qualified pension plan during any such taxable year, the employer contributions which may be used for the benefit of any employee must conform to the requirements of this paragraph. However, any pension plan which is qualified on September 30, 1963, will not be disqualified merely because it does not expressly include the provisions prescribed in this paragraph.

(7)(i) A qualified defined benefit plan subject to section 412 (without regard to section 412(h)(2)) shall not be required to contain the restriction described in paragraph (c)(2)(ii)(c) of this section applicable to an employee in a plan whose full current costs for the first 10 years have not been funded.

(ii) A qualified defined benefit plan covered by section 4021(a) of ERISA (“qualified title IV plan”) shall satisfy the restrictions in paragraph (c)(2) of this section only if the plan satisfies this paragraph (c)(7). A plan satisfies this paragraph (c)(7) by providing that employer contributions which may be used for the benefit of an employee described in paragraph (c)(2) of this section who is a substantial owner, as defined in section 4022(b)(5) of ERISA, shall not exceed the greater of the dollar amount described in paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section or a dollar amount which equals the present value of the benefit guaranteed for such employee under section 4022 of ERISA, or if the plan has not terminated, the present value of the benefit that would be guaranteed if the plan terminated on the date the benefit commences, determined in accordance with regulations of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (“PBGC”).

(iii) A plan satisfies this paragraph (c)(7) by providing that employer contributions which may be used for the benefit of all employees described in paragraph (c)(2) of this section (other than an employee who is a substantial owner as defined in section 4022(b)(5) of ERISA) shall not exceed the greater of the dollar amount described in paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section or a dollar amount which equals the present value of the maximum benefit described in section 4022(b)(3)(B) of ERISA (determined on the date the plan terminates or on the date benefits commence, whichever is earlier and determined in accordance with regulations of PBGC) without regard to any other limitations in section 4022 of ERISA.

(iv) A plan provision satisfying this paragraph (c)(7) may be adopted by amendment or by incorporation at the time of establishment. Any allocation of assets attributable to employer contributions to an employee which exceeds the dollar limitation in this paragraph (c)(7) may be reallocated to prevent prohibited discrimination.

(v) The early termination rules in the preceding subparagraphs (1) through (6) apply to a qualified title IV plan except where such rules are determined by the Commissioner to be inconsistent with the rules of this paragraph (c)(7), §1.411(d)-2, and section 4044(b)(4) of ERISA. The early termination rules of this paragraph (c)(7) contain some of the rules under section 401(a)(4) and (a)(7), as in effect on September 2, 1974, and section 411(d) (2) and (3). Section 1.411(d)-2 also contains certain discrimination and vesting rules which are applicable to plan terminations.

(vi) Paragraph (c)(7) of this section applies to plan terminations occurring on or after March 12, 1984. For distributions not on account of plan terminations, paragraph (c)(7) applies to distributions in plan years beginning after December 31, 1983. However, a plan may elect to apply that paragraph to distributions not on account of plan termination on or after January 10, 1984.

(d)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (d)(2) of this section, the provisions of this section do not apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1994. For rules applicable to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1994, see §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13.

(2) 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), the provisions of this section do not apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1996. For rules applicable to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1996, see §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13.

(Secs. 411 (d)(2) and (3) and 7805 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (68A Stat. 917, 88 Stat. 912; 26 U.S.C. 411(d)(2) and (3) and 7805))

[T.D. 6500, 25 FR 11674, Nov. 26, 1960, as amended by T.D. 6675, 28 FR 10119, Sept. 17, 1963; T.D. 7934, 49 FR 1183, Jan. 10, 1984; 49 FR 2104, Jan. 18, 1984; T.D. 8360, 56 FR 47536, Sept. 19, 1991; T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46778, Sept. 3, 1993]

§1.401-5   Period for which requirements of section 401(a) (3), (4), (5), and (6) are applicable with respect to plans put into effect before September 2, 1974.

A pension, profit-sharing, stock bonus, or annuity plan shall be considered as satisfying the requirements of section 401(a) (3), (4), (5), and (6) for the period beginning with the date on which it was put into effect and ending with the 15th day of the third month following the close of the taxable year of the employer in which the plan was put into effect, if all the provisions of the plan which are necessary to satisfy such requirements are in effect by the end of such period and have been made effective for all purposes with respect to the whole of such period. Thus, if an employer in 1954 adopts such a plan as of January 1, 1954, and makes a return on the basis of the calendar year, he will have until March 15, 1955, to amend his plan so as to make it satisfy the requirements of section 401(a) (3), (4), (5), and (6) for the calendar year 1954 provided that by March 15, 1955, all provisions of such plan necessary to satisfy such requirements are in effect and have been made retroactive for all purposes to January 1, 1954, the effective date of the plan. If an employer is on a fiscal year basis, for example, April 1 to March 31, and in 1954 adopts such a plan effective as of April 1, 1954, he will have until June 15, 1955, to amend his plan so as to make it satisfy the requirements of section 401(a) (3), (4), (5), and (6) for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 1954, provided that by June 15, 1955, all provisions of such plan necessary to satisfy such requirements are in effect and have been made retroactive for all purposes to April 1, 1954, the effective date of the plan. It should be noted that under section 401(b) the period in which a plan may be amended to qualify under section 401(a) ends before the date on which taxpayers other than corporations are required to file income tax returns. See section 6072. This section shall not apply to any pension, profit-sharing, stock bonus, or annuity plan put into effect after September 1, 1974, and shall not apply with respect to any disqualifying provision to which §1.401(b)-1 applies.

[T.D. 6500, 25 FR 11674, Nov. 26, 1960; as amended by T.D. 7436, 41 FR 42653, Sept. 28, 1976]

§1.401-6   Termination of a qualified plan.

(a) General rules. (1) In order for a pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus trust to satisfy the requirements of section 401, the plan of which such trust forms a part must expressly provide that, upon the termination of the plan or upon the complete discontinuance of contributions under the plan, the rights of each employee to benefits accrued to the date of such termination or discontinuance, to the extent then funded, or the rights of each employee to the amounts credited to his account at such time, are nonforfeitable. As to what constitutes nonforfeitable rights of an employee, see paragraph (a)(2) of §1.402(b)-1.

(2)(i) A qualified plan must also provide for the allocation of any previously unallocated funds to the employees covered by the plan upon the termination of the plan or 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 of the plan or the discontinuance of contributions thereunder.

(ii) Any provision for the allocation of unallocated funds is acceptable if it specifies the method to be used and does not conflict with the provisions of section 401(a)(4) and the regulations thereunder. 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. For example, an allocation may be satisfactory if priority is given to benefits for employees over the age of 50 at the time of the termination of the plan, or those who then have at least 10 years of service, if there is no possibility of discrimination in favor of employees who are officers, shareholders, employees whose principal duties consist in supervising the work of other employees, or highly compensated employees.

(iii) Subdivisions (i) and (ii) of this subparagraph 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) Termination defined. (1) Whether a plan is terminated is generally a question to be determined with regard to all the facts and circumstances in a particular case. For example, a plan is terminated when, in connection with the winding up of the employer's trade or business, the employer begins to discharge his employees. However, a plan is not terminated, for example, merely because an employer consolidates or replaces that plan with a comparable plan. Similarly, a plan is not terminated merely because the employer sells or otherwise disposes of his trade or business if the acquiring employer continues the plan as a separate and distinct plan of its own, or consolidates or replaces that plan with a comparable plan. See paragraph (d)(4) of §1.381(c)(11)-1 for the definition of comparable plan. In addition, the Commissioner may determine that other plans are comparable for purposes of this section.

(2) For purposes of this section, the term termination includes both a partial termination and a complete termination of a plan. Whether or not a partial termination of a qualified plan occurs when a group of employees who have been covered by the plan are subsequently excluded from such coverage either by reason of an amendment to the plan, or by reason of being discharged by the employer, will be determined on the basis of all the facts and circumstances. Similarly, whether or not a partial termination occurs when benefits or employer contributions are reduced, or the eligibility or vesting requirements under the plan are made less liberal, will be determined on the basis of all the facts and circumstances. However, if a partial termination of a qualified plan occurs, the provisions of section 401(a)(7) and this section apply only to the part of the plan that is terminated.

(c) Complete discontinuance defined. (1) For purposes of this section, a complete discontinuance 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.

(2) In the case of a pension plan, a suspension of contributions will not constitute a discontinuance if—

(i) The benefits to be paid or made available under the plan are not affected at any time by the suspension, and

(ii) The unfunded past service cost at any time (which includes the unfunded prior normal cost and unfunded interest on any unfunded cost) does not exceed the unfunded past service cost as of the date of establishment of the plan, plus any additional past service or supplemental costs added by amendment.

(3) In any case in which a suspension of a profit-sharing plan 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.

(d) Contributions or benefits which remain forfeitable. The provisions of this section do not apply to amounts which are reallocated to prevent the discrimination prohibited by section 401(a)(4) (see paragraph (c) of §1.401-4).

(e) Effective date. This section shall apply to taxable years of a qualified plan commencing after September 30, 1963. In the case of the termination or complete discontinuance (as defined in this section) of any qualified plan during any such taxable year, the rights accorded to each employee covered under the plan must conform to the requirements of this section. However, a plan which is qualified on September 30, 1963, will not be disqualified merely because it does not expressly include the provisions prescribed by this section.

[T.D. 6675, 28 FR 10120, Sept. 17, 1963]

§1.401-7   Forfeitures under a qualified pension plan.

(a) General rules. In the case of a trust forming a part of a qualified pension plan, the plan must expressly provide that forfeitures arising from severance of employment, death, or for any other reason, must not be applied to increase the benefits any employee would otherwise receive under the plan at any time prior to the termination of the plan or the complete discontinuance of employer contributions thereunder. The amounts so forfeited must be used as soon as possible to reduce the employer's contributions under the plan. However, a qualified pension plan may anticipate the effect of forfeitures in determining the costs under the plan. Furthermore, a qualified plan will not be disqualified merely because a determination of the amount of forfeitures under the plan is made only once during each taxable year of the employer.

(b) Examples. The rules of paragraph (a) of this section may be illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. The B Company Pension Trust forms a part of a pension plan which is funded by individual level annual premium annuity contracts. The plan requires ten years of service prior to obtaining a vested right to benefits under the plan. One of the company's employees resigns his position after two years of service. The insurance company paid to the trustees the cash surrender value of the contract—$750. The B Company must reduce its next contribution to the pension trust by this amount.
Example 2. The C Corporation's trusteed pension plan has been in existence for 20 years. It is funded by individual contracts issued by an insurance company, and the premiums thereunder are paid annually. Under such plan, the annual premium accrued for the year 1966 is due and is paid on January 2, 1966, and on July 1 of the same year the plan is terminated due to the liquidation of the employer. Some forfeitures were incurred and collected by the trustee with respect to those participants whose employment terminated between January 2 and July 1. The plan provides that the amount of such forfeitures is to be applied to provide additional annuity benefits for the remaining employees covered by the plan. The pension plan of the C Corporation satisfies the provisions of section 401(a)(8). Although forfeitures are used to increase benefits in this case, this use of forfeitures is permissible since no further contributions will be made under the plan.

(c) Effective date. This section applies to taxable years of a qualified plan commencing after September 30, 1963. However, a plan which is qualified on September 30, 1963, will not be disqualified merely because it does not expressly include the provisions prescribed by this section.

[T.D. 6675, 28 FR 10121, Sept. 17, 1963]

§1.401-8   Custodial accounts prior to January 1, 1974.

(a) Treatment of a custodial account as a qualified trust. For taxable years of a plan beginning after December 31, 1962, a custodial account may be used, in lieu of a trust, under any pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan, described in section 401 if the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section are met. A custodial account may be used under such a plan, whether the plan covers common-law employees, self-employed individuals who are treated as employees by reason of section 401(c), or both. The use of a custodial account as part of a plan does not preclude the use of a trust or another custodial account as part of the same plan. A plan under which a custodial account is used may be considered in connection with other plans of the employer in determining whether the requirements of section 401 are satisfied. For regulations relating to the period after December 31, 1973, see §1.401(f)-11.

(b) Rules applicable to custodial accounts. (1) A custodial account shall be treated for taxable years beginning after December 31, 1962, as a qualified trust under section 401 if such account meets the following requirements described in subdivisions (i) through (iii) of this subparagraph:

(i) The custodial account must satisfy all the requirements of section 401 that are applicable to qualified trusts. See subparagraph (2) of this paragraph.

(ii) The custodian of the custodial account must be a bank.

(iii) The custodial agreement provides that the investment of the funds in the account is to be made—

(A) Solely in stock of one or more regulated investment companies which is registered in the name of the custodian or its nominee and with respect to which an employee who is covered by the plan is the beneficial owner, or

(B) Solely in annuity, endowment, or life insurance contracts, issued by an insurance company and held by the custodian until distributed pursuant to the terms of the plan. For purposes of the preceding sentence, a face-amount certificate described in section 401(g) and §1.401-9 is treated as an annuity issued by an insurance company.

See subparagraphs (3) and (4) of this paragraph.

(2) As a result of the requirement described in subparagraph (1)(i) of this paragraph (relating to the requirements applicable to qualified trusts), the custodial account must, for example, be created pursuant to a written agreement which constitutes a valid contract under local law. In addition, the terms of the contract must make it impossible, prior to the satisfaction of all liabilities with respect to the employees and their beneficiaries covered by the plan, for any part of the funds of the custodial account to be used for, or diverted to, purposes other than for the exclusive benefit of the employees or their beneficiaries as provided for in the plan (see paragraph (a) of §1.401-2).

(3) The requirement described in subparagraph (1)(iii) of this paragraph, relating to the investment of the funds of the plan, applies, for example, to the employer contributions under the plan, any employee contributions under the plan, and any earnings on such contributions. Such requirement also applies to capital gains realized upon the sale of stock described in (A) of such subdivision, to any capital gain dividends received in connection with such stock, and to any refunds described in section 852(b)(3)(D)(ii) (relating to undistributed capital gains of a regulated investment company) which is received in connection with such stock. However, since such requirement relates only to the investment of the funds of the plan, the custodian may deposit funds with a bank, in either a checking or savings account, while accumulating sufficient funds to make additional investments or while awaiting an appropriate time to make additional investments.

(4) The requirement in subparagraph (1)(iii)(A) of this paragraph that an employee covered by the plan be the beneficial owner of the stock does not mean that the employee who is the beneficial owner must have a nonforfeitable interest in the stock. Thus, a plan may provide for forfeitures of an employee's interest in such stock in the same manner as plans which use a trust. In the event of a forfeiture of an employee's beneficial ownership in the stock of a regulated investment company, the beneficial ownership of such stock must pass to another employee covered by the plan.

(c) Effects of qualification. (1) Any custodial account which satisfies the requirements of section 401(f) shall be treated as a qualified trust for all purposes of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. Accordingly, such a custodial account shall be treated as a separate legal person which is exempt from the income tax by section 501(a). On the other hand, such a custodial account is required to file the returns described in sections 6033 and 6047 and to supply any other information which a qualified trust is required to furnish.

(2) In determining whether the funds of a custodial account are distributed or made available to an employee or his beneficiary, the rules which under section 402(a) are applicable to trusts will also apply to the custodial account as though it were a separate legal person and not an agent of the employee.

(d) Effect of loss of qualification. If a custodial account which has qualified under section 401 fails to qualify under such section for any taxable year, such custodial account will not thereafter be treated as a separate legal person, and the funds in such account shall be treated as made available within the meaning of section 402(a)(1) to the employees for whom they are held.

(e) Definitions. For purposes of this section—

(1) The term bank means a bank as defined in section 401(d)(1).

(2) The term regulated investment company means any domestic corporation which issues only redeemable stock and is a regulated investment company within the meaning of section 851(a) (but without regard to whether such corporation meets the limitations of section 851(b)).

(Secs. 401(f)(2), 7805, Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (88 Stat. 939 and 68A Stat. 917; 26 U.S.C. 401(f)(2), 7805))

[T.D. 6675, 28 FR 10121, Sept. 17, 1963, as amended by T.D. 7565, 43 FR 41204, Sept. 15, 1978. Redesignated and amended by T.D. 7748, 46 FR 1695, Jan. 7, 1981]

§1.401-9   Face-amount certificates—nontransferable annuity contracts.

(a) Face-amount certificates treated as annuity contracts. Section 401(g) provides that a face-amount certificate (as defined in section 2(a)(15) of the Investment Company Act of 1940 (15 U.S.C. sec. 80a-2)) which is not transferable within the meaning of paragraph (b)(3) of this section shall be treated as an annuity contract for purposes of sections 401 through 404 for any taxable year of a plan subject to such sections beginning after December 31, 1962. Accordingly, there may be established for any such taxable year a qualified plan under which such face-amount certificates are purchased for the participating employees without the creation of a trust or custodial account. However, for such a plan to qualify, the plan must satisfy all the requirements applicable to a qualified annuity plan (see section 403(a) and the regulations thereunder).

(b) Nontransferability of face-amount certificates and annuity contracts. (1)(i) Section 401(g) provides that, in order for any face-amount certificate, or any other contract issued after December 31, 1962, to be subject to any provision under sections 401 through 404 which is applicable to annuity contracts, as compared to other forms of investment, such certificate or contract must be nontransferable at any time when it is held by any person other than the trustee of a trust described in section 401(a) and exempt under section 501(a). Thus, for example, in order for a group or individual retirement income contract to be treated as an annuity contract, if such contract is not held by the trustee of an exempt employees' trust, it must satisfy the requirements of this section. Furthermore, a face-amount certificate or an annuity contract will be subject to the tax treatment under section 403(b) only if it satisfies the requirements of section 401(g) and this section. Any certificate or contract in order to satisfy the provisions of this section must expressly contain the provisions that are necessary to make such certificate or contract not transferable within the meaning of this paragraph.

(ii) In the case of any group contract purchased by an employer under a plan to which sections 401 through 404 apply, the restriction on transferability required by section 401(g) and this section applies to the interest of the employee participants under such group contract but not to the interest of the employer under such contract.

(2) If a trust described in section 401(a) which is exempt from tax under section 501(a) distributes any annuity, endowment, retirement income, or life insurance contract, then the rules relating to the taxability of the distributee of any such contract are set forth in paragraph (a)(2) of §1.402(a)-1.

(3) A face-amount certificate or an annuity contract is transferable if the owner can transfer any portion of his interest in the certificate or contract to any person other than the issuer thereof. Accordingly, such a certificate or contract is transferable if the owner can sell, assign, discount, or pledge as collateral for a loan or as security for the performance of an obligation or for any other purpose his interest in the certificate or contract to any person other than the issuer thereof. On the other hand, for purposes of section 401(g), a face-amount certificate or annuity contract is not considered to be transferable merely because such certificate or contract, or the plan of which it is a part, contains a provision permitting the employee to designate a beneficiary to receive the proceeds of the certificate or contract in the event of his death, or contains a provision permitting the employee to elect to receive a joint and survivor annuity, or contains other similar provisions.

(4) A material modification in the terms of an annuity contract constitutes the issuance of a new contract regardless of the manner in which it is made.

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

Example 1. The P Employees' Annuity Plan is a nontrusteed plan which is funded by individual annuity contracts issued by the Y Insurance Company. Each annuity contract issued by such company after December 31, 1962, provides, on its face, that it is “not transferable”. The terms of each such contract further provide that, “This contract may not be sold, assigned, discounted, or pledged as collateral for a loan or as security for the performance of an obligation or for any other purpose, to any person other than this company.” The annuity contracts of the P Employees' Annuity Plan satisfy the requirements of section 401(g) and this section.
Example 2. The R Company Pension Trust forms a part of a pension plan which is funded by individual level premium annuity contracts. Such contracts are purchased by the trustee of the R Company Pension Trust from the Y Insurance Company. The trustee of the R Company Pension Trust is the legal owner of each such contract at all times prior to the distribution of such contract to a qualifying annuitant. The trustee purchases such a contract on January 3, 1963, in the name of an employee who qualifies on that date for coverage under the plan. At the time such contract is purchased, and while the contract is held by the trustee of the R Company Pension Trust, the contract does not contain any restrictions with respect to its transferability. The annuity contract purchased by the trustee of the R Company Pension Trust satisfies the requirements of section 401(g) and this section while it is held by the trustee.
Example 3. A is the trustee of the X Corporation's Employees' Pension Trust. The trust forms a part of a pension plan which is funded by individual level premium annuity contracts. The trustee is the legal owner of such contracts, but the employees covered under the plan obtain beneficial interests in such contracts after ten years of service with the X Corporation. On January 15, 1980, A distributes to D an annuity contract issued to A in D's name on June 25, 1959, and distributes to E an annuity contract issued to A in E's name on September 30, 1963. The contract issued to D need not be nontransferable, but the contract issued to E must be nontransferable in order to satisfy the requirements of section 401(g) and this section.
Example 4. The corpus of the Y Corporation's Employees' Pension Plan consists of individual insurance contracts in the names of the covered employees and an auxiliary fund which is used to convert such policies to annuity contracts at the time a beneficiary of such trust retires. F retires on June 15, 1963, and the trustee converts the individual insurance contract on F's life to a life annuity which is distributed to him. The life annuity issued on F's life must be nontransferable in order to satisfy the requirements of section 401(g) and this section.

[T.D. 6675, 28 FR 10122, Sept. 17, 1963]

§1.401-10   Definitions relating to plans covering self-employed individuals.

(a) In general. (1) Certain self-employed individuals may be covered by a qualified pension, annuity, or profit- sharing plan for taxable years beginning after December 31, 1962. This section contains definitions relating to plans covering self-employed individuals. The provisions of §§1.401-1 through 1.401-9, relating to requirements which are applicable to all qualified plans, are also generally applicable to any plan covering a self-employed individual. However, in addition to such requirements, any plan covering a self-employed individual is subject to the rules contained in §§1.401-11 through 1.401-13. Section 1.401-11 contains general rules which are applicable to any plan covering a self-employed individual who is an employee within the meaning of paragraph (b) of this section. Section 1.401-12 contains special rules which are applicable to plans covering self-employed individuals when one or more of such individuals is an owner-employee within the meaning of paragraph (d) of this section. Section 1.401-13 contains rules relating to excess contributions by, or for, an owner-employee. The provisions of this section and of §§1.401-11 through 1.401-13 are applicable to taxable years beginning after December 31, 1962.

(2) A self-employed individual is covered under a qualified plan during the period beginning with the date a contribution is first made by, or for, him under the qualified plan and ending when there are no longer funds under the plan which can be used to provide him or his beneficiaries with benefits.

(b) Treatment of a self-employed individual as an employee. (1) For purposes of section 401, a self-employed individual who receives earned income from an employer during a taxable year of such employer beginning after December 31, 1962, shall be considered an employee of such employer for such taxable year. Moreover, such an individual will be considered an employee for a taxable year if he would otherwise be treated as an employee but for the fact that the employer did not have net profits for that taxable year. Accordingly, the employer may cover such an individual under a qualified plan during years of the plan beginning with or within a taxable year of the employer beginning after December 31, 1962.

(2) If a self-employed individual is engaged in more than one trade or business, each such trade or business shall be considered a separate employer for purposes of applying the provisions of sections 401 through 404 to such individual. Thus, if a qualified plan is established for one trade or business but not the others, the individual will be considered an employee only if he received earned income with respect to such trade or business and only the amount of such earned income derived from that trade or business shall be taken into account for purposes of the qualified plan.

(3)(i) The term employee, for purposes of section 401, does not include a self-employed individual when the term “common-law” employee is used or when the context otherwise requires that the term “employee” does not include a self-employed individual. The term “common- law” employee also includes an individual who is treated as an employee for purposes of section 401 by reason of the provisions of section 7701(a)(20), relating to the treatment of certain full-time life insurance salesmen as employees. Furthermore, an individual who is a common-law employee is not a self-employed individual with respect to income attributable to such employment, even though such income constitutes net earnings from self-employment as defined in section 1402(a). Thus, for example, a minister who is a common-law employee is not a self-employed individual with respect to income attributable to such employment, even though such income constitutes net earnings from self-employment as defined in section 1402(a).

(ii) An individual may be treated as an employee within the meaning of section 401(c)(1) of one employer even though such individual is also a common-law employee of another employer. For example, an attorney who is a common-law employee of a corporation and who, in the evenings maintains an office in which he practices law as a self-employed individual is an employee within the meaning of section 401(c)(1) with respect to the law practice. This example would not be altered by the fact that the corporation maintained a qualified plan under which the attorney is benefited as a common-law employee.

(4) For the purpose of determining whether an employee within the meaning of section 401(c)(1) satisfies the requirements for eligibility under a qualified plan established by an employer, such an employer may take into account past services rendered by such an employee both as a self-employed individual and as a common-law employee if past services rendered by other employees, including common-law employees, are similarly taken into account. However, an employer cannot take into account only past services rendered by employees within the meaning of section 401(c)(1) if past services rendered to such employer by individuals who are, or were, common-law employees are not taken into account. Past service as described in this subparagraph may be taken into account for the purpose of determining whether an individual who is, or was, an employee within the meaning of section 401(c)(1) satisfies the requirements for eligibility even if such service was rendered prior to January 1, 1963. On the other hand, past service cannot be taken into account for purposes of determining the contributions which may be made on such an individual's behalf under a qualified plan.

(c) Definition of earned income—(1) General rule. For purposes of section 401 and the regulations thereunder, “earned income” means, in general, net earnings from self-employment (as defined in section 1402(a)) to the extent such net earnings constitute compensation for personal services actually rendered within the meaning of section 911(b).

(2) Net earnings from self-employment. (i) The computation of the net earnings from self-employment shall be made in accordance with the provisions of section 1402(a) and the regulations thereunder, with the modifications and exceptions described in subdivisions (ii) through (iv) of this subparagraph. Thus, an individual may have net earnings from self-employment, as defined in section 1402(a), even though such individual does not have self-employment income, as defined in section 1402(b), and, therefore, is not subject to the tax on self-employment income imposed by section 1401.

(ii) Items which are not included in gross income for purposes of chapter 1 of the Code and the deductions properly attributable to such items must be excluded from the computation of net earnings from self-employment even though the provisions of section 1402(a) specifically require the inclusion of such items. For example, if an individual is a resident of Puerto Rico, so much of his net earnings from self-employment as are excluded from gross income under section 933 must not be taken into account in computing his net earnings from self-employment which are earned income for purposes of section 401.

(iii) In computing net earnings from self-employment for the purpose of determining earned income, a self-employed individual may disregard only deductions for contributions made on his own behalf under a qualified plan. However, such computation must take into account the deduction allowed by section 404 or 405 for contributions under a qualified plan on behalf of the common-law employees of the trade or business.

(iv) For purposes of determining whether an individual has net earnings from self-employment and, thus, whether he is an employee within the meaning of section 401(c)(1), the exceptions in section 1402(c) (4) and (5) shall not apply. Thus, certain ministers, certain members of religious orders, doctors of medicine, and Christian Science practitioners are treated for purposes of section 401 as being engaged in a trade or business from which net earnings from self-employment are derived. In addition, the exceptions in section 1402(c)(2) shall not apply in the case of any individual who is treated as an employee under section 3121(d)(3) (A), (C), or (D). Therefore, such individuals are treated, for purposes of section 401, as being engaged in a trade or business from which net earnings from self-employment may be derived.

(3) Compensation for personal services actually rendered. (i) For purposes of section 401, the term “earned income” includes only that portion of an individual's net earnings from self-employment which constitutes earned income as defined in section 911(b) and the regulations thereunder. Thus, such term includes only professional fees and other amounts received as compensation for personal services actually rendered by the individual. There is excluded from “earned income” the amount of any item of income, and any deduction properly attributable to such item, if such amount is not received as compensation for personal services actually rendered. Therefore, an individual who renders no personal services has no “earned income” even though such an individual may have net earnings from self-employment from a trade or business.

(ii) If a self-employed individual is engaged in a trade or business in which capital is a material income-producing factor, then, under section 911(b), his earned income is only that portion of the net profits from the trade or business which constitutes a reasonable allowance as compensation for personal services actually rendered. However, such individual's earned income cannot exceed 30 percent of the net profits of such trade or business. The net profits of the trade or business is not necessarily the same as the net earnings from self-employment derived from such trade or business.

(4) Minimum earned income when both personal services and capital are material income-producing factors. (i) If a self-employed individual renders personal services on a full-time, or substantially full-time, basis to only one trade or business, and if with respect to such trade or business capital is a material income-producing factor, then the amount of such individual's earned income from the trade or business is considered to be not less than so much of his share in the net profits of such trade or business as does not exceed $2,500.

(ii) If a self-employed individual renders substantial personal services to more than one trade or business, and if with respect to all such trades or businesses such self-employed individual actually renders personal services on a full-time, or substantially full-time, basis, then the earned income of the self-employed individual from trades or businesses for which he renders substantial personal services and in which both personal services and capital are material income-producing factors is considered to be not less than—

(A) So much of such individual's share of the net profits from all trades or businesses in which he renders substantial personal services as does not exceed $2,500, reduced by.

(B) Such individual's share of the net profits of any trade or business in which only personal services is a material income-producing factor.

However, in no event shall the share of the net profits of any trade or business in which capital is a material income-producing factor be reduced below the amount which would, without regard to the provisions of this subdivision, be treated as the earned income derived from such trade or business under section 911(b). In making the computation required by this subdivision, any trade or business with respect to which the individual renders substantial personal services shall be taken into account irrespective of whether a qualified plan has been established by such trade or business.

(iii) If the provisions of subdivision (ii) of this subparagraph apply in determining the earned income of a self-employed individual, and such individual is engaged in two or more trades or businesses in which capital and personal services are material income-producing factors, then the total amount treated as the earned income shall be allocated to each such trade or business for which he performs substantial personal services in the same proportion as his share of net profits from each such trade or business bears to his share of the total net profits from all such trades or businesses. Thus, in such case, the amount of earned income attributable to any such trade or business is computed by multiplying the total earned income as determined under subdivision (ii) of this subparagraph by the individual's net profits from such trade or business and dividing that product by the individual's total net profits from all such trades or businesses.

(iv) For purposes of this subparagraph, the determination of whether an individual renders personal services on a full-time, or substantially full-time, basis is to be made with regard to the aggregate of the trades and businesses with respect to which the employee renders substantial personal services as a common-law employee or as a self-employed individual. However, for all other purposes in applying the rules of this subparagraph, a trade or business with respect to which an individual is a common-law employee shall be disregarded.

(d) Definition of owner-employee. For purposes of section 401 and the regulations thereunder, the term “owner-employee” means a proprietor of a proprietorship, or, in the case of a partnership, a partner who owns either more than 10 percent of the capital interest, or more than 10 percent of the profits interest, of the partnership. Thus, an individual who owns only 2 percent of the profits interest but 11 percent of the capital interest of a partnership is an owner-employee. A partner's interest in the profits and the capital of the partnership shall be determined by the partnership agreement. In the absence of any provision regarding the sharing of profits, the interest in profits of the partners will be determined in the same manner as their distributive shares of partnership taxable income. However, a guaranteed payment (as described in section 707(c)) is not considered a distributive share of partnership income for such purpose. See section 704(b), relating to the determination of the distributive share by the income or loss ratio, and the regulations thereunder. In the absence of a provision in the partnership agreement, a partner's capital interest in a partnership shall be determined on the basis of his interest in the assets of the partnership which would be distributable to such partner upon his withdrawal from the partnership, or upon liquidation of the partnership, whichever is the greater.

(e) Definition of employer. (1) For purposes of section 401, a sole proprietor is considered to be his own employer, and the partnership is considered to be the employer of each of the partners. Thus, an individual partner is not an employer who may establish a qualified plan with respect to his services to the partnership.

(2) Regardless of the provision of local law, a partnership is deemed, for purposes of section 401, to be continuing until such time as it is terminated within the meaning of section 708, relating to the continuation of a partnership.

[T.D. 6675, 28 FR 10123, Sept. 17, 1963]

§1.401-11   General rules relating to plans covering self-employed individuals.

(a) Introduction. This section provides certain rules which supplement, and modify, the rules of §§1.401-1 through 1.401-9 in the case of a qualified pension, annuity, or profit-sharing plan which covers a self-employed individual who is an employee within the meaning of section 401(c)(1). The provisions of this section apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 1962. Except as otherwise provided, paragraphs (b) through (m) of this section apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 1962. Paragraph (n) of this section applies to plan years determined in accordance with paragraph (n)(1) of this section.

(b) General rules. (1) If the amount of employer contributions for common-law employees covered under a qualified plan is related to the earned income (as defined in section 401(c)(2)) of a self-employed individual, or group of self-employed individuals, such a plan is a profit-sharing plan (as described in paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of §1.401-1) since earned income is dependent upon the profits of the trade or business with respect to which the plan is established. Thus, for example, a plan, which provides that the employer will contribute 10 percent of the earned income of a self-employed individual but no more than $2,500, and that the employer contribution on behalf of common-law employees shall be the same percentage of their salaries as the contribution on behalf of the self-employed individual bears to his earned income, is a profit-sharing plan, since the amount of the employer's contribution for common-law employees covered under the plan is related to the earned income of a self-employed individual and thereby to the profits of the trade or business. On the other hand, for example, a plan which defines the compensation of any self-employed individual as his earned income and which provides that the employer will contribute 10 percent of the compensation of each employee covered under the plan is a pension plan since the contribution on behalf of common-law employees is fixed without regard to whether the self-employed individual has earned income or the amount thereof.

(2) The Self-Employed Individuals Tax Retirement Act of 1962 (76 Stat. 809) permits self-employed individuals to be treated as employees and therefore included in qualified plans, but it is clear that such law requires such self-employed individuals to provide benefits for their employees on a nondiscriminatory basis. Self-employed individuals will not be considered as providing contributions or benefits for an employee to the extent that the wages or salary of the employee covered under the plan are reduced at or about the time the plan is adopted.

(3) In addition to permitting self-employed individuals to participate in qualified plans, the Self-Employed Individuals Tax Retirement Act of 1962 extends to such individuals some of the tax benefits allowed common-law employee-participants in such plans. However, the tax benefits allowed a self-employed individual are restricted by the limits which are placed on the deductions allowed for contributions on such an individual's behalf. In view of these restrictions on the tax benefits extended to any self-employed individual, a self-employed individual participating in a qualified plan may not participate in any forfeitures. Therefore, in the case of a qualified plan which covers any self-employed individual, a separate account must be established for each self-employed individual to which no forfeitures can be allocated.

(c) Requirements as to coverage. (1) In general, section 401(a)(3) and the regulations thereunder prescribe the coverage requirements which a qualified plan must satisfy. However, if such a plan covers self-employed individuals who are not owner-employees, it must, in addition to satisfying such requirements, satisfy the requirements of this paragraph. If any owner-employee is covered under a qualified plan, the provisions of this paragraph do not apply, but the provisions of section 401(d), including section 401(d)(3), do apply (see §1.401-12).

(2)(i) Section 401(a)(3)(B) provides that a plan may satisfy the coverage requirements for qualification if it covers such employees as qualify under a classification which is found not to discriminate in favor of employees who are officers, shareholders, persons whose principal duties consist in supervising the work of other employees, or highly compensated employees. Section 401(a)(5) sets forth certain classifications that will not in themselves be considered discriminatory. Under such section, a classification which excludes all employees whose entire remuneration constitutes “wages” under section 3121(a)(1), will not be considered discriminatory merely because of such exclusion. Similarly, a plan which includes all employees will not be considered discriminatory solely because the contributions or benefits based on that part of their remuneration which is excluded from “wages” under section 3121(a)(1) differ from the contributions or benefits based on that part of their remuneration which is not so excluded. However, in determining if a classification is discriminatory under section 401(a)(3)(B), consideration will be given to whether the total benefits resulting to each employee under the plan and under the Social Security Act, or under the Social Security Act only, establish an integrated and correlated retirement system satisfying the tests of section 401(a). A plan which covers self-employed individuals, none of whom is an owner-employee, may also be integrated with the contributions or benefits under the Social Security Act. In such a case, the portion of the earned income (as defined in section 401(c)(2)) of such an individual which does not exceed the maximum amount which may be treated as self-employment income under section 1402(b)(1), and which is derived from the trade or business with respect to which the plan is established, shall be treated as “wages” under section 3121(a)(1) subject to the tax imposed by section 3111 (relating to the tax on employers) for purposes of applying the rules of paragraph (e)(2) of §1.401-3, relating to the determination of whether a plan is properly integrated. However, if the plan covers an owner-employee, the rules relating to the integration of the plan with the contributions or benefits under the Social Security Act contained in paragraph (b) of §1.401-12 apply.

(ii) Certain of the classifications enumerated in section 401(a)(5) do not apply to plans which provide contributions or benefits for any self-employed individual. Since self-employed individuals are not salaried or clerical employees, the provision in section 401(a)(5) permitting a plan, in certain cases to cover only this type of employee is inapplicable to plans which cover any self-employed individual.

(iii) The classifications enumerated in section 401(a)(5) are not exclusive, and it is not necessary that a qualified plan cover all employees or all full-time employees. Plans may qualify even though coverage is limited in accordance with a particular classification incorporated in the plan, provided the effect of covering only such employees as satisfy such eligibility requirement does not result in the prohibited discrimination.

(d) Discrimination as to contributions or benefits—(1) In general. In order for a plan to be qualified, there must be no discrimination in contributions or benefits in favor of employees who are officers, shareholders, supervisors, or highly compensated, as against other employees whether within or without the plan. A self-employed individual, by reason of the contingent nature of his compensation, is considered to be a highly-compensated employee, and thus is a member of the group in whose favor discrimination is prohibited. In determining whether the prohibited discrimination exists, the total employer contribution on behalf of a self-employed individual shall be taken into account regardless of the fact that only a portion of such contribution is allowed as a deduction. For additional rules relating to discrimination as to contributions or benefits with regard to plans covering any owner-employee, see §1.401-12.

(2) Base for computing contributions or benefits. (i) A plan which is otherwise qualified is not considered discriminatory merely because the contributions or benefits provided under the plan bear a uniform relationship to the total compensation, basic compensation, or regular rate of compensation of the employees, including self-employed individuals, covered under the plan.

(ii) In the case of a self-employed individual who is covered under a qualified plan, the total compensation of such individual is the earned income (as defined in section 401(c)(2)) which such individual derives from the employer's trade or business, or trades or businesses, with respect to which the qualified plan is established. Thus, for example, in the case of a partner, his total compensation includes both his distributive share of partnership income, whether or not distributed, and guaranteed payments described in section 707(c) made to him by the partnership establishing the plan, to the extent that such income constitutes earned income as defined in section 401(c)(2).

(iii)(A) The basic or regular rate of compensation of any self-employed individual is that portion of his earned income which bears the same ratio to his total earned income derived from the trade or business, or trades or businesses, with respect to which the qualified plan is established as the aggregate basic or regular compensation of all common-law employees covered under the plan bears to the aggregate total compensation of such employees derived from such trade or business, or trades or businesses.

(B) If an employer establishes two or more plans which satisfy the requirements of section 401(a) separately, and only one such plan covers a self-employed individual, the determination of the basic or regular rate of compensation of such self-employed individual is made with regard to the compensation of common-law employees covered under the plan which provides contributions or benefits for such self-employed individual. On the other hand, if two or more plans must be considered together in order to satisfy the requirements of section 401(a), the computation of the basic or regular rate of compensation of a self-employed individual must be made with regard to the compensation of the common-law employees covered by so many of such plans as are required to be taken together in order to satisfy the qualification requirements of section 401(a).

(3) Discriminatory contributions. If a discriminatory contribution is made by, or for, a self-employed individual who is an employee within the meaning of section 401(c)(1) because of an erroneous assumption as to the earned income of such individual, the plan will not be considered discriminatory if adequate adjustment is made to remove such discrimination. In the case of any self-employed individual who is an owner-employee, the amount of any excess contribution to be returned and the manner in which it is to be repaid are determined by the provisions of section 401(d)(8) and (e). However, if any self-employed individual, including any owner-employee, has not made the full contribution permitted to be made on his behalf as an employee, then, if the plan expressly provides, so much of any excess contribution by such self-employed individual's employer as may, under the provisions of the plan, be treated as a contribution made by such individual as an employee can be so treated.

(e) Distribution of entire interest. (1) If a trust forms part of a plan which covers a self-employed individual, such trust shall constitute a qualified trust under section 401 only if the plan of which such trust is a part expressly provides that the entire interest of each employee, including any common-law employee, will be distributed in accordance with the provisions of subparagraph (2) or (3) of this paragraph.

(2) Unless the provisions of subparagraph (3) of this paragraph apply, the entire interest of each employee (including contributions he has made on his own behalf, contributions made on his behalf by his employer, and interest thereon) must be actually distributed to such employee—

(i) In the case of an employee, other than an individual who is, or has been, an owner-employee under the plan, not later than the last day of the taxable year of such employee in which he attains the age of 7012 , or not later than the last day of the taxable year in which such employee retires, whichever is later, and

(ii) In the case of an employee who is, or has been, an owner-employee under the plan, not later than the last day of the taxable year in which he attains the age of 7012 .

(3) In lieu of distributing an employee's entire interest in a qualified plan as provided in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph, such interest may be distributed commencing no later than the last taxable year described in such subparagraph (2). In such case, the plan must expressly provide that the entire interest of such an employee shall be distributed to him and his beneficiaries, in a manner which satisfies the requirements of subparagraph (5) of this paragraph, over any of the following periods (or any combination thereof)—

(i) The life of the employee, or

(ii) The lives of the employee and his spouse, or

(iii) A period certain not longer than the life expectancy of the employee, or

(iv) A period certain not longer than the joint life and last survivor expectancy of the employee and his spouse.

(4) For purposes of subparagraphs (3) and (5) of this paragraph, the determination of the life expectancy of the employee or the joint life and last survivor expectancy of the employee and his spouse is to be made either (i) only once, at the time the employee receives the first distribution of his entire interest under the plan, or (ii) periodically, in a consistent manner. Such life expectancy or joint life and last survivor expectancy cannot exceed the period computed by the use of the expected return multiples in §1.72-9, or, in the case of payments under a contract issued by an insurance company, the period computed by use of the life expectancy tables of such company.

(5) If an employee's entire interest is to be distributed over a period described in subparagraph (3) of this paragraph, then the amount to be distributed each year must be at least an amount equal to the quotient obtained by dividing the entire interest of the employee under the plan at the time the distribution is made (expressed in either dollars or units) by the life expectancy of the employee, or joint life and last survivor expectancy of the employee and his spouse (whichever is applicable), determined in accordance with the provisions of subparagraph (4) of this paragraph. However, no distribution need be made in any year, or a lesser amount may be distributed, if the aggregate amounts distributed by the end of that year are at least equal to the aggregate of the minimum amounts required by this subparagraph to have been distributed by the end of such year.

(6) If an employee's entire interest is distributed in the form of an annuity contract, then the requirements of section 401(a)(9) are satisfied if the distribution of such contract takes place before the end of the latest taxable year described in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph, and if the employee's interest will be paid over a period described in subparagraph (3) of this paragraph and at a rate which satisfies the requirements of subparagraph (5) of this paragraph.

(7) The requirements of section 401(a)(9) do not preclude contributions from being made on behalf of an owner-employee under a qualified plan subsequent to the taxable year in which the distribution of his entire interest is required to commence. Thus, if all other requirements for qualification are satisfied, a qualified plan may provide contributions for an owner-employee who has already attained age 7012 . However, a distribution of benefits attributable to contributions made on behalf of an owner-employee in a taxable year beginning after the taxable year in which he attains the age of 7012 must satisfy the requirements of subparagraph (3) of this paragraph. Thus, if an owner-employee has already attained the age of 7012 at the time the first contribution is made on his behalf, the distribution of his entire interest must commence in the year in which such contribution is first made on his behalf.

(8) This paragraph shall not apply and an otherwise qualified trust will not be disqualified if the method of distribution under the plan is one which was designated by a common-law employee prior to October 10, 1962, and such method of distribution is not in accordance with the provisions of section 401(a)(9). Such exception applies regardless of whether the actual distribution of the entire interest of an employee making such a designation, or any portion of such interest, has commenced prior to October 10, 1962.

[T.D. 6675, 28 FR 10124, Sept. 17, 1963, as amended by T.D. 6982, 33 FR 16500, Nov. 13, 1968]

§1.401-12   Requirements for qualification of trusts and plans benefiting owner-employees.

(a) Introduction. This section prescribes the additional requirements which must be met for qualification of a trust forming part of a pension or profit-sharing plan, or of an annuity plan, which covers any self-employed individual who is an owner-employee as defined in section 401(c)(3). However, to the extent that the provisions of §1.401-11 are not modified by the provisions of this section, such provisions are also applicable to a plan which covers an owner-employee. The provisions of this section apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 1962. Except as otherwise provided, paragraphs (b) through (m) of this section apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 1962. Paragraph (n) of this section applies to plan years determined in accordance with paragraph (n)(1) of the section.

(b) General rules. (1) The qualified plan and trust of an unincorporated trade or business does not have to satisfy the additional requirements for qualification merely because an owner-employee derives earned income (as defined in section 401(c)(2)) from the trade or business with respect to which the plan is established. Such additional requirements need be satisfied only if an owner-employee is actually covered under the plan of the employer. An owner-employee may only be covered under a plan of an employer if such owner-employee has so consented. However, the consent of the owner-employee may be either expressed or implied. Thus, for example, if contributions are, in fact, made on behalf of an owner-employee, such owner-employee is considered to have impliedly consented to being covered under the plan.

(2) A qualified plan covering an owner-employee must be a definite written program and arrangement setting forth all provisions essential for qualification at the time such plan is established. Therefore, for example, even though the owner-employee is the only employee covered under the plan at the time the plan is established, the plan must incorporate all the provisions relating to the eligibility and benefits of future employees.

(c) Bank trustee. (1)(i) If a trust created after October 9, 1962, is to form a part of a qualified pension or profit-sharing plan covering an owner-employee, or if a trust created before October 10, 1962, but not exempt from tax on October 9, 1962, is to form part of such a plan, the trustee of such trust must be a bank as defined in paragraph (c)(2) of this section, unless an exception contained in paragraph (c)(4) of this section applies, or paragraph (n) of this section applies.

(ii) The provisions of this paragraph do not apply to an employees' trust created prior to October 10, 1962, if such trust was exempt from tax on October 9, 1962, even though the plan of which such trust forms a part is amended after December 31, 1962, to cover any owner-employee. Although the trustee of a trust described in the preceding sentence need not be a bank, all other requirements for the qualification of such a trust must be satisfied at the time an owner-employee is first covered under such plan.

(2) The term bank as used in this paragraph means—

(i) A bank as defined in section 581;

(ii) A corporation which, under the laws of the State of its incorporation or under the laws of the District of Columbia, is subject to both the supervision of, and examination by, the authority in such jurisdiction in charge of the administration of the banking laws;

(iii) In the case of a trust created or organized outside of the United States, that is, outside the States and the District of Columbia, a bank or trust company, wherever incorporated, exercising fiduciary powers and subject to both supervision and examination by governmental authority;

(iv) Beginning on January 1, 1974, an insured credit union (within the meaning of section 101 (6) of the Federal Credit Union Act, 12 U.S.C. 1752 (6)).

(3) Although a bank is required to be the trustee of a qualified trust, another person, including the employer, may be granted the power in the trust instrument to control the investment of the trust funds either by directing investments, including reinvestments, disposals, and exchanges, or by disapproving proposed investments, including reinvestments, disposals, or exchanges.

(4)(i) This paragraph does not apply to a trust created or organized outside the States and the District of Columbia before October 10, 1962, if, on October 9, 1962, such trust is described in section 402(c) as an organization treated as if it was a trust exempt from tax under section 501(a).

(ii) In addition, the requirement that the trustee must be a bank does not apply to a qualified trust forming a part of a pension or profit-sharing plan if—

(A) The investments of all the funds in such trust are in annuity, endowment, or life insurance contracts, issued by a company which is a life insurance company as defined in section 801(a) during the taxable year immediately preceding the year that such contracts are originally purchased;

(B) All the proceeds which are, or may become, payable under the contract are payable directly to the employee or his beneficiary;

(C) The plan contains a provision to the effect that the employer is to substitute a bank as a trustee or custodian of the contracts if the employer is notified by the district director that such substitution is required because the trustee is not keeping such records, or making such returns, or rendering such statements, as are required by forms or regulations.

However, a qualified trust may only purchase insurance protection to the extent permitted under a qualified plan (see paragraph (b)(1) (i) and (ii) of §1.401-1).

(5) An employer may designate several trusts (or custodial accounts) or a trust or trusts and an annuity plan or plans as constituting parts of a single plan which is intended to satisfy the requirements for qualification. However, each trust (or custodial account) so designated which is part of a plan covering an owner-employee must satisfy the requirements of this paragraph. Thus, for example, if all other requirements for qualification are satisfied by the plan, a qualified profit-sharing plan may provide that a portion of the contributions under the plan will be paid to a custodial account, the custodian of which is a bank, for investment in stock of a regulated investment company, and the remainder of such contributions will be paid to a trust, the trustee of which is not a bank, for investment in annuity contracts.

(d) Profit-sharing plan. (1) A profit-sharing plan, as defined in paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of §1.401-1, which covers any owner-employee must contain a definite formula for determining the contributions to be made by the employer on behalf of employees, other than owner-employees. A formula to be definite must specify the portion of profits to be contributed to the trust and must also define profits for plan purposes. A definite formula may contain a variable factor, if the value of such factor may not vary at the discretion of the employer. For example, the percentage of profits to be contributed each year may differ depending on the amount of profits. On the other hand, a formula which, for example, specifies that profits for plan purposes are not to exceed the cash on hand at the time the employer contribution is made is not a definite formula. The requirement that the plan formula be definite is satisfied if such formula limits the amount to be contributed on behalf of all employees covered under the plan to the amount which permits self-employed individuals to obtain the maximum deduction under section 404(a). However, even though the plan formula is definite, the plan must satisfy all the other requirements for qualification, including the requirement that the contributions under the plan not discriminate in favor of any self-employed individual, and the requirement that the plan be for the exclusive benefit of the employees in general.

(2) A definite contribution formula constitutes an integral part of a qualified profit-sharing plan and may not be amended except for a valid business reason.

(3) The requirement that a profit-sharing plan contain a definite formula for determining the amount of contributions to be made on behalf of employees does not apply to contributions which are made on behalf of owner-employees. However, such contributions are subject to the requirement that they be nondiscriminatory with respect to other employees and must not exceed the limitations on allowable and deductible contributions which may be made by owner-employees.

(e) Requirements as to coverage—(1) Coverage of all employees. The coverage requirements contained in section 401(a)(3) do not apply to a plan which covers any owner-employee. However, such a plan must satisfy the coverage requirements of section 401(d), including section 401(d)(3). Accordingly, a plan which covers an owner-employee must benefit each employee of the trade or business (other than any owner-employee who does not consent to be covered under the plan) whose customary period of employment has been for more than 20 hours a week for more than five months during each of three consecutive periods of twelve calendar months. Therefore, a plan may not provide, for example, that an employee, other than an owner-employee, is ineligible to participate because he does not consent to be a participant or because he does not consent to make reasonable contributions under the plan.

(2) Period of service. (i) In determining whether an employee renders service to the same employer, and, therefore, must be covered under the plan of such employer, a partnership is considered to be one employer during the entire period prior to the time it is terminated within the meaning of section 708 (see paragraph (e)(2) of §1.401-10).

(ii) In the case of a common-law employee who becomes an employee within the meaning of section 401(c)(1) with respect to the same trade or business, his period of employment is the aggregate of his service as a common-law employee and an employee within the meaning of section 401(c)(1).

(iii) In determining whether any employee, including any owner-employee, has three years of service, past service of any such employee may be taken into account as provided in paragraph (b) of §1.401-10. Thus, if an employer takes into account past service for any owner-employee, he must take into account the past service of all his other employees to the same extent. However, a plan may provide for coverage after a period of service which is shorter than three years, but in no case may the plan require a waiting period for employees which is longer than that required for the owner-employees.

(f) Discrimination in contributions or benefits. (1) Variations in contributions or benefits may be provided under the plan so long as the plan does not discriminate, either as to contributions or benefits, in favor of officers, employees whose principal duties consist in supervising the work of other employees, or highly compensated employees, as against other employees (see §1.401-4). For the purpose of determining whether the provisions of a plan which provide contributions or benefits for an owner-employee result in the prohibited discrimination, an owner-employee, like other self-employed individuals, is considered a highly compensated employee (see paragraph (d) of §1.401-11). Whether or not a plan is discriminatory is determined by the actual operation of the plan as well as by its formal provisions.

(2) The provisions of section 401(a)(5), relating to certain plan provisions which will not in and of themselves be considered discriminatory, are not applicable to any plan which covers any owner-employee. Such a plan must, instead, satisfy the requirements of section 401(a)(10) and section 401(d)(6). Accordingly, a plan is not discriminatory within the meaning of section 401(a)(4) merely because the contributions or benefits provided for the employees covered under the plan bear a uniform relationship to the total compensation, or to the basic or regular rate of compensation, of such employees. The total compensation or the basic or regular rate of compensation of an owner-employee is computed in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (d)(2) of §1.401-11.

(3) Even though the contributions under the plan do not bear a uniform relationship to the total compensation, or the basic or regular rate of compensation, of the employees covered thereunder and the plan would otherwise be considered discriminatory within the meaning of section 401(a)(4), the plan shall not be considered discriminatory if such variation is due to employer contributions on behalf of any owner-employee which are required, under the plan, to be applied to pay premiums or other consideration on one or more level premium contracts described in section 401(e)(3)(A). In a taxable year to which the foregoing exception applies and, therefore, one in which the contributions under the plan would otherwise be discriminatory, the employer contributions to pay such premiums or other consideration must be the only employer contributions made for the owner-employee, and the contributions for such taxable year under such plan must not be in excess of the amount permitted to be paid toward the purchase of such a contract under the provisions of section 401(e)(3). Furthermore, the exception described in this subparagraph only applies to contributions made under a plan which otherwise satisfies the requirements of section 401(a)(4) and the regulations thereunder. Thus, if a plan provides for the purchase, in accordance with section 401(e)(3), of a level premium contract for an owner-employee, then such plan must provide either that the benefits for all employees are nondiscriminatory or, in the case of a money-purchase type of plan, that the contributions for all employees are based on compensation determined in a non-discriminatory manner. For example, since the contributions on behalf of the owner-employee are based on his earned income during the period preceding the purchase of the contract, the contributions for other employees must be based on their compensation during the same period if this will result in larger contributions on their behalf.

(4) In the case of a plan which covers any owner-employee, the contributions or benefits provided under the plan cannot vary with respect to years of service except as provided in subparagraph (5) of this paragraph.

(5) The provisions of section 401(d)(3) do not preclude the coverage of employees with less than three years of service if such coverage is provided on a nondiscriminatory basis. However, a plan will not be disqualified merely because the contributions or benefits for employees who have less than three years of service are not as favorable as the contributions or benefits for employees having more than three years of service.

(g) Nonforfeitable rights. (1)(i) Except as provided in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph, if an owner-employee is covered under the plan of his employer, each employee's rights to the contributions, or to the benefits derived from the contributions, of such employer must be nonforfeitable at the time such contributions are paid to, or under, the plan. The employees who must obtain such nonforfeitable rights include the self-employed individuals who are covered under the plan. As to what constitutes nonforfeitable rights of an employee, see paragraph (a)(2) of §1.402(b)-1.

(ii) Under section 401(d)(2), it is necessary that each employee obtain nonforfeitable rights to the employer contributions under the plan on his behalf from the time such contributions are paid. Thus, each employee must have a nonforfeitable interest to the portion of the funds under the plan which is allocable to the employer contributions made under the plan on his behalf.

(2) The provisions of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph do not apply to the extent that employer contributions on behalf of any employee must remain forfeitable in order to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (c) of §1.401-4. However, employer contributions on behalf of employees whose rights are required to remain forfeitable to satisfy such requirements must be nonforfeitable except for such contingency.

(h) Integration with social security. (1) If a qualified plan covers any owner-employee, then the rules relating to the integration of such plan with the contributions or benefits under the Social Security Act are provided in this paragraph. Accordingly, the provisions of paragraph (e) of §1.401-3 and paragraph (c) of §1.401-11 do not apply to such a plan. In the case of a plan which provides contributions or benefits for any owner-employee, integration of the plan with the Social Security Act for any taxable year of the employer can take place only if not more than one-third of the employer contributions under the plan which are deductible under section 404 for that year are made on behalf of the owner-employees. If such requirement is satisfied, then the plan may be integrated with the contributions or benefits under the Social Security Act in accordance with the rules of subparagraph (3) of this paragraph.

(2)(i) For purposes of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, in determining the total amount of employer contributions which are deductible under section 404, the provisions of section 404(a), including the provisions of section 404(a)(9) (relating to plans benefiting self-employed individuals), and section 404(e) (relating to the special limitations for self-employed individuals) are taken into account, but the provisions of section 404(a)(10) (relating to the special limitation on the amount allowed as a deduction for self-employed individuals) are not taken into account.

(ii) The amount of deductible employer contributions which are made on behalf of all owner-employees for the year is compared with the amount of deductible employer contributions for the year made on behalf of all employees covered under the plan (including self-employed individuals who are not owner-employees and owner-employees) for the purpose of determining whether the deductible contributions by the employer on behalf of owner-employees are not more than one-third of the total deductible contributions.

(3) If a plan covering an owner-employee satisfies the requirement of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, and if the employer wishes to integrate such plan with the contributions or benefits under the Social Security Act, then—

(i) The employer contributions under the plan on behalf of any owner-employee shall be reduced by an amount determined by multiplying the earned income of such owner-employee which is derived from the trade or business with respect to which the plan is established and which does not exceed the maximum amount which may be treated as self-employment income under section 1402(b)(1), by the rate of tax imposed under section 1401(a); and

(ii) The employer contributions under the plan on behalf of any employee other than an owner-employee may be reduced by an amount not in excess of the amount determined by multiplying the employee's wages under section 3121(a)(1) by the rate of tax imposed under section 3111(a). For purposes of this subdivision, the earned income of a self-employed individual which is derived from the trade or business with respect to which the plan is established and which is treated as self-employment income under section 1402(b)(1), shall be treated as “wages” under section 3121(a)(1).

(4) A money purchase pension plan or a profit-sharing plan may provide that such plan will be integrated with the Social Security Act only for such taxable years of the employer in which the requirements for integration are satisfied. However, a qualified plan cannot provide that employer contributions are only to be made for taxable years in which the integration requirements are satisfied.

(i) Limit on contributions on behalf of an owner-employee. (1) Section 401(d)(5) requires that a plan which covers any owner-employee must contain provisions which restrict the employer contributions that may be made on behalf of any owner-employee for each taxable year to an amount no greater than that which is deductible under section 404. In computing the amount deductible under section 404 for purposes of section 401(d)(5) and this paragraph, the limitations contained in section 404(a)(9) and (e), relating to special limitations for self-employed individuals, are taken into account, but such amount is determined without regard to section 404(a)(10), relating to the special limitation on the amount allowed as a deduction for self-employed individuals. Accordingly, a qualified plan which covers any owner-employee cannot permit employer contributions to be made on behalf of such owner-employee in excess of 10 percent of the earned income which is derived by such owner-employee from the trade or business with respect to which the plan is established, or permit the employer to contribute more than $2,500 on behalf of any such owner-employee for any taxable year.

(2)(i) In determining whether the plan permits contributions to be made in excess of the limitations of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, employer contributions under the plan which are allocable to the purchase of life, accident, health, or other insurance are not to be taken into account. To determine the amount of employer contributions under the plan which are allocable to the purchase of life, accident, health, or other insurance, see paragraph (f) of §1.404(e)-1 and paragraph (b) of §1.72-16. However, contributions for such insurance can be made only to the extent otherwise permitted under sections 401 through 404 and the regulations thereunder.

(ii) A further exception to the limit on the amount of contributions which an employer may make under the plan on behalf of an owner-employee is made in the case of contributions which are required, under the plan, to be applied to pay premiums or other consideration for one or more annuity, endowment, or life insurance contracts described in section 401(e)(3) (see section 401(e)(3) and the regulations thereunder).

(j) Excess contributions. The provisions of section 401(e) define the term “excess contribution” and indicate the consequences of making such a contribution (see §1.401-13). However, section 401(d)(8) provides that a qualified plan which provides contributions or benefits for any owner-employee must contain certain provisions which complement the rules contained in section 401(e). Under section 401(d)(8), a qualified plan must provide that—

(1) The net amount of any excess contribution (determined in accordance with the provisions of §1.401-13) must be returned to the owner-employee on whose behalf it is made, together with the net income earned on such excess contribution;

(2) For each taxable year for which the trust is considered to be a nonqualified trust with respect to an owner-employee under section 401(e)(2) because the net amount of an excess contribution and the earnings thereon have not been returned to such owner-employee, the income of the trust for that taxable year attributable to the interest of such owner-employee is to be paid to him.

(3) If an excess contribution is determined to be willfully made (within the meaning of section 401(e)(2)(E)), the entire interest of the owner-employee on whose behalf such contribution was made is required to be distributed to such owner-employee. Furthermore, the plan must require the distribution of an owner-employee's entire interest under the plan if a willful excess contribution is determined to have been made under any other plan in which the owner-employee is covered as an owner-employee.

(k) Contributions of property under a qualified plan. (1) The contribution of property, other than money, prior to January 1, 1975, by the person who is the employer (within the meaning of section 401(c)(4)) to a qualified trust forming a part of a plan which covers employees some or all of whom are owner-employees who control (within the meaning of section 401(d)(9)(B) and the regulations thereunder) the trade or business with respect to which the plan is established is a prohibited transaction between such trust and the employer-grantor of such trust (see section 503(g) prior to its repeal by sec. 2003(b)(5) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (88 Stat. 978)).

(2) A contribution of property, other than money, prior to January 1, 1975, to a qualified trust by an owner-employee who controls, or a member of a group of owner-employees who together control, the trade or business with respect to which the plan is established, or a contribution of property, other than money, to a qualified trust by a member of such an owner-employee's family (as defined in section 267(c)(4)), is a prohibited transaction. (See section 503(g) prior to its repeal by section 2003(b)(5) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (88 Stat. 978)).

(3) See section 4975 and the regulations thereunder with respect to rules relating to the contribution of property, other than money, made after December 31, 1974.

(l) Controlled trades or businesses—(1) Plans covering an owner-employee who controls another trade or business. (i) A plan must not cover any owner-employee, or group of two or more owner-employees, if such owner-employee, or group of owner-employees, control (within the meaning of subparagraph (3) of this paragraph) any other trade or business, unless the employees of such other trade or business controlled by such owner-employee, or such group of owner-employees, are included in a plan which satisfies the requirements of section 401(a), including the qualification requirements of section 401(d). The employees who must be covered under the plan of the trade or business which is controlled include the self-employed individuals who are not owner-employees and the owner-employees who consent to be covered by such plan. Accordingly, the employer must determine whether any owner-employee, or group of owner-employees, who may participate in the plan which is established by such employer controls any other trade or business, and whether the requirements of this subparagraph are satisfied with respect to the plan established in such other trade or business. The plan of an employer may exclude an owner-employee who controls another trade or business from coverage under the plan even though such owner-employee consents to be covered, if a plan which satisfies the requirements of subdivision (ii) of this subparagraph has not been established in the trade or business which such owner-employee controls.

(ii) The qualified plan which the owner-employee, or owner-employees, are required to provide for the employees of the trade or business which they control must provide contributions and benefits which are not less favorable than the contributions and benefits provided for the owner-employee, or owner-employees, under the plan of any trade or business which they do not control. Thus, for example, if the contributions or benefits for the owner-employee under the plan of the trade or business which he does not control are computed on the basis of his total (as compared to basic or regular rate) of compensation, then the contributions or benefits for employees covered under the plan of the trade or business which the owner controls must be computed on the basis of their total compensation. However, the requirements of this subdivision cannot be satisfied if the benefits and contributions provided under the plan for the employees of the trade or business which is controlled are not comparable to those provided under the plan covering the owner-employee, or group of owner-employees, in the trade or business which they do not control. Thus, for example, if the owner-employee is covered by a pension plan in the trade or business which he does not control, he may not satisfy the requirements of this subdivision by establishing a profit-sharing plan in the trade or business which he does control.

(iii) If an individual is covered as an owner-employee under the plans of two or more trades or businesses which he does not control and such individual controls a trade or business, then the contributions or benefits of the employees under the plan of the trade or business which he does control must be as favorable as those provided for him under the most favorable plan of the trade or business which he does not control.

(2) Owner-employees who control more than one trade or business. If the plan provides contributions or benefits for an owner-employee who controls, or group of owner-employees who together control, the trade or business with respect to which the plan is established, and such owner-employee, or group of owner-employees, also control as owner-employees one or more other trades or businesses, plans must be established with respect to such controlled trades or businesses so that when taken together they form a single plan which satisfies the requirements of section 401 (a) and (d) with respect to the employees of all the controlled trades or businesses.

(3) Control defined. (i) For purposes of this paragraph, an owner-employee, or a group of two or more owner-employees, shall be considered to control a trade or business if such owner-employee, or such group of two or more owner-employees together—

(A) Own the entire interest in an unincorporated trade or business, or

(B) In the case of a partnership, own more than 50 percent of either the capital interest or the profits interest in such partnership.

In determining whether an owner-employee, or group of owner-employees, control a trade or business within the meaning of the preceding sentence, it is immaterial whether or not such individuals could be covered under a plan established with respect to the trade or business. For example, if an individual who is an owner-employee has a 60-percent capital interest in another trade or business, such individual controls such trade or business and the provisions of this paragraph apply even though the individual derives no earned income, as defined in section 401(c)(2), from the controlled trade or business. For purposes of determining the ownership interest of an owner-employee, or group of owner-employees, an owner-employee, or group of owner-employees, is treated as owning any interest in a partnership which is owned, directly or indirectly, by a partnership controlled by such owner-employee, or group of owner-employees.

(ii) The provisions of subparagraphs (1) and (2) of this paragraph apply only if the owner-employee who controls, or the group of owner-employees who control, a trade or business, or trades or businesses, within the meaning of subdivision (i) of this subparagraph is the same owner-employee, or group of owner-employees, covered under the plan intended to satisfy the requirements for qualification. Thus, for example, if A is a 50-percent partner in both the AB and AC partnership, and if the AB partnership wishes to establish a plan covering A and B, the provisions of subparagraphs (1) and (2) of this paragraph do not apply, since A does not control either partnership, and since B has no interest in the AC partnership.

(m) Distribution of benefits. (1)(i) Section 401(d)(4)(B) requires that a qualified plan which provides contributions or benefits for any owner-employee must not provide for the payment of benefits to such owner-employee at any time before he has attained age 5912 . An exception to the foregoing rule permits a qualified plan to provide for the distribution of benefits to an owner-employee prior to the time he attains age 5912 if he is disabled. For taxable years beginning after December 31, 1966, see section 72(m)(7) and paragraph (f) of §1.72-17 for the meaning of disabled. For taxable years beginning before January 1, 1967, see section 213(g)(3) for the meaning of disabled. In general, both sections 72(m)(7) and 213(g)(3) provide that an individual is considered disabled if he is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or to be of long-continued and indefinite duration. In addition, section 401(d)(4)(B) does not preclude the distribution of benefits to the estate or other beneficiary of a deceased owner-employee prior to the time the owner-employee would have attained age 5912 if he had lived.

(ii) A qualified plan must provide that if, despite the restrictions in the plan to the contrary, an amount is prematurely distributed, or made available, to a participant in such plan who is, or has been, an owner-employee, then no contribution shall be made under the plan by, or for, such individual during any of the 5 taxable years of the plan beginning after the distribution is made.

(2)(i) The provisions of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph preclude an owner-employee who is a participant in a qualified pension or profit-sharing plan of his employer from withdrawing any part of the funds accumulated on his behalf except as provided in such subparagraph (1). However, the distribution of an owner-employee's interest, or any portion of such interest, after he attains age 5912 is determined by the provisions of the plan. Thus, for example, if a qualified pension plan provides that the normal retirement age under the plan is age 65, an owner-employee would not be entitled to a distribution of an amount under the plan merely because he attained age 5912 .

(ii) The provisions of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph do not preclude the establishment of a profit-sharing plan which provides for the distribution of all, or part, of participants' accounts after a fixed number of years. However, such a plan must not permit a distribution of any amount to any owner-employee prior to the time the owner-employee has attained age 5912 or becomes disabled within the meaning of section 72(m)(7) or section 213(g)(3), whichever is applicable. On the other hand, if a distribution would have been made under the plan to an owner-employee but for the fact that he had not attained age 5912 , then the amount of such distribution (including any increment earned on such amount) must be distributed to such owner-employee at such time as he attains age 5912 .

(3) A qualified pension, annuity, or profit-sharing plan which covers an owner-employee must provide that the distribution of an owner-employee's entire interest under the plan must begin prior to the end of the taxable year in which he attains the age of 7012 , and such distribution must satisfy the requirements of section 401(a)(9) and paragraph (e) of §1.401-11. Furthermore, section 401(d)(7) provides that, if an owner-employee dies prior to the time his entire interest has been distributed to him, such owner-employee's entire remaining interest under the plan must, in general, either be distributed to his beneficiary, or beneficiaries, within 5 years, or be used within that period to purchase an immediate annuity for his beneficiary, or beneficiaries. However, a distribution within 5 years of the death of the owner-employee is not required if the distribution of his interest has commenced and such distribution is for a term certain over a period not extending beyond the joint life and survivor expectancy of the owner-employee and his spouse. Thus, for example, an annuity for the joint life and survivor expectancy of an owner-employee and his spouse which guarantees payments for 10 years is a distribution which is payable over a period which does not exceed the joint life and survivor expectancy of the owner-employee and his spouse if such expectancy is at least 10 years at the time the distribution first commences.

[T.D. 6675, 28 FR 10126, Sept. 17, 1963, as amended by T.D. 6982, 33 FR 16500, Nov. 13, 1968; T.D. 6985, 33 FR 19815, Dec. 27, 1968; T.D. 7428, 41 FR 34619, Aug. 16, 1976; T.D. 7611, 44 FR 23520, Apr. 20, 1979; T.D. 8635, 60 FR 65549, Dec. 20, 1995]

§1.401-13   Excess contributions on behalf of owner-employees.

(a) Introduction. (1) The provisions of this section prescribe the rules relating to the treatment of excess contributions made under a qualified pension, annuity, or profit-sharing plan on behalf of a self-employed individual who is an owner-employee (as defined in paragraph (d) of §1.401-10). Paragraph (b) of this section defines the term “excess contribution”. Paragraph (c) of this section describes an exception to the definition of an excess contribution in the case of contributions which are applied to pay premiums on certain annuity, endowment, or life insurance contracts. Paragraph (d) of this section describes the effect of making an excess contribution which is not determined to have been willfully made, and paragraph (e) of this section describes the effect of making an excess contribution which is determined to have been willfully made.

(2) Under section 401(c)(1), certain self-employed individuals are treated as employees for purposes of section 401. In addition, under section 401(c)(4), a proprietor is treated as his own employer, and the partnership is treated as the employer of the partners. Under section 404, certain contributions on behalf of a self-employed individual are treated as deductible and taken into consideration in determining the amount allowed as a deduction under section 404(a). Such contributions are treated under section 401 and the regulations thereunder as employer contributions on behalf of the self-employed individual. However, in some cases, additional contributions may be made on behalf of a self-employed individual. Such contributions are not taken into consideration in determining the amount deductible under section 404 and are not taken into consideration in computing the amount allowed as a deduction under section 404(a). For purposes of section 401 and the regulations thereunder, such contributions are treated as employee contributions by the self-employed individual. If a self-employed individual is an owner-employee within the meaning of section 401(c)(3) and paragraph (d) of §1.401-10, then this section prescribes the rules applicable if contributions are made in excess of those permitted to be made under section 401.

(b) Excess contributions defined. (1)(i) Except as provided in paragraph (c) relating to contributions which are applied to pay premiums on certain annuity, endowment, or life insurance contracts, an excess contribution is any amount described in subparagraphs (2) through (4) of this paragraph.

(ii) For purposes of determining if the amount of any contribution made under the plan on behalf of an owner-employee is an excess contribution, the amount of any contribution made under the plan which is allocable to the purchase of life, accident, health, or other insurance is not taken into account. The amount of any contribution which is allocable to the cost of insurance protection is determined in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (f) of §1.404 (e)-1 and paragraph (b) of §1.72-16.

(2)(i) In the case of a taxable year of the plan for which employer contributions are made on behalf of only owner-employees, an excess contribution is the amount of any contribution for such taxable year on behalf of such owner-employee which is not deductible under section 404 (determined without regard to section 404(a)(10)). This rule applies irrespective of whether the plan provides for contributions on behalf of common-law employees, or self-employed individuals who are not owner-employees, when such employees or individuals become eligible for coverage under the plan, and irrespective of whether contributions are in fact made for such employees or such individuals for other taxable years of the plan.

(ii) In the case of a taxable year of the plan for which employer contributions are made on behalf of both owner-employees and either common-law employees or self-employed individuals who are not owner-employees, an excess contribution is the amount of any employer contribution on behalf of any owner-employee for such taxable year which exceeds the amount deductible under section 404 (determined without regard to section 404(a)(10)) unless such amount may be treated as an employee contribution under the plan in accordance with the rules of paragraph (d)(3) of §1.401-11 and is a permissible employee contribution under subparagraph (3) of this paragraph.

(3)(i) In the case of a taxable year of the plan for which employer contributions are made on behalf of both an owner-employee and either common-law employees or self-employed individuals who are not owner-employees, employee contributions on behalf of an owner-employee may be made for such taxable year of the plan. How-ever, the amount of such contributions, if any, which is described in subdivisions (ii), (iii), or (iv) of this subparagraph is an excess contribution.

(ii) An excess contribution is the amount of any employee contribution made on behalf of any owner-employee during a taxable year of the plan at a rate in excess of the rate of contributions which may be made as employee contributions by common-law employees, or by self-employed individuals who are not owner-employees, during such taxable year of the plan.

(iii) An excess contribution is the amount of any employee contribution made on behalf of an owner-employee which exceeds the lesser of $2,500 or 10 percent of the earned income (as defined in paragraph (c) of §1.401-10) of such owner-employee for his taxable year in which such contributions are made.

(iv) In the case of a taxable year of an owner-employee in which contributions are made on behalf of such owner-employee under more than one plan, an excess contribution is the amount of any employee contribution made on behalf of such owner-employee under all such plans during such taxable year which exceeds $2,500. If such an excess contribution is made, the amount of the excess contribution made on behalf of the owner-employee with respect to any one of such plans is the amount by which the employee contribution on his behalf under such plan for the year exceeds an amount which bears the same ratio to $2,500 as the earned income of the owner-employee derived from the trade or business with respect to which the plan is established bears to his earned income derived from the trades or businesses with respect to which all such plans are established.

(4) An excess contribution is the amount of any contribution on behalf of an owner-employee for any taxable year of the plan with respect to which the plan is treated, under section 401(e)(2), as not meeting the requirements of section 401(d) with respect to such owner-employee.

(c) Contributions for premiums on certain annuity, endowment, or life insurance contracts. (1) The term “excess contribution” does not include the amount of any employer contributions on behalf of an owner-employee which, under the provisions of the plan, is expressly required to be applied (either directly or through a trustee) to pay the premiums or other consideration for one or more annuity, endowment, or life insurance contracts, if—

(i) The employer contributions so applied meet the requirements of subparagraphs (2) through (4) of this paragraph, and

(ii) The total employer contributions required to be applied annually to pay premiums on behalf of any owner-employee for contracts described in this paragraph do not exceed $2,500. For purposes of computing such $2,500 limit, the total employer contributions includes amounts which are allocable to the purchase of life, accident, health, or other insurance.

(2)(i) The employer contributions must be paid under a plan which satisfies all the requirements for qualification. Accordingly, for example, contributions can be paid under the plan for life insurance protection only to the extent otherwise permitted under sections 401 through 404 and the regulations thereunder. However, certain of the requirements for qualification are modified with respect to a plan described in this paragraph (see section 401(a)(10)(A)(ii) and (d)(5)).

(ii) A plan described in this paragraph is not disqualified merely because a contribution is made on behalf of an owner-employee by his employer during a taxable year of the employer for which the owner-employee has no earned income. On the other hand, a plan will fail to qualify if a contribution is made on behalf of an owner-employee which results in the discrimination prohibited by section 401(a)(4) as modified by section 401(a)(10)(A)(ii) (see paragraph (f)(3) of §1.401-12).

(3) The employer contributions must be applied to pay premiums or other consideration for a contract issued on the life of the owner-employee. For purposes of this subparagraph, a contract is not issued on the life of an owner-employee unless all the proceeds which are, or may become, payable under the contract are payable directly, or through a trustee of a trust described in section 401(a) and exempt from tax under section 501(a), to the owner-employee or to the beneficiary named in the contract or under the plan. Accordingly, for example, a nontransferable face-amount certificate (as defined in section 401(g) and the regulations thereunder) is considered an annuity on the life of the owner-employee if the proceeds of such contract are payable only to the owner-employee or his beneficiary.

(4)(i) For any taxable year of the employer, the amount of contributions by the employer on behalf of the owner-employee which is applied to pay premiums under the contracts described in this paragraph must not exceed the average of the amounts deductible under section 404 (determined without regard to section 404(a)(10)) by such employer on behalf of such owner-employee for the most recent three taxable years of the employer (ending prior to the date the latest contract was entered into or modified to provide additional benefits), in which the owner-employee derived earned income from the trade or business with respect to which the plan is established. However, if such owner-employee has not derived earned income for at least three taxable years preceding such date, then, in determining the “average of the amounts deductible”, only so many of such taxable years as such owner-employee was engaged in such trade or business and derived earned income therefrom are taken into account.

(ii) For the purpose of making the computation described in subdivision (i) of this subparagraph, the taxable years taken into account include those years in which the individual derived earned income from the trade or business but was not an owner-employee with respect to such trade or business. Furthermore, taxable years of the employer preceding the taxable year in which a qualified plan is established are taken into account. If such taxable years began prior to January 1, 1963, the amount deductible is determined as if section 404 included section 404(a) (8), (9), (10), and (e).

(5) The amount of any employer contribution which is not deductible but which is not treated as an excess contribution because of the provisions of this paragraph shall be taken into account as an employee contribution made on behalf of the owner-employee during the owner-employee's taxable year with, or within which, the taxable year of the person treated as his employer under section 401(c)(4) ends. However, such contribution is only treated as an employee contribution made on behalf of the owner-employee for the purpose of determining whether any other employee contribution made on behalf of the owner-employee during such period is an excess contribution described in paragraph (b)(3) of this section.

(d) Effect of an excess contribution which is not willfully made. (1) If an excess contribution (as defined in paragraph (b) of this section) is made on behalf of an owner-employee, and if such contribution is not willfully made, then the provisions of this paragraph describe the effect of such an excess contribution. However, if the excess contribution made on behalf of an owner-employee is determined to have been willfully made, then the provisions of paragraph (e) of this section are applicable to such contribution.

(2)(i) This paragraph does not apply to an excess contribution if the net amount of such excess contribution (as defined in subparagraph (4) of this paragraph) and the net income attributable to such amount are repaid to the owner-employee on whose behalf the excess contribution was made at any time before the end of six months beginning on the day on which the district director sends notice (by certified or registered mail) of the amount of the excess contribution to the trust, insurance company, or other person to whom such excess contribution was paid. The net income attributable to the net amount of the excess contribution is the aggregate of the amounts of net income attributable to the net amount of the excess contribution for each year of the plan beginning with the taxable year of the plan within which the excess contribution is made and ending with the close of the taxable year of the plan immediately preceding the taxable year of the plan in which the net amount of the excess contribution is repaid. The amount of net income attributable to the net amount of the excess contribution for each year is the amount of net income earned under the plan during the year which is allocated in a reasonable manner to the net amount of the excess contribution. For example, the amount of net income earned under the plan for the year which is attributable to the net amount of an excess contribution can be computed as the amount which bears the same ratio to the amount of the “net income attributable to the interest of the owner-employee under the plan” for such taxable year (determined in accordance with the provisions of subparagraph (5)(ii) of this paragraph) as the net amount of the excess contribution bears to the aggregate amount standing to the account of the owner-employee at the end of that year (including the net amount of any excess contribution).

(ii) The notice described in subdivision (i) of this subparagraph shall not be mailed prior to the time that the amount of the tax under chapter 1 of the Code of the owner-employee to whom the excess contribution is to be repaid has been finally determined for his taxable year in which such excess contribution was made. For purposes of this subdivision, a final determination of the amount of tax liability of the owner-employee includes—

(A)1 A decision by the Tax Court of the United States, or a judgment, decree, or other order by any court of competent jurisdiction, which has become final;

(B) A closing agreement authorized by section 7121; or

(C) The expiration of the period of limitation on suits by the taxpayer for refund, unless suit is instituted prior to the expiration of such period.

(iii) For purposes of this subparagraph, an amount is treated as repaid to an owner-employee if an adequate adjustment is made to the account of the owner-employee. An adequate adjustment is made to the account of an owner-employee, for example, if the amount of the excess contribution (without any reduction for any loading or other administrative charge) and the net income attributable to such amount is taken into account as a contribution under the plan for the current year. In such a case, the gross income of the owner-employee for his taxable year in which such adjustment is made includes the amount of the net income attributable to the excess contribution.

(iv) If the net amount of the excess contribution and the net income attributable thereto is repaid, within the period described in subdivision (i) of this subparagraph, to the owner-employee on whose behalf such contribution was made, then the net income attributable to the excess contribution is, pursuant to section 61(a), includible in the gross income of the owner-employee for his taxable year in which such amount is distributed, or made available, to him. However, such amount is not a distribution to which section 402 or 403 and section 72 apply (see subparagraph (6) of this paragraph).

(3)(i) If the net amount of any excess contribution (as defined in subparagraph (4) of this paragraph) and the net income attributable to that excess contribution are not repaid to the owner-employee on whose behalf the excess contribution was made before the end of the six-month period described in subparagraph (2)(i) of this paragraph, the plan under which the excess contribution has been made is considered, for purposes of section 404, as not satisfying the requirements for qualification with respect to such owner-employee for all taxable years of the plan described in subdivision (ii) of this subparagraph. However, such disqualification only applies to the interest of the owner-employee on whose behalf an excess contribution has been made and does not disqualify the plan with respect to the other participants thereunder.

(ii) The taxable years referred to in subdivision (i) of this subparagraph include the taxable year of the plan within which the excess contribution is made and each succeeding taxable year of the plan until the beginning of the taxable year of the plan in which the trust, insurance company, or other person to whom such excess contribution was paid repays to such owner-employee—

(A) The net amount of the excess contribution, and

(B) The amount of income attributable to his interest under the plan which is includible in his gross income for any taxable year by reason of the provisions of subparagraph (5) of this paragraph.

(4) For purposes of this paragraph, the net amount of an excess contribution is the amount of such excess contribution, as defined in paragraph (b) of this section, reduced by the amount of any loading charge or other administrative charge ratably allocable to such excess contribution.

(5)(i) If a plan is considered as not meeting the requirements for qualification with respect to an owner-employee by reason of the provisions of subparagraph (3) of this paragraph for any taxable year of the plan, such owner-employee's gross income for any of his taxable years with or within which such taxable year of the plan ends shall, for purposes of chapter 1 of the Code, include the portion of the net income earned under the plan for such taxable year of the plan which is attributable to the interest of the owner-employee under the plan.

(ii) For purposes of this subparagraph, the term “net income” means the net income earned under the plan determined in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles consistently applied, and the “net income attributable to the interest of the owner-employee under the plan” is the amount which bears the same ratio to the aggregate amount of net income earned under the plan for the taxable year of the plan as the amount standing to the account of the owner-employee at the end of that year (including the amount of any excess contribution which is credited to his account) bears to the aggregate amount of all funds under the plan for all employees at the end of that year (including the aggregate amount of excess contributions credited to the accounts of all owner-employees for that year).

(iii) The provisions of this subparagraph may be illustrated by the following example:

Example. A is an owner-employee covered under the X Employees' Pension Trust who files his return on the basis of a calendar year. An excess contribution was made on behalf of A during the plan year beginning on January 1, 1966. The net amount of the excess contribution and the net income attributable thereto was not repaid to A before the end of the six-month period described in subparagraph (2)(i) of this paragraph. Accordingly, the net income earned under the plan during 1966 which is attributable to A's interest is to be included in his gross income for 1966. Assume that the trust which forms a part of the pension plan of the X Company also files its returns on a calendar year basis, and that during 1966 the trust had a gross income of $4,000 (including a long-term capital gain of $2,500) and expenses of $500. Assume, further, that the amount standing to A's account on December 31, 1966 (including the amount of the excess contribution), was $20,000, and that on that date the amount funded under the plan for all employees (including A) is $140,000. Then the net income of the trust for 1966 is $3,500 ($4,000−$500). The net income attributable to the interest of A under the plan is $500 (the amount which bears the same ratio to $3,500 as $20,000 bears to $140,000). Accordingly, $500 is included in A's gross income in accordance with the provisions of section 401(e)(2)(B) as the “net income attributable to the interest of the owner-employee under the plan”.

(6) The provisions of section 402 or 403 and section 72 do not apply to any amount distributed, or made available, to an owner-employee which is described in this paragraph. Accordingly, for example, the provisions of section 72(m)(5)(A)(i), relating to amounts subject to the penalty tax imposed by section 72(m), do not apply to the amount of the net income attributable to the interest of an owner-employee (as defined in subparagraph (5)(ii) of this paragraph) which is includible in his gross income. Furthermore, in such a case, the provisions of section 401(d)(5)(C) do not apply to such amount.

(7) Certain adjustments will be required with respect to the interest of an owner-employee after any amount previously allocated to his account has been returned to him pursuant to the provisions of this paragraph. For example, if the determination of whether life insurance benefits provided under the plan are incidental is made, in part, with regard to the contributions allocated to the accounts of the participants covered under the plan, an adjustment may have to be made with respect to the life insurance purchased under the plan for any owner-employee after any amount previously allocated to his account has been repaid to him. Furthermore, if, for example, an owner-employee has received annuity payments which were taxable under the exclusion ratio rule of section 72, and if such exclusion ratio took into account any amount credited to the account of the owner-employee which is subsequently repaid to him, then such exclusion ratio must be recomputed after the adjustment in such owner-employee's account has taken place.

(8) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, in any case in which the plan is treated as not satisfying the requirements for qualification with respect to any owner-employee by reason of the provisions of section 401(e), the period for assessing, with respect to such owner-employee, any deficiency arising by reason of—

(i) The disallowance of any deduction under section 404 by reason of the provisions of subparagraph (3) of this paragraph, or

(ii) The inclusion of amounts in the gross income of the owner-employee by reason of the provisions of subparagraph (5) of this paragraph,

shall not expire prior to 18 months after the day the district director mails the notice with respect to the excess contribution (described in subparagraph (2)(i) of this paragraph) which gives rise to such disallowance or inclusion. Thus, for example, notwithstanding the provisions of section 6212(c) (relating to the restriction on the determination of additional deficiencies), if, after a final determination by the Tax Court of the income tax liability of an owner-employee for a taxable year in which an excess contribution was made, the amount of such excess contribution and the net income attributable thereto is not paid to the owner-employee before the end of the six-month period described in subparagraph (2)(i) of this paragraph, an additional deficiency assessment may be made for such taxable year with respect to such excess contribution.

(e) Effect of an excess contribution which is determined to have been willfully made. If an excess contribution (as defined in paragraph (b) of this section) on behalf of an owner-employee is determined to have been willful ly made, then—

(1) Only the provisions of this paragraph apply to such contribution;

(2) There shall be distributed to the owner-employee on whose behalf such contribution was willfully made his entire interest in all plans in which he is a participant as an owner-employee;

(3) The amount distributed under each such plan is an amount to which section 72 does apply (see section 72(m)(5)(A)(iii)); and

(4) For purposes of section 404, no plan in which such individual is covered as an owner-employee shall be considered as meeting the requirements for qualification with respect to such owner-employee for any taxable year of the plan beginning with or within the calendar year in which it is determined that the excess contribution has been willfully made and with or within the five calendar years following such year.

(f) Years to which this section applies. This section applies to contributions made in taxable years of employers beginning before January 1, 1976. Thus, for example, in the case of willful contributions made in taxable years of employers beginning before January 1, 1976, paragraphs (e) (1), (2), and (3) of this section apply to such taxable years beginning on or after such date. However, in such a case, because the application of paragraph (e)(4) of this section affects contributions made in taxable years of employers beginning on or after January 1, 1976, paragraph (e)(4) of this section does not apply to such taxable years; see paragraph (c) of §1.401(e)-4 (relating to transitional rules for excess contributions).

[T.D. 6676, 28 FR 10139, Sept. 17, 1963; as amended by T.D. 7636, 44 FR 47053, Aug. 10, 1979]

§1.401-14   Inclusion of medical benefits for retired employees in qualified pension or annuity plans.

(a) Introduction. Under section 401(h) a qualified pension or annuity plan may make provision for the payment of sickness, accident, hospitalization, and medical expenses for retired employees, their spouses, and their dependents. The term “medical benefits described in section 401(h)” is used in this section to describe such payments.

(b) In general—(1) Coverage. Under section 401(h), a qualified pension or annuity plan may provide for the payment of medical benefits described in section 401(h) only for retired employees, their spouses, or their dependents. To be “retired” for purposes of eligibility to receive medical benefits described in section 401(h), an employee must be eligible to receive retirement benefits provided under the pension plan, or else be retired by an employer providing such medical benefits by reason of permanent disability. For purposes of the preceding sentence, an employee is not considered to be eligible to receive retirement benefits provided under the plan if he is still employed by the employer and a separation from employment is a condition to receiving the retirement benefits.

(2) Discrimination. A plan which provides medical benefits described in section 401(h) must not discriminate in favor of officers, shareholders, supervisory employees, or highly compensated employees with respect to coverage and with respect to the contributions or benefits under the plan. The determination of whether such a plan so discriminates is made with reference to the retirement portion of the plan as well as the portion providing the medical benefits described in section 401(h). Thus, for example, a plan will not be qualified under section 401 if it discriminates in favor of employees who are officers or shareholders with respect to either portion of the plan.

(3) Funding medical benefits. Contributions to provide the medical benefits described in section 401(h) may be made either on a contributory or noncontributory basis, without regard to whether the contributions to fund the retirement benefits are made on a similar basis. Thus, for example, the contributions to fund the medical benefits described in section 401(h) may be provided for entirely out of employer contributions even though the retirement benefits under the plan are determined on the basis of both employer and employee contributions.

(4) Definitions. For purposes of section 401(h) and this section:

(i) The term dependent shall have the same meaning as that assigned to it by section 152, and

(ii) The term medical expense means expenses for medical care as defined in section 213(e)(1).

(c) Requirements. The requirements which must be met for a qualified pension or annuity plan to provide medical benefits described in section 401(h) are set forth in subparagraphs (1) through (5) of this paragraph.

(1) Benefits. (i) The plan must specify the medical benefits described in section 401(h) which will be available and must contain provisions for determining the amount which will be paid. Such benefits, when added to any life insurance protection provided for under the plan, must be subordinate to the retirement benefits provided by such plan. For purposes of this section, life insurance protection includes any benefit paid under the plan on behalf of an employee-participant as a result of the employee-participant's death to the extent such payment exceeds the amount of the reserve to provide the retirement benefits for the employee-participant existing at his death. The medical benefits described in section 401(h) are considered subordinate to the retirement benefits if at all times the aggregate of contributions (made after the date on which the plan first includes such medical benefits) to provide such medical benefits and any life insurance protection does not exceed 25 percent of the aggregate contributions (made after such date) other than contributions to fund past service credits.

(ii) The meaning of the term subordinate may be illustrated by the following example:

Example. The X Corporation amends its qualified pension plan to provide medical benefits described in section 401(h) effective for the taxable year 1964. The total contributions under the plan (excluding those for past service credits) for the taxable year 1964 are $125,000, allocated as follows: $100,000 for retirement benefits, $10,000 for life insurance protection, and $15,000 for medical benefits described in section 401(h). The medical benefits described in section 401(h) are considered subordinate to the retirement benefits since the portion of the contributions allocated to the medical benefits described in section 401(h) ($15,000) and to life insurance protection after such medical benefits were included in the plan ($10,000), or $25,000, does not exceed 25 percent of $125,000. For the taxable year 1965, the X Corporation contributes $140,000 (exclusive of contributions for past service credits) allocated as follows: $100,000 for retirement benefits, $10,000 for life insurance protection, and $30,000 for medical benefits described in section 401(h). The medical benefits described in section 401(h) are considered subordinate to the retirement benefits since the aggregate contributions allocated to the medical benefits described in section 401(h) ($45,000) and to life insurance protection after such medical benefits were included in the plan ($20,000) or $65,000 does not exceed 25 percent of $265,000, the aggregate of the contributions made in 1964 and 1965.

(2) Separate accounts. Where medical benefits described in section 401(h) are provided for under a qualified pension or annuity plan, a separate account must be maintained with respect to contributions to fund such benefits. The separation required by this section is for recordkeeping purposes only. Consequently, the funds in the medical benefits account need not be separately invested. They may be invested with funds set aside for retirement purposes without identification of which investment properties are allocable to each account. However, where the investment properties are not allocated to each account, the earnings on such properties must be allocated to each account in a reasonable manner.

(3) Reasonable and ascertainable. Section 401(h) further requires that amounts contributed to fund medical benefits therein described must be reasonable and ascertainable. For the rules relating to the deduction of such contributions, see paragraph (f) of §1.404(a)-3. The employer must, at the time he makes a contribution, designate that portion of such contribution allocable to the funding of medical benefits.

(4) Impossibility of diversion prior to satisfaction of all liabilities. Section 401(h) further requires that it must be impossible, at any time prior to the satisfaction of all liabilities under the plan to provide for the payment of medical benefits described in section 401(h), for any part of the corpus or income of the medical benefits account to be (within the taxable year or thereafter) used for, or diverted to, any purpose other than the providing of such benefits. Consequently, a plan which, for example, under its terms, permits funds in the medical benefits account to be used for any retirement benefit provided under the plan does not satisfy the requirements of section 401(h) and will not qualify under section 401(a). However, the payment of any necessary or appropriate expenses attributable to the administration of the medical benefits account does not affect the qualification of the plan.

(5) Reversion upon satisfaction of all liabilities. The plan must provide that any amounts which are contributed to fund medical benefits described in section 401(h) and which remain in the medical benefits account upon the satisfaction of all liabilities arising out of the operation of the medical benefits portion of the plan are to be returned to the employer.

(6) Forfeitures. The plan must expressly provide that in the event an individual's interest in the medical benefits account is forfeited prior to termination of the plan an amount equal to the amount of the forfeiture must be applied as soon as possible to reduce employer contributions to fund the medical benefits described in section 401(h).

(d) Effective date. This section applies to taxable years of a qualified pension or annuity plan beginning after October 23, 1962.

[T.D. 6722, 29 FR 5072, Apr. 14, 1964]

§1.401(a)-1   Post-ERISA qualified plans and qualified trusts; in general.

(a) Introduction—(1) In general. This section and the following regulation sections under section 401 reflect the provisions of section 401 after amendment by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (Pub. L. 93-406) (“ERISA”).

(2) [Reserved]

(b) Requirements for pension plans—(1) Definitely determinable benefits. (i) In order for a pension plan to be a qualified plan under section 401(a), the plan must be established and maintained by an employer primarily to provide systematically for the payment of definitely determinable benefits to its employees over a period of years, usually for life, after retirement or attainment of normal retirement age (subject to paragraph (b)(2) of this section). A plan does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (b)(1)(i) merely because the plan provides, in accordance with section 401(a)(36), that a distribution may be made from the plan to an employee who has attained age 62 and who is not separated from employment at the time of such distribution.

(ii) Section 1.401-1(b)(1)(i), a pre-ERISA regulation, provides rules applicable to this requirement, and that regulation is applicable except as otherwise provided.

(iii) The use of the type of plan provision described in §1.415(a)-1(d)(1) which automatically freezes or reduces the rate of benefit accrual or the annual addition to insure that the limitations of section 415 will not be exceeded, will not be considered to violate the requirements of this subparagraph provided that the operation of such provision precludes discretion by the employer.

(2) Normal retirement age—(i) General rule. The normal retirement age under a plan must be an age that is not earlier than the earliest age that is reasonably representative of the typical retirement age for the industry in which the covered workforce is employed.

(ii) Age 62 safe harbor. A normal retirement age under a plan that is age 62 or later is deemed to be not earlier than the earliest age that is reasonably representative of the typical retirement age for the industry in which the covered workforce is employed.

(iii) Age 55 to age 62. In the case of a normal retirement age that is not earlier than age 55 and is earlier than age 62, whether the age is not earlier than the earliest age that is reasonably representative of the typical retirement age for the industry in which the covered workforce is employed is based on all of the relevant facts and circumstances.

(iv) Under age 55. A normal retirement age that is lower than age 55 is presumed to be earlier than the earliest age that is reasonably representative of the typical retirement age for the industry in which the covered workforce is employed, unless the Commissioner determines that under the facts and circumstances the normal retirement age is not earlier than the earliest age that is reasonably representative of the typical retirement age for the industry in which the covered workforce is employed.

(v) Age 50 safe harbor for qualified public safety employees. A normal retirement age under a plan that is age 50 or later is deemed to be not earlier than the earliest age that is reasonably representative of the typical retirement age for the industry in which the covered workforce is employed if substantially all of the participants in the plan are qualified public safety employees (within the meaning of section 72(t)(10)(B)).

(3) Benefit distribution prior to retirement. For purposes of paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, retirement does not include a mere reduction in the number of hours that an employee works. Accordingly, benefits may not be distributed prior to normal retirement age solely due to a reduction in the number of hours that an employee works.

(4) Effective date. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph (b)(4), paragraphs (b)(2) and (3) of this section are effective May 22, 2007. In the case of a governmental plan (as defined in section 414(d)), paragraphs (b)(2) and (3) of this section are effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2009. In the case of a plan maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements that have been ratified and are in effect on May 22, 2007, paragraphs (b)(2) and (3) of this section do not apply before the first plan year that begins after the last of such agreements terminate determined without regard to any extension thereof (or, if earlier, May 24, 2010. See §1.411(d)-4, A-12, for a special transition rule in the case of a plan amendment that increases a plan's normal retirement age pursuant to paragraph (b)(2) of this section.

[T.D. 7748, 46 FR 1695, Jan. 7, 1981, as amended by T.D. 9319, 72 FR 16894, Apr. 5, 2007; T.D. 9325, 72 FR 28606, May 22, 2007]

§1.401(a)-2   Impossibility of diversion under qualified plan or trust.

(a) General rule. Section 401(a)(2) requires that in order for a trust to be qualified, it must be impossible under the trust instrument (in the taxable year and at any time thereafter before the satisfaction of all liabilities to employees or their beneficiaries covered by the trust) for any part of the trust corpus or income to be used for, or diverted to, purposes other than for the exclusive benefit of those employees or their beneficiaries. Section 1.401-2, a pre-ERISA regulation, provides rules under section 401(a)(2) and that regulation is applicable except as otherwise provided.

(b) Section 415 suspense account. Notwithstanding paragraph (a) of this section, a plan, or trust forming part of a plan, may provide for the reversion to the employer, upon termination of the plan, of amounts contributed to the plan that exceed the limitations imposed under section 415(c), to the extent set forth in rules prescribed by the Commissioner in revenue rulings, notices, or other guidance published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin (see §601.601(d)(2) of this chapter).

[T.D. 7748, 46 FR 1696, Jan. 7, 1981, as amended by T.D. 9319, 72 FR 16894, Apr. 5, 2007]

§1.401(a)-4   Optional forms of benefit (before 1994).

Q-1: How does section 401(a)(4) apply to optional forms of benefits?

A-1: (a) In general—(1) Scope. The nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4) apply to the amount of contributions or benefits, optional forms of benefit, and other benefits, rights and features (e.g., actuarial assumptions, methods of benefit calculation, loans, social security supplements, and disability benefits) under a plan. This section addresses the application of section 401(a)(4) only to optional forms of benefit under a plan. Generally, the determination of whether an optional form is nondiscriminatory under section 401(a)(4) is made by reference to the availability of such optional form, and not by reference to the utilization or actual receipt of such optional form. See Q&A-2 of this section. Even though an optional form of benefit under a plan may be nondiscriminatory under section 401(a)(4) and this §1.401(a)-4 because the availability of such optional form does not impermissibly favor employees in the highly compensated group, such plan may fail to satisfy section 401(a)(4) with respect to the amount of contributions or benefits or with respect to other benefits, rights and features if, for example, the method of calculation or the amount or value of benefits payable under such optional form impermissibly favors the highly compensated group. See §1.411(d)-4, Q&A-1 for the definition of “optional form of benefit.”

(2) Nondiscrimination requirements. Each optional form of benefit provided under a plan is subject to the nondiscrimination requirement of section 401(a)(4) and thus the availability of each optional form of benefit must not discriminate in favor of the employees described in section 401(a)(4) in whose favor discrimination is prohibited (the “highly compensated group”). See paragraph (b) of this Q&A-1 for a description of the employees included in such group. This is true without regard to whether a particular optional form of benefit is the actuarial equivalent of any other optional form of benefit under the plan. Thus, for example, a plan may not condition, or otherwise limit, the availability of a single sum distribution of an employee's benefit in a manner that impermissibly favors the highly compensated group.

(b) Highly compensated group. For plan years commencing prior to the applicable effective date for the amendment made to section 401(a)(4) by section 1114 of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (TRA '86), the highly compensated group consists of those employees who are officers, shareholders, or highly compensated. For plan years beginning on or after the applicable effective date of the amendments to section 401(a)(4) made by TRA '86, the highly compensated group consists of those employees who are highly compensated within the meaning of section 414(q). The amendment to section 401(a)(4) made by section 1114 of TRA '86 is generally effective for plan years commencing after December 31, 1988. See section 1114(a) of TRA '86.

Q-2: How is it determined whether an optional form of benefit satisfies the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4)?

A-2: (a) Nondiscrimination requirement—(1) In general. An optional form of benefit under a plan is nondiscriminatory under section 401(a)(4) only if the requirements of paragraphs (a)(2) and (a)(3) of this Q&A-2 are satisfied with respect to such optional form. The determination of whether an optional form of benefit satisfies these requirements is made by reference to the availability of the optional form, and not by reference to the utilization or actual receipt of such optional form. Thus, an optional form of benefit that satisfies the requirements of paragraphs (a)(2) and (a)(3) of this Q&A-2 is nondiscriminatory under section 401(a)(2) even though the highly compensated group disproportionately utilizes such optional form. However, the composition of the group of employees who actually receive benefits in an optional form may be relevant in determining whether such optional form satisfies the requirement of paragraph (a)(3) of this Q&A-2 with respect to effective availability.

(2) Current availability—(i) Plan years prior to TRA '86 effective date. Except as provided in paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of this Q&A-2, for plan years prior to the effective date of the amendments made to section 401(b) by section 1112(a) of TRA '86, the requirement of this paragraph (a)(2) is satisfied only if the group of employees to whom the optional form is currently available satisfies either the seventy percent test of section 410(b)(1)(A) or the nondiscriminatory classification test of section 410(b)(1)(B).

(ii) Plan years commencing on or after TRA '86 effective date. Except as provided in paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of this Q&A-2, for plan years commencing on or after the effective date on which the amendments made to section 410(b) by section 1112(a) of TRA '86 first apply to a plan, the requirement of this paragraph (a)(2) is satisfied only if the group of employees to whom the optional form is currently available satisfies either the percentage test set forth in section 410(b)(1)(A), the ratio test set forth in section 410(b)(1)(B), or the nondiscriminatory classification test set forth in section 410(b)(2)(A)(i). The employer need not satisfy the average benefit percentage test in section 410(b)(2)(A)(ii) in order for the optional form to be currently available to a nondiscriminatory group of employees.

(iii) Special rule for certain governmental or church plans. Plans described in section 410(c) will be treated as satisfying the current availability test of this paragraph (a)(2) if the group of employees with respect to whom the optional form is currently available satisfies the requirements of section 401(a)(3) as in effect on September 1, 1974.

(iv) Effective data for TRA '86 amendments to section 410(b). The amendments to section 410(b) made by section 1112(a) of TRA '86 are generally effective for plan years commencing after December 31, 1988. See section 1112(e)(1) of TRA '86.

(v) Elimination of optional forms—(A) In general. Notwithstanding paragraphs (a)(2)(i) and (a)(2)(ii) of this Q&A-2, in the case of an optional form of benefit that has been eliminated under a plan with respect to specified employees for benefits accrued after the later of the eliminating amendment's adoption date or effective date, the determination of whether such optional form satisfies this paragraph (a)(2) with respect to such employees is to be made immediately prior to the elimination. Accordingly, if, as of the later of the adoption date or effective date of an amendment eliminating an optional form with respect to future benefit accruals, the current availability of such optional form immediately prior to such amendment satisfies this paragraph (a)(2), then the optional form will be treated as satisfying this paragraph (a)(2) for all subsequent years.

(B) Example. A profit-sharing plan that provides for a single sum distribution available to all employees on termination of employment is amended January 1, 1990, to eliminate such single sum optional form of benefit with respect to benefits accrued after January 1, 1991. As of January 1, 1991, the single sum optional form of benefit is available to a group of employees that satisfies the percentage test of section 410(b)(1)(A). As of January 1, 1995, all nonhighly compensated employees who were entitled to the single sum optional form of benefit have terminated from employment with the employer and taken a distribution of their benefits. The only remaining employees who have a right to take a portion of their benefits in the form of a single sum distribution on termination of employment are highly compensated employees. Because the availability of the single sum optional form of benefit satisfied the current availability test as of January 1, 1991, the availability of such optional form of benefit is deemed to continue to satisfy the current availability test of this paragraph (a)(2).

(3) Effective availability—(i) In general. The requirement of this paragraph (a)(3) is satisfied only if, based on the facts and circumstances, the group of employees to whom the optional form is effectively available does not substantially favor the highly compensated group. This is the case even if the optional form is, or has been, currently available to a group of employees that satisfies the applicable requirements in paragraph (a)(2) (i) or (ii) of this Q&A-2.

(ii) Examples. The provisions of paragraph (a)(3)(i) of this Q&A-2 can be illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. Employer X maintains a defined benefit plan that covers both of the 2 highly compensated employees of the employer and 8 of the twelve nonhighly compensated employees of the employer. Plan X provides for a normal retirement benefit payable as an annuity and based on a normal retirement age of 65, and an early retirement benefit payable upon termination in the form of an annuity to employees who terminate from service with the employer on or after age 55 with 30 or more years of service. Each of the 2 employees of employer X who are in the highly compensated group currently meet the age and service requirement, or will have 30 years of service by the time they reach age 55. All but 2 of the 8 nonhighly compensated employees of employer X who are covered by the plan were hired on or after age 35 and thus, cannot qualify for the early retirement benefit provision. Even though the group of employees to whom the early retirement benefit is currently available does not impermissibly favor the highly compensated group by reason of disregarding age and service, these facts and circumstances indicate that the effective availability of the early retirement benefit in plan X substantially favors the highly compensated group.
Example 2. Assume the same facts as in Example 1 except that the early retirement benefit is added by a plan amendment first adopted, announced and effective December 1, 1991, and is available only to employees who terminate from employment with the employer prior to December 15, 1991. Further assume that all employees were hired prior to attaining age 25, and that the group of employees who have, or will have attained age 55 with 30 years of service, by December 15, 1991, satisfies the ratio test of section 410(b)(1)(B). Finally, assume that the only employees who terminate from employment with the employer during the two week period in which the early retirement benefit is available are employees in the highly compensated group. These facts and circumstances indicate that the effective availability of the early retirement benefit substantially favors the highly compensated group. This is the case even though the limitation of the early retirement benefit to a specified period satisfies section 411(d)(6).
Example 3. Employer Y amends plan Y on June 30, 1990, to provide for a single sum distribution for employees who terminate from employment with the employer after June 30, 1990, and prior to January 1, 1991. The availability of this single sum distribution is conditioned on the employee having a particular disability at the time of termination of employment. The only employee of the employer who meets this disability requirement at the time of the amendment and thereafter through December 31, 1990, is a highly compensated employee. Generally, a disability condition with respect to the availability of a single sum distribution may be disregarded in determining whether the current availability of such optional form of benefit is discriminatory. However, these facts and circumstances indicate that the effective availability of the optional form of benefit substantially favors the highly compensated group.
Example 4. Employer Z maintains a money purchase pension plan that covers all employees of the employer. The plan provides for distribution in the form of a joint and survivor annuity, a life annuity, or equal installments over 10 years. During the 1992 calendar year the employer winds up his business. In December of 1992, only two employees remain in the employment of the employer, both of whom are highly compensated. Employer Z then amends the plan to provide for a single sum distribution to employees who terminate from employment on or after the date of the amendment. Both highly compensated employees terminate from employment on December 31, 1992, taking a single sum distribution of their benefits. These facts and circumstances indicate that the effective availability of the single sum optional form of benefit substantially favors the highly compensated group.

(b) Application of tests—(1) Current availability—(i) In general. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph (b), in determining whether an optional form of benefit that is subject to specified eligibility conditions is currently available to an employee for purposes of paragraph (a) of this Q&A-2, the determination of current availability generally is to be based on the current facts and circumstances with respect to the employee (e.g., the employee's current compensation or the employee's current net worth). Thus, for example, the fact that an employee may, in the future, satisfy an eligibility condition generally does not cause an optional form of benefit to be treated as currently available to such employee.

(ii) Exceptions for age, service, employment termination and certain other conditions—(A) Age and service conditions. For purposes of applying paragraph (a)(2) of this Q&A-2, except as provided in paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B) of this Q&A-2, an age condition, a service condition, or both are to be disregarded. For example, an employer that maintains a plan that provides for an early retirement benefit payable as an annuity for employees in division A, subject to a requirement that the employee has attained his or her 55th birthday and has at least twenty years of service with the employer, is to disregard the age and service conditions in determining the group of employees to whom the early retirement annuity benefit is currently available. Thus, the early retirement annuity benefit is treated as currently available to all employees of division A, without regard to their ages or years of service and without regard to whether they could potentially meet the age and service conditions prior to attaining the plan's normal retirement age.

(B) Exception for certain age and service conditions. Age and service conditions that must be satisfied within a specified period of time may not be disregarded pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(A) of this Q&A-2. However, in determining the current availability of an optional form of benefit subject to such an age condition, service condition, or both, an employer may project the age and service of employees to the last date on which the optional form of benefit subject to the age condition or service condition (or both) is available under the plan. An employer's ability to protect age and service to the last date on which the optional form of benefit is available under the plan is not cut off by a plan termination occurring prior to that date. Thus, for example, assume that an employer maintaining a plan that permits employees terminating from employment on or after age 55 between June 1, 1991 to May 31, 1992, to elect a single sum distribution, decides to terminate the plan on December 31, 1991. In determining the group of employees to whom the single sum optional form of benefit is currently available, this employer may project employees' ages through May 31, 1992.

(C) Certain other conditions disregarded. Conditions on the availability of optional forms of benefit requiring termination of employment, death, satisfaction of a specified health condition (or failure to meet such condition), disability, hardship, marital status, default on a plan loan secured by a participant's account balance, or execution of a covenant not to compete may be disregarded in determining the group of employees to whom an optional form of benefit is currently available.

(2) Employees taken into account. For purposes of applying paragraph (a) of this Q&A-2, the tests are to be applied on the basis of the employer's nonexcludable employees (whether or not they are participants in the plan) in the same manner as such tests would be applied in determining whether the plan providing the optional form of benefit satisfies the tests under section 410(b).

(3) Definition of “plan”. For purposes of applying paragraph (a) of this Q&A-2, the term “plan” has the meaning that such term has for purposes of determining whether the amount of contributions or benefits and whether other benefits, rights, and features are nondiscriminatory under section 401(a)(4).

(4) Restructuring optional forms of benefit—(i) In general. For purposes of applying paragraph (a) of this Q&A-2, the availability of two or more optional forms of benefit under a plan may be tested by restructuring such benefits into two or more restructured optional forms of benefit and testing the availability of such restructured optional forms of benefit. If two or more optional forms of benefit under a plan contain both common and distinct components, such optional forms of benefit may be restructured as a single optional form of benefit comprising the common component, and one or more optional forms of benefit comprising each distinct component. Components of optional forms of benefit may be treated as common only if they are identical with respect to all characteristics taken into account under Q&A-1(b) of §1.411(d)-4. The availability of each restructured optional form of benefit must satisfy the applicable nondiscrimination requirements of paragraph (a) of this Q&A-2.

(ii) Example. A profit-sharing plan covering all the employees of an employer provides a single sum distribution option upon termination from employment for all employees earning less than $50,000 and a single sum distribution option upon termination from employment after the attainment of age 55 for all employees earning $50,000 or more. These distribution options are identical in all other respects. For purposes of applying section 401(a)(4), such optional forms of benefit may be restructured into two different optional forms of benefit: (A) a single sum distribution option upon termination from employment after the attainment of age 55 for all employees (i.e., the common component), and (B) a single sum distribution option upon termination from employment before the attainment of age 55 for all employees earning less than $50,000. The availability of each of these restructured optional forms of benefit must satisfy section 401(a)(4).

(c) Commissioner may provide additional tests. The Commissioner may provide such additional factors, tests, and safe harbors as are necessary or appropriate for purposes of determining whether the availability of an optional form of benefit is discriminatory under section 401(a)(4). In addition, the Commissioner may provide that additional eligibility conditions not related directly or indirectly to compensation or wealth may be disregarded under paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(C) of this Q&A-2 in determining the current availability of an optional form of benefit. The Commissioner may provide such additional guidance only through the publication of revenue rulings, notices or other documents of general applicability.

Q-3: May a plan condition the availability of an optional form of benefit on employer discretion?

A-3: No. Even if the availability of an optional form of benefit that is conditioned on employer discretion satisfies the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4), the plan providing the optional form of benefit will fail to satisfy certain other requirements of section 401(a), including, in applicable circumstances, the definitely determinable requirement of section 401(a) and the requirements of section 401(a)(25) and section 411(d)(6). See §1.411(d)-4.

Q-4: Will a plan provision violate section 401(a)(4) merely because it requires that an employee who terminates from service 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, as permitted by sections 411(a)(11) and 417(e)?

A-4: No. A plan will not be treated as discriminatory under section 401(a)(4) merely because the plan mandates a single sum distribution when the present value of an employee's benefit is not more than $3,500, as permitted by sections 411(a)(11) and 417(e). This is an exception to the general principles of this section. (No similar provision exists excepting such single sum distributions from the limits on employer discretion under section 411(d)(6). See §1.411(d)-4 Q&A-4.)

Q-5: If the availability of an optional form of benefit discriminates, or may reasonably be expected to discriminate, in favor of the highly compensated group, what acceptable alternatives exist for amending the plan without violating section 411(d)(6)?

A-5: (a) Transitional rules—(1) In general. The following rules apply for purposes of making necessary amendments to existing plans (as defined in Q&A-6 of this section) under which the availability of an optional form of benefit violates the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4) or may reasonably be expected to violate such requirements. These transitional rules are provided under the authority of section 411(d)(6), which allows the elimination of certain optional forms of benefit if permitted by regulations, and section 7805(b).

(2) Nondiscrimination—(i) In general. The determination of whether the availability of an optional form of benefit violates section 401(a)(4) is to be made in accordance with Q&A-2 of this section. In addition, the availability of a particular optional form of benefit may reasonably be expected to violate the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4) if, under the applicable facts and circumstances, there is a significant possibility that the current availability of such optional form of benefit will impermissibly favor the highly compensated group. This determination must be made on the basis of the seventy percent test of section 410(b)(1)(A) or the nondiscriminatory classification test of section 410(b)(1)(B) as such tests existed prior to the effective date of the amendments made to section 410(b) by section 1112(a) of TRA '86. Thus, a condition may not reasonably be expected to discriminate for purposes of these rules merely because it results in a significant possibility that discrimination will result because of the amendments made to section 410(b) by section 1112(a) of TRA '86. In addition, the availability of an optional form of benefit may not reasonably be expected to discriminate merely because of an age or service condition that may be disregarded in determining the current availability of such optional form of benefit under paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(A) of Q&A-2 of this section. Similarly, the availability of an optional form of benefit may not reasonably be expected to discriminate merely because of an age or service condition that, after permitted projection, does not cause such optional form to fail to satisfy the requirement of this paragraph (a)(2).

(ii) Examples. The provisions of paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this Q&A-5 can be illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. A plan provides that a single sum distribution option is available only to (A) employees earning $50,000 or more in the final year of employment, (B) employees who furnish evidence that they have a net worth above a certain specified amount, and (C) employees who present a letter from an accountant or attorney declaring that it is in the employee's best interest to receive a single sum distribution. Whether the availability of such optional form of benefit discriminates depends on whether it meets the requirements of Q&A-2 of this §1.401(a)-4. However, each of the specified conditions limiting the availability of the optional form of benefit may reasonably be expected to discriminate in favor of the highly compensated group in operation because of the likelihood of a significant positive correlation between the ability to meet any of the specified conditions and membership in the highly compensated group.
Example 2. A plan limits the availability of a single sum distribution option to employees employed in one particular division of the employer's company. All the employees of the company are participants in the plan. During the 1988 plan year, the division employs individuals who represent a nondiscriminatory classification of that company's employees (under section 410(b)(1)(B) prior to the effective date of the amendments made to section 410(b) by section 1112(a) of TRA '86) and is unlikely to cease employing such a nondiscriminatory classification in the future. The availability of a single sum distribution under this plan does not result in discrimination during the 1988 plan year and may not reasonably be expected to do so.

(b) Transitional alternatives. If the availability of an optional form of benefit under an existing plan is discriminatory under section 401(a)(4), the plan must be amended either to eliminate the optional form of benefit or to make the availability of the optional form of benefit nondiscriminatory. For example, the availability of an optional form of benefit may be made nondiscriminatory by making such benefit available to sufficient additional employees who are not in the highly compensated group or by imposing nondiscriminatory objective criteria on its availability such that the group of employees to whom the benefit is available is nondiscriminatory. See Q&A-6 of §1.411(d)-4 for requirements with respect to such objective criteria. If, under an existing plan, the availability of an optional form of benefit may reasonably be expected to discriminate, the plan may be amended in the same manner permitted where the availability of an optional form of benefit is discriminatory. See paragraph (d) of this Q&A-5 for rules limiting the period during which the availability of optional forms of benefit 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 (see Q&A-6 of this section), the plan sponsor must select one of the alternatives permitted under paragraph (b) of this Q&A-5 with respect to each affected optional form of 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-5. There is no special reporting requirement under the Code or this section with respect to this selection.

(2) Deferred amendment date. If paragraph (c)(1) of this Q&A-5 is satisfied, a plan amendment conforming the plan to the particular alternative selected under paragraph (b) of this Q&A-5 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. 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 an existing calendar year noncollectively bargained defined benefit plan has a single sum distribution form subject to a discriminatory condition, that was available as of January 30, 1986 (subject to such condition), and such employer makes one or more single sum distributions available on or after the first day of the first plan year commencing on or after January 1, 1989, and before the plan amendment, then such employer may not adopt a plan amendment eliminating the single sum distribution form. Instead, such employer must adopt an amendment making the distribution form available to a nondiscriminatory group of employees while retaining the availability of such distribution form with respect to the group of employees to whom the benefit is already available. Similarly, any objective criteria that are adopted as part of such amendment must be consistent 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 optional form of 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 optional forms of benefit will not violate section 411(d)(6) during the period prior to the applicable effective date for the plan (see Q&A-6 of this section). After the applicable effective date, any amendment (other than one described in paragraph (c)(2) of this Q&A-5) that eliminates or reduces an optional form of benefit or imposes new objective criteria restricting the availability of such optional form of benefit will fail to qualify for the exception to section 411(d)(6) provided in this Q&A-5. This is the case without regard to whether the availability of the optional form of benefit is discriminatory or may reasonably be expected to be discriminatory.

Q-6: For what period are the rules of this section effective?

A-6: (a) General effective date—(1) In general. Except as otherwise provided in this section, the provisions of this section are effective January 30, 1986, and do not apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1994. For rules applicable to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1994, see §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13.

(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), except as otherwise provided in this section, the provisions of this section are effective January 30, 1986, and do not apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1996. For rules applicable to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1996, see §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13.

(b) New plans—(1) In general. Unless otherwise provided in paragraph (b)(2) of this Q&A-6, plans that are either adopted or made effective on or after January 30, 1986, are “new plans”. With respect to such new plans, this section is effective January 30, 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-6, under which the availability of an optional form of benefit is discriminatory or may reasonably be expected to be discriminatory, 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 optional form of 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-5 of this section.

(c) Existing plans—(1) In general. Plans that are both adopted and in effect prior to January 30, 1986, are “existing plans”. In addition, new plans described in paragraph (b)(2) of this Q&A-6 are treated as existing plans with respect to certain forms of benefit. Subject to the limitations in paragraph (d) of this Q&A-6, the effective dates set forth in paragraphs (c)(2) and (c)(3) of this Q&A-6 apply to these existing plans for purposes of this section.

(2) Existing noncollectively bargained plans. With respect to existing noncollectively 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.

(d) Delayed effective dates not applicable to new optional forms of benefit or conditions—(1) In general. The delayed effective dates in paragraph (c) (2) and (3) of this Q&A-6 for existing plans are applicable with respect to an optional form of benefit only if both the optional form of benefit and any applicable condition either causing the availability of such optional form of benefit to be discriminatory or making it reasonable to expect that the availability of such optional form will be discriminatory were both adopted and in effect prior to January 30, 1986. If the preceding sentence is not satisfied with respect to an optional form of benefit, this section is effective with respect to such optional form of benefit as if the plan were a new plan.

(2) Exception for certain amendments covered by a favorable determination letter. If a condition causing the availability of an optional form of benefit to be discriminatory, or to be reasonably expected to discriminate, was adopted or made effective on or after January 30, 1986, and a favorable determination letter that covered such plan provision is or was received with respect to an application submitted before July 11, 1988, the effective date of this section with respect to such provision is the applicable effective date determined under the rules with respect to existing plans, as though such provision had been adopted and in effect prior to January 30, 1986.

(e) Transitional rule effective date. The transitional rule provided in Q&A-5 of this section is effective January 30, 1986.

[53 FR 26054, July 11, 1988, as amended by T.D. 8360, 56 FR 47536, Sept. 19, 1991; T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46778, Sept. 3, 1993; T.D. 8212, 61 FR 14247, Apr. 1, 1996]

§1.401(a)-11   Qualified joint and survivor annuities.

(a) General rule—(1) Required provisions. A trust, to which section 411 (relating to minimum vesting standards) applies without regard to section 411(e)(2), which is a part of a plan providing for the payment of benefits in any form of a life annuity (as defined in paragraph (b)(1) of this section), shall not constitute a qualified trust under section 401(a)(11) and this section unless such plan provides that:

(i) Unless the election provided in paragraph (c)(1) of this section has been made, life annuity benefits will be paid in a form having the effect of a qualified joint and survivor annuity (as defined in paragraph (b)(2) of this section) with respect to any participant who—

(A) Begins to receive payments under such plan on or after the date the normal retirement age is attained, or

(B) Dies (on or after the date the normal retirement age is attained) while in active service of the employer maintaining the plan, or

(C) In the case of a plan which provides for the payment of benefits before the normal retirement age, begins to receive payments under such plan on or after the date the qualified early retirement age (as defined in paragraph (b)(4) of this section) is attained, or

(D) Separates from service on or after the date the normal retirement age (or the qualified early retirement age) is attained and after satisfaction of eligibility requirements for the payment of benefits under the plan (except for any plan requirement that there be filed a claim for benefits) and thereafter dies before beginning to receive life annuity benefits;

(ii) Any participant may elect, as provided in paragraph (c)(1) of this section, not to receive life annuity benefits in the form of a qualified joint and survivor annuity; and

(iii) If the plan provides for the payment of benefits before the normal retirement age, any participant may elect, as provided in paragraph (c)(2) of this section, that life annuity benefits be payable as an early survivor annuity (as defined in paragraph (b)(3) of this section) upon his death in the event that he—

(A) Attains the qualified early retirement age (as defined in paragraph (b)(4) of this section), and

(B) Dies on or before the day normal retirement age is attained while employed by an employer maintaining the plan.

(2) Certain cash-outs. A plan will not fail to satisfy the requirements of section 401(a)(11) and this section merely because it provides that if the present value of the entire nonforfeitable benefit derived from employer contributions of a participant at the time of his separation from service does not exceed $1,750 (or such smaller amount as the plan may specify), such benefit will be paid to him in a lump sum.

(3) Illustrations. The provisions of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph may be illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. The X Corporation Defined Contribution Plan was established in 1960. As in effect on January 1, 1974, the plan provided that, upon the participant's retirement, the participant may elect to receive the balance of his account in the form of (1) a single-sum cash payment, (2) a single-sum distribution consisting of X Corporation stock, (3) five equal annual cash payments, (4) a life annuity, or (5) a combination of options (1) through (4). The plan also provided that, if a participant did not elect another form of distribution, the balance of his account would be distributed to him in the form of a single-sum cash payment upon his retirement. Assume that section 401(a)(11) and this section became applicable to the plan as of its plan year beginning January 1, 1976, with respect to persons who were active participants in the plan as of such date (see paragraph (f) of this section). If X Corporation Defined Contribution Plan continues to allow the life annuity payment option after December 31, 1975, it must be amended to provide that if a participant elects a life annuity option the life annuity benefit will be paid in a form having the effect of a qualified joint and survivor annuity, except to the extent that the participant elects another form of benefit payment. However, the plan can continue to provide that, if no election is made, the balance will be paid as a single-sum cash payment. If the trust is not so amended, it will fail to qualify under section 401(a).
Example 2. The Corporation Retirement Plan provides that plan benefits are payable only in the form of a life annuity and also provides that a participant may retire before the normal retirement age of 65 and receive a benefit if he has completed 30 years of service. Under this plan, an employee who begins employment at the age of 18 will be eligible to receive retirement benefits at the age of 48 if he then has 30 years of service. This plan must allow a participant to elect in the time and manner prescribed in paragraph (c)(2) of this section an early survivor annuity (defined in paragraph (b)(3) of this section) to be payable on the death of the participant if death occurs while the participant is in active service for the employer maintaining the plan and on or after the date the participant reaches the qualified early retirement age of 55 (the later of the date the participant reaches the earliest retirement age (age 48) or 10 years before normal retirement age (age 55)) but before the day after the day the participant reaches normal retirement age (age 65).
Example 3. Assume the same facts as in Example 2. A, B, and C began employment with Y Corporation when they each attained age 18. A retires and begins to receive benefit payments at age 48 after completing 30 years of service. The plan is not required to pay a qualified joint and survivor annuity to A and his spouse at any time. B does not elect an early survivor annuity at age 55, but retires at age 57 after completing 39 years of service. Unless B makes an election under subparagraph (1)(ii) of this paragraph, the plan is required to pay a qualified joint and survivor annuity to B and his spouse. C makes no elections described in subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, and dies while in active service at age 66 after completing 48 years of service. The plan is required to pay a qualified survivor annuity to C's spouse.

(b) Definitions. As used in this section—(1) Life annuity. (i) The term “life annuity” means an annuity that provides retirement payments and requires the survival of the participant or his spouse as one of the conditions for any payment or possible payment under the annuity. For example, annuities that make payments for 10 years or until death, whichever occurs first or whichever occurs last, are life annuities.

(ii) However, the term “life annuity” does not include an annuity, or that portion of an annuity, that provides those benefits which, under section 411(a)(9), would not be taken into account in the determination of the normal retirement benefit or early retirement benefit. For example, “social security supplements” described in the fourth sentence of section 411(a)(9) are not considered to be life annuities for the purposes of this section, whether or not an early retirement benefit is provided under the plan.

(2) Qualified joint and survivor annuity. The term “qualified joint and survivor annuity” means an annuity for the life of the participant with a survivor annuity for the life of his spouse which is neither (i) less than one-half of, nor (ii) greater than, the amount of the annuity payable during the joint lives of the participant and his spouse. For purposes of the preceding sentence, amounts described in §1.401(a)-11(b)(1)(ii) may be disregarded. A qualified joint and survivor annuity must be at least the actuarial equivalent of the normal form of life annuity or, if greater, of any optional form of life annuity offered under the plan. Equivalence may be determined, on the basis of consistently applied reasonable actuarial factors, for each participant or for all participants or reasonable groupings of participants, if such determination does not result in discrimination in favor of employees who are officers, shareholders, or highly compensated. An annuity is not a qualified joint and survivor annuity if payments to the spouse of a deceased participant are terminated, or reduced, because of such spouse's remarriage.

(3) Early survivor annuity. The term “early survivor annuity” means an annuity for the life of the participant's spouse the payments under which must not be less than the payments which would have been made to the spouse under the joint and survivor annuity if the participant had made the election described in paragraph (c)(2) of this section immediately prior to his retirement and if his retirement had occurred on the day before his death and within the period during which an election can be made under such paragraph (c)(2). For example, if a participant would be entitled to a single life annuity of $100 per month or a reduced amount under a qualified joint and survivor annuity of $80 per month, his spouse is entitled to a payment of at least $40 per month. However, the payments may be reduced to reflect the number of months of coverage under the survivor annuity pursuant to paragraph (e) of this section.

(4) Qualified early retirement age. The term “qualified early retirement age” means the latest of—

(i) The earliest date, under the plan, on which the participant could elect (without regard to any requirement that approval of early retirement be obtained) to receive retirement benefits (other than disability benefits).

(ii) The first day of the 120th month beginning before the participant reaches normal retirement age, or

(iii) The date on which the participant begins participation.

(5) Normal retirement age. The term “normal retirement age” has the meaning set forth in section 411(a)(8).

(6) Annuity starting date. The term “annuity starting date” means the first day of the first period with respect to which an amount is received as a life annuity, whether by reason of retirement or by reason of disability.

(7) Day. The term “day” means a calendar day.

(c) Elections—(1) Election not to take joint and survivor annuity form—(i) In general. (A) A plan shall not be treated as satisfying the requirements of this section unless it provides that each participant may elect, during the election period described in subdivision (ii) of this subparagraph, not to receive a qualified joint and survivor annuity. However, if a plan provides that a qualified joint and survivor annuity is the only form of benefit payable under the plan with respect to a married participant, no election need be provided.

(B) The election shall be in writing and clearly indicate that the participant is electing to receive all or, if permitted by the plan, part of his benefits under the plan in a form other than that of a qualified joint and survivor annuity. A plan will not fail to meet the requirements of this section merely because the plan requires the participant to obtain the written approval of his spouse in order for the participant to make this election or if the plan provides that such approval is not required.

(ii) Election period. (A) For purposes of the election described in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section, the plan shall provide an election period which shall include a period of at least 90 days following the furnishing of all of the applicable information required by subparagraph (3)(i) of this paragraph and ending prior to commencement of benefits. In no event may the election period end earlier than the 90th day before the commencement of benefits. Thus, for example, the commencement of benefits may be delayed until the end of such election period because the amount of payments to be made to a participant cannot be ascertained before the end of such period; see §1.401(a)-14(d).

If a participant makes a request for additional information as provided in subparagraph (3)(iii) of this paragraph on or before the last day of the election period, the election period shall be extended to the extent necessary to include at least the 90 calendar days immediately following the day the requested additional information is personally delivered or mailed to the participant. Notwithstanding the immediately preceding sentence, a plan may provide in cases in which the participant has been furnished by mail or personal delivery all of the applicable information required by subparagraph (3)(i) of this paragraph, that a request for such additional information must be made on or before a date which is not less than 60 days from the date of such mailing or delivery; and if the plan does so provide, the election period shall be extended to the extent necessary to include at least the 60 calendar days following the day the requested additional information is personally delivered or mailed to the participant.

(B) In the case of a participant in a plan to which this subparagraph applies who separated from service after section 401(a)(11) and this section became applicable to such plan with respect to such participant, and to whom an election required by this subparagraph has not been previously made available (and will not become available in normal course), the plan must provide an election to receive the balance of his benefits (properly adjusted, if applicable, for payments received, prior to the exercise of such election, in the form of a qualified joint and survivor annuity) in a form other than that of a qualified joint and survivor annuity. The provisions of paragraph (c)(1)(ii)(A) shall apply except that in no event shall the election period end before the 90th day after the date on which notice of the availability of such election and the applicable information required by subparagraph (3)(i) of this paragraph is given directly to the participant. If such notice and information is given by mail, it shall be treated as given on the date of mailing. If such participant has died, such election shall be made available to such participant's personal representative.

(2) Election of early survivor annuity—(i) In general. (A) A plan described in subparagraph (a)(1)(iii) of this section shall not be treated as satisfying the requirements of this section unless it provides that each participant may elect, during the period described in subdivision (ii) of this subparagraph, an early survivor annuity as described in paragraph (a)(1)(iii) of this section. Breaks in service after the participant has attained the qualified early retirement age neither invalidate a previous election or revocation nor prevent an election from being made or revoked during the election period.

(B) The election shall be in writing and clearly indicate that the participant is electing the early survivor annuity form.

(C) A plan is not required to provide an election under this subparagraph if—

(1) The plan provides that an early survivor annuity is the only form of benefit payable under the plan with respect to a married participant who dies while employed by an employer maintaining the plan,

(2) In the case of a defined contribution plan, the plan provides a survivor benefit at least equal in value to the vested portion of the participant's account balance, if the participant dies while in active service with an employer maintaining the plan, or

(3) In the case of a defined benefit plan, the plan provides a survivor benefit at least equal in value to the present value of the vested portion of the participant's normal form of the accrued benefit payable at normal retirement age (determined immediately prior to death), if the participant dies while in active service with an employer maintaining the plan. Any present values must be determined in accordance with either the actuarial assumptions or factors specified in the plan, or a variable standard independent of employer discretion for converting optional benefits specified in the plan.

(ii) Election period. (A) For purposes of the election described in paragraph (c)(2)(i) of this section the plan shall provide an election period which, except as provided in the following sentence, shall begin not later than the later of either the 90th day before a participant attains the qualified early retirement age or the date on which his participation begins, and shall end on the date the participant terminates his employment. If such a plan contains a provision that any election made under this subparagraph does not become effective or ceases to be effective if the participant dies within a certain period beginning on the date of such election, the election period prescribed in this subdivision (ii) shall begin not later than the later of (1) a date which is 90 days plus such certain period before the participant attains the qualified early retirement age or (2) the date on which his participation begins. For example, if a plan provides that an election made under this subparagraph does not become effective if the participant dies less than 2 years after the date of such election, the period for making an election under this subparagraph must begin not later than the later of (1) 2 years and 90 days before the participant attains the qualified early retirement age, or (2) the date on which his participation begins. However, the election period for an individual who was an active participant on the date this section became effective with regard to the plan need not begin earlier than such effective date.

(B) In the case of a participant in a plan to which this subparagraph applies who dies after section 401(a)(11) and this section became applicable to such plan with respect to such participant and to whom an election required by this subparagraph has not been previously made available, the plan must give the participant's surviving spouse or, if dead, such spouse's personal representative the option of electing an early survivor annuity. The plan may reduce the surviving spouse's annuity to take into account any benefits already received. The period for making such election shall not end before the 90th day after the date on which written notice of the availability of such election and applicable information required by subparagraph (3)(i) of this paragraph is given directly to such surviving spouse or personal representative. If such notice and information is given by mail, if shall be treated as given on the date of mailing.

(3) Information to be provided by plan. For rules regarding the information required to be provided with respect to the election to waive a QJSA or a QPSA, see §1.417(a)(3)-1.

(4) Election is revocable. A plan to which this section applies must provide that any election made under this paragraph may be revoked in writing during the specified election period, and that after such election has been revoked, another election under this paragraph may be made during the specified election period.

(5) Election by surviving spouse. A plan will not fail to meet the requirements of section 401(a)(11) and this section merely because it provides that the spouse of a deceased participant may elect to have benefits paid in a form other than a survivor annuity. If the plan provides that such a spouse may make such an election, the plan administrator must furnish to this spouse, within a reasonable amount of time after a written request has been made by this spouse, a written explanation in non-technical language of the survivor annuity and any other form of payment which may be selected. This explanation must state the financial effect (in terms of dollars) of each form of payment. A plan need not respond to more than one such request.

(d) Permissible additional plan provisions—(1) In general. A plan will not fail to meet the requirements of section 401(a)(11) and this section merely because it contains one or more of the provisions described in paragraphs (d)(2) through (5) of this section.

(2) Claim for benefits. A plan may provide that as a condition precedent to the payment of benefits, a participant must express in writing to the plan administrator the form in which he prefers benefits to be paid and provide all the information reasonably necessary for the payment of such benefits. However, if a participant files a claim for benefits with the plan administrator and provides the plan administrator with all the information necessary for the payment of benefits but does not indicate a preference as to the form for the payment of benefits, benefits must be paid in the form of a qualified joint and survivor annuity if the participant has attained the qualified early retirement age unless such participant has made an effective election not to receive benefits in such form. For rules relating to provisions in a plan to the effect that a claim for benefits must be filed before the payment of benefits will commence, see §1.401(a)-14.

(3) Marriage requirements. A plan may provide that a joint and survivor annuity will be paid only if—

(i) The participant and his spouse have been married to each other throughout a period (not exceeding one year) ending on the annuity starting date.

(ii) The spouse of the participant is not entitled to receive a survivor annuity (whether or not the election described in paragraph (c)(2) of this section has been made) unless the participant and his spouse have been married to each other throughout a period (not exceeding one year) ending on the date of such participant's death.

(iii) The same spouse must satisfy the requirements of subdivisions (i) and (ii) of this subparagraph.

(iv) The participant must notify the plan administrator (as defined by section 414(g)) of his marital status within any reasonable time period specified in the plan.

(4) Effect of participant's death on an election or revocation of an election under paragraph (c). A plan may provide that any election described in paragraph (c) of this section or any revocation of any such election does not become effective or ceases to be effective if the participant dies within a period, not in excess of 2 years, beginning on the date of such election or revocation. However, a plan containing a provision described in the preceding sentence shall not satisfy the requirements of this section unless it also provides that any such election or any revocation of any such election will be given effect in any case in which—

(i) The participant dies from accidental causes,

(ii) A failure to give effect to the election or revocation would deprive the participant's survivor of a survivor annuity, and

(iii) Such election or revocation is made before such accident occurred.

(5) Benefit option approval by third party. (i) A plan may provide that an optional form of benefit elected by a participant is subject to the approval of an administrative committee or similar third party. However, the administrative committee cannot deny a participant any of the benefits required by section 401(a)(11). For example, if a plan offers a life annuity option, the committee may deny the participant a qualified joint and survivor annuity only by denying the participant access to all life annuity options without knowledge of whether the participant wishes to receive a qualified joint and survivor annuity. Alternatively, if the committee knows which form of life annuity the participant has chosen before the committee makes its decision, the committee cannot withhold its consent for payment of a qualified joint and survivor annuity event though it denies all other life annuity options. This subparagraph (5) only applies before the effective date of the amendment made to section 411(d)(6) by section 301 of the Retirement Equity Act of 1984. See section 411(d)(6) and the regulations thereunder for rules limiting employer discretion.

(ii) The provisions of this subparagraph may be illustrated by the following example:

Example. In 1980 plan M provides that the automatic form of benefit is a single sum distribution. The plan also permits, subject to approval by the administrative committee, the election of several optional forms of life annuity. On the election form that is reviewed by the administrative committee the participant indicates whether any life annuity option is preferred, without indicating the particular life annuity chosen. Thus, the committee approves or disapproves the election without knowledge of whether a qualified joint and survivor annuity will be elected. The administrative committee approval provision in Plan M does not cause the plan to fail to satisfy this section. On the other hand, if the form indicates which form of life annuity is preferred, committee disapproval of any election of the qualified joint and survivor annuity would cause the plan to fail to satisfy this section.

(e) Costs of providing qualified joint and survivor annuity form or early survivor annuity form. A plan may take into account in any equitable manner consistent with generally accepted actuarial principles applied on a consistent basis any increased costs resulting from providing qualified joint and survivor annuity and early survivor annuity benefits. A plan may give a participant the option of paying premiums only if it provides another option under which an out-of-pocket expense by the participant is not required.

(f) Application and effective date. Section 401(a)(11) and this section shall apply to a plan only with respect to plan years beginning after December 31, 1975, and shall apply only if—

(1) The participant's annuity starting date did not fall within a plan year beginning before January 1, 1976, and

(2) The participant was an active participant in the plan on or after the first day of the first plan year beginning after December 31, 1975.

For purposes of this paragraph, the term “active participant” means a participant for whom benefits are being accrued under the plan on his behalf (in the case of a defined benefit plan), the employer is obligated to contribute to or under the plan on his behalf (in the case of a defined contribution plan other than a profit-sharing plan), or the employer either is obligated to contribute to or under the plan on his behalf or would have been obligated to contribute to or under the plan on his behalf if any contribution were made to or under the plan (in the case of a profit-sharing plan).

If benefits under a plan are provided by the distribution to the participants of individual annuity contracts, the annuity starting date will be considered for purposes of this paragraph to fall within a plan year beginning before January 1, 1976, with respect to any such individual contract that was distributed to the participant during a plan year beginning before January 1, 1976, if no premiums are paid with respect to such contract during a plan year beginning after December 31, 1975. In the case of individual annuity contracts that are distributed to participants before January 1, 1978, and which contain an option to provide a qualified joint and survivor annuity, the requirements of this section will be considered to have been satisfied if, not later than January 1, 1978, holders of individual annuity contracts who are participants described in the first sentence of this paragraph are given an opportunity to have such contracts amended, so as to provide for a qualified joint and survivor annuity in the absence of a contrary election, within a period of not less than one year from the date such opportunity was offered. In no event, however, shall the preceding sentence apply with respect to benefits attributable to premiums paid after December 31, 1977.

(g) Effect of REA 1984—(1) In general. The Retirement Equity Act of 1984 (REA 1984) significantly changed the qualified joint and survivor annuity rules generally effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 1984. The new survivor annuity rules are primarily in sections 401(a)(11) and 417 as revised by REA 1984 and §§1.401(a)-20 and 417(e)-1.

(2) Regulations after REA 1984. (i) REA and the regulations thereunder to the extent inconsistent with pre-REA 1984 section 401(a)(11) and this section are controlling for years to which REA 1984 applies. See e.g., paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) of this section, relating to required provisions and certain cash-outs, respectively and (e), relating to costs of providing annuities, for rules that are inconsistent with REA 1984 and, therefore, are not applicable to REA 1984 years.

(ii) To the extent that the pre-REA 1984 law either is the same as or consistent with REA 1984 and the new regulations hereunder, the rules in this section shall continue to apply for years to which REA 1984 applies. (See, e.g., paragraph (c) (relating to how information is furnished participants and spouses) and paragraph (b) (defining a life annuity) for some of the rules that apply to REA 1984 years.) The rules in this section shall not apply for such years to the extent that they are inconsistent with REA 1984 and the regulations thereunder.

(iii) The Commissioner may provide additional guidance as to the continuing effect of the various rules in this section for years to which REA 1984 applies.

(Secs. 401(a)(11), 7805 Internal Revenue Code of 1954, (88 Stat. 935, 68A Stat. 917; (26 U.S.C. 401(a)(11), 7805)))

[T.D. 7458, 42 FR 1466, Jan. 7, 1977; 42 FR 6367, Feb. 2, 1977, as amended by T.D. 7510, 42 FR 53956, Oct. 4, 1977; T.D. 8219, 53 FR 31841, Aug. 22, 1988; 53 FR 48534, Dec. 1, 1988; T.D. 9099, 68 FR 70144, Dec. 17, 2003]

§1.401(a)-12   Mergers and consolidations of plans and transfers of plan assets.

A trust will not be qualified under section 401 unless the plan of which the trust is a part provides that in the case of any merger or consolidation with, or transfer of assets or liabilities to, another plan after September 2, 1974, each participant in the plan would receive a minimum benefit if the plan terminated immediately after the merger, consolidation, or transfer. This benefit must be equal to or greater than the benefit the participant would have been entitled to receive immediately before the merger, consolidation, or transfer if the plan in which he was a participant had then terminated. This section applies to a multiemployer plan only to the extent determined by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. For additional rules concerning mergers or consolidations of plans and transfers of plan assets, see section 414(l) and §1.414(l)-1.

[T.D. 7638, 44 FR 48195, Aug. 17, 1979]

§1.401(a)-13   Assignment or alienation of benefits.

(a) Scope of the regulations. This section applies only to plans to which section 411 applies without regard to section 411(e)(2). Thus, for example, it does not apply to a governmental plan, within the meaning of section 414(d); a church plan, within the meaning of section 414(e), for which there has not been made the election under section 410(a) to have the participation, vesting, funding, etc. requirements apply; or a plan which at no time after September 2, 1974, provided for employer contributions.

(b) No assignment or alienation—(1) General rule. Under section 401(a)(13), a trust will not be qualified unless the plan of which the trust is a part provides that benefits provided under the plan may not be anticipated, assigned (either at law or in equity), alienated or subject to attachment, garnishment, levy, execution or other legal or equitable process.

(2) Federal tax levies and judgments. A plan provision satisfying the requirements of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph shall not preclude the following:

(i) The enforcement of a Federal tax levy made pursuant to section 6331.

(ii) The collection by the United States on a judgment resulting from an unpaid tax assessment.

(c) Definition of assignment and alienation—(1) In general. For purposes of this section, the terms “assignment” and “alienation” include—

(i) Any arrangement providing for the payment to the employer of plan benefits which otherwise would be due the participant under the plan, and

(ii) Any direct or indirect arrangement (whether revocable or irrevocable) whereby a party acquires from a participant or beneficiary a right or interest enforceable against the plan in, or to, all or any part of a plan benefit payment which is, or may become, payable to the participant or beneficiary.

(2) Specific arrangements not considered an assignment or alienation. The terms “assignment” and “alienation” do not include, and paragraph (e) of this section does not apply to, the following arrangements:

(i) Any arrangement for the recovery of amounts described in section 4045(b) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 88 Stat. 1027 (relating to the recapture of certain payments),

(ii) Any arrangement for the withholding of Federal, State or local tax from plan benefit payments,

(iii) Any arrangement for the recovery by the plan of overpayments of benefits previously made to a participant,

(iv) Any arrangement for the transfer of benefit rights from the plan to another plan, or

(v) Any arrangement for the direct deposit of benefit payments to an account in a bank, savings and loan association or credit union, provided such arrangement is not part of an arrangement constituting an assignment or alienation. Thus, for example, such an arrangement could provide for the direct deposit of a participant's benefit payments to a bank account held by the participant and the participant's spouse as joint tenants.

(d) Exceptions to general rule prohibiting assignments or alienations—(1) Certain voluntary and revocable assignments or alienations. Not withstanding paragraph (b)(1) of this section, a plan may provide that once a participant or beneficiary begins receiving benefits under the plan, the participant or beneficiary may assign or alienate the right to future benefit payments provided that the provision is limited to assignments or alienations which—

(i) Are voluntary and revocable;

(ii) Do not in the aggregate exceed 10 percent of any benefit payment; and

(iii) Are neither for the purpose, nor have the effect, of defraying plan administration costs.

For purposes of this subparagraph, an attachment, garnishment, levy, execution, or other legal or equitable process is not considered a voluntary assignment or alienation.

(2) Benefits assigned or alienated as security for loans. (i) Notwithstanding paragraph (b)(1) of this section, a plan may provide for loans from the plan to a participant or a beneficiary to be secured (by whatever means) by the participant's accrued nonforfeitable benefit provided that the following conditions are met.

(ii) The plan provision providing for the loans must be limited to loans from the plan. A plan may not provide for the use of benefits accrued or to be accrued under the plan as security for a loan from a party other than the plan, regardless of whether these benefits are nonforfeitable within the meaning of section 411 and the regulations thereunder.

(iii) The loan, if made to a participant or beneficiary who is a disqualified person (within the meaning of section 4975(e)(2)), must be exempt from the tax imposed by section 4975 (relating to the tax imposed on prohibited transactions) by reason of section 4975(d)(1). If the loan is made to a participant or beneficiary who is not a disqualified person, the loan must be one which would the exempt from the tax imposed by section 4975 by reason of section 4975(d)(1) if the loan were made to a disqualified person.

(e) Special rule for certain arrangements—(1) In general. For purposes of this section and notwithstanding paragraph (c)(1) of this section, an arrangement whereby a participant or beneficiary directs the plan to pay all, or any portion, of a plan benefit payment to a third party (which includes the participant's employer) will not constitute an “assignment or alienation” if—

(i) It is revocable at any time by the participant or beneficiary; and

(ii) The third party files a written acknowledgement with the plan administrator pursuant to subparagraph (2) of this paragraph.

(2) Acknowledgement requirement for third party arrangements. In accordance with paragraph (e)(1)(ii) of this section, the third party is required to file a written acknowledgement with the plan administrator. This acknowledgement must state that the third party has no enforceable right in, or to, any plan benefit payment or portion thereof (except to the extent of payments actually received pursuant to the terms of the arrangement). A blanket written acknowledgement for all participants and beneficiaries who are covered under the arrangement with the third party is sufficient. The written acknowledgement must be filed with the plan administrator no later than the later of—

(i) August 18, 1978; or

(ii) 90 days after the arrangement is entered into.

(f) Effective date. Section 401(a)(13) is applicable as of January 1, 1976, and the plan provision required by this section must be effective as of that date. However, regardless of when the provision is adopted, it will not affect—

(1) Attachments, garnishments, levies, or other legal or equitable process permitted under the plan that are made before January 1, 1976;

(2) Assignments permitted under the plan that are irrevocable on December 31, 1975, including assignments made before January 1, 1976, as security for loans to a participant or beneficiary from a party other than the plan; and

(3) Renewals or extensions of loans described in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph, if—

(i) The principal amount of the obligation outstanding on December 31, 1975 (or, if less, the principal amount outstanding on the date of renewal or extension), is not increased;

(ii) The loan, as renewed or extended, does not bear a rate of interest in excess of the rate prevailing for similar loans at the time of the renewal or extensions; and

(iii) With respect to loans that are renewed or extended to bear a variable interest rate, the formula for determining the applicable rate is consistent with the formula for formulae prevailing for similar loans at the time of the renewal or extension. For purposes of subparagraphs (2) and (3) of this paragraph, a loan from a party other than the plan made after December 31, 1975, will be treated as a new loan. This is so even if the lender's security interest for the loan arises from an assignment of the participant's accrued nonforfeitable benefit made before that date.

(g) Special rules for qualified domestic relations orders—(1) Definition. The term “qualified domestic relations order” (QDRO) has the meaning set forth in section 414(p). For purposes of the Internal Revenue Code, a QDRO also includes any domestic relations order described in section 303(d) of the Retirement Equity Act of 1984.

(2) Plan amendments. A plan will not fail to satisfy the qualification requirements of section 401(a) or 403(a) merely because it does not include provisions with regard to a QDRO.

(3) Waiver of distribution requirements. A plan shall not be treated as failing to satisfy the requirements of sections 401 (a) and (k) and 409(d) solely because of a payment to an alternate payee pursuant to a QDRO. This is the case even if the plan provides for payments pursuant to a QDRO to an alternate payee prior to the time it may make payments to a participant. Thus, for example, a pension plan may pay an alternate payee even though the participant may not receive a distribution because he continues to be employed by the employer.

(4) Coordination with section 417—(i) Former spouse. (A) In general. Under section 414(p)(5), a QDRO may provide that a former spouse shall be treated as the current spouse of a participant for all or some purposes under sections 401(a)(11) and 417.

(B) Consent. (1) To the extent a former spouse is treated as the current spouse of the participant by reason of a QDRO, any current spouse shall not be treated as the current spouse. For example, assume H is divorced from W, but a QDRO provides that H shall be treated as W's current spouse with respect to all of W's benefits under a plan. H will be treated as the surviving spouse under the QPSA and QJSA unless W obtains H's consent to waive the QPSA or QJSA or both. The fact that W married S after W's divorce from H is disregarded. If, however, the QDRO had provided that H shall be treated as W's current spouse only with respect to benefits that accrued prior to the divorce, then H's consent would be needed by W to waive the QPSA or QJSA with respect to benefits accrued before the divorce. S's consent would be required with respect to the remainder of the benefits.

(2) In the preceding examples, if the QDRO ordered that a portion of W's benefit (either through separate accounts or a percentage of the benefit) must be distributed to H rather than ordering that H be treated as W's spouse, the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 would not apply to the part of W's benefit awarded H. Instead, the terms of the QDRO would determine how H's portion of W's accrued benefit is paid. W is required to obtain S's consent if W elects to waive either the QJSA or QPSA with respect to the remaining portion of W's benefit.

(C) Amount of the QPSA or QJSA. (1) Where, because of a QDRO, more than one individual is to be treated as the surviving spouse, a plan may provide that the total amount to be paid in the form of a QPSA or survivor portion of a QJSA may not exceed the amount that would be paid if there were only one surviving spouse. The QPSA or survivor portion of the QJSA, as the case may be, payable to each surviving spouse must be paid as an annuity based on the life of each such spouse.

(2) Where the QDRO splits the participant's accrued benefit between the participant and a former spouse (either through separate accounts or percentage of the benefit), the surviving spouse of the participant is entitled to a QPSA or QJSA based on the participant's accrued benefit as of the date of death or the annuity starting date, less the separate account or percentage that is payable to the former spouse. The calculation is made as if the separate account or percentage had been distributed to the participant prior to the relevant date.

(ii) Current spouse. Under section 414(p)(5), even if the applicable election periods (i.e., the first day of the year in which the participant attains age 35 and 90 days before the annuity starting date) have not begun, a QDRO may provide that a current spouse shall not be treated as the current spouse of the participant for all or some purposes under sections 401(a)(11) and 417. A QDRO may provide that the current spouse waives all future rights to a QPSA or QJSA.

(iii) Effects on benefits. (A) A plan is not required to provide additional vesting or benefits because of a QDRO.

(B) If an alternate payee is treated pursuant to a QDRO as having an interest in the plan benefit, including a separate account or percentage of the participant's account, then the QDRO cannot provide the alternate payee with a greater right to designate a beneficiary for the alternate payee's benefit amount than the participant's right. The QJSA or QPSA provisions of section 417 do not apply to the spouse of an alternate payee.

(C) If the former spouse who is treated as a current spouse dies prior to the participant's annuity starting date, then any actual current spouse of the participant is treated as the current spouse, except as otherwise provided in a QDRO.

(iv) Section 415 requirements. Even though a participant's benefits are awarded to an alternate payee pursuant to a QDRO, the benefits are benefits of the participant for purposes of applying the limitations of section 415 to the participant's benefits.

[T.D. 7534, 43 FR 6943, Feb. 17, 1978, as amended by T.D. 8219, 53 FR 31850, Aug. 22, 1988; 53 FR 48534, Dec. 1, 1988]

§1.401(a)-14   Commencement of benefits under qualified trusts.

(a) In general. Under section 401(a)(14), a trust to which section 411 applies (without regard to section 411(e)(2) is not qualified under section 401 unless the plan of which such trust is a part provides that the payment of benefits under the plan to the participant will begin not later than the 60th day after the close of the plan year in which the latest of the following events occurs—

(1) The attainment by the participant of age 65, or, if earlier, the normal retirement age specified under the plan,

(2) The 10th anniversary of the date on which the participant commenced participation in the plan,

(3) The termination of the participant's service with the employer, or

(4) The date specified in an election made pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section.

Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, a plan may require that a participant file a claim for benefits before payment of benefits will commence.

(b) Election of later date—(1) General rule. A plan may permit a participant to elect that the payment to him of any benefit under a plan will commence at a date later than the dates specified under paragraphs (a)(1), (2), and (3) of this section.

(2) Manner of election. A plan permitting an election under this paragraph shall require that such election must be made by submitting to the plan administrator a written statement, signed by the participant, which describes the benefit and the date on which the payment of such benefit shall commence.

(3) Restriction. An election may not be made pursuant to a plan provision permitted by this paragraph if the exercise of such election will cause benefits payable under the plan with respect to the participant in the event of his death to be more than “incidental” within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1)(i) of §1.401-1.

(c) Special early retirement rule—(1) Separation prior to early retirement age. A trust forming part of a plan which provides for the payment of an early retirement benefit is not qualified under section 401 unless, upon satisfaction of the age requirement for such early retirement benefit, a participant who—

(i) Satisfied the service requirements for such early retirement benefit, but

(ii) Separated from service (with any nonforfeitable right to an accrued benefit) before satisfying such age requirement,

is entitled to receive not less than the reduced normal retirement benefit described in paragraph (c)(2) of this section. A plan may establish reasonable conditions for payments of early retirement benefits (including for example, a requirement that a claim for benefits be made) if the conditions are equally applicable to participants who separate from service when eligible for an early retirement benefit and participants who separate from service earlier.

(2) Reduced normal retirement benefit. For purposes of this section, the reduced normal retirement benefit is the benefit to which the participant would have been entitled under the plan at normal retirement age, reduced in accordance with reasonable actuarial assumptions.

(3) Separation prior to effective date of this section. The provisions of this paragraph shall not apply in the case of a plan participant who separates from service before attainment of early retirement age and prior to the effective date of this section set forth in paragraph (e) of this section.

(4) Illustration. The provisions of this paragraph may be illustrated by the following example:

Example. The X Corporation Defined Benefit Plan provides that a normal retirement benefit will be payable to a participant upon attainment of age 65. The plan also provides that an actuarially reduced retirement benefit will be payable, upon application, to any participant who has completed 10 years of service with the X Corporation and attained age 60. When he is 55 years of age and has completed 10 years of service with X Corporation, A, a participant in the plan, leaves the service of X Corporation and does not return. The plan will not be qualified under section 401 unless, upon attainment of age 60 and application for benefits, A is entitled to receive a reduced normal retirement benefit described in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph.

(d) Retroactive payment rule. If the amount of the payment required to commence on the date determined under this section cannot be ascertained by such date, or if it is not possible to make such payment on such date because the plan administrator has been unable to locate the participant after making reasonable efforts to do so, a payment retroactive to such date may be made no later than 60 days after the earliest date on which the amount of such payment can be ascertained under the plan or the date on which the participant is located (whichever is applicable).

(e) Effective date. This section shall apply to a plan for those plan years to which section 411 of the Code applies without regard to section 411(e)(2).

(Secs. 401(a)(14), 7805, Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (88 Stat. 937, 68A Stat. 917; 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(14), 7805))

[T.D. 7436, 41 FR 42651, Sept. 28, 1976; 41 FR 44690, Oct. 12, 1976]

§1.401(a)-15   Requirement that plan benefits are not decreased on account of certain Social Security increases.

(a) In general. Under section 401(a)(15), a trust which is part of a plan to which section 411 applies (without regard to section 411(e)(2)) is not qualified under section 401 unless, under the plan of which such trust is a part:

(1) Benefit being received by participant or beneficiary. A benefit (including a death or disability benefit) being received under the plan by a participant or beneficiary (other than a participant to whom subparagraph (2)(ii) of this paragraph applies, or a beneficiary of such a participant) is not decreased by reason of any post-separation social security benefit increase effective after the later of—

(i) September 2, 1974, or

(ii) The date of first receipt of any retirement benefit, death benefit, or disability benefit under the plan by the participant or by a beneficiary of the participant (whichever receipt occurs first).

(2) Benefit to which participant separated from service has nonforfeitable right. In the case of a benefit to which a participant has a nonforfeitable right under such plan—

(i) If such participant is separated from service and does not subsequently return to service and resume participation in the plan, such benefit is not decreased by reason of any post-separation social security benefit increase effective after the later of September 2, 1974, or separation from service, or

(ii) If such participant is separated from service and subsequently returns to service and resumes participation in the plan, such benefit is not decreased by reason of any post-separation social security benefit increase effective after September 2, 1974, which occurs during separation from service and which would decrease such benefit to a level below the level of benefits to which he would have been entitled had he not returned to service after his separation.

(b) Post-separation social security benefit increase. For purposes of this section, the term “post-separation social security benefit increase” means, with respect to a participant or a beneficiary of the participant, an increase in a benefit level or wage base under title II of the Social Security Act (whether such increase is a result of an amendment of such title II or is a result of the application of the provisions of such title II) occurring after the earlier of such participant's separation from service or commencement of benefits under the plan.

(c) Illustrations. The provisions of paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section may be illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1. A plan to which section 401(a)(15) applies provides an annual benefit at the normal retirement age, 65, in the form of a stated benefit formula amount less a specified percentage of the primary insurance amount payable under title II of the Social Security Act. The plan provides no early retirement benefits. In the case of a participant who separates from service before age 65 with a nonforfeitable right to a benefit under the plan, the plan defines the primary insurance amount as the amount which the participant is entitled to receive under title II of the Social Security Act at age 65, multiplied by the ratio of the number of years of service with the employer to the number of years of service the participant would have had if he had worked for the employer until age 65. The plan does not satisfy the requirements of section 401(a)(15), because social security increases that occur after a participant's separation from service will reduce the benefit the participant will receive under the plan.
Example 2. A plan to which section 401(a)(15) applies provides an annual benefit at the normal retirement age, 65, in the form of a stated benefit formula amount less a specified percentage of the primary insurance amount payable under title II of the Social Security Act. The plan provides no early retirement benefits. In the case of a participant who separates from service before age 65 with a nonforfeitable right to a benefit under the plan, the plan defines the primary insurance amount as the amount which the participant is entitled to receive under title II of the Social Security Act at age 65 based upon the assumption that he will continue to receive until reaching age 65 compensation which would be treated as wages for purposes of the Social Security Act at the same rate as he received such compensation at the time he separated from service, but determined without regard to any post-separation social security benefit increase, multiplied by the ratio of the number of years of service with the employer to the number of years of service the participant would have had if he had worked for the employer until age 65. The plan satisfies the requirements of section 401(a)(15), because social security increases that occur after a participant's separation from service will not reduce the benefit the participant will receive under the plan.

(d) Other Federal or State laws. To the extent applicable, the rules discussed in this section will govern classifications under a plan supplementing the benefits provided by other Federal or State laws, such as the Railroad Retirement Act of 1937. See section 206(b) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-406, 88 Stat. 864).

(e) Effect on prior law. Nothing in this section shall be construed as amending or modifying the rules applicable to post-separation social security increases prior to September 2, 1974. See paragraph (e) of §1.401-3.

(f) Effective date. Section 401(a)(15) and this section shall apply to a plan only with respect to plan years to which section 411 (relating to minimum vesting standards) is applicable to the plan without regard to section 411(e)(2).

[T.D. 7434, 41 FR 42650, Sept. 28, 1976]

§1.401(a)-16   Limitations on benefits and contributions under qualified plans.

A trust will not be a qualified trust and a plan will not be a qualified plan if the plan provides for benefits or contributions which exceed the limitations of section 415. Section 415 and the regulations thereunder provide rules concerning these limitations on benefits and contributions.

[T.D. 7748, 46 FR 1696, Jan. 7, 1981]

§1.401(a)-19   Nonforfeitability in case of certain withdrawals.

(a) Application of section. Section 401(a)(19) and this section apply to a plan to which section 411(a) applies. (See section 411(e) and §1.411(a)-2 for applicability of section 411).

(b) Prohibited forfeitures—(1) General rule. A plan to which this section applies is not a qualified plan (and a trust forming a part of such plan is not a qualified trust) if, under such plan, any part of a participant's accrued benefit derived from employer contributions is forfeitable solely because a benefit derived from the participant's contributions under the plan is voluntarily withdrawn by him after he has become a 50 percent vested participant.

(2) 50 percent vested participant. For purposes of subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, a participant is a 50 percent vested participant when he has a nonforfeitable right (within the meaning of section 411 and the regulations thereunder) to at least 50 percent of his accrued benefit derived from employer contributions. Whether or not a participant is 50 percent vested shall be determined by the ratio of the participant's total nonforfeitable employer-derived accrued benefit under the plan to his total employer-derived accrued benefit under the plan.

(3) Certain forfeitures. Paragraph (b)(1) of this section does not apply in the case of a forfeiture permitted by section 411(a)(3)(D)(iii) and §1.411(a)-7(d)(3) (relating to forfeitures of certain benefits accrued before September 2, 1974).

(c) Supersession. Section 11.401(a)-(19) of the Temporary Income Tax Regulations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 is superseded by this section.

(Sec. 411 Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (88 Stat. 901; 26 U.S.C. 411))

[T.D. 7501, 42 FR 42320, Aug. 23, 1977]

§1.401(a)-20   Requirements of qualified joint and survivor annuity and qualified preretirement survivor annuity.

Q-1: What are the survivor annuity requirements added to the Code by the Retirement Equity Act of 1984 (REA 1984)?

A-1: REA 1984 replaced section 401(a)(11) with a new section 401(a)(11) and added section 417. Plans to which new section 401(a)(11) applies must comply with the requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 in order to remain qualified under sections 401(a) or 403(a). In general, these plans must provide both a qualified joint and survivor annuity (QJSA) and a qualified preretirement survivor annuity (QPSA) to remain qualified. These survivor annuity requirements are applicable to any benefit payable under a plan, including a benefit payable to a participant under a contract purchased by the plan and paid by a third party.

Q-2: Must annuity contracts purchased and distributed to a participant or spouse by a plan subject to the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 satisfy the requirements of those sections?

A-2: Yes. Rights and benefits under section 401(a)(11) or 417 may not be eliminated or reduced because the plan uses annuity contracts to provide benefits merely because (a) such a contract is held by a participant or spouse instead of a plan trustee, or (b) such contracts are distributed upon plan termination. Thus, the requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply to payments under the annuity contracts, not to the distributions of the contracts.

Q-3: What plans are subject to the survivor annuity requirements of section 401(a)(11)?

A-3: (a) Section 401(a)(11) applies to any defined benefit plan and to any defined contribution plan that is subject to the minimum funding standards of section 412. This section also applies to any participant under any other defined contribution plan unless all of the following conditions are satisfied—

(1) The plan provides that the participant's nonforfeitable accrued benefit is payable in full, upon the participant's death, to the participant's surviving spouse (unless the participant elects, with spousal consent that satisfies the requirements of section 417(a)(2), that such benefit be provided instead to a designated beneficiary);

(2) The participant does not elect the payment of benefits in the form of a life annuity; and

(3) With respect to the participant, the plan is not a transferee or an offset plan. (See Q&A 5 of this section.)

(b) A defined contribution plan not subject to the minimum funding standards of section 412 will not be treated as satisfying the requirement of paragraph (a)(1) unless both of the following conditions are satisfied—

(1) The benefit is available to the surviving spouse within a reasonable time after the participant's death. For this purpose, availability within the 90-day period following the date of death is deemed to be reasonable and the reasonableness of longer periods shall be determined based on the particular facts and circumstances. A time period longer than 90 days, however, is deemed unreasonable if it is less favorable to the surviving spouse than any time period under the plan that is applicable to other distributions. Thus, for example, the availability of a benefit to the surviving spouse would be unreasonable if the distribution was required to be made by the close of the plan year including the participant's death while distributions to employees who separate from service were required to be made within 90 days of separation.

(2) The benefit payable to the surviving spouse is adjusted for gains or losses occurring after the participant's death in accordance with plan rules governing the adjustment of account balances for other plan distributions. Thus, for example, the plan may not provide for distributions of an account balance to a surviving spouse determined as of the last day of the quarter in which the participant's death occurred with no adjustments of an account balance for gains or losses after death if the plan provides for such adjustments for a participant who separates from service within a quarter.

(c) For purposes of determining the extent to which section 401(a)(11) applies to benefits under an employee stock ownership plan (as defined in section 4975(e)(7)), the portion of a participant's accrued benefit that is subject to section 409(h) is to be treated as though such benefit were provided under a defined contribution plan not subject to section 412.

(d) The requirements set forth in section 401(a)(11) apply to other employee benefit plans that are covered by applicable provisions under title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. For purposes of applying the regulations under sections 401(a)(11) and 417, plans subject to ERISA section 205 are treated as if they were described in section 401(a). For example, to the extent that section 205 covers section 403(b) contracts and custodial accounts they are treated as section 401(a) plans. Individual retirement plans (IRAs), including IRAs to which contributions are made under simplified employee pensions described in section 408(k) and IRAs that are treated as plans subject to title I, are not subject to these requirements.

Q-4: What rules apply to a participant who elects a life annuity option under a defined contribution plan not subject to section 412?

A-4: If a participant elects at any time (irrespective of the applicable election period defined in section 417(a)(6)) a life annuity option under a defined contribution plan not subject to section 412, the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 will always thereafter apply to all of the participant's benefits under such plan unless there is a separate accounting of the account balance subject to the election. A plan may allow a participant to elect an annuity option prior to the applicable election period described in section 417(a)(6). If a participant elects an annuity option, the plan must satisfy the applicable written explanation, consent, election, and withdrawal rules of section 417, including waiver of the QJSA within 90 days of the annuity starting date. If a participant selecting such an option dies, the surviving spouse must be able to receive the QPSA benefit described in section 417(c)(2) which is a life annuity, the actuarial equivalent of which is not less than 50 percent of the nonforfeitable account balance (adjusted for loans as described in Q&A 24(d) of this section). The remaining account balance may be paid to a designated nonspouse beneficiary.

Q-5: How do sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply to transferee plans which are defined contribution plans not subject to section 412?

A-5: (a) Transferee plans. Although the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 generally do not apply to defined contribution plans not subject to section 412, such plans are subject to the survivor annuity requirements to the extent that they are transferee plans with respect to any participant. A defined contribution plan is a transferee plan with respect to any participant if the plan is a direct or indirect transferee of such participant's benefits held on or after January 1, 1985, by:

(1) A defined benefit plan,

(2) A defined contribution plan subject to section 412 or

(3) A defined contribution plan that is subject to the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 with respect to that participant.

If through a merger, spinoff, or other transaction having the effect of a transfer, benefits subject to the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 are held under a plan that is not otherwise subject to such requirements, such benefits will be subject to the survivor annuity requirements even though they are held under such plan. Even if a plan satisfies the survivor annuity requirements, other rules apply to these transactions. See, e.g., section 411(d)(6) and the regulations thereunder. A transfer made before January 1, 1985, and any rollover contribution made at any time, are not transactions that subject the transferee plan to the survivor annuity requirements with respect to a participant. If a plan is a transferee plan with respect to a participant, the survivor annuity requirements do not apply with respect to other plan participants solely because of the transfer. Any plan that would not otherwise be subject to the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 whose benefits are used to offset benefits in a plan subject to such requirements is subject to the survivor annuity requirements with respect to those participants whose benefits are offset. Thus, if a stock bonus or profit-sharing plan offsets benefits under a defined benefit plan, such a plan is subject to the survivor annuity requirements.

(b) Benefits covered. The survivor annuity requirements apply to all accrued benefits held for a participant with respect to whom the plan is a transferee plan unless there is an acceptable separate accounting between the transferred benefits and all other benefits under the plan. A separate accounting is not acceptable unless gains, losses, withdrawals, contributions, forfeitures, and other credits or charges are allocated on a reasonable and consistent basis between the accrued benefits subject to the survivor annuity requirements and other benefits. If there is an acceptable separate accounting between transferred benefits and any other benefits under the plan, only the transferred benefits are subject to the survivor annuity requirements.

Q-6: Is a frozen or terminated plan required to satisfy the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417?

A-6: In general, benefits provided under a plan that is subject to the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 must be provided in accordance with those requirements even if the plan is frozen or terminated. However, any plan that has a termination date prior to September 17, 1985, and that distributed all remaining assets as soon as administratively feasible after the termination date, is not subject to the survivor annuity requirements. The date of termination is determined under section 411(d)(3) and §1.411(d)-2(c).

Q-7: If the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is administering a plan, are benefits payable in the form of a QPSA or QJSA-

A-7: Yes, the PBGC will pay benefits in such forms.

Q-8: How do the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply to participants?

A-8: (a) If a participant dies before the annuity starting date with vested benefits attributable to employer or employee contributions (or both), benefits must be paid to the surviving spouse in the form of a QPSA. If a participant survives until the annuity starting date with vested benefits attributable to employer or employee contributions (or both), benefits must be provided to the participant in the form of a QJSA.

(b) A participant may waive the QPSA or the QJSA (or both) if the applicable notice, election, and spousal consent requirements of section 417 are satisfied.

(c) Benefits are not required to be paid in the form of a QPSA or QJSA if at the time of death or distribution the participant was vested only in employee contributions and such death occurred, or distribution commenced, before October 22, 1986.

(d) Certain mandatory distributions. A distribution may occur without satisfying the spousal consent requirements of section 417 (a) and (e) if the present value of the nonforfeitable benefit does not exceed the cash-out limit in effect under§1.411(a)-11(c)(3)(ii). See §1.417(e)-1.

Q-9: May separate portions of a participant's accrued benefit be subject to QPSA and QJSA requirements at any particular point in time?

A-9: (a) Dual QPSA and QJSA rights. One portion of a participant's benefit may be subject to the QPSA and another portion to the QJSA requirements at the same time. For example, in order for a money purchase pension plan to distribute any portion of a married participant's benefit to the participant, the plan must distribute such portion in the form of a QJSA (unless the plan satisfies the applicable consent requirements of section 417 (a) and (e) with respect to such portion of the participant's benefit). This rule applies even if the distribution is merely an in-service distribution attributable to voluntary employee contributions and regardless of whether the participant has attained the normal retirement age under the plan. The QJSA requirements apply to such a distribution because the annuity starting date has occurred with respect to this portion of the participant's benefit. In the event of a participant's death following the commencement of a distribution in the form of a QJSA, the remaining payments must be made to the surviving spouse under the QJSA. In addition, the plan must satisfy the QPSA requirements with respect to any portion of the participant's benefits for which the annuity starting date had not yet occurred.

(b) Example. Assume that participant A has a $100,000 account balance in a money purchase pension plan. A makes an in-service withdrawal of $20,000 attributable to voluntary employee contributions. The QJSA requirements apply to A's withdrawal of the $20,000. Accordingly, unless the QJSA form is properly waived such amount must be distributed in the form of a QJSA. A's remaining account balance ($80,000) remains subject to the QPSA requirements because the annuity starting date has not occurred with respect to the $80,000. (If A survives until the annuity starting date, the $80,000 would be subject to the QJSA requirements.) If A died on the day following the annuity starting date for the withdrawal, A's spouse would be entitled to a QPSA with a value equal to at least $40,000 with respect to the $80,000 account balance, in addition to any survivor benefit without respect to the $20,000. If the $20,000 payment to A had been the first payment of an annuity purchased with the entire $100,000 account balance rather than an in-service distribution, then the QJSA requirements would apply to the entire account balance at the time of the annuity starting date. In such event, the plan would have no obligation to provide A's spouse with a QPSA benefit upon A's death. Of course, A's spouse would receive the QJSA benefit (if the QJSA had not been waived) based on the full $100,000.

Q-10: What is the relevance of the annuity starting date with respect to the survivor benefit requirements?

A-10: (a) Relevance. The annuity starting date is relevant to whether benefits are payable as either a QJSA or QPSA, or other selected optional form of benefit. If a participant is alive on the annuity starting date, the benefits must be payable as a QJSA. If the participant is not alive on the annuity starting date, the surviving spouse must receive a QPSA. The annuity starting date is also used to determine when a spouse may consent to and a participant may waive a QJSA. A waiver is only effective if it is made 90 days before the annuity starting date. Thus, a deferred annuity cannot be selected and a QJSA waived until 90 days before payments commence under the deferred annuity. In some cases, the annuity starting date will have occurred with respect to a portion of the participant's accrued benefit and will not have occurred with respect to the remaining portion. (See Q&A-9.)

(b) Annuity starting date—(1) General rule. For purposes of sections 401(a)(11), 411(a)(11) and 417, the annuity starting date is the first day of the first period for which an amount is paid as an annuity or any other form.

(2) Annuity payments. The annuity starting date is the first date for which an amount is paid, not the actual date of payment. Thus, if participant A is to receive annuity payments as of the first day of the first month after retirement but does not receive any payments until three months later, the annuity starting date is the first day of the first month. For example, if an annuity is to commence on January 1, January 1 is the annuity starting date even though the payment for January is not actually made until a later date. In the case of a deferred annuity, the annuity starting date is the date for which the annuity payments are to commence, not the date that the deferred annuity is elected or the date the deferred annuity contract is distributed.

(3) Administrative delay. A payment shall not be considered to occur after the annuity starting date merely because actual payment is reasonably delayed for calculation of the benefit amount if all payments are actually made.

(4) Forfeitures on death. Prior to the annuity starting date, section 411(a)(3)(A) allows a plan to provide for a forfeiture of a participant's benefit, except in the case of a QPSA or a spousal benefit described in section 401(a)(11)(B)(iii)(I). Once the annuity starting date has occurred, even if actual payment has not yet been made, a plan must pay the benefit in the distribution form elected.

(5) Surviving spouses, alternate payees, etc. The definition of “annuity starting date” for surviving spouses, other beneficiaries and alternate payees under section 414(p) is the same as it is for participants.

(c) Disability auxiliary benefit—(1) General rule. The annuity starting date for a disability benefit is the first day of the first period for which the benefit becomes payable unless the disability benefit is an auxiliary benefit. The payment of any auxiliary disability benefits is disregarded in determining the annuity starting date. A disability benefit is an auxiliary benefit if upon attainment of early or normal retirement age, a participant receives a benefit that satisfies the accrual and vesting rules of section 411 without taking into account the disability benefit payments up to that date.

Example. (i) Assume that participant A at age 45 is entitled to a vested accrued benefit of $100 per month commencing at age 65 in the form of a joint and survivor annuity under Plan X. If prior to age 65 A receives a disability benefit under Plan X and the payment of such benefit does not reduce the amount of A's retirement benefit of $100 per month commencing at age 65, any disability benefit payments made to A between ages 45 and 65 are auxiliary benefits. Thus, A's annuity starting date does not occur until A attains age 65. A's surviving spouse B would be entitled to receive a QPSA if A died before age 65. B would be entitled to receive the survivor portion of a QJSA (unless waived) if A died after age 65. The QPSA payable to B upon A's death prior to age 65 would be computed by reference to the QJSA that would have been payable to A and B had A survived to age 65.

(ii) If in the above example A's benefit payable at age 65 is reduced to $99 per month because a disability benefit is provided to A prior to age 65, the disability benefit would not be an auxiliary benefit. The benefit of $99 per month payable to A at age 65 would not, without taking into account the disability benefit payments to A prior to age 65, satisfy the minimum vesting and accrual rules of section 411. Accordingly, the first day of the first period for which the disability payments are to be made to A would constitute A's annuity starting date, and any benefit paid to A would be required to be paid in the form of a QJSA (unless waived by A with the consent of B).

(d) Other rules—(1) Suspension of benefits. If benefit payments are suspended after the annuity starting date pursuant to a suspension of benefits described in section 411(a)(3)(B) after an employee separates from service, the recommencement of benefit payments after the suspension is not treated as a new annuity starting date unless the plan provides otherwise. In such case, the plan administrator is not required to provide new notices nor to obtain new waivers for the recommenced distributions if the form of distribution is the same as the form that was appropriately selected prior to the suspension. If benefits are suspended for an employee who continues in service without a separation and who never receives payments, the commencement of payments after the period of suspension is treated as the annuity starting date unless the plan provides otherwise.

(2) Additional accruals. In the case of an annuity starting date that occurs on or after normal retirement age, such date applies to any additional accruals after the annuity starting date, unless the plan provides otherwise. For example, if a participant who continues to accrue benefits elects to have benefits paid in an optional form at normal retirement age, the additional accruals must be paid in the optional form selected unless the plan provides otherwise. In the case of an annuity starting date that occurs prior to normal retirement age, such date does not apply to any additional accruals after such date.

Q-11: Do the survivor annuity requirements apply to benefits derived from both employer and employee contributions?

A-11: Yes. The survivor annuity benefit requirements apply to benefits derived from both employer and employee contributions. Benefits are not required to be paid in the form of a QPSA or a QJSA if the participant was vested only in employee contributions at the time of death or distribution and such death or distribution occurred before October 22, 1986. All benefits provided under a plan, including benefits attributable to rollover contributions, are subject to the survivor annuity requirements.

Q-12: To what benefits do the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply?

A-12: (a) Defined benefit plans. Under a defined benefit plan, sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply only to benefits in which a participant was vested immediately prior to death. They do not apply to benefits to which a participant's beneficiary becomes entitled by reason of death or to the proceeds of a life insurance contract to the extent such proceeds exceed the present value of the participant's nonforfeitable benefits that existed immediately prior to death.

(b) Defined contribution plans. Sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply to all nonforfeitable benefits which are payable under a defined contribution plan, whether nonforfeitable before or upon death, including the proceeds of insurance contracts.

Q-13: Does the rule of section 411(a)(3)(A) which permits forfeitures on account of death apply to a QPSA or the spousal benefit described in section 401(a)(11)(B)(iii)?

A-13: No. Section 411(a)(3)(A) permits forfeiture on account of death prior to the time all the events fixing payment occur. However, this provision does not operate to deprive a surviving spouse of a QPSA or the spousal benefit described in section 401(a)(11)(B)(iii). Therefore, sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply to benefits that were nonforfeitable immediately prior to death (determined without regard to section 411(a)(3)(A)). Thus, in the case of the death of a married participant in a defined contribution plan not subject to section 412 which provides that, upon a participant's death, the entire nonforfeitable accrued benefit is payable to the participant's spouse, the nonforfeitable benefit is determined without regard to the provisions of section 411(a)(3)(A).

Q-14: Do sections 411(a)(11), 401(a)(11) and 417 apply to accumulated deductible employee contributions, as defined in section 72(o)(5)(B) (Accumulated DECs)?

A-14: (a) Employee consent, section 411. The requirements of section 411(a)(11) apply to Accumulated DECs. Thus, Accumulated DECs may not be distributed without participant consent unless the applicable exemptions apply.

(b) Survior requirements. Accumulated DECs are treated as though held under a separate defined contribution plan that is not subject to section 412. Thus, section 401(a)(11) applies to Accumulated DECs only as provided in section 401(a)(11)(B)(iii). All Accumulated DECs are treated in this manner, including Accumulated DECs that are the only benefit held under a plan and Accumulated DECs that are part of a defined benefit or a defined contribution plan.

(c) Effective date. Sections 401(a)(11) and 411(a)(11) shall not apply to distributions of accumulated DECs until the first plan year beginning after December 31, 1988.

Q-15: How do the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply to a defined benefit plan that includes an accrued benefit based upon a contribution to a separate account or mandatory employee contributions?

A-15: (a) 414(k) plans. In the case of a section 414(k) plan that includes both a defined benefit plan and a separate account, the rules of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply separately to the defined benefit portion and the separate account portion of the plan. The separate account portion is subject to the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 and the special QPSA rules in section 417(c)(2).

(b) Employee contributions—(1) Voluntary. In the case of voluntary employee contributions to a defined benefit plan, the plan must maintain a separate account with respect to the voluntary employee contributions. This separate account is subject to the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 and the special QPSA rules in section 417(c)(2).

(2) Mandatory. In the case of a defined benefit plan providing for mandatory employee contributions, the entire accrued benefit is subject to the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 as a defined benefit plan.

(c) Accumulated DECs. See Q&A 14 of this section for the rule applicable to accumulated deductible employee contributions.

Q-16: Can a plan provide a benefit form more valuable than the QJSA and if a plan offers more than one annuity option satisfying the requirements of a QJSA, is spousal consent required when the participant chooses among the various forms?

A-16: In the case of an unmarried participant, the QJSA may be less valuable than other optional forms of benefit payable under the plan. In the case of a married participant, the QJSA must be at least as valuable as any other optional form of benefit payable under the plan at the same time. Thus, if a plan has two joint and survivor annuities that would satisfy the requirements for a QJSA, but one has a greater actuarial value than the other, the more valuable joint and survivor annuity is the QJSA. If there are two or more actuarially equivalent joint and survivor annuities that satisfy the requirements for a QJSA, the plan must designate which one is the QJSA and, therefore, the automatic form of benefit payment. A plan, however, may allow a participant to elect out of such a QJSA, without spousal consent, in favor of another actuarially equivalent joint and survivor annuity that satisfies the QJSA conditions. Such an election is not subject to the requirement that it be made within the 90-day period before the annuity starting date. For example, if a plan designates a joint and 100% survivor annuity as the QJSA and also offers an actuarially equivalent joint and 50% survivor annuity that would satisfy the requirements of a QJSA, the participant may elect the joint and 50% survivor annuity without spousal consent. The participant, however, does need spousal consent to elect a joint and survivor annuity that was not actuarially equivalent to the automatic QJSA. A plan does not fail to satisfy the requirements of this Q&A-16 merely because the amount payable under an optional form of benefit that is subject to the minimum present value requirement of section 417(e)(3) is calculated using the applicable interest rate (and, for periods when required, the applicable mortality table) under section 417(e)(3).

Q-17: When must distributions to a participant under a QJSA commence?

A-17: (a) QJSA benefits upon earliest retirement. A plan must permit a participant to receive a distribution in the form of a QJSA when the participant attains the earliest retirement age under the plan. Written consent of the participant is required. However, the consent of the participant's spouse is not required. Any payment not in the form of a QJSA is subject to spousal consent. For example, if the participant separates from service under a plan that allows for distributions on separation from service or if a plan allows for in-service distributions, the participant may receive a QJSA without spousal consent in such events. Payments in any other form, including a single sum, would require waiver of the QJSA by the participant's spouse.

(b) Earliest retirement age. (1) This paragraph (b) defines the term “earliest retirement age” for purposes of sections 401(a)(11), 411(a)(11) and 417.

(2) In the case of a plan that provides for voluntary distributions that commence upon the participant's separation from service, earliest retirement age is the earliest age at which a participant could separate from service and receive a distribution. Death of a participant is treated as a separation from service.

(3) In the case of a plan that provides for in-service distributions, earliest retirement age is the earliest age at which such distributions may be made.

(4) In the case of a plan not described in subparagraph (2) or (3) of this paragraph, the rule below applies. Earliest retirement age is the early retirement age determined under the plan, or if no early retirement age, the normal retirement age determined under the plan. If the participant dies or separates from service before such age, then only the participant's actual years of service at the time of the participant's separation from service or death are taken into account. Thus, in the case of a plan under which benefits are not payable until the attainment of age 65, or upon attainment of age 55 and completion of 10 years of service, the earliest retirement age of a participant who died or separated from service with 8 years of service is when the participant would have attained age 65 (if the participant had survived). On the other hand, if a participant died or separated from service after 10 years of service, the earliest retirement age is when the participant would have attained age 55 (if the participant had survived).

Q-18: What is a qualified preretirement survivor annuity (QPSA) in a defined benefit plan?

A-18: A QPSA is an immediate annuity for the life of the surviving spouse of a participant. Each payment under a QPSA under a defined benefit plan is not to be less than the payment that would have been made to the survivor under the QJSA payable under the plan if (a) in the case of a participant who dies after attaining the earliest retirement age under the plan, the participant had retired with a QJSA on the day before the participant's death, and (b) in the case of a participant who dies on or before the participant's earliest retirement age under the plan, the participant had separated from service at the earlier of the actual time of separation or death, survived until the earliest retirement age, retired at that time with a QJSA, and died on the day thereafter. If the participant elects before the annuity starting date a form of joint and survivor annuity that satisfies the requirements for a QJSA and dies before the annuity starting date, the elected form is treated as the QJSA and the QPSA must be based on such form.

Q-19: What rules apply in determining the amount and forfeitability of a QPSA?

A-19: The QPSA is calculated as of the earliest retirement age if the participant dies before such time, or at death if the participant dies after the earliest retirement age. The plan must make reasonable actuarial adjustments to reflect a payment earlier or later than the earliest retirement age. A defined benefit plan may provide that the QPSA is forfeited if the spouse does not survive until the date prescribed under the plan for commencement of the QPSA (i.e., the earliest retirement age). Similarly, if the spouse survives past the participant's earliest retirement age (or other earlier QPSA distribution date under the plan) and elects after the death of the participant to defer the commencement of the QPSA to a later date, a defined benefit plan may provide for a forfeiture of the QPSA benefit if the spouse does not survive until the deferred commencement date. The account balance in a defined contribution plan may not be forfeited even though the spouse does not survive until the time the account balance is used to purchase the QPSA. See Q&A-17 of this section for the meaning of earliest retirement age.

Q-20: What preretirement survivor annuity benefits must a defined contibution plan subject to the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 provide?

A-20: A defined contribution plan that is subject to the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 must provide a preretirement survivor annuity with a value which is not less than 50 percent of the nonforfeitable account balance of the participant as of the date of the participant's death. If a contributory defined contribution plan has a forfeiture provision permitted by section 411(a)(3)(A), not more than a proportional percent of the account balance attributable to contributions that may not be forfeited at death (for example, employee and section 401(k) contributions) may be used to satisfy the QPSA benefit. Thus, for example, if the QPSA benefit is to be provided from 50 percent of the account balance, not more than 50 percent of the nonforfeitable contributions may be used for the QPSA.

Q-21: May a defined benefit plan charge the participant for the cost of the QPSA benefit?

A-21: Prior to the later of the time the plan allows the participant to waive the QPSA or provides notice of the ability to waive the QPSA, a defined benefit plan may not charge the participant for the cost of the QPSA by reducing the participant's plan benefits or by any other method. The preceding sentence does not apply to any charges prior to the first plan year beginning after December 31, 1988. Once the participant is given the opportunity to waive the QPSA or the notice of the QPSA is later, the plan may charge the participant for the cost of the QPSA. A charge for the QPSA that reasonably reflects the cost of providing the QPSA will not fail to satisfy section 411 even if it reduces the accrued benefit.

Q-22: When must distributions to a surviving spouse under a QPSA commence?

A-22: (a) In the case of a defined benefit plan, the plan must permit the surviving spouse to direct the commencement of payments under QPSA no later than the month in which the participant would have attained the earliest retirement age. However, a plan may permit the commencement of payments at an earlier date.

(b) In the case of a defined contribution plan, the plan must permit the surviving spouse to direct the commencement of payments under the QPSA within a reasonable time after the participant's death.

Q-23: Must a defined benefit plan obtain the consent of a participant and the participant's spouse to commence payments in the form of a QJSA in order to avoid violating section 415 or 411(b)?

A-23: No. A defined benefit plan may commence distributions in the form of a QJSA without the consent of the participant and spouse, even if consent would otherwise be required (see §1.417(e)-1(b)), to the extent necessary to avoid a violation of section 415 or 411(b). For example, assume a plan has a normal retirement age of 55. A is a married participant, age 55, and has accrued a $75,000 joint and 100 percent survivor annuity that satisfies section 415. If an actuarial increase would be required under section 411 because of deferred commencement and the increase would cause the benefit to exceed the applicable limit under section 415, the plan may commence payment of a QJSA at age 55 without the participant's election or consent and without the spouse's concent.

Q-24: What are the rules under sections 401(a)(11) and 417 applicable to plan loans?

A-24: (a) Consent rules. (1) A plan does not satisfy the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 unless the plan provides that, at the time the participant's accrued benefit is used as security for a loan, spousal consent to such use is obtained. Consent is required even if the accrued benefit is not the primary security for the loan. No spousal consent is necessary if, at the time the loan is secured, no consent would be required for a distribution under section 417(a)(2)(B). Spousal consent is not required if the plan or the participant is not subject to section 401(a)(11) at the time the accrued benefit is used as security, or if the total accrued benefit subject to the security is not in excess of the cash-out limit in effect under §1.411(a)-11(c)(3)(ii). The spousal consent must be obtained no earlier than the beginning of the 90-day period that ends on the date on which the loan is to be so secured. The consent is subject to the requirements of section 417(a)(2). Therefore, the consent must be in writing, must acknowledge the effect of the loan and must be witnessed by a plan representative or a notary public.

(2) Participant consent is deemed obtained at the time the participant agrees to use his accrued benefit as security for a loan for purposes of satisfying the requirements for participant consent under sections 401(a)(11), 411(a)(11) and 417.

(b) Change in status. If spousal consent is obtained or is not required under paragraph (a) of this Q&A 24 at the time the benefits are used as security, spousal consent is not required at the time of any setoff of the loan against the accrued benefit resulting from a default, even if the participant is married to a different spouse at the time of the setoff. Similarly, in the case of a participant who secured a loan while unmarried, no consent is required at the time of a setoff of the loan against the accrued benefit even if the participant is married at the time of the setoff.

(c) Renegotiation. For purposes of obtaining any required spousal consent, any renegotiation, extension, renewal, or other revision of a loan shall be treated as a new loan made on the date of the renegotiation, extension, renewal, or other revision.

(d) Effect on benefits. For purposes of determining the amount of a QPSA or QJSA, the accrued benefit of a participant shall be reduced by any security interest held by the plan by reason of a loan outstanding to the participant at the time of death or payment, if the security interest is treated as payment in satisfaction of the loan under the plan. A plan may offset any loan outstanding at the participant's death which is secured by the participant's account balance against the spousal benefit required to be paid under section 401(a)(11)(B)(iii).

(e) Effective date. Loans made prior to August 19, 1985, are deemed to satisfy the consent requirements of paragraph (a) of this Q&A 24.

Q-25: How do the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply with respect to participants who are not married or to surviving spouses and participants who have a change in marital status?

A-25: (a) Unmarried participant rule. Plans subject to the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 must satisfy those requirements applicable to QJSAs with respect to participants who are not married. A QJSA for a participant who is not married is an annuity for the life of the participant. Thus, an unmarried participant must be provided the written explanation described in section 417(a)(3)(A) and a single life annuity unless another form of benefit is elected by the participant. An unmarried participant is deemed to have waived the QPSA requirements. This deemed waiver is null and void if the participant later marries.

(b) Marital status change—(1) Remarriage. If a participant is married on the date of death, payments to a surviving spouse under a QPSA or QJSA must continue even if the surviving spouse remarries.

(2) One-year rule. (i) A plan is not required to treat a participant as married unless the participant and the participant's spouse have been married throughout the one-year period ending on the earlier of (A) the participant's annuity starting date or (B) the date of the participant's death. Nevertheless, for purposes of the preceding sentence, a participant and the participant's spouse must be treated as married throughout the one-year period ending on the participant's annuity starting date even though they are married to each other for less than one year before the annuity starting date if they remain married to each other for at least one year. See section 417(d)(2). If a plan adopts the one-year rule provided in section 417(d), the plan must treat the participant and spouse who are married on the annuity starting date as married and must provide benefits which are to commence on the annuity starting date in the form of a QJSA unless the participant (with spousal consent) elects another form of benefit. The plan is not required to provide the participant with a new or retroactive election or the spouse with a new consent when the one-year period is satisfied. If the participant and the spouse do not remain married for at least one year, the plan may treat the participant as having not been married on the annuity starting date. In such event, the plan may provide that the spouse loses any survivor benefit right; further, no retroactive correction of the amount paid the participant is required.

(ii) Example. Plan X provides that participants who are married on the annuity starting date for less than one year are treated as unmarried participants. Plan X provides benefits in the form of a QJSA or an optional single sum distribution. Participant A was married 6 months prior to the annuity starting date. Plan X must treat A as married and must commence payments to A in the form of a QJSA unless another form of benefit is elected by A with spousal consent. If a QJSA is paid and A is divorced from his spouse S, within the first year of the marriage, S will no longer have any survivor rights under the annuity (unless a QDRO provides otherwise). If A continues to be married to S, and A dies within the one-year period, Plan X may treat A as unmarried and forfeit the OJSA benefit payable to S.

(3) Divorce. If a participant divorces his spouse prior to the annuity starting date, any elections made while the participant was married to his former spouse remain valid, unless otherwise provided in a QDRO, or unless the participant changes them or is remarried. If a participant dies after the annuity starting date, the spouse to whom the participant was married on the annuity starting date is entitled to the QJSA protection under the plan. The spouse is entitled to this protection (unless waived and consented to by such spouse) even if the participant and spouse are not married on the date of the participant's death, except as provided in a QDRO.

Q-26: In the case of a defined contribution plan not subject to section 412, does the requirement that a participant's nonforfeitable accrued benefit be payable in full to a surviving spouse apply to a spouse who has been married to the participant for less than one year?

A-26: A plan may provide that a spouse who has not been married to a participant throughout the one-year period ending on the earlier of (a) the participant's annuity starting date or (b) the date of the participant's death is not treated as a surviving spouse and is not required to receive the participant's account balance. The special exception described in section 417(d)(2) and Q&A 25 of this section does not apply.

Q-27: Are there circumstances when spousal consent to a participant's election to waive the QJSA or the QPSA is not required?

A-27: Yes. If it is established to the satisfaction of a plan representative that there is no spouse or that the spouse cannot be located, spousal consent to waive the QJSA or the QPSA is not required. If the spouse is legally incompetnent to give consent, the spouse's legal guardian, even if the guardian is the participant, may give consent. Also, if the participant is legally separated or the participant has been abandoned (within the meaning of local law) and the participant has a court order to such effect, spousal consent is not required unless a QDRO provides otherwise. Similar rules apply to a plan subject to the requirements of section 401(a)(11)(B)(iii)(I).

Q-28: Does consent contained in an antenuptial agreement or similar contract entered into prior to marriage satisfy the consent requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417?

A-28: No. An agreement entered into prior to marriage does not satisfy the applicable consent requirements, even if the agreement is executed within the applicable election period.

Q-29: If a participant's spouse consents under section 417(a)(2)(A) to the participant's waiver of a survivor annuity form of benefit, is a subsequent spouse of the same participant bound by the consent?

A-29: No. A consent under section 417(a)(2)(A) by one spouse is binding only with respect to the consenting spouse. See Q&A-24 of this section for an exception in the case of plan benefits securing plan loans.

Q-30: Does the spousal consent requirement of section 417(a)(2)(A) require that a spouse's consent be revocable?

A-30: No. A plan may preclude a spouse from revoking consent once it has been given. Alternatively, a plan may also permit a spouse to revoke a consent after it has been given, and thereby to render ineffective the participant's prior election not to receive a QPSA or QJSA. A participant must always be allowed to change his election during the applicable election period. Spousal consent is required in such cases to the extent provided in Q&A 31, except that spousal consent is never required for a QJSA or QPSA.

Q-31: What rules govern a participant's waiver of a QPSA or QJSA under section 417(a)(2)?

A-31: (a) Specific beneficiary. Both the participant's waivers of a QPSA and QJSA and the spouse's consents thereto must state the specific nonspouse beneficiary (including any class of beneficiaries or any contingent beneficiaries) who will receive the benefit. Thus, for example, if spouse B consents to participant A's election to waive a QPSA, and to have any benefits payable upon A's death before the annuity starting date paid to A's children, A may not subsequently change beneficiaries without the consent of B (except if the change is back to a QPSA). If the designated beneficiary is a trust, A's spouse need only consent to the designation of the trust and need not consent to the designation of trust beneficiaries or any changes of trust beneficiaries.

(b) Optional form of benefit—(1) QJSA. Both the participant's waiver of a QJSA (and any required spouse's consent thereto) must specify the particular optional form of benefit. The participant who has waived a QJSA with the spouse's consent in favor of another form of benefit may not subsequently change the optional form of benefit without obtaining the spouse's consent (except back to a QJSA). Of course, the participant may change the form of benefit if the plan so provides after the spouse's death or a divorce (other than as provided in a QDRO). A participant's waiver of a QJSA (and any required spouse's consent thereto) made prior to the first plan year beginning after December 31, 1986, is not required to specify the optional form of benefit.

(2) QPSA. A participant's waiver of a QPSA and the spouse's consent thereto are not required to specify the optional form of any preretirement benefit. Thus, a participant who waives the QPSA with spousal consent may subsequently change the form of the preretirement benefit, but not the nonspouse beneficiary, without obtaining the spouse's consent.

(3) Change in form. After the participant's death, a beneficiary may change the optional form of survivor benefit as permitted by the plan.

(c) General consent. In lieu of satisfying paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Q&A 31, a plan may permit a spouse to execute a general consent that satisfies the requirements of this paragraph (c). A general consent permits the participant to waive a QPSA or QJSA, and change the designated beneficary or the optional form of benefit payment without any requirement of further consent by such spouse. No general consent is valid unless the general consent acknowledges that the spouse has the right to limit consent to a specific beneficiary and a specific optional form of benefit, where applicable, and that the spouse voluntarily elects to relinquish both of such rights. Notwithstanding the previous sentence, a spouse may execute a general consent that is limited to certain beneficiaries or forms of benefit payment. In such case, paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Q&A 31 shall apply to the extent that the limited general consent is not applicable and this paragraph (c) shall apply to the extent that the limited general consent is applicable. A general consent, including a limited general consent, is not effective unless it is made during the applicable election period. A general consent executed prior to October 22, 1986 does not have to satisfy the specificity requirements of this Q&A 31.

Q-32: What rules govern a participant's waiver of the spousal benefit under section 401(a)(11)(B)?

A-32: (a) Application. In the case of a defined contribution plan that is not subject to the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417, a participant may waive the spousal benefit of section 401(a)(11)(B)(iii) if the conditions of paragraph (b) are satisfied. In general, a spousal benefit is the nonforfeitable account balance on the participant's date of death.

(b) Conditions. In general, the same conditions, other than the age 35 requirement, that apply to the participant's waiver of a QPSA and the spouse's consent thereto apply to the participant's waiver of the spousal benefit and the spouse's consent thereto. See Q&A-31. Thus, the participant's waiver of the spousal benefit must state the specific nonspouse beneficiary who will receive such benefit. The waiver is not required to specify the optional form of benefit. The participant may change the optional form of benefit, but not the nonspouse beneficiary, without obtaining the spouse's consent.

Q-33: When and in what manner, may a participant waive a spousal benefit or a QPSA?

A-33: (a) Plans not subject to section 401(a)(11). A participant in a plan that is not subject to the survivor annuity requirements of section 401(a)(11) (because of subparagraph (B)(iii) thereof) may waive the spousal benefit at any time, provided that no such waiver shall be effective unless the spouse has consented to the waiver. The spouse may consent to a waiver of the spousal benefit at any time, even prior to the participant's attaining age 35. No spousal consent is required for a payment to the participant or the use of the accrued benefit as security for a plan loan to the participant.

(b) Plans subject to section 401(a)(11). A participant in a plan subject to the survivor annuity requirements of section 401(a)(11) generally may waive the QPSA benefit (with spousal consent) only on or after the first day of the plan year in which the participant attains age 35. However, a plan may provide for an earlier waiver (with spousal consent), provided that a written explanation of the QPSA is given to the participant and such waiver becomes invalid upon the beginning of the plan year in which the participant's 35th birthday occurs. If there is no new waiver after such date, the participant's spouse must receive the QPSA benefit upon the participant's death.

Q-34: Must the written explanations required by section 417(a)(3) be provided to nonvested participants?

A-34: Such written explantions must be provided to nonvested participants who are employed by an employer maintaining the plan. Thus, they are not required to be provided to those nonvested participants who are no longer employed by such an employer.

Q-35: When must a plan provide the written explanation, required by section 417(a)(3)(B), of the QPSA to a participant?

A-35: (a) General rule. A plan must provide the written explanation of the QPSA to a participant within the applicable period. Except as provided in paragraph (b), the applicable period means, with respect to a participant, whichever of the following periods ends last:

(1) The period beginning with the first day of the plan year in which the participant attains age 32 and ending with the close of the plan year preceding the plan year in which the participant attains age 35.

(2) A reasonable period ending after the individual becomes a participant.

(3) A reasonable period ending after the QPSA is no longer fully subsidized.

(4) A reasonable period ending after section 401(a)(11) first applies to the participant. Section 401(a)(11) would first apply when a benefit is transferred from a plan not subject to the survivor annuity requirements of section 401(a)(11) to a plan subject to such section or at the time of an election of an annuity under a defined contribution plan described in section 401(a)(11)(B)(iii).

(b) Pre-35 separations. In the case of a participant who separates from service before attaining age 35, the applicable period means the period beginning one year before the separation from service and ending one year after such separation. If such a participant returns to service, the plan must also comply with pragraph (a).

(c) Reasonable period. For purposes of applying paragraph (a), a reasonable period ending after the enumerated events described in paragraphs (a) (2), (3) and (4) is the end of the one-year period beginning with the date the applicable event occurs. The applicable period for such events begins one year prior to the occurrence of the enumerated events.

(d) Transition rule. In the case of an individual who was a participant in the plan on August 23, 1984, and, as of that date had attained age 34, the plan will satisfy the requriement of section 417(a)(3)(B) if it provided the explanation not later than December 31, 1985.

Q-36: How do plans satisfy the requirements of providing participants explanations of QPSAs and QJSAs?

A-36. For rules regarding the explanation of QPSAs and QJSAs required under section 417(a)(3), see §1.417(a)(3)-1. However, the rules of §1.401(a)-20, Q&A-36, as it appeared in 26 CFR part 1 revised April 1, 2003, apply to the explanation of a QJSA under section 417(a)(3) for an annuity starting date prior to February 1, 2006.

Q-37: What are the consequences of fully subsidizing the cost of either a QJSA or a QPSA in accordance with section 417(a)(5)?

A-37: If a plan fully subsidizes a QJSA or QPSA in accordance with section 417(a)(5) and does not allow a participant to waive such QJSA or QPSA or to select a nonspouse beneficiary, the plan is not required to provide the written explanation required by section 417(a)(3). However, if the plan offers an election to waive the benefit or designate a beneficiary, it must satisfy the election, consent, and notice requirements of section 417(a) (1), (2), and (3), with respect to such subsidized QJSA or QPSA, in accordance with section 417(a)(5).

Q-38: What is a fully subsidized benefit?

A-38: (a) QJSA—(1) General rule. A fully subsidized QJSA is one under which no increase in cost to, or decrease in actual amounts received by, the participant may result from the participant's failure to elect another form of benefit.

(2) Examples.

Example 1. . If a plan provides a joint and survivor annuity and a single sum option, the plan does not fully subsidize the joint and survivor annuity, regardless of the actuarial value of the joint and survivor annuity because, in the event of the participant's early death, the participant would have received less under the annuity than he would have received under the single sum option.
Example 2. . If a plan provides for a life annuity of $100 per month and a joint and 100% survivor benefit of $99 per month, the plan does not fully subsidize the joint and survivor benefit.

(b) QPSA. A QPSA is fully subsidized if the amount of the participant's benefit is not reduced because of the QPSA coverage and if no charge to the participant under the plan is made for the coverage. Thus, a QPSA is fully subsidized in a defined contribution plan.

Q-39: When do the survivor annuity requirements of sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply to plans?

A-39: Sections 401(a)(11) and 417 generally apply to plan years beginning after December 31, 1984. Sections 302 and 303 of REA 1984 provide specific effective dates and transitional rules under which the QJSA or QPSA (or pre-REA 1984 section 401(a)(11)) requirements may be applicable to particular plans or with respect to benefits provided to (as amended by REA 1984) particular participants. In general, the section 401(a)(11) (as amended by REA 1984) survivor annuity requirements do not apply with respect to a participant who does not have at least one hour of service or one hour of paid leave under the plan after August 22, 1984.

Q-40: Are there special effective dates for plans maintained pursuant to collective bargaining agreements?

A-40: Yes. Section 302(b) of REA 1984 as amended by section 1898(g) of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 provides a special deferred effective date for such plans. Whether a plan is described in section 302(b) of REA 1984 is determined under the principles applied under section 1017(c) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. See H.R. Rep. No. 1280, 93d Cong., 2d Sess. 266 (1974). In addition, a plan will not be treated as maintained under a collective bargaining agreement unless the employee representatives satisfy section 7701(a)(46) of the Internal Revenue Code after March 31, 1984. See §301.7701-17T for other requirements for a plan to be considered to be collectively bargained. Nothing in section 302(b) of REA 1984 denies a participant or spouse the rights set forth in sections 303(c)(2), 303(c)(3), 303(e)(1), and 303(e)(2) of REA 1984.

Q-41: What is one hour of service or paid leave under the plan for purposes of the transition rules in section 303 of REA 1984?

A-41: One hour of service or paid leave under the plan is one hour of service or paid leave recognized or required to be recognized under the plan for any purpose, e.g., participation, vesting percentage, or benefit accrual purposes. For plans that do not compute hours of service, one hour of service or paid leave means any service or paid leave recognized or required to be recognized under the plan for any purpose.

Q-42: Must a plan be amended to provide for the QPSA required by section 303(c)(2) of REA 1984, or for the survivor annuities required by section 303(e) of REA 1984?

A-42: A plan will not fail to satisfy the qualification requirements of section 401(a) or 403(a) merely because it is not amended to provide the QPSA required by section 303(c)(2) or the survivor annuities required by section 303(e). The plan must, however, satisfy those requirements in operation.

Q-43: Is a participant's election, or a spouse's consent to an election, with respect to a QPSA, made before August 23, 1984, valid?

A-43: No.

Q-44: Is spousal consent required for certain survivor annuity elections made by the participant after December 31, 1984, and before the first plan year to which new sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply?

A-44: Yes. Section 303(c)(3) of REA 1984 provides that any election not to take a QJSA made after December 31, 1984, and before the date sections 401(a)(11) and 417 apply to the plan by a participant who has 1 hour of service or leave under the plan after August 23, 1984, is not effective unless the spousal consent requirements of section 417 are met with respect to such election. Unless the participant's annuity starting date occurred before January 1, 1985, the spousal consent required by section 417 (a)(2) and (e) must be obtained even though the participant elected the benefit prior to January 1, 1985. The plan is not required to be amended to comply with section 303(c)(3) of REA 1984, but the plan must satisfy this requirement in operation.

Q-45: Are there special rules for certain participants who separated from service prior to August 23, 1984?

A-45: Yes. Section 303(e) of REA 1984 provides special rules for certain participants who separated from service before August 23, 1984. Section 303(e)(1), which applies only to plans subject to section 401(a)(11) of the Code (as in effect on August 22, 1984), provides that participants whose annuity starting date did not occur before August 24, 1984, and who had one hour of service on or after September 2, 1974, but not in a plan year beginning after December 31, 1975, may elect to receive the benefits required to be provided under section 401(a)(11) of the Code (as in effect on August 22, 1984). Section 303(e)(2) provides that certain participants who had one hour of service in a plan year beginning on or after January 1, 1976, but not after August 22, 1984, may elect QPSA coverage under new sections 401(a)(11) and 417 in plans subject to these provisions. Section 303(e)(4)(A) requires plans or plan administrators to notify those participants of the provisions of section 303(e).

Q-46: When must a plan provide the notice required by section 303(e)(4)(A) of REA 1984?

A-46: The notice required by section 303(e)(4)(A) must be provided no later than the earlier of:

(a) The date the first summary annual report provided after September 17, 1985, is distributed to participants; or

(b) September 30, 1985.

A plan will not fail to satisfy the preceding sentence if the plan provides a fully subsidized QPSA with respect to any participant described in section 303(e) who dies on or after July 19, 1985, and before the notice is received. If the plan ceases to fully subsidize the QPSA, the cessation must not be effective until the notice is given. For this purpose, an annuity payable to a nonspouse beneficiary elected by the participant, in lieu of a spouse, shall satisfy the QPSA requirement, so long as the survivor benefit is fully subsidized. The notice required by this paragraph must be in writing and sent to the participant's last known address.

Q-47: Is there another time when plans must provide notice of the right, described in section 303(e)(1) of REA '84, to elect a pre-REA 1984 qualified joint and survivor annuity?

A-47: Yes. Notice of this right must also be provided to a participant at the time the participant applies for benefit payments.

[53 FR 31842, Aug. 22, 1988; 53 FR 48534, Dec. 1, 1988, as amended by T.D. 8794, 63 FR 70338, Dec. 21, 1998; T.D. 8891, 65 FR 44682, July 19, 2000; T.D. 9099, 68 FR 70144, Dec. 17, 2003; T.D. 9256, 71 FR 14802, Mar. 24, 2006]

§1.401(a)-21   Rules relating to the use of an electronic medium to provide applicable notices and to make participant elections.

(a) Introduction—(1) In general—(i) Permission to use an electronic medium. This section provides rules relating to the use of an electronic medium to provide applicable notices and to make participant elections as defined in paragraph (e)(1) and (6) of this section with respect to retirement plans, employee benefit arrangements, and individual retirement plans described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section. The rules in this section reflect the provisions of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, Public Law 106-229 (114 Stat. 464 (2000) (E-SIGN)).

(ii) Notices and elections required to be in writing or in written form—(A) In general. The rules of this section must be satisfied in order to use an electronic medium to provide an applicable notice or to make a participant election if the notice or election is required to be in writing or in written form under the Internal Revenue Code, Department of Treasury regulations, or other guidance issued by the Commissioner.

(B) Rules relating to applicable notices. An applicable notice that is provided using an electronic medium is treated as being provided in writing or in written form if and only if the requirements of paragraph (a)(5) of this section are satisfied and either the consumer consent requirements of paragraph (b) of this section or the requirements for exemption from the consumer consent requirements under paragraph (c) of this section are satisfied. For example, in order to provide a section 402(f) notice electronically, a qualified plan must satisfy either the consumer consent requirements of paragraph (b) of this section or the requirements for exemption under paragraph (c) of this section. If a plan fails to satisfy either of these requirements, the plan must provide the section 402(f) notice using a written paper document in order to satisfy the requirements of section 402(f).

(C) Rules relating to participant elections. A participant election that is made using an electronic medium is treated as being provided in writing or in written form if and only if the requirements of paragraphs (a)(5) and (d) of this section are satisfied.

(iii) Safe harbor method for applicable notices and participant elections that are not required to be in writing or written form. For an applicable notice or a participant election that is not required to be in writing or in written form, the rules of this section provide a safe harbor method for using an electronic medium to provide the applicable notice or to make the participant election.

(2) Application of rules—(i) Notices, elections, or consents under retirement plans. The rules of this section apply to any applicable notice or any participant election relating to the following retirement plans: A qualified retirement plan under section 401(a) or 403(a); a section 403(b) plan; a simplified employee pension (SEP) under section 408(k); a simple retirement plan under section 408(p); or an eligible governmental plan under section 457(b).

(ii) Notices, elections, or consents under other employee benefit arrangements. The rules of this section also apply to any applicable notice or any participant election relating to the following employee benefit arrangements: An accident and health plan or arrangement under sections 104(a)(3) and 105; a cafeteria plan under section 125; an educational assistance program under section 127; a qualified transportation fringe program under section 132; an Archer MSA under section 220; or a health savings account under section 223.

(iii) Notices, elections, or consents under individual retirement plans. The rules of this section also apply to any applicable notice or any participant election relating to individual retirement plans, including a Roth IRA under section 408A; or a deemed IRA under a qualified employer plan described in section 408(q).

(3) Limitation on application of rules—(i) In general. The rules of this section do not apply to any notice, election, consent, disclosure, or obligation required under the provisions of title I or IV of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA), over which the Department of Labor or the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation has interpretative and enforcement authority. For example, the rules in 29 CFR 2520.104b-1 of the Department of Labor Regulations apply with respect to an employee benefit plan providing disclosure documents, such as a summary plan description or a summary annual report. The rules in this section also do not apply to Internal Revenue Code section 411(a)(3)(B) (relating to suspension of benefits), Internal Revenue Code section 4980B(f)(6) (relating to an individual's COBRA rights), or any other Internal Revenue Code provision over which Department of Labor or the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation has similar interpretative authority.

(ii) Recordkeeping and other requirements. The rules in this section only apply with respect to applicable notices and participant elections relating to an individual's rights under a retirement plan, an employee benefit arrangement, or an individual retirement plan. Thus, the rules in this section do not alter the otherwise applicable requirements under the Internal Revenue Code, such as the requirements relating to tax reporting, tax records, or substantiation of expenses. See section 6001 for rules relating to the maintenance of records, statements, and special returns. See also section 101(e) of E-SIGN, which provides that if an electronic record of an applicable notice or a participant election is not maintained in a form that is capable of being retained and accurately reproduced for later reference, then the legal effect, validity, or enforceability of such electronic record may be denied.

(4) General requirements related to applicable notices and participant elections. The rules of this section supplement the general requirements related to each applicable notice and participant election. Thus, in addition to satisfying the rules for timing and content, the rules in this section must be satisfied.

(5) Requirements related to the design of an electronic system used to deliver applicable notices and to make participant elections—(i) The electronic system must take into account the content of a notice. With respect to the content of an applicable notice, the electronic system must be reasonably designed to provide the information in the notice to a recipient in a manner that is no less understandable to the recipient than a written paper document.

(ii) Identification of the significance of information in the notice. The electronic system must be designed to alert the recipient, at the time an applicable notice is provided, to the significance of the information in the notice (including identification of the subject matter of the notice), and provide any instructions needed to access the notice, in a manner that is readily understandable.

(b) Consumer consent requirements—(1) Requirements. With respect to an applicable notice, the consumer consent requirements of this paragraph (b) are satisfied if—

(i) The requirements in paragraphs (b)(2) through (4) of this section are satisfied; and

(ii) In accordance with section 101(c)(6) of E-SIGN, the applicable notice is not provided through the use of oral communication or a recording of an oral communication.

(2) Consent—(i) In general. The recipient must affirmatively consent to the delivery of the applicable notice using an electronic medium. This consent must be either—

(A) Made electronically in a manner that reasonably demonstrates that the recipient can access the applicable notice in the electronic medium in the form that will be used to provide the notice; or

(B) Made using a written paper document (or using another form not described in paragraph (b)(2)(i)(A) of this section), but only if the recipient confirms the consent electronically in a manner that reasonably demonstrates that the recipient can access the applicable notice in the electronic medium in the form that will be used to provide the notice.

(ii) Withdrawal of consumer consent. The consent to receive electronic delivery requirement of this paragraph (b)(2) is not satisfied if the recipient withdraws his or her consent before the applicable notice is delivered.

(3) Required disclosure statement. The recipient, prior to consenting under paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section, must be provided with a clear and conspicuous statement containing the disclosures described in paragraphs (b)(3)(i) through (v) of this section:

(i) Right to receive paper document—(A) In general. The statement informs the recipient of any right to have the applicable notice be provided using a written paper document or other nonelectronic form.

(B) Post-consent request for paper copy. The statement informs the recipient how, after having provided consent to receive the applicable notice electronically, the recipient may, upon request, obtain a paper copy of the applicable notice and whether any fee will be charged for such copy.

(ii) Right to withdraw consumer consent. The statement informs the recipient of the right to withdraw consent to receive electronic delivery of an applicable notice on a prospective basis at any time and explains the procedures for withdrawing that consent and any conditions, consequences, or fees in the event of the withdrawal.

(iii) Scope of the consumer consent. The statement informs the recipient whether the consent to receive electronic delivery of an applicable notice applies only to the particular transaction that gave rise to the applicable notice or to other identified transactions that may be provided or made available during the course of the parties' relationship. For example, the statement may provide that a recipient's consent to receive electronic delivery will apply to all future applicable notices of the recipient relating to the employee benefit arrangement until the recipient is no longer a participant in the employee benefit arrangement (or withdraws the consent).

(iv) Description of the contact procedures. The statement describes the procedures to update information needed to contact the recipient electronically.

(v) Hardware or software requirements. The statement describes the hardware and software requirements needed to access and retain the applicable notice.

(4) Post-consent change in hardware or software requirements. If, after a recipient provides consent to receive electronic delivery, there is a change in the hardware or software requirements needed to access or retain the applicable notice and such change creates a material risk that the recipient will not be able to access or retain the applicable notice in electronic format—

(i) The recipient must receive a statement of—

(A) The revised hardware or software requirements for access to and retention of the applicable notice; and

(B) The right to withdraw consent to receive electronic delivery without the imposition of any fees for the withdrawal and without the imposition of any condition or consequence that was not previously disclosed in paragraph (b)(3) of this section; and

(ii) The recipient must reaffirm consent to receive electronic delivery in accordance with the requirements of paragraph (b)(2) of this section.

(c) Exemption from consumer consent requirements—(1) In general. This paragraph (c) is satisfied if the conditions in paragraphs (c)(2) and (3) of this section are satisfied. This paragraph (c) constitutes an exemption from the consumer consent requirements of section 101(c) of E-SIGN pursuant to the authority granted in section 104(d)(1) of E-SIGN.

(2) Effective ability to access. For purposes of this paragraph (c), the electronic medium used to provide an applicable notice must be a medium that the recipient has the effective ability to access.

(3) Free paper copy of applicable notice. At the time the applicable notice is provided, the recipient must be advised that he or she may request and receive the applicable notice in writing on paper at no charge, and, upon request, that applicable notice must be provided to the recipient at no charge.

(d) Special rules for participant elections—(1) In general. This paragraph (d) is satisfied if the conditions described in the following paragraphs (d)(2) through (6) are satisfied:

(2) Effective ability to access. The electronic medium under an electronic system used to make a participant election must be a medium that the person who is eligible to make the election is effectively able to access. If the appropriate individual is not effectively able to access the electronic medium for making the participant election, the participant election will not be treated as made available to that individual. Thus, for example, the participant election will not be treated as made available to that individual for purposes of the rules under section 401(a)(4).

(3) Authentication. The electronic system used in making participant elections is reasonably designed to preclude any person other than the appropriate individual from making the election. Whether this condition is satisfied is based on facts and circumstances, including whether the participant election has the potential for a conflict of interest between the individuals involved in the election. See Examples 3, 4, and 5 of paragraph (f) of this section for illustrations of electronic systems that satisfy the authentication requirement of this paragraph (d)(3).

(4) Opportunity to review. The electronic system used in making participant elections provides the person making the participant election with a reasonable opportunity to review, confirm, modify, or rescind the terms of the election before the election becomes effective.

(5) Confirmation of action. The person making the participant election receives, within a reasonable time, a confirmation of the effect of the election under the terms of the plan or arrangement through either a written paper document or an electronic medium under a system that satisfies the requirements of either paragraph (b) or (c) of this section (as if the confirmation were an applicable notice).

(6) Participant elections, including spousal consents, that are required to be witnessed by a plan representative or a notary public—(i) In general. In the case of a participant election which is required to be witnessed by a plan representative or a notary public (such as a spousal consent under section 417), the signature of the individual making the participant election is witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative or a notary public.

(ii) Electronic notarization permitted. If the requirements of paragraph (d)(6)(i) of this section are satisfied, an electronic notarization acknowledging a signature (in accordance with section 101(g) of E-SIGN and State law applicable to notary publics) will not be denied legal effect if the signature of the individual is witnessed in the physical presence of a notary public.

(iii) Delegation to Commissioner. In guidance published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin, the Commissioner may provide that the use of procedures under an electronic system is deemed to satisfy the physical presence requirement under paragraph (d)(6)(i) of this section, but only if those procedures with respect to the electronic system provide the same safeguards for participant elections as are provided through the physical presence requirement. See §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b) of this chapter.

(e) Definitions. The definitions in this paragraph (e) apply for purposes of this section.

(1) Applicable notice. The term applicable notice includes any notice, report, statement, or other document required to be provided to a recipient under a retirement plan, employee benefit arrangement, or individual retirement plan as described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section.

(2) Electronic. The term electronic means technology having electrical, digital, magnetic, wireless, optical, electromagnetic, voice-recording systems, or similar capabilities.

(3) Electronic medium. The term electronic medium means an electronic method of communication (e.g., Web site, electronic mail, telephonic system, magnetic disk, and CD-ROM).

(4) Electronic record. The term electronic record means an applicable notice or a participant election that is created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic media.

(5) Electronic system. The term electronic system means a system designed for creating, generating, sending, receiving, storing, retrieving, displaying, or processing information that makes use of any electronic medium.

(6) Participant election. The term participant election includes any consent, election, request, agreement, or similar communication made by or from a participant, beneficiary, alternate payee, or an individual entitled to benefits under a retirement plan, employee benefit arrangement, or individual retirement plan as described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section.

(7) Recipient. The term recipient means a plan participant, beneficiary, employee, alternate payee, or any other person to whom an applicable notice is to be provided.

(f) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules of this section. Examples 1, 2, 3, and 6 assume that the requirements of paragraph (a)(4) and (5) of this section are satisfied.

Example 1. (i) Facts involving using the consumer consent requirements to deliver a section 402(f) notice via e-mail. Plan A, a qualified plan, permits participants to request benefit distributions from the plan on Plan A's Internet Web site. Under Plan A's system for such transactions, a participant must enter his or her account number, personal identification number (PIN), and his or her e-mail address to which the notice is to be sent. The participant's PIN and account number must match the information in Plan A's records in order for the transaction to proceed. Participant H requests a distribution from Plan A on Plan A's Web site, and, at the time of the request for distribution, a disclosure statement appears on the computer screen that explains that Participant H can consent to receive the section 402(f) notice electronically. The disclosure statement provides information relating to the consent, including how to receive a paper copy of the notice, how to withdraw consent, the hardware and software requirements, and the procedures for accessing the section 402(f) notice, which is in a file format from a specific spreadsheet program. After reviewing the disclosure statement, which satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b)(3) of this section, Participant H consents to receive the section 402(f) notice via e-mail by selecting the consent button at the end of the disclosure statement. As a part of the consent procedure, an e-mail is sent to Participant H's e-mail address in order to demonstrate that Participant H can access the spreadsheet program. In the e-mail, Participant H is prompted to answer a question from the spreadsheet program, which is in an attachment to the e-mail. Once Participant H correctly answers the question, the section 402(f) notice is then delivered to Participant H via e-mail.

(ii) Conclusion. In this Example 1, Plan A's delivery of the section 402(f) notice to Participant H satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section.

Example 2. (i) Facts—(A) Facts involving using the alternative method to deliver a section 411(a)(11) notice via e-mail. Plan B, a qualified plan, permits participants to request benefit distributions from the plan on Plan B's Internet Web site. Under Plan B's system for such transactions, a participant must enter his or her account number and personal identification number (PIN), and his or her e-mail address to which the notice is to be sent. The participant's PIN and account number must match the information in Plan B's records in order for the transaction to proceed. After Participant K, a single employee, requests a distribution from Plan B on Plan B's Internet Web site, the plan administrator provides Participant K with a section 411(a)(11) notice in an attachment to an e-mail. Plan B sends the e-mail with a request for a computer generated notification that the message was received and opened. The e-mail instructs Participant K to read the attachment for important information regarding the request for a distribution. In addition, the e-mail also states that Participant K may request the section 411(a)(11) notice on a written paper document and that, if Participant K requests the notice on a written paper document, it will be provided at no charge. Plan B receives notification indicating that the e-mail was received and opened by Participant K.

(B) Facts involving making a participant's consent to a distribution. In order to consent to a distribution, Plan B requires a participant to enter the participant's account number and PIN in order to preclude any person other than the participant from making the election. After the authentication process, Participant K completes a distribution request form on the Web site. After completing the request form, the Web site provides a summary of the information entered on the form and gives Participant K an opportunity to review or modify the distribution request form before the transaction is completed. Within a reasonable period of time after Participant K consents to the distribution, the plan administrator, by e-mail, sends confirmation of the terms (including the form) of the distribution to Participant K and advises Participant K that, upon request, the confirmation may be provided to Participant K on a written paper document at no charge. Plan B retains an electronic copy of the consent to the distribution in a form that is capable of being retained and accurately reproduced for later reference by Participant K.

(ii) Conclusion. In this Example 2, Plan B's delivery of the section 411(a)(11) notice and the electronic system used to make Participant K's consent to a distribution satisfy the requirements of paragraphs (a), (c), and (d) of this section.

Example 3. (i) Facts involving the transmission of a spousal consent via electronic notarization. Plan C, a qualified money purchase pension plan, permits a married participant to request a plan loan through the Plan C's Internet Web site with the notarized consent of the spouse. Under Plan C's system for requesting a plan loan, a participant must enter his or her account number, personal identification number (PIN), and his or her e-mail address. The information entered by the participant must match the information in Plan C's records in order for the transaction to proceed. Participant M, a married participant, is effectively able to access the Web site available to apply for a plan loan. In order to apply for a loan, Plan C requires a participant to enter the participant's account number and PIN in order to preclude any person other than the participant from making the election. Participant M completes the loan application on Plan C's Web site. Within a reasonable period of time after submitting the plan loan application, the plan administrator, by e-mail, sends Participant M the loan application, including all attachments setting forth the terms of the loan agreement and all other required information. In the e-mail, Plan C also notifies Participant M that, upon request, the loan application may be provided to Participant M on a written paper document at no charge. Plan C then instructs Participant M that, in order for the loan application to proceed, Participant M must submit to the plan administrator a notarized spousal consent form. Participant M and M's spouse go to a notary public and the notary witnesses Participant M's spouse signing the spousal consent for the loan agreement on an electronic signature capture pad with adequate security. After witnessing M's spouse signing the spousal consent, the notary public sends an e-mail with an electronic acknowledgement that is attached to or logically associated with the signature of M's spouse to the plan administrator. The electronic acknowledgement is in accordance with section 101(g) of E-SIGN and the relevant State law applicable to notary publics. After the plan receives the e-mail, Plan C sends an e-mail to Participant M, giving M a reasonable period to review and confirm the completed loan application and to determine whether the loan application should be modified or rescinded. In addition, the e-mail to Participant M also provides that M may request the completed loan application on a written paper document and that, if M requests the written paper document, it will be provided at no charge. Plan C retains an electronic copy of the loan agreement, including the spousal consent, in a form that is capable of being retained and accurately reproduced for later reference by all parties.

(ii) Conclusion. In this Example 3, the transmission of the plan loan agreement satisfies the requirements of paragraphs (a), (c), and (d) of this section. By requiring that the spouse sign the spousal consent on an electronic signature capture pad in the physical presence of a notary public, the electronic system satisfies the requirement that the system be reasonably designed to preclude any person other than the appropriate individual from making the election. Thus, the electronic notarization of spousal consent satisfies the requirements of paragraphs (a) and (d) of this section.

Example 4. (i) Facts—(A) Facts involving using the alternative method of compliance to deliver a section 411(a)(11) notice via an automated telephone system. A qualified profit-sharing plan (Plan D) permits participants to request distributions through an automated telephone system. Under Plan D's system for such transactions, a participant must enter his or her account number and personal identification number (PIN); this information must match the information in Plan D's records in order for the transaction to proceed. Plan D provides only the following distribution options: single-sum payment; and annual installments over 5, 10, or 20 years. Participant N, a single participant, requests a distribution from Plan D by following the applicable instructions on the automated telephone system. After Participant N has requested the distribution, the automated telephone system recites the section 411(a)(11) notice over the phone. The automated telephone system also advises Participant N that, upon request, the notice may be provided on a written paper document and that, if Participant N so requests, the notice will be provided on a written paper document at no charge.

(B) Facts involving making a participant's consent to a distribution via an automated telephone system. In order to consent to a distribution, Plan D requires a participant to enter the participant's account number and PIN in order to preclude any person other than the participant from making the election. Participant N requests a distribution by entering information on the automated telephone system. After completing the request, the automated telephone system provides a oral summary of the information entered and gives Participant N an opportunity to review or modify the distribution request before the transaction is completed. Plan D's automated telephone system confirms the distribution request to Participant N and advises Participant N that, upon request, a confirmation may be provided on a written paper document at no charge. Plan D retains an electronic copy of the consent to the distribution in a form that is capable of being retained and accurately reproduced for later reference by Participant N.

(ii) Conclusion. In this Example 4, because Plan D has relatively few and simple distribution options, the provision of the section 411(a)(11) notice through the automated telephone system is no less understandable to the participant than a written paper notice for purposes of paragraph (a)(5)(i) of this section. In addition, the automated telephone procedures of Plan D satisfy the applicable requirements of paragraphs (a), (c), and (d) of this section.

Example 5. (i) Facts. Same facts as Example 4 of this paragraph (f), except that, pursuant to Plan D's system for processing such transactions, a participant who so requests is transferred to a customer service representative whose conversation with the participant is recorded. The customer service representative provides the section 411(a)(11) notice from a prepared text and processes the participant's distribution in accordance with the predetermined instructions from the plan administrator.

(ii) Conclusion. As in Example 4 of this paragraph (f), because Plan D has relatively few and simple distribution options, the provision of the section 411(a)(11) notice through the automated telephone system is no less understandable to the participant than a written paper notice for purposes of paragraph (a)(4) of this section. Further, in this Example 5, the customer service telephone procedures of Plan D satisfy the requirements of paragraphs (a), (c), and (d) of this section.

Example 6. (i) Facts. Plan E, a qualified plan, permits participants to request distributions by e-mail on the employer's e-mail system. Under this system, a participant must enter his or her account number, personal identification number (PIN), and e-mail address. This information must match that in Plan E's records in order for the transaction to proceed. If a participant requests a distribution by e-mail, the plan administrator provides the participant with a section 411(a)(11) notice by e-mail. The plan administrator also advises the participant by e-mail that he or she may request the section 411(a)(11) notice on a written paper document and that, if the participant requests the notice on a written paper document, it will be provided at no charge. Participant Q requests a distribution and receives the section 411(a)(11) notice from the plan administrator by reply e-mail. However, before Participant Q elects a distribution, Q terminates employment. Following termination of employment, Participant Q no longer has access to the employer's e-mail system.

(ii) Conclusion. In this Example 6, Plan E does not satisfy the participant election requirements under paragraph (d) of this section because Participant Q is not effectively able to access the electronic medium used to make the participant election. Plan E must provide Participant Q with the opportunity to make the participant election through a written paper document or another system that Participant Q is effectively able to access, such as the automated telephone systems described in Example 4 and Example 5 of this paragraph (f).

(g) Effective date. The rules provided in this section apply to applicable notices provided, and to participant elections made, on or after January 1, 2007. However, a retirement plan, an employee benefit arrangement, or an individual retirement plan that provides an applicable notice or makes a participant election that complies with the requirements set forth in these regulations on or after October 1, 2000, and before January 1, 2007, will not be treated as failing to provide an applicable notice or to make a participant election merely because the notice or election was not in writing or written form.

[T.D. 9294, 71 FR 61883, Oct. 20, 2006]

§1.401(a)-30   Limit on elective deferrals.

(a) General Rule. A trust that is part of a plan under which elective deferrals may be made during a calendar year is not qualified under section 401(a) unless the plan provides that the elective deferrals on behalf of an individual under the plan and all other plans, contracts, or arrangements of the employer maintaining the plan may not exceed the applicable limit for the individual's taxable year beginning in the calendar year. A plan may incorporate the applicable limit by reference. In the case of a plan maintained by more than one employer to which section 413 (b) or (c) applies, section 401(a)(30) and this section are applied as if each employer maintained a separate plan. See §1.402(g)-1(e) for rules permitting the distribution of excess deferrals to prevent disqualification of a plan or trust for failure to comply in operation with section 401(a)(30).

(b) Definitions. For purposes of this section:

(1) Applicable limit. The term “applicable limit” has the meaning provided in §1.402(g)-1(d).

(2) Elective deferrals. The term “elective deferrals” has the meaning provided in §1.402(g)-1(b).

(c) Effective date—(1) In general. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph (c), this section is effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 1987.

(2) Transition rule. For plan years beginning in l988, a plan may rely on a reasonable interpretation of the law as in effect on December 31, 1987.

(3) Deferrals under collective bargaining agreements. 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, this section does not apply to contributions made pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement for plan years beginning before the earlier of:

(i) The later of January 1, 1988, or the date on which the last collective bargaining agreement terminates (determined without regard to any extension thereof after February 28, 1986), or

(ii) January 1, 1989.

[T.D. 8357, 56 FR 40516, Aug. 15, 1991]

§1.401(a)-50   Puerto Rican trusts; election to be treated as a domestic trust.

(a) In general. Section 401(a) requires, among other things, that a trust forming part of a pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan must be created or organized in the United States to be a qualified trust. Section 1022(i)(2) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) (88 Stat. 942) provides that trusts under certain pension, etc., plans created or organized in Puerto Rico whose administrators have made the election referred to in section 1022(i)(2) are to be treated as trusts created or organized in the United States for purposes of section 401(a). Thus, if a plan otherwise satisfies the qualification requirements of section 401(a), any trust forming part of the plan for which an election is made will be treated as a qualified trust under that section.

(b) Manner and effect of election. A plan administrator may make an election under ERISA section 1022(i)(2) by filing a statement making the election, along with a copy of the plan, with the Director's Representative of the Internal Revenue Service in Puerto Rico. The statement making the election must indicate that it is being made under ERISA section 1022(i)(2). The statement may also be filed in conjunction with a written request for a determination letter. 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 be irrevocable upon issuance of such letter. Otherwise, once made, an election is irrevocable. It is generally effective for plan years beginning after the date it has been made. However, an election made before March 3, 1983 may, at the option of the plan administrator at the time he or she makes the election, be considered to have been made on any date between September 2, 1974, and the actual date of the election. The election will then be effective for plan years beginning on or after the date chosen by the plan administrator.

(c) Annuities, custodial accounts, etc. See section 401 (f) for rules relating to the treatment of certain annuities, custodial accounts or other contracts, as trusts for purposes of section 401(a).

(d) Source of plan distributions to participants and beneficiaries residing outside the United States. Except as provided under section 871(f) (relating to amounts received as an annuity by nonresident aliens), the amount of a distribution from an electing plan that is to be treated as income from sources within the United States is determined as described below. The portion of the distribution considered to be a return of employer contributions is to be treated as income from sources within the United States in an amount equal to the portion of the distribution considered to be a return of employer contributions multiplied by the following fraction:

Days of performance of labor or services within the United States for the employer.

 

Total days of performance of labor or services for the employer.

The days of performance of labor or services within the United States shall not include the time period for which the employee's compensation is deemed not to be income from sources within the United States under subtitle A of the Code. Thus, for example, if an employee's compensation was not deemed to be income from sources within the United States under section 861(a)(3), then the time the emloyee was present in the United States while such compensation was earned would not be included in determining the days of performance of labor or services within the United States in the numerator of the above fraction. In addition, days of performance of labor or services for the employer in both the numerator and denominator of the above fraction are limited to days of plan participation by the employee and any service used for determining an employee's accrued benefit under the plan. The remaining portion of the distribution, that is, any amount other than the portion of the distribution considered to be a return of employer contributions, is not to be treated as income from sources within the United States. For example, if a distribution consists of amounts representing employer contributions, employee contributions, and earnings on employer and employee contributions, no part of the portion of the distribution attributable to employee contributions, or earnings on employer and employee contributions, will be treated as income from sources within the United States.

[T.D. 7859, 47 FR 54297, Dec. 2, 1982]

§1.401(a)(2)-1   Refund of mistaken employer contributions and withdrawal liability payments to multiemployer plans.

(a) Introduction—(1) In general. Section 401(a)(2) provides that a contribution or payment of withdrawal liability made to a multiemployer plan due to a mistake of fact or mistake of law can be returned to the employer under certain conditions. This section specifies the conditions under which an employer's contribution or payment may be returned.

(2) Effective dates. This section applies to refunds made after July 22, 2002.

(b) Conditions for return of contribution—(1) In general. In the case of a contribution or a withdrawal liability payment to a multiemployer plan which was made because of a mistake of fact or a mistake of law, the plan will not violate section 401(a)(2) merely because the contribution or payment is returned within six months after the date on which the plan administrator determines that the contribution or payment was the result of a mistake of fact or law. The contribution or payment is considered as returned within the required period if the employer establishes a right to a refund of the amount mistakenly contributed or paid by filing a claim with the plan administrator within six months after the date on which the plan administrator determines that a mistake did occur. For purposes of this section, plan administrator is defined in section 414(g) and the regulations thereunder.

(2) Applicable conditions—(i) In general. The employer making the contribution or withdrawal liability payment to a multiemployer plan must demonstrate that an excessive contribution or overpayment has been made due to a mistake of fact or law. A mistake of fact or law relating to plan qualification under section 401 or to trust exemption under section 501 is not considered to be a mistake of fact or law which entitles an employer to a refund under this section. For purposes of this section, a multiemployer plan is defined in section 414(f) and the regulations thereunder.

(ii) Amount to be returned—(A) General rule. The amount to be returned to the employer is the excess of the amount contributed or paid over the amount that would have been contributed or paid had no mistake been made. This amount is the excess contribution or overpayment. Except as provided in paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B) of this section, interest or earnings attributable to an excess contribution shall not be returned to the employer, and any losses attributable to an excess contribution must reduce the amount returned to the employer. For purposes of the previous sentence, the application of plan-wide investment experience to the excess contribution would be an acceptable method of calculating losses. A refund of a mistaken contribution must in no event reduce a participant's account balance in a defined contribution plan to an amount less than that amount which would properly have been in that participant's account had no mistake occurred. Thus, to the extent that the refund of an excess contribution would reduce a participant's account balance in a defined contribution plan to an amount less than the amount which would properly be in the participant's account had no mistake occurred, the return of the excess contribution would be prohibited by this section.

(B) Overpayment of withdrawal liability. In the case of an overpayment of withdrawal liability established by the plan sponsor under section 4219(c)(2) of ERISA, the plan will not fail to satisfy section 401(a)(2) if, in accordance with Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation regulations regarding the overpayments of withdrawal liability (29 CFR 4219.31(d)), the overpayment, with interest, is returned to the employer.

(c) Amount refunded includible in employer's income. In general, the amount of the excess contribution or overpayment must be included in gross income by the employer if the excess contribution or overpayment resulted in a tax benefit in a prior year. Any interest credited or paid on the refund of mistaken withdrawal liability payments must also be included in gross income by the employer.

(d) Application of section 412. An amount returned under paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section is charged to the funding standard account under section 412 in the year in which the amount is returned.

[T.D. 9005, 67 FR 47693, July 22, 2002]

§1.401(a)(4)-0   Table of contents.

This section contains a listing of the major headings of §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13.

§1.401(a)(4)-1   Nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4)

(a) In general.

(b) Requirements a plan must satisfy.

(1) In general.

(2) Nondiscriminatory amount of contributions or benefits.

(3) Nondiscriminatory availability of benefits, rights, and features.

(4) Nondiscriminatory effect of plan amendments and terminations.

(c) Application of requirements.

(1) In general.

(2) Interpretation.

(3) Plan-year basis of testing.

(4) Application of section 410(b) rules.

(5) Collectively-bargained plans.

(6) Former employees.

(7) Employee-provided contributions and benefits.

(8) Allocation of earnings.

(9) Rollovers, transfers, and buybacks.

(10) Vesting.

(11) Crediting service.

(12) Governmental plans.

(13) Employee stock ownership plans.

(14) Section 401(h) benefits.

(15) Definitions.

(16) Effective dates and fresh-start rules.

(d) Additional guidance.

§1.401(a)(4)-2   Nondiscrimination in amount of employer contributions under a defined contribution plan

(a) Introduction.

(1) Overview.

(2) Alternative methods of satisfying nondiscriminatory amount requirement.

(b) Safe harbors.

(1) In general.

(2) Safe harbor for plans with uniform allocation formula.

(3) Safe harbor for plans with uniform points allocation formula.

(4) Use of safe harbors not precluded by certain plan provisions.

(c) General test for nondiscrimination in amount of contributions.

(1) General rule.

(2) Determination of allocation rates.

(3) Satisfaction of section 410(b) by a rate group.

(4) Examples.

§1.401(a)(4)-3   Nondiscrimination in amount of employer-provided benefits under a defined benefit plan

(a) Introduction.

(1) Overview.

(2) Alternative methods of satisfying nondiscriminatory amount requirement.

(b) Safe harbors.

(1) In general.

(2) Uniformity requirements.

(3) Safe harbor for unit credit plans.

(4) Safe harbor for plans using fractional accrual rule.

(5) Safe harbor for insurance contract plans.

(6) Use of safe harbors not precluded by certain plan provisions.

(c) General test for nondiscrimination in amount of benefits.

(1) General rule.

(2) Satisfaction of section 410(b) by a rate group.

(3) Certain violations disregarded.

(4) Examples.

(d) Determination of accrual rates.

(1) Definitions.

(2) Rules of application.

(3) Optional rules.

(4) Examples.

(e) Compensation rules.

(1) In general.

(2) Average annual compensation.

(3) Examples.

(f) Special rules.

(1) In general.

(2) Certain qualified disability benefits.

(3) Accruals after normal retirement age.

(4) Early retirement window benefits.

(5) Unpredictable contingent event benefits.

(6) Determination of benefits on other than plan-year basis.

(7) Adjustments for certain plan distributions.

(8) Adjustment for certain QPSA charges.

(9) Disregard of certain offsets.

(10) Special rule for multiemployer plans.

§1.401(a)(4)-4   Nondiscriminatory availability of benefits, rights, and features

(a) Introduction.

(b) Current availability.

(1) General rule.

(2) Determination of current availability.

(3) Benefits, rights, and features that are eliminated prospectively.

(c) Effective availability.

(1) General rule.

(2) Examples.

(d) Special rules.

(1) Mergers and acquisitions.

(2) Frozen participants.

(3) Early retirement window benefits.

(4) Permissive aggregation of certain benefits, rights, or features.

(5) Certain spousal benefits.

(6) Special ESOP rules.

(7) Special testing rule for unpredictable contingent event benefits.

(e) Definitions.

(1) Optional form of benefit.

(2) Ancillary benefit.

(3) Other right or feature.

§1.401(a)(4)-5   Plan amendments and plan terminations

(a) Introduction.

(1) Overview.

(2) Facts-and-circumstances determination.

(3) Safe harbor for certain grants of benefits for past periods.

(4) Examples.

(b) Pre-termination restrictions.

(1) Required provisions in defined benefit plans.

(2) Restriction of benefits upon plan termination.

(3) Restrictions on distributions.

(4) Operational restrictions on certain money purchase pension plans.

§1.401(a)(4)-6   Contributory defined benefit plans

(a) Introduction.

(b) Determination of employer-provided benefit.

(1) General rule.

(2) Composition-of-work-force method.

(3) Minimum-benefit method.

(4) Grandfather rules for plans in existence on May 14, 1990.

(5) Government-plan method.

(6) Cessation of employee contributions.

(c) Rules applicable in determining whether employee-provided benefits are nondiscriminatory in amount.

(1) In general.

(2) Same rate of contributions.

(3) Total-benefits method.

(4) Grandfather rule for plans in existence on May 14, 1990.

§1.401(a)(4)-7   Imputation of permitted disparity

(a) Introduction.

(b) Adjusting allocation rates.

(1) In general.

(2) Employees whose plan year compensation does not exceed taxable wage base.

(3) Employees whose plan year compensation exceeds taxable wage base.

(4) Definitions.

(5) Example.

(c) Adjusting accrual rates.

(1) In general.

(2) Employees whose average annual compensation does not exceed covered compensation.

(3) Employees whose average annual compensation exceeds covered compensation.

(4) Definitions.

(5) Employees with negative unadjusted accrual rates.

(6) Example.

(d) Rules of general application.

(1) Eligible plans.

(2) Exceptions from consistency requirements.

(3) Overall permitted disparity.

§1.401(a)(4)-8   Cross-testing

(a) Introduction.

(b) Nondiscrimination in amount of benefits provided under a defined contribution plan.

(1) General rule and gateway.

(2) Determination of equivalent accrual rates.

(3) Safe-harbor testing method for target benefit plans.

(c) Nondiscrimination in amount of contributions under a defined benefit plan.

(1) General rule.

(2) Determination of equivalent allocation rates.

(3) Safe harbor testing method for cash balance plans.

(d) Safe-harbor testing method for defined benefit plans that are part of a floor-offset arrangement.

(1) General rule.

(2) Application of safe-harbor testing method to qualified offset arrangements.

§1.401(a)(4)-9   Plan aggregation and restructuring

(a) Introduction.

(b) Application of nondiscrimination requirements to DB/DC plans.

(1) General rule.

(2) Special rules for demonstrating nondiscrimination in amount of contributions or benefits.

(3) Optional rules for demonstrating nondiscrimination in availability of certain benefits, rights, and features.

(c) Plan restructuring.

(1) General rule.

(2) Identification of component plans.

(3) Satisfaction of section 401(a)(4) by a component plan.

(4) Satisfaction of section 410(b) by a component plan.

(5) Effect of restructuring under other sections.

(6) Examples.

§1.401(a)(4)-10   Testing of former employees

(a) Introduction.

(b) Nondiscrimination in amount of contributions or benefits.

(1) General rule.

(2) Permitted disparity.

(3) Examples.

(c) Nondiscrimination in availability of benefits, rights, or features.

§1.401(a)(4)-11   Additional rules

(a) Introduction.

(b) Rollovers, transfers, and buybacks.

(1) Rollovers and elective transfers.

(2) Other transfers. [Reserved]

(3) Employee buybacks.

(c) Vesting.

(1) General rule.

(2) Deemed equivalence of statutory vesting schedules.

(3) Safe harbor for vesting schedules.

(4) Examples.

(d) Service-crediting rules.

(1) Overview.

(2) Manner of crediting service.

(3) Service-crediting period.

(e) Family aggregation rules. [Reserved]

(f) Governmental plans. [Reserved]

(g) Corrective amendments.

(1) In general.

(2) Scope of corrective amendments.

(3) Conditions for corrective amendments.

(4) Corrective amendments must have substance.

(5) Effect under other statutory requirements.

(6) Examples.

§1.401(a)(4)-12   Definitions

§1.401(a)(4)-13   Effective dates and fresh-start rules

(a) General effective dates.

(1) In general.

(2) Plans of tax-exempt organizations.

(3) Compliance during transition period.

(b) Effective date for governmental plans.

(c) Fresh-start rules for defined benefit plans.

(1) Introduction.

(2) General rule.

(3) Definition of frozen.

(4) Fresh-start formulas.

(5) Rules of application.

(6) Examples.

(d) Compensation adjustments to frozen accrued benefits.

(1) Introduction.

(2) In general.

(3) Plan requirements.

(4) Meaningful coverage as of fresh-start date.

(5) Meaningful ongoing coverage.

(6) Meaningful current benefit accruals.

(7) Minimum benefit adjustment.

(8) Adjusted accrued benefit.

(9) Examples.

(e) Determination of initial theoretical reserve for target benefit plans.

(1) General rule.

(2) Example.

(f) Special fresh-start rules for cash balance plans.

(1) In general.

(2) Alternative formula.

(3) Limitations on formulas.

[T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46778, Sept. 3, 1993, as amended by T.D. 8954, 66 FR 34540, June 29, 2001]

§1.401(a)(4)-1   Nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4).

(a) In general. Section 401(a)(4) provides that a plan is a qualified plan only if the contributions or the benefits provided under the plan do not discriminate in favor of HCEs. Whether a plan satisfies this requirement depends on the form of the plan and on its effect in operation. In making this determination, intent is irrelevant. This section sets forth the exclusive rules for determining whether a plan satisfies section 401(a)(4). A plan that complies in form and operation with the rules in this section therefore satisfies section 401(a)(4).

(b) Requirements a plan must satisfy—(1) In general. In order to satisfy section 401(a)(4), a plan must satisfy each of the requirements of this paragraph (b).

(2) Nondiscriminatory amount of contributions or benefits—(i) General rule. Either the contributions or the benefits provided under the plan must be nondiscriminatory in amount. It need not be shown that both the contributions and the benefits provided are nondiscriminatory in amount, but only that either the contributions alone or the benefits alone are nondiscriminatory in amount.

(ii) Defined contribution plans—(A) General rule. A defined contribution plan satisfies this paragraph (b)(2) if the contributions allocated under the plan (including forfeitures) are nondiscriminatory in amount under §1.401(a)(4)-2. Alternatively, a defined contribution plan (other than an ESOP) satisfies this paragraph (b)(2) if the equivalent benefits provided under the plan are nondiscriminatory in amount under §1.401(a)(4)-8(b). Section 1.401(a)(4)-8(b) includes a safe-harbor testing method for contributions provided under a target benefit plan.

(B) Section 401(k) plans and section 401(m) plans. A section 401(k) plan is deemed to satisfy this paragraph (b)(2) because §1.410(b)-9 defines a section 401(k) plan as a plan consisting of elective contributions under a qualified cash or deferred arrangement (i.e., one that satisfies section 401(k)(3), the nondiscriminatory amount requirement applicable to qualified cash or deferred arrangements). A section 401(m) plan satisfies this paragraph (b)(2) only if the plan satisfies §§1.401(m)-1(b) and 1.401(m)-2. Contributions under a nonqualified cash or deferred arrangement, elective contributions described in §1.401(k)-1(b)(4)(iv) that fail to satisfy the allocation and compensation requirements of §1.401(k)-2(a)(4)(i), matching contributions that fail to satisfy §1.401(m)-2(a)(4)(iii), and qualified nonelective contributions treated as elective or matching contributions for certain purposes under §§1.401(k)-2(a)(6) and 1.401(m)-2(a)(6), respectively, are not subject to the special rule in this paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B), because they are not treated as part of a section 401(k) plan or section 401(m) plan as those terms are defined in §1.410(b)-9. The contributions described in the preceding sentence must satisfy paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A) of this section.

(iii) Defined benefit plans. A defined benefit plan satisfies this paragraph (b)(2) if the benefits provided under the plan are nondiscriminatory in amount under §1.401(a)(4)-3. Alternatively, a defined benefit plan satisfies this paragraph (b)(2) if the equivalent allocations provided under the plan are nondiscriminatory in amount under §1.401(a)(4)-8(c). Section 1.401(a)(4)-8(c) includes a safe-harbor testing method for benefits provided under a cash balance plan. In addition, §1.401(a)(4)-8(d) provides a safe-harbor testing method for benefits provided under a defined benefit plan that is part of a floor-offset arrangement.

(3) Nondiscriminatory availability of benefits, rights, and features. All benefits, rights, and features provided under the plan must be made available in the plan in a nondiscriminatory manner. Rules for determining whether this requirement is satisfied are set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-4.

(4) Nondiscriminatory effect of plan amendments and terminations. The timing of plan amendments must not have the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs. Rules for determining whether this requirement is satisfied are set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-5(a). Section 1.401(a)(4)-5(b) provides additional requirements regarding plan terminations.

(c) Application of requirements—(1) In general. The requirements of paragraph (b) of this section must be applied in accordance with the rules set forth in this paragraph (c).

(2) Interpretation. The provisions of §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13 must be interpreted in a reasonable manner consistent with the purpose of preventing discrimination in favor of HCEs.

(3) Plan-year basis of testing. The requirements of paragraph (b) of this section are generally applied on the basis of the plan year and on the basis of the terms of the plan in effect during the plan year. Thus, unless otherwise provided, the compensation, contributions, benefit accruals, and other items used to apply these requirements must be determined with respect to the plan year being tested. However, §1.401(a)(4)-11(g) provides rules allowing for corrective amendments made after the close of the plan year to be taken into account in satisfying certain requirements under paragraph (b) of this section.

(4) Application of section 410(b) rules—(i) Relationship between sections 401(a)(4) and 410(b). To be a qualified plan, a plan must satisfy both sections 410(b) and 401(a)(4). Section 410(b) requires that a plan benefit a nondiscriminatory group of employees, and section 401(a)(4) requires that the contributions or benefits provided to employees benefiting under the plan not discriminate in favor of HCEs. Consistent with this requirement, the definition of a plan subject to testing under section 401(a)(4) is the same as the definition of a plan subject to testing under section 410(b), i.e., the plan determined after applying the mandatory disaggregation rules of §1.410(b)-7(c) and the permissive aggregation rules of §1.410(b)-7(d). In addition, whichever testing option is used for the plan year under §1.410(b)-8(a) (e.g., quarterly testing) must also be used for purposes of determining whether the plan satisfies section 401(a)(4) for the plan year.

(ii) Special rules for certain aggregated plans. Special rules are set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-9(b) for applying the nondiscriminatory amount and availability requirements of paragraphs (b)(2) and (b)(3) of this section to a plan that includes one or more defined benefit plans and one or more defined contribution plans that have been permissively aggregated under §1.410(b)-7(d).

(iii) Restructuring. In certain circumstances, a plan may be restructured on the basis of employee groups and treated as comprising two or more plans, each of which is treated as a separate plan that must independently satisfy sections 401(a)(4) and 410(b). Rules relating to restructuring plans for purposes of applying the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section are set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-9(c).

(iv) References to section 410(b). Except as otherwise specifically provided, references to satisfying section 410(b) in §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13 mean satisfying §1.410(b)-2 (taking into account any special rules available in satisfying that section, other than the permissive aggregation rules of §1.410(b)-7(d)). In the case of a plan described in section 410(c)(1) that has not made the election described in section 410(d) and is not subject to section 403(b)(12)(A)(i), references in §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13 to satisfying section 410(b) mean satisfying section 410(c)(2).

(5) Collectively-bargained plans. The requirements of paragraph (b) of this section are treated as satisfied by a collectively-bargained plan that automatically satisfies section 410(b) under §1.410(b)-2(b)(7).

(6) Former employees. In applying the nondiscriminatory amount and availability requirements of paragraphs (b)(2) and (b)(3) of this section, former employees are tested separately from active employees, unless otherwise provided. Rules for applying paragraphs (b)(2) and (b)(3) of this section to former employees are set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-10.

(7) Employee-provided contributions and benefits. In applying the nondiscriminatory amount requirement of paragraph (b)(2) of this section, employee-provided contributions and benefits are tested separately from employer-provided contributions and benefits, unless otherwise provided. Rules for determining the amount of employer-provided benefits under a defined benefit plan that include employee contributions not allocated to separate accounts are set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-6(b), and rules for applying paragraph (b)(2) of this section to employee contributions under such a plan are set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-6(c). See paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B) of this section for rules applicable to employee contributions allocated to separate accounts.

(8) Allocation of earnings. Notwithstanding any other provision in §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13, a defined contribution plan does not satisfy paragraph (b)(2) of this section if the manner in which income, expenses, gains, or losses are allocated to accounts under the plan discriminates in favor of HCEs or former HCEs.

(9) Rollovers, transfers, and buybacks. In applying the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section, rollover (including direct rollover) contributions described in section 402(c), 402(e)(6), 403(a)(4), 403(a)(5), or 408(d)(3), elective transfers described in §1.411(d)-4, Q&A-3(b), transfers of assets and liabilities described in section 414(l), and employee buybacks are treated in accordance with the rules set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-11(b).

(10) Vesting. A plan does not satisfy the nondiscriminatory amount requirement of paragraph (b)(2) of this section unless it satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-11(c) with respect to the manner in which employees vest in their accrued benefits.

(11) Crediting service. A plan does not satisfy paragraphs (b)(2) and (b)(3) of this section unless it satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-11(d) with respect to the manner in which employees' service is credited under the plan. Service other than actual service with the employer may not be taken into account in determining whether the plan satisfies paragraphs (b)(2) and (b)(3) of this section except as provided in §1.401(a)(4)-11(d).

(12) Governmental plans. The rules of this section apply to a governmental plan within the meaning of section 414(d), except as provided in §§1.401(a)(4)-11(f) and 1.401(a)(4)-13(b).

(13) Employee stock ownership plans. [Reserved]

(14) Section 401(h) benefits. In applying the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section, the portion of a plan providing benefits described in section 401(h) is tested separately from the portion of the same plan providing retirement benefits, and thus is not required to satisfy this section. Rules applicable to section 401(h) benefits are set forth in §1.401-14(b)(2).

(15) Definitions. In applying the requirements of this section, the definitions in §1.401(a)(4)-12 govern.

(16) Effective dates and fresh-start rules. In applying the requirements of this section, the effective dates set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-13 govern. Section 1.401(a)(4)-13 also provides certain transition and fresh-start rules that apply for purposes of this section.

(d) Additional guidance. The Commissioner may, in revenue rulings, notices, and other guidance, published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin, provide any additional guidance that may be necessary or appropriate in applying the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4), including additional safe harbors and alternative methods and procedures for satisfying those requirements. See §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b) of this chapter.

[T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46780, Sept. 3, 1993, as amended by 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 paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B) of §1.401-1(a)(4)-1 by removing “1.401(k)-1(b)(4)” and inserting “1.401(k)-2(a)(5)(i)”. However, because of inaccurate amendatory language, this amendment could not be incorporated.

§1.401(a)(4)-2   Nondiscrimination in amount of employer contributions under a defined contribution plan.

(a) Introduction—(1) Overview. This section provides rules for determining whether the employer contributions allocated under a defined contribution plan are nondiscriminatory in amount as required by §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2)(ii)(A). Certain defined contribution plans that provide uniform allocations are permitted to satisfy this requirement by meeting one of the safe harbors in paragraph (b) of this section. Plans that do not provide uniform allocations may satisfy this requirement by satisfying the general test in paragraph (c) of this section. See §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2)(ii)(B) for the exclusive tests applicable to section 401(k) plans and section 401(m) plans.

(2) Alternative methods of satisfying nondiscriminatory amount requirement. A defined contribution plan is permitted to satisfy paragraph (b)(2) or (c) of this section on a restructured basis pursuant to §1.401(a)(4)-9(c). Alternatively, a defined contribution plan (other than an ESOP) is permitted to satisfy the nondiscriminatory amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2)(ii)(A) on the basis of equivalent benefits pursuant to §1.401(a)(4)-8(b).

(b) Safe harbors—(1) In general. The employer contributions allocated under a defined contribution plan are nondiscriminatory in amount for a plan year if the plan satisfies either of the safe harbors in paragraph (b)(2) or (b)(3) of this section. Paragraph (b)(4) of this section provides exceptions for certain plan provisions that do not cause a plan to fail to satisfy this paragraph (b).

(2) Safe harbor for plans with uniform allocation formula—(i) General rule. A defined contribution plan satisfies the safe harbor in this paragraph (b)(2) for a plan year if the plan allocates all amounts taken into account under paragraph (c)(2)(ii) of this section for the plan year under an allocation formula that allocates to each employee the same percentage of plan year compensation, the same dollar amount, or the same dollar amount for each uniform unit of service (not to exceed one week) performed by the employee during the plan year.

(ii) Permitted disparity. If a plan satisfies section 401(l) in form, differences in employees' allocations under the plan attributable to uniform disparities permitted under §1.401(l)-2 (including differences in disparities that are deemed uniform under §1.401(l)-2(c)(2)) do not cause the plan to fail to satisfy this paragraph (b)(2).

(3) Safe harbor for plans with uniform points allocation formula—(i) General rule. A defined contribution plan (other than an ESOP) satisfies the safe harbor in this paragraph (b)(3) for a plan year if it satisfies both of the following requirements:

(A) The plan must allocate amounts under a uniform points allocation formula. A uniform points allocation formula defines each employee's allocation for the plan year as the product of the total of all amounts taken into account under paragraph (c)(2)(ii) of this section and a fraction, the numerator of which is the employee's points for the plan year and the denominator of which is the sum of the points of all employees in the plan for the plan year. For this purpose, an employee's points for a plan year equal the sum of the employee's points for age, service, and units of plan year compensation for the plan year. Under a uniform points allocation formula, each employee must receive the same number of points for each year of age, the same number of points for each year of service, and the same number of points for each unit of plan year compensation. (See §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3) regarding service that may be taken into account as years of service.) A uniform points allocation formula need not grant points for both age and service, but it must grant points for at least one of them. If the allocation formula grants points for years of service, the plan is permitted to limit the number of years of service taken into account to a single maximum number of years of service. A uniform points allocation formula need not grant points for units of plan year compensation, but if it does, the unit used must be a single dollar amount for all employees that does not exceed $200.

(B) For the plan year, the average of the allocation rates for the HCEs in the plan must not exceed the average of the allocation rates for the NHCEs in the plan. For this purpose, allocation rates are determined in accordance with paragraph (c)(2) of this section, without imputing permitted disparity and without grouping allocation rates under paragraphs (c)(2) (iv) and (v) of this section, respectively.

(ii) Example. The following example illustrates the safe harbor in this paragraph (b)(3):

Example. (a) Plan A has a single allocation formula that applies to all employees, under which each employee's allocation for the plan year equals the product of the total of all amounts taken into account for all employees for the plan year under paragraph (c)(2)(ii) of this section and a fraction, the numerator of which is the employee's points for the plan year and the denominator of which is the sum of the points of all employees for the plan year. Plan A grants each employee 10 points for each year of service (including pre-participation service and imputed service credited under Plan A that satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)) and one point for each $100 of plan year compensation. For the 1994 plan year, the total allocations are $71,200, and the total points for all employees are 7,120. Each employee's allocation for the 1994 plan year is set forth in the table below.
Employee Years of service Plan year compensation Points Amount of allocation Allocation rate (percent)
H120$150,0001,700$17,00011.3
H210150,0001,60016,00010.7
H330100,0001,30013,00013.0
H43100,0001,03010,30010.3
N11040,0005005,00012.5
N2535,0004004,00011.4
N3330,0003303,30011.0
N4125,0002602,60010.4
Total7,12071,200
(b) Under these facts, for the 1994 plan year, Plan A allocates amounts under a uniform points allocation formula within the meaning of paragraph (b)(3)(i)(A) of this section.

(c) For the 1994 plan year, the average allocation rate for the HCEs (H1 through H4) is 11.3 percent, and the average allocation rate for NHCEs (N1 through N4) is 11.3 percent. Because the average of the allocation rates for the HCEs does not exceed the average of the allocation rates for the NHCEs, Plan A satisfies paragraph (b)(3)(i)(B) of this section and, thus, the safe harbor in this paragraph (b)(3) for the 1994 plan year.

(4) Use of safe harbors not precluded by certain plan provisions—(i) In general. A plan does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (b) merely because the plan contains one or more of the provisions described in this paragraph (b)(4). Unless otherwise provided, any such provision must apply uniformly to all employees.

(ii) Entry dates. The plan provides one or more entry dates during the plan year as permitted by section 410(a)(4).

(iii) Certain conditions on allocations. The plan provides that an employee's allocation for the plan year is conditioned on either the employee's employment on the last day of the plan year or the employee's completion of a minimum number of hours of service during the plan year (not to exceed 1,000), or both. Such a provision may include an exception from this condition for all employees whose employment terminates during the plan year or only for those employees whose employment terminates during the plan year on account of one or more of the following circumstances: retirement, disability, death, or military service.

(iv) Certain limits on allocations. The plan limits allocations otherwise provided under the allocation formula to a maximum dollar amount or a maximum percentage of plan year compensation, limits the dollar amount of plan year compensation taken into account in determining the amount of allocations, or applies the restrictions of section 409(n) or the limits of section 415.

(v) Lower allocations for HCEs. The allocations provided to one or more HCEs under the plan are less than the allocations that would otherwise be provided to those employees if the plan satisfied this paragraph (b) (without regard to this paragraph (b)(4)(v)).

(vi) Multiple formulas—(A) General rule. The plan provides that an employee's allocation under the plan is the greater of the allocations determined under two or more formulas, or is the sum of the allocations determined under two or more formulas. This paragraph (b)(4)(vi) does not apply to a plan unless each of the formulas under the plan satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b)(4)(vi) (B) through (D) of this section.

(B) Sole formulas. The formulas must be the only formulas under the plan.

(C) Separate testing. Each of the formulas must separately satisfy this paragraph (b). A formula that is available solely to some or all NHCEs is deemed to satisfy this paragraph (b)(4)(vi)(C).

(D) Availability—(1) General rule. All of the formulas must be available on the same terms to all employees.

(2) Formulas for NHCEs. A formula does not fail to be available on the same terms to all employees merely because the formula is not available to any HCEs, but is available to some or all NHCEs on the same terms as all of the other formulas in the plan.

(3) Top-heavy formulas. In the case of a plan that provides the greater of the allocations under two or more formulas, one of which is a top-heavy formula, the top-heavy formula does not fail to be available on the same terms to all employees merely because it is available solely to all non-key employees on the same terms as all the other formulas under the plan. Furthermore, the top-heavy formula does not fail to be available on the same terms as the other formulas under the plan merely because it is conditioned on the plan's being top-heavy within the meaning of section 416(g). Finally, the top-heavy formula does not fail to be available on the same terms as the other formulas under the plan merely because it is available to all employees described in §1.416-1, Q&A M-10 (i.e., all non-key employees who have not separated from service as of the last day of the plan year). The preceding sentence does not apply, however, unless the plan would satisfy section 410(b) if all employees who are benefiting under the plan solely as a result of receiving allocations under the top-heavy formula were treated as not currently benefiting under the plan. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(4)(vi)(D)(3), a top-heavy formula is a formula that provides the minimum benefit described in section 416(c)(2) (taking into account, if applicable, the modification in section 416(h)(2)(A)(ii)(II)).

(E) Provisions may be applied more than once. The provisions of this paragraph (b)(4)(vi) may be applied more than once. For example, a plan satisfies this paragraph (b) if an employee's allocation under the plan is the greater of the allocations under two or more formulas, and one or more of those formulas is the sum of the allocations under two or more other formulas, provided that each of the formulas under the plan satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b)(4)(vi) (B) through (D) of this section.

(F) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (b)(4)(vi):

Example 1. Under Plan A, each employee's allocation equals the sum of the allocations determined under two formulas. The first formula provides an allocation of five percent of plan year compensation. The second formula provides an allocation of $100. Plan A satisfies this paragraph (b)(4)(vi).
Example 2. Under Plan B, each employee's allocation equals the greater of the allocations determined under two formulas. The first formula provides an allocation of seven percent of plan year compensation and is available to all employees who complete at least 1,000 hours of service during the plan year and who have not separated from service as of the last day of the plan year. The second formula is a top-heavy formula that provides an allocation of three percent of plan year compensation and that is available to all employees described in §1.416-1, Q&A M-10. Plan B does not satisfy the general rule in paragraph (b)(4)(vi)(D)(1) of this section because the two formulas are not available on the same terms to all employees (i.e., an employee is required to complete 1,000 hours of service during the plan year to receive an allocation under the first formula, but not under the second formula). Nonetheless, because the second formula is a top-heavy formula, the special availability rules for top-heavy formulas in paragraph (b)(4)(vi)(D)(3) of this section apply. Thus, the second formula does not fail to be available on the same terms as the first formula merely because the second formula is available to all employees described in §1.416-1, Q&A M-10, as long as the plan would satisfy section 410(b) if all employees who are benefiting under the plan solely as a result of receiving allocations under the top-heavy formula were treated as not currently benefiting under the plan. This is true even if the plan conditions the availability of the second formula on the plan's being top-heavy for the plan year.
Example 3. The facts are the same as in Example 2, except that the first formula is available to all employees who have not separated from service as of the last day of the plan year, regardless of whether they complete at least 1,000 hours of service during the plan year. Plan B still does not satisfy the general rule in paragraph (b)(4)(vi)(D)(1) of this section because the two formulas are not available on the same terms to all employees (i.e., the second formula is only available to all non-key employees). Nonetheless, because the second formula is a top-heavy formula, the special availability rules for top-heavy formulas in paragraph (b)(4)(vi)(D)(3) of this section apply. Thus, the second formula does not fail to be available on the same terms as the first formula merely because the second formula is available solely to all non-key employees.

(c) General test for nondiscrimination in amount of contributions—(1) General rule. The employer contributions allocated under a defined contribution plan are nondiscriminatory in amount for a plan year if each rate group under the plan satisfies section 410(b). For purposes of this paragraph (c), a rate group exists under a plan for each HCE and consists of the HCE and all other employees in the plan (both HCEs and NHCEs) who have an allocation rate greater than or equal to the HCE's allocation rate. Thus, an employee is in the rate group for each HCE who has an allocation rate less than or equal to the employee's allocation rate.

(2) Determination of allocation rates—(i) General rule. The allocation rate for an employee for a plan year equals the sum of the allocations to the employee's account for the plan year, expressed either as a percentage of plan year compensation or as a dollar amount.

(ii) Allocations taken into account. The amounts taken into account in determining allocation rates for a plan year include all employer contributions and forfeitures that are allocated or treated as allocated to the account of an employee under the plan for the plan year, other than amounts described in paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section. For this purpose, employer contributions include annual additions described in §1.415(c)-1(b)(4) (regarding amounts arising from certain transactions between the plan and the employer). In the case of a defined contribution plan subject to section 412, an employer contribution is taken into account in the plan year for which it is required to be contributed and allocated to employees' accounts under the plan, even if all or part of the required contribution is not actually made.

(iii) Allocations not taken into account. Allocations of income, expenses, gains, and losses attributable to the balance in an employee's account are not taken into account in determining allocation rates.

(iv) Imputation of permitted disparity. The disparity permitted under section 401(l) may be imputed in accordance with the rules of §1.401(a)(4)-7.

(v) Grouping of allocation rates—(A) General rule. An employer may treat all employees who have allocation rates within a specified range above and below a midpoint rate chosen by the employer as having an allocation rate equal to the midpoint rate within that range. Allocation rates within a given range may not be grouped under this paragraph (c)(2)(v) if the allocation rates of HCEs within the range generally are significantly higher than the allocation rates of NHCEs in the range. The specified ranges within which all employees are treated as having the same allocation rate may not overlap and may be no larger than provided in paragraph (c)(2)(v)(B) of this section. Allocation rates of employees that are not within any of these specified ranges are determined without regard to this paragraph (c)(2)(v).

(B) Size of specified ranges. The lowest and highest allocation rates in the range must be within five percent (not five percentage points) of the midpoint rate. If allocation rates are determined as a percentage of plan year compensation, the lowest and highest allocation rates need not be within five percent of the midpoint rate, if they are no more than one quarter of a percentage point above or below the midpoint rate.

(vi) Consistency requirement. Allocation rates must be determined in a consistent manner for all employees for the plan year.

(3) Satisfaction of section 410(b) by a rate group—(i) General rule. For purposes of determining whether a rate group satisfies section 410(b), the rate group is treated as if it were a separate plan that benefits only the employees included in the rate group for the plan year. Thus, for example, under §1.401(a)(4)-1(c)(4)(iv), the ratio percentage of the rate group is determined taking into account all nonexcludable employees regardless of whether they benefit under the plan. Paragraph (c)(3) (ii) and (iii) of this section provide additional special rules for determining whether a rate group satisfies section 410(b).

(ii) Application of nondiscriminatory classification test. A rate group satisfies the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4 (including the reasonable classification requirement of §1.410(b)-4(b)) if and only if the ratio percentage of the rate group is greater than or equal to the lesser of—

(A) The midpoint between the safe and the unsafe harbor percentages applicable to the plan; and

(B) The ratio percentage of the plan.

(iii) Application of average benefit percentage test. A rate group satisfies the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5 if the plan of which it is a part satisfies §1.410(b)-5 (without regard to §1.410(b)-5(f)). In the case of a plan that relies on §1.410(b)-5(f) to satisfy the average benefit percentage test, each rate group under the plan satisfies the average benefit percentage test (if applicable) only if the rate group separately satisfies §1.410(b)-5(f).

(4) Examples. The following examples illustrate the general test in this paragraph (c):

Example 1. Employer X maintains two defined contribution plans, Plan A and Plan B, that are aggregated and treated as a single plan for purposes of sections 410(b) and 401(a)(4) pursuant to §1.410(b)-7(d). For the 1994 plan year, Employee M has plan year compensation of $10,000 and receives an allocation of $200 under Plan A and an allocation of $800 under Plan B. Employee M's allocation rate under the aggregated plan for the 1994 plan year is 10 percent (i.e., $1,000 divided by $10,000).
Example 2. The employees in Plan C have the following allocation rates (expressed as a percentage of plan year compensation): 2.75 percent, 2.80 percent, 2.85 percent, 3.25 percent, 6.65 percent, 7.33 percent, 7.34 percent, and 7.35 percent. Because the first four rates are within a range of no more than one quarter of a percentage point above and below 3.0 percent (a midpoint rate chosen by the employer), under paragraph (c)(2)(v) of this section the employer may treat the employees who have those rates as having an allocation rate of 3.0 percent (provided that the allocation rates of HCEs within the range generally are not significantly higher than the allocation rates of NHCEs within the range). Because the last four rates are within a range of no more than five percent above and below 7.0 percent (a midpoint rate chosen by the employer), the employer may treat the employees who have those rates as having an allocation rate of 7.0 percent (provided that the allocation rates of HCEs within the range generally are not significantly higher than the allocation rates of NHCEs within the range).
Example 3. (a) Employer Y has only six nonexcludable employees, all of whom benefit under Plan D. The HCEs are H1 and H2, and the NHCEs are N1 through N4. For the 1994 plan year, H1 and N1 through N4 have an allocation rate of 5.0 percent of plan year compensation. For the same plan year, H2 has an allocation rate of 7.5 percent of plan year compensation.

(b) There are two rate groups under Plan D. Rate group 1 consists of H1 and all those employees who have an allocation rate greater than or equal to H1's allocation rate (5.0 percent). Thus, rate group 1 consists of H1, H2, and N1 through N4. Rate group 2 consists only of H2 because no other employee has an allocation rate greater than or equal to H2's allocation rate (7.5 percent).

(c) The ratio percentage for rate group 2 is zero percent—i.e., zero percent (the percentage of all nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employees who are in the rate group) divided by 50 percent (the percentage of all highly compensated nonexcludable employees who are in the rate group). Therefore rate group 2 does not satisfy the ratio percentage test under §1.410(b)-2(b)(2). Rate group 2 also does not satisfy the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4 (as modified by paragraph (c)(3) of this section). Rate group 2 therefore does not satisfy section 410(b) and, as a result, Plan D does not satisfy the general test in paragraph (c)(1) of this section. This is true regardless of whether rate group 1 satisfies §1.410(b)-2(b)(2).

Example 4. (a) The facts are the same as in Example 3, except that N4 has an allocation rate of 8.0 percent.

(b) There are two rate groups in Plan D. Rate group 1 consists of H1 and all those employees who have an allocation rate greater than or equal to H1's allocation rate (5.0 percent). Thus, rate group 1 consists of H1, H2 and N1 through N4. Rate group 2 consists of H2, and all those employees who have an allocation rate greater than or equal to H2's allocation rate (7.5 percent). Thus, rate group 2 consists of H2 and N4.

(c) Rate group 1 satisfies the ratio percentage test under §1.410(b)-2(b)(2) because the ratio percentage of the rate group is 100 percent—i.e., 100 percent (the percentage of all nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employees who are in the rate group) divided by 100 percent (the percentage of all highly compensated nonexcludable employees who are in the rate group).

(d) Rate group 2 does not satisfy the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2) because the ratio percentage of the rate group is 50 percent—i.e., 25 percent (the percentage of all nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employees who are in the rate group) divided by 50 percent (the percentage of all highly compensated nonexcludable employees who are in the rate group).

(e) However, rate group 2 does satisfy the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4 because the ratio percentage of the rate group (50 percent) is greater than the safe harbor percentage applicable to the plan under §1.410(b)-4(c)(4) (45.5 percent).

(f) Under paragraph (c)(3)(iii) of this section, rate group 2 satisfies the average benefit percentage test, if Plan D satisfies the average benefit percentage test. (The requirement that Plan D satisfy the average benefit percentage test applies even though Plan D satisfies the ratio percentage test and would ordinarily not need to run the average benefit percentage test.) If Plan D satisfies the average benefit percentage test, then rate group 2 satisfies section 410(b) and thus, Plan D satisfies the general test in paragraph (c)(1) of this section, because each rate group under the plan satisfies section 410(b).

Example 5. (a) Plan E satisfies section 410(b) by satisfying the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4 and the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5 (without regard to §1.410(b)-5(f)). See §1.410(b)-2(b)(3). Plan E uses the facts-and-circumstances requirements of §1.410(b)-4(c)(3) to satisfy the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4. The safe and unsafe harbor percentages applicable to the plan under §1.410(b)-4(c)(4) are 29 and 20 percent, respectively. Plan E has a ratio percentage of 22 percent.

(b) Rate group 1 under Plan E has a ratio percentage of 23 percent. Under paragraph (c)(3)(ii) of this section, the rate group satisfies the nondiscriminatory classification requirement of §1.410(b)-4, because the ratio percentage of the rate group (23 percent) is greater than the lesser of—

(1) The ratio percentage for the plan as a whole (22 percent); and

(2) The midpoint between the safe and unsafe harbor percentages (24.5 percent).

(c) Under paragraph (c)(3)(iii) of this section, the rate group satisfies section 410(b) because the plan satisfies the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5.

[T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46781, Sept. 3, 1993, as amended by T.D. 9319, 72 FR 16894, Apr. 5, 2007]

§1.401(a)(4)-3   Nondiscrimination in amount of employer-provided benefits under a defined benefit plan.

(a) Introduction—(1) Overview. This section provides rules for determining whether the employer-provided benefits under a defined benefit plan are nondiscriminatory in amount as required by §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2)(iii). Certain defined benefit plans that provide uniform benefits are permitted to satisfy this requirement by meeting one of the safe harbors in paragraph (b) of this section. Plans that do not provide uniform benefits may satisfy this requirement by satisfying the general test in paragraph (c) of this section. Paragraph (d) of this section provides rules for determining the individual benefit accrual rates needed for the general test. Paragraph (e) of this section provides rules for determining compensation for purposes of applying the requirements of this section. Paragraph (f) of this section provides additional rules that apply generally for purposes of both the safe harbors in paragraph (b) of this section and the general test in paragraph (c) of this section. See §1.401(a)(4)-6 for rules for determining the amount of employer-provided benefits under a contributory DB plan, and for determining whether the employee-provided benefits under such a plan are nondiscriminatory in amount.

(2) Alternative methods of satisfying nondiscriminatory amount requirement. A defined benefit plan is permitted to satisfy paragraph (b) or (c) of this section on a restructured basis pursuant to §1.401(a)(4)-9(c). Alternatively, a defined benefit plan is permitted to satisfy the nondiscriminatory amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2)(iii) on the basis of equivalent allocations pursuant to §1.401(a)(4)-8(c). In addition, a defined benefit plan that is part of a floor-offset arrangement is permitted to satisfy this section pursuant to §1.401(a)(4)-8(d).

(b) Safe harbors—(1) In general. The employer-provided benefits under a defined benefit plan are nondiscriminatory in amount for a plan year if the plan satisfies each of the uniformity requirements of paragraph (b)(2) of this section and any one of the safe harbors in paragraphs (b)(3) (unit credit plans), (b)(4) (fractional accrual plans), and (b)(5) (insurance contract plans) of this section. Paragraph (b)(6) of this section provides exceptions for certain plan provisions that do not cause a plan to fail to satisfy this paragraph (b). Paragraph (f) of this section provides additional rules that apply in determining whether a plan satisfies this paragraph (b).

(2) Uniformity requirements—(i) Uniform normal retirement benefit. The same benefit formula must apply to all employees. The benefit formula must provide all employees with an annual benefit payable in the same form commencing at the same uniform normal retirement age. The annual benefit must be the same percentage of average annual compensation or the same dollar amount for all employees who will have the same number of years of service at normal retirement age. (See §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3) regarding service that may be taken into account as years of service.) The annual benefit must equal the employee's accrued benefit at normal retirement age (within the meaning of section 411(a)(7)(A)(i)) and must be the normal retirement benefit under the plan (within the meaning of section 411(a)(9)).

(ii) Uniform post-normal retirement benefit. With respect to an employee with a given number of years of service at any age after normal retirement age, the annual benefit commencing at that employee's age must be the same percentage of average annual compensation or the same dollar amount that would be payable commencing at normal retirement age to an employee who had that same number of years of service at normal retirement age.

(iii) Uniform subsidies. Each subsidized optional form of benefit available under the plan must be currently available (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b)(2)) to substantially all employees. Whether an optional form of benefit is considered subsidized for this purpose may be determined using any reasonable actuarial assumptions.

(iv) No employee contributions. The plan must not be a contributory DB plan.

(v) Period of accrual. Each employee's benefit must be accrued over the same years of service that are taken into account in applying the benefit formula under the plan to that employee. For this purpose, any year in which the employee benefits under the plan (within the meaning of §1.410(b)-3(a)) is included as a year of service in which a benefit accrues. Thus, for example, a plan does not satisfy the safe harbor in paragraph (b)(4) of this section unless the plan uses the same years of service to determine both the normal retirement benefit under the plan's benefit formula and the fraction by which an employee's fractional rule benefit is multiplied to derive the employee's accrued benefit as of any plan year.

(vi) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (b)(2):

Example 1. Plan A provides a normal retirement benefit equal to two percent of average annual compensation times each year of service commencing at age 65 for all employees. Plan A provides that employees of Division S receive their benefit in the form of a straight life annuity and that employees of Division T receive their benefit in the form of a life annuity with an automatic cost-of-living increase. Plan A does not provide a uniform normal retirement benefit within the meaning of paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section because the annual benefit is not payable in the same form to all employees.
Example 2. Plan B provides a normal retirement benefit equal to 1.5 percent of average annual compensation times each year of service at normal retirement age for all employees. The normal retirement age under the plan is the earlier of age 65 or the age at which the employee completes 10 years of service, but in no event earlier than age 62. Plan B does not provide a uniform normal retirement benefit within the meaning of paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section because the same uniform normal retirement age does not apply to all employees.
Example 3. Plan C is an accumulation plan under which the benefit for each year of service equals one percent of plan year compensation payable in the same form to all employees commencing at the same uniform normal retirement age. Under paragraph (e)(2) of this section, an accumulation plan may substitute plan year compensation for average annual compensation. Plan C provides a uniform normal retirement benefit within the meaning of paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section, because all employees with the same number of years of service at normal retirement age will receive an annual benefit that is treated as the same percentage of average annual compensation.
Example 4. The facts are the same as in Example 3, except that the benefit for each year of service equals one percent of plan year compensation increased by reference to the increase in the cost of living from the year of service to normal retirement age. Plan C does not provide a uniform normal retirement benefit, because the annual benefit defined by the benefit formula can vary for employees with the same number of years of service at normal retirement age, depending on the age at which those years of service were credited to the employee under the plan.
Example 5. Plan D provides a normal retirement benefit of 50 percent of average annual compensation at normal retirement age (age 65) for employees with 30 years of service at normal retirement age. Plan D provides that, in the case of an employee with less than 30 years of service at normal retirement age, the normal retirement benefit is reduced on a pro rata basis for each year of service less than 30. However, if an employee with less than 30 years of service at normal retirement age continues to work past normal retirement age, Plan D provides that the additional years of service worked past normal retirement age are taken into account for purposes of the 30 years of service requirement. Thus, an employee who has 26 years of service at age 65 but who does not retire until age 69 with 30 years of service will receive a benefit of 50 percent of average annual compensation. Plan D provides uniform post-normal retirement benefits within the meaning of paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section.
Example 6. (a) Plan E is amended on February 14, 1994, to provide an early retirement window benefit that consists of an unreduced early retirement benefit to employees who terminate employment after attainment of age 55 with 10 years of service and between June 1, 1994, and November 30, 1994. The early retirement window benefit is a single subsidized optional form of benefit. Paragraph (b)(2)(iii) of this section requires that the subsidized optional form of benefit be currently available (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b)(2)) to substantially all employees. Section 1.401(a)(4)-4(b)(2)(ii)(A)(2) provides that age and service requirements are not disregarded in determining the current availability of an optional form of benefit if those requirements must be satisfied within a specified period of time. Thus, the early retirement window benefit is not currently available to an employee unless the employee will satisfy the eligibility requirements for the early retirement window benefit by the close of the early retirement window benefit period. Plan E will fail to satisfy paragraph (b)(2)(iii) of this section unless substantially all of the employees satisfy the eligibility requirements for the early retirement window benefit by November 30, 1994. However, see §1.401(a)(4)-9(c)(6), Example 2, for an example of how a plan with an early retirement window benefit may be restructured into two component plans, each of which satisfies the safe harbors of this paragraph (b).

(b) A similar analysis would apply if, instead of an unreduced early retirement benefit, the early retirement window benefit consisted of a special schedule of early retirement factors, defined by starting with the plan's usual schedule and then treating each employee eligible for the early retirement window benefit as being five years older than the employee actually is, but not older than the employee's normal retirement age.

Example 7. Plan F generally provides a normal retirement benefit of 1.5 percent of an employee's average annual compensation multiplied by the employee's years of service with the employer. For employees transferred outside of the group of employees covered by the plan, the plan's benefit formula takes into account only years of service prior to the transfer, but determines average annual compensation taking into account section 414(s) compensation both before and after the transfer. Plan F does not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b)(2)(v) of this section with respect to transferred employees, because their benefits are accrued over years of service (i.e., after transfer) that are not taken into account in applying the plan's benefit formula to them. However, see Example 2 of paragraph (b)(6)(x)(B) of this section for an example of how a plan that continues to take transferred employees' section 414(s) compensation into account after their transfer may still satisfy this paragraph (b).

(3) Safe harbor for unit credit plans—(i) General rule. A plan satisfies the safe harbor in this paragraph (b)(3) for a plan year if it satisfies both of the following requirements:

(A) The plan must satisfy the 13313 percent accrual rule of section 411(b)(1)(B).

(B) Each employee's accrued benefit under the plan as of any plan year must be determined by applying the plan's benefit formula to the employee's years of service and (if applicable) average annual compensation, both determined as of that plan year.

(ii) Example. The following example illustrates the rules in this paragraph (b)(3):

Example. Plan A provides that the accrued benefit of each employee as of any plan year equals the employee's average annual compensation times a percentage that depends on the employee's years of service determined as of that plan year. The percentage is 2 percent for each of the first 10 years of service, plus 1.5 percent for each of the next 10 years of service, plus 2 percent for all additional years of service. Plan A satisfies this paragraph (b)(3).

(4) Safe harbor for plans using fractional accrual rule—(i) General rule. A plan satisfies the safe harbor in this paragraph (b)(4) for a plan year if it satisfies each of the following requirements:

(A) The plan must satisfy the fractional accrual rule of section 411(b)(1)(C).

(B) Each employee's accrued benefit under the plan as of any plan year before the employee reaches normal retirement age must be determined by multiplying the employee's fractional rule benefit (within the meaning of §1.411(b)-1(b)(3)(ii)(A)) by a fraction, the numerator of which is the employee's years of service determined as of the plan year, and the denominator of which is the employee's projected years of service as of normal retirement age.

(C) The plan must satisfy one of the following requirements:

(1) Under the plan, it must be impossible for any employee to accrue in a plan year a portion of the normal retirement benefit described in paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section that is more than one-third larger than the portion of the same benefit accrued in that or any other plan year by any other employee, when each portion of the benefit is expressed as a percentage of each employee's average annual compensation or as a dollar amount. In making this determination, actual and potential employees in the plan with any amount of service at normal retirement must be taken into account (other than employees with more than 33 years of service at normal retirement age). In addition, in the case of a plan that satisfies section 401(l) in form, an employee is treated as accruing benefits at a rate equal to the excess benefit percentage in the case of a defined benefit excess plan or at a rate equal to the gross benefit percentage in the case of an offset plan.

(2) The normal retirement benefit under the plan must be a flat benefit that requires a minimum of 25 years of service at normal retirement age for an employee to receive the unreduced flat benefit, determined without regard to section 415. For this purpose, a flat benefit is a benefit that is the same percentage of average annual compensation or the same dollar amount for all employees who have a minimum number of years of service at normal retirement age (e.g., 50 percent of average annual compensation), with a pro rata reduction in the flat benefit for employees who have less than the minimum number of years of service at normal retirement age. An employee is permitted to accrue the maximum benefit permitted under section 415 over a period of less than 25 years, provided that the flat benefit under the plan, determined without regard to section 415, can accrue over no less than 25 years.

(3) The plan must satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b)(4)(i)(C)(2) of this section (other than the requirement that the minimum number of years of service for receiving the unreduced flat benefit is at least 25 years), and, for the plan year, the average of the normal accrual rates for all nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employees must be at least 70 percent of the average of the normal accrual rates for all highly compensated nonexcludable employees. The averages in the preceding sentence are determined taking into account all nonexcludable employees (regardless of whether they benefit under the plan). In addition, contributions and benefits under other plans of the employer are disregarded. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(4)(i)(C)(3), normal accrual rates are determined under paragraph (d) of this section.

(ii) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (b)(4). In each example, it is assumed that the plan has never permitted employee contributions.

Example 1. Plan A provides a normal retirement benefit equal to 1.6 percent of average annual compensation times each year of service up to 25. Plan A further provides that an employee's accrued benefit as of any plan year equals the employee's fractional rule benefit multiplied by a fraction, the numerator of which is the employee's years of service as of the plan year, and the denominator of which is the employee's projected years of service as of normal retirement age. The greatest benefit that an employee could accrue in any plan year is 1.6 percent of average annual compensation (this is the case for an employee with 25 or fewer years of projected service at normal retirement age). Among potential employees with 33 or fewer years of projected service at normal retirement age, the lowest benefit that an employee could accrue in any plan year is 1.212 percent of average annual compensation (this is the case for an employee with 33 years of projected service at normal retirement age). Plan A satisfies paragraph (b)(4)(i)(C)(1) of this section because 1.6 percent is not more than one third larger than 1.212 percent.
Example 2. Plan B provides a normal retirement benefit equal to 1.0 percent of average annual compensation up to the integration level, and 1.6 percent of average annual compensation above the integration level, times each year of service up to 35. Plan B further provides that an employee's accrued benefit as of any plan year equals the employee's fractional rule benefit multiplied by a fraction, the numerator of which is the employee's years of service as of the plan year and the denominator of which is the employee's projected years of service as of normal retirement age. For purposes of satisfying the one third larger rule in paragraph (b)(4)(i)(C)(1) of this section, because Plan B satisfies section 401(l) in form, all employees with less than 35 projected years of service are assumed to accrue benefits at the rate of 1.6 percent of average annual compensation (the excess benefit percentage under the plan). Plan B satisfies paragraph (b)(4)(i)(C) of this section because all employees with 33 or fewer years of projected service at normal retirement age accrue in each plan year a benefit of 1.6 percent of average annual compensation.
Example 3. Plan C provides a normal retirement benefit equal to four percent of average annual compensation times each year of service up to 10 and one percent of average annual compensation times each year of service in excess of 10 and not in excess of 30. Plan C further provides that an employee's accrued benefit as of any plan year equals the employee's fractional rule benefit multiplied by a fraction, the numerator of which is the employee's years of service as of the plan year, and the denominator of which is the employee's projected years of service as of normal retirement age. The greatest benefit that an employee could accrue in any plan year is four percent of average annual compensation (this is the case for an employee with 10 or fewer years of projected service at normal retirement age). Among employees with 33 or fewer years of projected service at normal retirement age, the lowest benefit that an employee could accrue in a plan year is 1.82 percent of average annual compensation (this is the case of an employee with 33 years of projected service at normal retirement age). Plan C fails to satisfy this paragraph (b)(4) because four percent is more than one third larger than 1.82 percent. See also §1.401(a)(4)-9(c)(6), Example 3.
Example 4. Plan D provides a normal retirement benefit of 100 percent of average annual compensation, reduced by four percentage points for each year of service below 25 the employee has at normal retirement age. Plan D further provides that an employee's accrued benefit as of any plan year is equal to the employee's fractional rule benefit multiplied by a fraction, the numerator of which is the employee's years of service as of the plan year, and the denominator of which is the employee's projected years of service at normal retirement age. In the case of an employee who has five years of service as of the current plan year, and who is projected to have 10 years of service at normal retirement age, the employee's fractional rule benefit would be 40 percent of average annual compensation, and the employee's accrued benefit as of the current plan year would be 20 percent of average annual compensation (the fractional rule benefit multiplied by a fraction of five years over 10 years). Plan D satisfies this paragraph (b)(4).
Example 5. The facts are the same as in Example 4, except that the normal retirement benefit is 125 percent of average annual compensation, reduced by five percentage points for each year of service below 25 that the employee has at normal retirement age. Plan D satisfies this paragraph (b)(4), even though an employee may accrue the maximum benefit allowed under section 415 (i.e., 100 percent of the participant's average compensation for the high three years of service) in less than 25 years.
Example 6. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that the plan determines each employee's accrued benefit by multiplying the employee's projected normal retirement benefit (rather than the fractional rule benefit) by the fraction described in Example 1. In determining an employee's projected normal retirement benefit, the plan defines each employee's average annual compensation as the average annual compensation the employee would have at normal retirement age if the employee's annual section 414(s) compensation in future plan years equaled the employee's plan year compensation for the prior plan year. Under these facts, Plan A does not satisfy paragraph (b)(4)(i)(B) of this section because the employee's accrued benefit is determined on the basis of a projected normal retirement benefit that is not the same as the employee's fractional rule benefit determined in accordance with §1.411(b)-1(b)(3)(ii)(A).
Example 7. Plan E provides a normal retirement benefit of 50 percent of average annual compensation, with a pro rata reduction for employees with less than 30 years of service at normal retirement age. Plan E further provides that an employee's accrued benefit as of any plan year is equal to the employee's fractional rule benefit multiplied by a fraction, the numerator of which is the employee's years of service as of the plan year, and the denominator of which is the employee's projected years of service at normal retirement age. For purposes of determining this fraction, the plan limits the years of service taken into account for an employee to the number of years the employee has participated in the plan. However, all years of service (including years of service before the employee commenced participation in the plan) are taken into account in determining an employee's normal retirement benefit under the plan's benefit formula. Plan E fails to satisfy this paragraph (b)(4) because the years of service over which benefits accrue differ from the years of service used in applying the benefit formula under the plan. See paragraph (b)(2)(v) of this section.
Example 8. (a) Plan F provides a normal retirement benefit equal to 2.0 percent of average annual compensation, plus 0.65 percent of average annual compensation above covered compensation, for each year of service up to 25. Plan F further provides that an employee's accrued benefit as of any plan year equals the sum of—

(1) The employee's fractional rule benefit (determined as if the normal retirement benefit under the plan equaled 2.0 percent of average annual compensation for each year of service up to 25) multiplied by a fraction, the numerator of which is the employee's years of service as of the plan year and the denominator of which is the employee's projected years of service as of normal retirement age; plus

(2) 0.65 percent of the employee's average annual compensation above covered compensation multiplied by the employee's years of service (up to 25) as of the current plan year.

(b) Although Plan F satisfies the fractional accrual rule of section 411(b)(1)(C), the plan fails to satisfy this paragraph (b)(4) because the plan does not determine employees' accrued benefits in accordance with paragraph (b)(4)(i)(B) of this section.

(5) Safe harbor for insurance contract plans. A plan satisfies the safe harbor in this paragraph (b)(5) if it satisfies each of the following requirements:

(i) The plan must satisfy the accrual rule of section 411(b)(1)(F).

(ii) The plan must be an insurance contract plan within the meaning of section 412(i).

(iii) The benefit formula under the plan must be one that would satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b)(4) of this section if the stated normal retirement benefit under the formula accrued ratably over each employee's period of plan participation through normal retirement age in accordance with paragraph (b)(4)(i)(B) of this section. Thus, the benefit formula may not recognize years of service before an employee commenced participation in the plan because, otherwise, the definition of years of service for determining the normal retirement benefit would differ from the definition of years of service for determining the accrued benefit under paragraph (b)(4)(i)(B) of this section. See paragraph (b)(4)(ii), Example 7, of this section. Notwithstanding the foregoing, an insurance contract plan adopted and in effect on September 19, 1991, may continue to recognize years of service prior to an employee's participation in the plan for an employee who is a participant in the plan on that date to the extent provided by the benefit formula in the plan on such date.

(iv) The scheduled premium payments under an individual or group insurance contract used to fund an employee's normal retirement benefit must be level annual payments to normal retirement age. Thus, payments may not be scheduled to cease before normal retirement age.

(v) The premium payments for an employee who continues benefiting after normal retirement age must be equal to the amount necessary to fund additional benefits that accrue under the plan's benefit formula for the plan year.

(vi) Experience gains, dividends, forfeitures, and similar items must be used solely to reduce future premiums.

(vii) All benefits must be funded through contracts of the same series. Among other requirements, contracts of the same series must have cash values based on the same terms (including interest and mortality assumptions) and the same conversion rights. A plan does not fail to satisfy this requirement, however, if any change in the contract series or insurer applies on the same terms to all employees. But see §1.401(a)(4)-5(a)(4), Example 12 (change in insurer considered a plan amendment subject to §1.401(a)(4)-5(a)).

(viii) If permitted disparity is taken into account, the normal retirement benefit stated under the plan's benefit formula must satisfy §1.401(l)-3. For this purpose, the 0.75-percent factor in the maximum excess or offset allowance in §1.401(l)-3(b)(2)(i) or (b)(3)(i), respectively, adjusted in accordance with §1.401(l)-3(d)(9) and (e), is reduced by multiplying the factor by 0.80.

(6) Use of safe harbors not precluded by certain plan provisions—(i) In general. A plan does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (b) merely because the plan contains one or more of the provisions described in this paragraph (b)(6). Unless otherwise provided, any such provision must apply uniformly to all employees.

(ii) Section 401(l) permitted disparity. The plan takes permitted disparity into account in a manner that satisfies section 401(l) in form. Thus, differences in employees' benefits under the plan attributable to uniform disparities permitted under §1.401(l)-3 (including differences in disparities that are deemed uniform under §1.401(l)-3(c)(2)) do not cause a plan to fail to satisfy this paragraph (b).

(iii) Different entry dates. The plan provides one or more entry dates during the plan year as permitted by section 410(a)(4).

(iv) Certain conditions on accruals. The plan provides that an employee's accrual for the plan year is less than a full accrual (including a zero accrual) because of a plan provision permitted by the year-of-participation rules of section 411(b)(4).

(v) Certain limits on accruals. The plan limits benefits otherwise provided under the benefit formula or accrual method to a maximum dollar amount or to a maximum percentage of average annual compensation (e.g., by limiting service taken into account in the benefit formula) or in accordance with section 401(a)(5)(D), applies the limits of section 415, or limits the dollar amount of compensation taken into account in determining benefits.

(vi) Dollar accrual per uniform unit of service. The plan determines accruals based on the same dollar amount for each uniform unit of service (not to exceed one week) performed by each employee with the same number of years of service under the plan during the plan year. The preceding sentence applies solely for purposes of the unit credit safe harbor in paragraph (b)(3) of this section.

(vii) Prior benefits accrued under a different formula. The plan determines benefits for years of service after a fresh-start date for all employees under a benefit formula and accrual method that differ from the benefit formula and accrual method previously used to determine benefit accruals for employees in a fresh-start group for years of service before the fresh-start date. This paragraph (b)(6)(vii) applies solely to plans that satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-13(c) with respect to the fresh start.

(viii) Employee contributions. The plan is a contributory DB plan that would satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section if the plan's benefit formula provided benefits at employees' employer-provided benefit rates determined under §1.401(a)(4)-6(b). This paragraph (b)(6)(viii) does not apply to a plan tested under paragraph (b)(4) or (b)(5) of this section unless the plan satisfies one of the methods in §1.401(a)(4)-6 (b)(4) through (b)(6). A minimum benefit added to the plan solely to satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-6(b)(3) is not taken into account in determining whether this paragraph (b)(6)(viii) is satisfied.

(ix) Certain subsidized optional forms. The plan provides a subsidized optional form of benefit that is available to fewer than substantially all employees because the optional form of benefit has been eliminated prospectively as provided in §1.401(a)(4)-4(b)(3).

(x) Lower benefits for HCEs—(A) General rule. The benefits (including any subsidized optional form of benefit) provided to one or more HCEs under the plan are inherently less valuable to those HCEs (determined by applying the principles of §1.401(a)(4)-4(d)(4)) than the benefits that would otherwise be provided to those HCEs if the plan satisfied this paragraph (b) (determined without regard to this paragraph (b)(6)(x)). These inherently less valuable benefits are deemed to satisfy this paragraph (b).

(B) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (b)(6)(x):

Example 1. Plan A would satisfy this paragraph (b) (determined without regard to this paragraph (b)(6)(x)), except for the fact that it fails to satisfy the requirement of paragraph (b)(2)(iii) of this section (i.e., a subsidized optional form must be available to substantially all employees on similar terms). Each subsidized optional form in the plan is available to all the NHCEs on similar terms, but one of the subsidized optional forms of benefit is not available to any of the HCEs. Plan A satisfies this paragraph (b), because Plan A is a safe harbor plan with respect to the NHCEs and provides inherently less valuable benefits to the HCEs.
Example 2. (a) Plan B would satisfy this paragraph (b) (determined without regard to this paragraph (b)(6)(x)), except for the fact that some employees are not being credited with years of service under the plan, but are continuing to accrue benefits as a result of compensation increases. These are employees who have been transferred from the employer that sponsors Plan B to another member of the controlled group whose employees are not covered by Plan B. For these employees, Plan B fails to satisfy the requirement of paragraph (b)(2)(v) of this section (i.e., each employee's benefit must accrue over the same years of service used in applying the benefit formula).

(b) Plan B is restructured into two component plans under the provisions of §1.401(a)(4)-9(c). One component plan (Component Plan B1) consists of all NHCEs who are not being credited with years of service under the plan's benefit formula but are continuing to accrue benefits as a result of compensation increases, and the other component plan (Component Plan B2) consists of the balance of the employees.

(c) Component Plan B1 satisfies this section and section 410(b), because it benefits only NHCEs.

(d) Component Plan B2 is treated as satisfying this paragraph (b), because Plan B would satisfy this paragraph (b) (determined without regard to this paragraph (b)(6)(x)) with respect to the employees in Component Plan B2 but for the fact that it provides inherently less valuable benefits to some HCEs in that component plan (i.e., the employees who are credited only with compensation increases rather than both years of service and compensation increases).

(e) Under §1.401(a)(4)-9(c), if Component Plan B2 satisfies section 410(b), then Plan B satisfies this section.

(xi) Multiple formulas—(A) General rule. The plan provides that an employee's benefit under the plan is the greater of the benefits determined under two or more formulas, or is the sum of the benefits determined under two or more formulas. This paragraph (b)(6)(xi) does not apply to a plan unless each of the formulas under the plan satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b)(6)(xi) (B) through (D) of this section.

(B) Sole formulas. The formulas must be the only formulas under the plan.

(C) Separate testing. Each of the formulas must separately satisfy the uniformity requirements of paragraph (b)(2) of this section and also separately satisfy one of the safe harbors in paragraphs (b)(3) through (b)(5) of this section. A formula that is available solely to some or all NHCEs is deemed to satisfy this paragraph (b)(6)(xi)(C).

(D) Availability—(1) General rule. All of the formulas must be available on the same terms to all employees.

(2) Formulas for NHCEs. A formula does not fail to be available on the same terms to all employees merely because the formula is not available to any HCEs, but is available to some or all NHCEs on the same terms as all of the other formulas in the plan.

(3) Top-heavy formulas. Rules parallel to those in §1.401(a)(4)-2(b)(4)(vi)(D)(3) apply in the case of a plan that provides the greater of the benefits under two or more formulas, one of which is a top-heavy formula. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(6)(xi)(D)(3), a top-heavy formula is a formula that provides a benefit equal to the minimum benefit described in section 416(c)(1) (taking into account, if applicable, the modification in section 416(h)(2)(A)(ii)(I)).

(E) Provisions may be applied more than once. The provisions of this paragraph (b)(6)(xi) may be applied more than once. See §1.401(a)(4)-2(b)(4)(vi)(E) for an example of the application of these provisions more than once.

(F) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (b)(6)(xi):

Example 1. Under Plan A, each employee's benefit equals the sum of the benefits determined under two formulas. The first formula provides one percent of average annual compensation per year of service. The second formula provides $10 per year of service. Plan A is eligible to apply the rules in this paragraph (b)(6)(xi).
Example 2. Under Plan B, each employee's benefit equals the greater of the benefits determined under two formulas. The first formula provides $15 per year of service and is available to all employees who complete at least 500 hours of service during the plan year. The second formula provides 1.5 percent of average annual compensation per year of service and is available to all employees who complete at least 1,000 hours of service during the plan year. Plan B does not satisfy this paragraph (b)(6)(xi) because the two formulas are not available on the same terms to all employees.
Example 3. Under Plan C, each employee's benefit equals the greater of the benefits determined under two formulas. The first formula provides $15 per year of service and is available to all employees who complete at least 1,000 hours of service during the plan year. The second formula provides the minimum benefit described in section 416(c)(1) and is available to all non-key employees who complete at least 1,000 hours of service during the plan year. Plan C does not satisfy the general rule in paragraph (b)(6)(xi)(D)(1) of this section because the two formulas are not available on the same terms to all employees (i.e., the second formula is only available to all non-key employees). Nonetheless, because the second formula is a top-heavy formula, the special availability rules for top-heavy formulas in paragraph (b)(6)(xi)(D)(3) of this section apply. Thus, the second formula does not fail to be available on the same terms as the first formula merely because the second formula is available solely to all non-key employees on the same terms. This is true even if the plan conditions the availability of the second formula on the plan's being top-heavy for the plan year.
Example 4. Under Plan D, each employee's benefit equals the greater of the benefits determined under two formulas. The first formula is available to all employees and provides a benefit equal to 1.5 percent of average annual compensation per year of service. The second formula is only available to NHCEs and provides a benefit equal to two percent of average annual compensation per year of service, minus two percent of the primary insurance amount per year of service. The amount of the offset is not limited to the maximum permitted offset under §1.401(l)-3(b). Under paragraph (b)(6)(xi)(D)(2) of this section, both formulas are treated as available to all employees on the same terms. Furthermore, even though the second formula does not satisfy any of the safe harbors in this paragraph (b), the formula is deemed to satisfy the separate testing requirement under paragraph (b)(6)(xi)(C) of this section, because the formula is available solely to some or all NHCEs.
Example 5. Plan E is a unit credit plan that provides a benefit of one percent of average annual compensation per year of service to all employees. In 1994, the plan is amended to provide a benefit of two percent of average annual compensation per year of service after 1993, while continuing to provide a benefit of one percent of average annual compensation per year of service for all years of service before 1994. Thus, the plan's amended benefit formula provides a benefit equal to the sum of the benefits determined under two benefit formulas: one percent of average annual compensation per year of service, plus one percent of average annual compensation per year of service after 1993. Plan E satisfies this paragraph (b)(6)(xi).
Example 6. The facts are the same as in Example 5, except that the plan amendment in 1994 decreases the benefit to 0.75 percent of average annual compensation per year of service after 1993, while retaining the one-percent formula for all years of service before 1994. Thus, the plan's amended benefit formula provides a benefit equal to the sum of the benefits determined under two benefit formulas: 0.75 percent of average annual compensation per year of service, plus 0.25 percent of average annual compensation per year of service before 1994. Under these facts, the second formula does not separately satisfy any of the safe harbors in this paragraph (b) because the years of service over which each employee's benefit accrues under the second formula (i.e., all years of service) are not the same years of service that are taken into account in applying the benefit formula under the plan to that employee (i.e., years of service before 1994). See paragraph (b)(2)(v) of this section. But see paragraph (b)(6)(vii) of this section and §1.401(a)(4)-13, which provide rules under which Plan E, as amended, may be able to satisfy this paragraph (b).
Example 7. Plan F provides a benefit to all employees of one percent of average annual compensation per year of service. Employee M was hired as the president of the employer in December 1994 and was not a HCE under section 414(q) during the 1994 calendar plan year. In 1994, Plan F is amended to provide a benefit that is the greater of the benefit determined under the pre-existing formula in the plan and a new formula that is available solely to some NHCEs (including Employee M). The new formula does not satisfy the uniformity requirements of paragraph (b)(2) of this section, because it provides a different benefit for some NHCEs than for other NHCEs. As a result of this change, Employee M receives a higher accrual in 1994 than the NHCEs who are not eligible for the new formula. In 1995, when Employee M first becomes a HCE, the second formula no longer applies to Employee M. It would be inconsistent with the purpose of preventing discrimination in favor of HCEs for Plan F to use the special rule for a formula that is available solely to some or all NHCEs to satisfy the separate testing requirement of paragraph (b)(6)(xi)(C) of this section for the 1994 calendar plan year. See §1.401(a)(4)-1(c)(2).

(c) General test for nondiscrimination in amount of benefits—(1) General rule. The employer-provided benefits under a defined benefit plan are nondiscriminatory in amount for a plan year if each rate group under the plan satisfies section 410(b). For purposes of this paragraph (c)(1), a rate group exists under a plan for each HCE and consists of the HCE and all other employees (both HCEs and NHCEs) who have a normal accrual rate greater than or equal to the HCE's normal accrual rate, and who also have a most valuable accrual rate greater than or equal to the HCE's most valuable accrual rate. Thus, an employee is in the rate group for each HCE who has a normal accrual rate less than or equal to the employee's normal accrual rate, and who also has a most valuable accrual rate less than or equal to the employee's most valuable accrual rate.

(2) Satisfaction of section 410(b) by a rate group. For purposes of determining whether a rate group satisfies section 410(b), the same rules apply as in §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(3). See paragraph (c)(4) of this section and §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(4), Example 3 through Example 5, for examples of this rule.

(3) Certain violations disregarded. A plan is deemed to satisfy paragraph (c)(1) of this section if the plan would satisfy that paragraph by treating as not benefiting no more than five percent of the HCEs in the plan, and the Commissioner determines that, on the basis of all of the relevant facts and circumstances, the plan does not discriminate with respect to the amount of employer-provided benefits. For this purpose, five percent of the number of HCEs may be determined by rounding to the nearest whole number (e.g., 1.4 rounds to 1 and 1.5 rounds to 2). Among the relevant factors that the Commissioner may consider in making this determination are—

(i) The extent to which the plan has failed the test in paragraph (c)(1) of this section;

(ii) The extent to which the failure is for reasons other than the design of the plan;

(iii) Whether the HCEs causing the failure are five-percent owners or are among the highest paid nonexcludable employees;

(iv) Whether the failure is attributable to an event that is not expected to recur (e.g., a plant closing); and

(v) The extent to which the failure is attributable to benefits accrued under a prior benefit structure or to benefits accrued when a participant was not a HCE.

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

Example 1. (a) Employer X has 1100 nonexcludable employees, N1 through N1000, who are NHCEs, and H1 through H100, who are HCEs. Employer X maintains Plan A, a defined benefit plan that benefits all of these nonexcludable employees. The normal and most valuable accrual rates (determined as a percentage of average annual compensation) for the employees in Plan A for the 1994 plan year are listed in the following table.
EmployeeNormal accrual rateMost valuable accrual rate
N1 through N1001.01.4
N101 through N5001.53.0
N501 through N7502.02.65
N751 through N10002.32.8
H1 through H501.52.0
H51 through H1002.02.65
(b) There are 100 rate groups in Plan A because there are 100 HCEs in Plan A.

(c) Rate group 1 consists of H1 and all those employees who have a normal accrual rate greater than or equal to H1's normal accrual rate (1.5 percent) and who also have a most valuable accrual rate greater than or equal to H1's most valuable accrual rate (2.0 percent). Thus, rate group 1 consists of H1 through H100 and N101 through N1000.

(d) Rate group 1 satisfies the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2) because the ratio percentage of the rate group is 90 percent, i.e., 90 percent (the percentage of all nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employees who are in the rate group) divided by 100 percent (the percentage of all highly compensated nonexcludable employees who are in the rate group).

(e) Because H1 through H50 have the same normal accrual rates and the same most valuable accrual rates, the rate group with respect to each of them is identical. Thus, because rate group 1 satisfies section 410(b), rate groups 2 through 50 also satisfy section 410(b).

(f) Rate group 51 consists of H51 and all those employees who have a normal accrual rate greater than or equal to H51's normal accrual rate (2.0 percent) and who also have a most valuable accrual rate greater than or equal to H51's most valuable accrual rate (2.65 percent). Thus, rate group 51 consists of H51 through H100 and N501 through N1000. (Even though N101 through N500 have a most valuable accrual rate (3.0 percent) greater than H51's most valuable accrual rate (2.65 percent), they are not included in this rate group because their normal accrual rate (1.5 percent) is less than H51's normal accrual rate (2.0 percent).)

(g) Rate group 51 satisfies the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2) because the ratio percentage of the rate group is 100 percent, i.e., 50 percent (the percentage of all nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employees who are in the rate group) divided by 50 percent (the percentage of all highly compensated nonexcludable employees who are in the rate group).

(h) Because H51 through H100 have the same normal accrual rates and the same most valuable accrual rates, the rate group with respect to each of them is identical. Thus, because rate group 51 satisfies section 410(b), rate groups 52 through 100 also satisfy section 410(b).

(i) The employer-provided benefits under Plan A are nondiscriminatory in amount because each rate group under the plan satisfies section 410(b).

Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that H96 has a most valuable accrual rate of 3.5. Each of the rate groups is the same as in Example 1, except that rate group 96 consists solely of H96 because no other employee has a most valuable accrual rate greater than 3.5. Because the plan would satisfy the test in paragraph (c)(1) of this section by treating H96 (who constitutes less than five percent of the HCEs in the plan) as not benefiting, the Commissioner may determine under paragraph (c)(3) of this section that, on the basis of all of the relevant facts and circumstances, the plan does not discriminate with respect to the amount of benefits.

(d) Determination of accrual rates—(1) Definitions—(i) Normal accrual rate. The normal accrual rate for an employee for a plan year is the increase in the employee's accrued benefit (within the meaning of section 411(a)(7)(A)(i)) during the measurement period, divided by the employee's testing service during the measurement period, and expressed either as a dollar amount or as a percentage of the employee's average annual compensation.

(ii) Most valuable accrual rate. The most valuable accrual rate for an employee for a plan year is the increase in the employee's most valuable optional form of payment of the accrued benefit during the measurement period, divided by the employee's testing service during the measurement period, and expressed either as a dollar amount or as a percentage of the employee's average annual compensation. The employee's most valuable optional form of payment of the accrued benefit is determined by calculating for the employee the normalized QJSA associated with the accrued benefit that is potentially payable in the current or any future plan year at any age under the plan and selecting the largest (per year of testing service). If the plan provides a QSUPP, the most valuable accrual rate also takes into account the QSUPP payable in conjunction with the QJSA at each age under the plan. Thus, the most valuable accrual rate reflects the value of all benefits accrued or treated as accrued under section 411(d)(6) that are payable in any form and at any time under the plan, including early retirement benefits, retirement-type subsidies, early retirement window benefits, and QSUPPs. In addition, the most valuable accrual rate must take into account any such benefits that are available during a plan year, even if the benefits cease to be available before the end of the current or any future plan year.

(iii) Measurement period. The measurement period can be—

(A) The current plan year;

(B) The current plan year and all prior years; or

(C) The current plan year and all prior and future years.

(iv) Testing service—(A) General rule. Testing service means an employee's years of service as defined in the plan for purposes of applying the benefit formula under the plan, subject to the requirements of paragraph (d)(1)(iv)(B) of this section. Alternatively, testing service means service determined for all employees in a reasonable manner that satisfies the requirements of paragraph (d)(1)(iv)(B) of this section. For example, the number of plan years that an employee has benefited under the plan within the meaning of §1.410(b)-3(a) is an acceptable definition of testing service because it determines service in a reasonable manner and satisfies paragraph (d)(1)(iv)(B) of this section. See also §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3) (additional limits on service that may be taken into account as testing service).

(B) Requirements for testing service—(1) Employees not credited with years of service under the benefit formula. An employee must be credited with testing service for any year in which the employee benefits under the plan (within the meaning of §1.410(b)-3(a)), unless that year is part of a period of service that may not be taken into account under §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3). This rule applies even if the employee does not receive service credit under the benefit formula for that year (e.g., because of a service cap in the benefit formula or because of a transfer out of the group of employees covered by the plan).

(2) Current year testing service. In the case of a measurement period that is the current plan year, testing service for the plan year equals one (1).

(2) Rules of application—(i) Consistency requirement. Both normal and most valuable accrual rates must be determined in a consistent manner for all employees for the plan year. Thus, for example, the same measurement periods must be used, and the rules of this paragraph (d)(2) and any available options described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section must be applied consistently. If plan benefits are not expressed as straight life annuities beginning at employees' testing ages, they must be normalized.

(ii) Determining plan benefits, service and compensation—(A) In general. Potential plan benefits, testing service, and average annual compensation must be determined in a reasonable manner, reflecting actual or projected service and compensation only through the end of the measurement period. The determination of potential plan benefits is not reasonable if it incorporates an assumption that, in future years, an employee's compensation will increase or the employee will terminate employment before the employee's testing age (other than the assumptions under paragraph (d)(1)(ii) of this section that the employee's service will end in connection with the payment of each potential QJSA in future years).

(B) Section 415 limits. For purposes of determining accrual rates under this paragraph (d), plan benefits are generally determined without regard to whether those benefits are permitted to be paid under section 415. However, plan provisions implementing any of the limits of section 415 may be taken into account in applying this paragraph (d) if the plan does not provide for benefit increases resulting from section 415(d)(1) adjustments for former employees who were employees in a plan year in which such plan provisions were taken into account in applying this paragraph (d). If the limits of section 415 are taken into account under this paragraph (d)(2)(ii)(B) as of the end of the measurement period, they must also be taken into account as of the beginning of the measurement period. If the limits of section 415 are not taken into account in testing the plan for the current plan year, but were taken into account in testing the plan for the preceding plan year, any resulting increase in the accrued benefits taken into account in testing the plan is treated as an increase in accrued benefits during the current plan year.

(iii) Requirements for measurement period that includes future years—(A) Discriminatory pattern of accruals. A measurement period that includes future years (as described in paragraph (d)(1)(iii)(C) of this section) may not be used if the pattern of accruals under the plan discriminates in favor of HCEs (i.e., if projected benefits for HCEs are relatively frontloaded when compared to the degree of front loading or backloading for NHCEs). This determination is made based on all of the relevant facts and circumstances.

(B) Future-period limitation. Future years beginning after an employee's attainment of the employee's testing age (or after the employee's assumed termination in the case of most valuable accrual rates) may not be included in the measurement period.

(3) Optional rules—(i) Imputation of permitted disparity. The disparity permitted under section 401(l) may be imputed in accordance with the rules of §1.401(a)(4)-7.

(ii) Grouping of accrual rates—(A) General rule. An employer may treat all employees who have accrual rates within a specified range above and below a midpoint rate chosen by the employer as having an accrual rate equal to the midpoint rate within that range. Accrual rates within a given range may not be grouped under this paragraph (d)(3)(ii) if the accrual rates of HCEs within the range generally are significantly higher than the accrual rates of NHCEs in the range. The specified ranges within which all employees are treated as having the same accrual rate may not overlap and may be no larger than provided in paragraph (d)(3)(ii)(B) of this section. Accrual rates of employees that are not within any of these specified ranges are determined without regard to this paragraph (d)(3)(ii).

(B) Size of specified ranges. In the case of normal accrual rates, the lowest and highest accrual rates in the range must be within five percent (not five percentage points) of the midpoint rate. In the case of most valuable accrual rates, the lowest and highest accrual rates in the range must be within 15 percent (not 15 percentage points) of the midpoint rate. If accrual rates are determined as a percentage of average annual compensation, the lowest and highest accrual rates need not be within five percent (or 15 percent) of the midpoint rate, if they are no more than one twentieth of a percentage point above or below the midpoint rate.

(iii) Fresh-start alternative—(A) General rule. Notwithstanding the definition of measurement period provided in paragraph (d)(1)(iii) of this section, a measurement period for a fresh-start group is permitted to be limited to the period beginning after the fresh-start date with respect to that group if the plan makes a fresh start that satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-13(c) (without regard to §1.401(a)(4)-13(c)(2)(i) and (ii)). If the measurement period is so limited or the measurement period is the plan year (whether or not so limited), any compensation adjustments during the measurement period to the frozen accrued benefit as of the fresh-start date that are permitted under the rules of §1.401(a)(4)-13(d) may be disregarded in determining the increase in accrued benefits during the measurement period, but only if—

(1) The plan makes a fresh start as of the fresh-start date that satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-13(c) (without regard to §1.401(a)(4)-13(c)(2)(ii)) in conjunction with a bona fide amendment to the benefit formula or accrual method under the plan; and

(2) The amendment provides for adjustments to employees' frozen accrued benefits as of the fresh-start date in accordance with the rules of §1.401(a)(4)-13(d).

(B) Application of consistency requirements. Limiting the application of the fresh-start alternative in this paragraph (d)(3)(iii) to a fresh-start group that consists of fewer than all employees does not violate the consistency requirement of paragraph (d)(2)(i) of this section.

(iv) Floor on most valuable accrual rate. In lieu of determining an employee's most valuable accrual rate in accordance with the definition in paragraph (d)(1)(ii) of this section, an employer may determine an employee's most valuable accrual rate for the current plan year as the employee's highest most valuable accrual rate determined for any prior plan year. This option may be used only if the employee's normal accrual rate has not changed significantly from the normal accrual rate for the relevant prior plan year and, there have been no plan amendments in the interim period since that prior plan year that affect the determination of most valuable accrual rates.

(4) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (d):

Example 1. The employees in Plan A have the following normal accrual rates (expressed as percentage of average annual compensation): 0.8 percent, 0.83 percent, 0.9 percent, 1.9 percent, 2.0 percent, and 2.1 percent. Because the first three rates are within a range of no more than one twentieth of a percentage point above or below 0.85 percent (a midpoint rate chosen by the employer), the employer may treat the employees who have those rates as having an accrual rate of 0.85 percent (provided that the accrual rates of HCEs within the range are not significantly higher than the accrual rates for NHCEs within the range). Because the last three rates are within a range of no more than five percent above or below 2.0 percent (a midpoint rate chosen by the employer), the employer may treat the employees who have those rates as having an accrual rate of 2.0 percent (provided that the accrual rates of HCEs within the range are not significantly higher than the accrual rates for NHCEs within the range).
Example 2. Employer X maintains a plan under which headquarters employees accrue a benefit of 1.25 percent of average compensation for the first 10 years of service and 0.75 percent of average compensation for subsequent years of service, while all other employees accrue a benefit of one percent of compensation for all years of service. Assume that the group of headquarters employees does not satisfy section 410(b). Under these facts, the pattern of accruals under the plan discriminates in favor of HCEs, and, therefore, under paragraph (d)(2)(iii)(A) of this section, the measurement period for determining accrual rates under the plan may not include future service.

(e) Compensation rules—(1) In general. This paragraph (e) provides rules for determining average annual compensation. Safe harbor plans that satisfy paragraph (b) of this section must determine benefits either as a dollar amount unrelated to employees' compensation or as a percentage of each employee's average annual compensation. In contrast, plans that must satisfy the general test of paragraph (c) of this section are not required under this section to determine benefits under any particular definition of compensation or in any particular manner, but the accrual rates used in testing these plans must be expressed either as a dollar amount or determined as a percentage of each employee's average annual compensation.

(2) Average annual compensation—(i) General rule. An employee's average annual compensation is the average of the employee's annual section 414(s) compensation determined over the averaging period in the employee's compensation history during which the average of the employee's annual section 414(s) compensation is the highest. For this purpose, an averaging period must consist of three or more consecutive 12-month periods, but need not be longer than the employee's period of employment. An employee's compensation history may begin at any time, but must be continuous, be no shorter than the averaging period, and end in the current plan year.

(ii) Certain permitted modifications to average annual compensation—(A) Use of plan year compensation. If the measurement period for determination of accrual rates is the current plan year, or the plan is an accumulation plan that satisfies paragraph (b) of this section, then plan year compensation may be substituted for average annual compensation.

(B) Drop-out years. Any of the following types of 12-month periods in an employee's compensation history may be disregarded in determining the employee's average annual compensation (including for purposes of the requirement to average section 414(s) compensation over consecutive 12-month periods), but only if the plan disregards the employee's compensation for those periods in determining benefits—

(1) The 12-month period in which the employee terminates employment;

(2) All 12-month periods in which the employee performs no services; or

(3) All 12-month periods in which the employee performs services for less than a specified number of hours or specified period of time in the 12-month period. The specified number of hours or specified period of time may be selected by the employer, but may not exceed three quarters of the time that an employee in the same job category working on a full-time basis would perform services during that 12-month period.

(C) Drop-out months within 12-month periods. If a plan determines an employee's average annual compensation using 12-month periods that do not end on a fixed date (e.g., average annual compensation as of a date is defined as the average of the employee's section 414(s) compensation for the 60 consecutive months within the compensation history in which the average is highest), then, for purposes of determining a 12-month period, any of the following type of months may be disregarded (including for purposes of the requirement to average section 414(s) compensation over consecutive 12-month periods), but only if the plan disregards the employee's compensation for those months in determining benefits—

(1) The month in which the employee terminates employment;

(2) All months in which the employee performs no services; or

(3) All months in which the employee performs services for less than a specified number of hours or specified period of time in the month. The specified number of hours or specified period of time may be selected by the employer, but may not exceed three quarters of the time that an employee in the same job category working on a full-time basis would perform services during that month.

(D) Employees working less than full-time. In the case of an employee who normally works less than full-time, the rules in paragraphs (e)(2)(ii)(B)(3) and (e)(2)(ii)(C)(3) of this section may be applied in relation to that employee's normal work schedule (instead of a full- time employee's work schedule) by prorating the specified number of hours or specified period of time, based on the employee's normal work schedule as a fraction of a full-time schedule.

(E) Exception from consecutive-periods requirement for certain plans. The requirement that the periods taken into account under paragraph (e)(2)(i) of this section be consecutive does not apply in the case of a plan that is not a section 401(l) plan, provided that it does not take permitted disparity into account under §1.401(a)(4)-7. This paragraph (e)(2)(ii)(E) applies only if the plan does not take into account whether 12-month periods of compensation are consecutive in determining average compensation for purposes of calculating benefits.

(iii) Consistency requirements. Average annual compensation must be determined in a consistent manner for all employees.

(3) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (e):

Example 1. Plan A is a defined benefit plan. Plan A determines benefits on the basis of the average of each employee's annual compensation for the five consecutive plan years (or the employee's period of employment, if shorter) during the employee's compensation history in which the average of the employee's annual compensation is the highest. The compensation history used for this purpose is the last 10 plan years, plus the current plan year. In determining compensation for each plan year in the compensation history, Plan A defines compensation using a single definition that satisfies section 414(s) as a safe harbor definition under §1.414(s)-1(c). Plan A determines benefits on the basis of average annual compensation.
Example 2. Plan B is a defined benefit plan. Plan B determines benefits on the basis of the average of each employee's compensation for the five consecutive 12-month periods (or the employee's period of employment, if shorter) during the employee's compensation history in which the average of the employee's annual compensation is the highest. The compensation history used for this purpose is the 10 consecutive 12-month periods ending on the employee's termination date. In determining the average, Plan B disregards all months in which the employee performs services for less than 100 hours (60 percent of a full-time work schedule of 173 hours). In the case of an employee whose normal work schedule is less than a full-time schedule, Plan B disregards all months in which that employee performs services for less than 60 percent of the employee's normal work schedule. Plan B defines compensation for each 12-month period using a single definition that satisfies §1.414(s)-1. Plan B determines benefits on the basis of average annual compensation.
Example 3. (a) The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that, for plan years prior to 1996, the compensation for a plan year was determined under a rate of pay definition of compensation that satisfies section 414(s), while, for plan years after 1995, the compensation for a plan year is determined using a definition that satisfies section 414(s) as a safe harbor definition under §1.414(s)-1(c).

(b) The underlying definition of compensation for each plan year in the employee's compensation history is section 414(s) compensation, because for each plan year the definition satisfies the requirements for section 414(s) compensation under §1.401(a)(4)-12. Therefore, Plan A determines benefits on the basis of average annual compensation, even though the underlying definition used to measure the amount of compensation for each plan year in an employee's compensation history is not the same for all plan years.

Example 4. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that Plan A determines benefits on the basis of the average of the employee's annual section 414(s) compensation for the five consecutive 12-month periods ending on June 30 during the employee's compensation history in which the average is highest. An employee's compensation history begins when the employee commences participation in the plan and ends in the current plan year. In the case of an employee with less than five consecutive years of plan participation as of June 30, the compensation history is extended prior to the employee's commencement of participation to include the five consecutive 12-month periods ending on June 30 of the current plan year (or the employee's total period of employment, if shorter). Plan A determines benefits on the basis of average annual compensation.
Example 5. The facts are the same as in Example 4, except that Plan A determines benefits on the basis of the average of each employee's compensation for the employee's entire compensation history. Plan A determines benefits on the basis of average annual compensation.

(f) Special rules—(1) In general. The special rules in this paragraph (f) apply for purposes of applying the provisions of this section to a defined benefit plan. Any special rule provided in this paragraph (f) that is optional must, if used, apply uniformly to all employees.

(2) Certain qualified disability benefits. In general, qualified disability benefits (within the meaning of section 411(a)(9)) are not taken into account under this section. However, a qualified disability benefit that results from the crediting of compensation or service for a period of disability in the same manner as actual compensation or service is credited under a plan's benefit formula is permitted to be taken into account under this section as an accrued benefit upon the employee's return to service with the employer following the period of disability, provided that the qualified disability benefit is then treated in the same manner as an accrued benefit for all purposes under the plan.

(3) Accruals after normal retirement age—(i) General rule. An employee's accruals for any plan year after the plan year in which the employee attains normal retirement age are taken into account for purposes of this section. However, any plan provision that provides for increases in an employee's accrued benefit solely because the employee has delayed commencing benefits beyond the normal retirement age applicable to the employee under the plan may be disregarded, but only if—

(A) The same uniform normal retirement age applies to all employees; and

(B) The percentage factor used to increase the employee's accrued benefit is no greater than the largest percentage factor that could be applied to increase actuarially the employee's accrued benefit using any standard mortality table and any standard interest rate.

(ii) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules of this paragraph (f)(3). In each example, it is assumed that the plan satisfies the requirements of paragraph (f)(3)(i)(A) and (B) of this section.

Example 1. Plan A provides a benefit of two percent of average annual compensation per year of service for all employees. In addition, Plan A provides an actuarial increase in an employee's accrued benefit of six percent for each year that an employee defers commencement of benefits beyond normal retirement age. For employees who continue in service beyond normal retirement age, the employee's two-percent accrual for the current plan year is offset by the six-percent actuarial increase, as permitted under section 411(b)(1)(H)(iii)(II). For purposes of this section, the actuarial increase (and hence the offset) may be disregarded, and thus all employees may be treated as if they were accruing at the rate of two percent of average annual compensation per year.
Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that the employee's two- percent accrual for the current plan year is not offset by the six-percent actuarial increase. The employer may disregard the actuarial increase and thus may treat all employees as if they were accruing at the rate of two percent of average annual compensation per year.

(4) Early retirement window benefits—(i) General rule. In applying the requirements of this section, all early retirement benefits, retirement-type subsidies, QSUPPs, and other optional forms of benefit under a plan, and changes in the plan's benefit formula, are taken into account regardless of whether they are permanent features of the plan or are offered only to employees whose employment terminates within a limited period of time. Additional rules and examples relevant to the testing of early retirement window benefits are found in Example 6 of paragraph (b)(2)(vi) of this section; paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A)(2), Example 2 of paragraph (c)(2), paragraph (d)(3), and Example 3 of paragraph (e)(1)(iii) of §1.401(a)(4)-4; paragraph (c)(4)(i) and Example 2 of paragraph (c)(6) of §1.401(a)(4)-9; and the definition of benefit formula in §1.401(a)(4)-12.

(ii) Special rules—(A) Year in which early retirement window benefit taken into account. Notwithstanding paragraph (f)(4)(i) of this section, an early retirement window benefit is disregarded for purposes of determining whether a plan satisfies this section with respect to an employee for all plan years other than the first plan year in which the benefit is currently available (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b)(2)) to the employee. For purposes of this paragraph (f)(4)(ii)(A), in determining which plan years the benefit is currently available, an early retirement window benefit that consists of a temporary change in the plan's benefit formula is treated as an optional form of benefit.

(B) Treatment of early retirement window benefit that consists of temporary change in benefit formula. An early retirement window benefit is disregarded for purposes of determining an employee's normal accrual rate, even if the early retirement window benefit consists of a temporary change in a plan's benefit formula. However, if an early retirement window benefit consists of a temporary change in a plan's benefit formula, the plan does not satisfy paragraph (b) of this section during the period for which the change is effective unless the plan satisfies paragraph (b) of this section both reflecting the temporary change in the benefit formula and disregarding that change.

(C) Effect of early retirement window benefit on most valuable accrual rate. In determining an employee's most valuable optional form of payment of the accrued benefit (which is used in determining the employee's most valuable accrual rate under paragraphs (d)(1)(ii) and (f)(4)(i) of this section), an early retirement window benefit that is currently available to the employee (within the meaning of paragraph (f)(4)(ii)(A) of this section) and that is not disregarded for a plan year under paragraph (f)(4)(ii)(A) of this section is taken into account in that plan year with respect to the employee's accrued benefit as of the earliest of the employee's date of termination, the close of the early retirement window, or the last day of that plan year.

(D) Effect of early retirement window benefit on average benefit percentage test. Notwithstanding paragraph (c)(2) of this section, a rate group under a plan that provides an early retirement window benefit is deemed to satisfy the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5 if—

(1) All rate groups under the plan would satisfy the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2) if the early retirement window benefit were disregarded; and

(2) The group of employees to whom the early retirement window benefit is currently available (within the meaning of paragraph (f)(4)(ii)(A) of this section) satisfies section 410(b) without regard to the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5.

(iii) Early retirement window benefit defined. For purposes of this paragraph (f)(4), an early retirement window benefit is an early retirement benefit, retirement-type subsidy, QSUPP, or other optional form of benefit under a plan that is available, or a change in the plan's benefit formula that is applicable, only to employees who terminate employment within a limited period specified by the plan (not to exceed one year) under circumstances specified by the plan. A benefit does not fail to be described in the preceding sentence merely because the plan contains provisions under which certain employees may receive the benefit even though, for bona fide business reasons, they terminate employment within a reasonable period after the end of the limited period. An amendment to an early retirement window benefit that merely extends the periods in the preceding sentences is not treated as a separate early retirement window benefit, provided that the periods, as extended, satisfy the preceding sentences. However, any other amendment to an early retirement window benefit creates a separate early retirement window benefit.

(iv) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules of this paragraph (f)(4):

Example 1. (a) Plan A provides a benefit of one percent of average annual compensation per year of service and satisfies the requirements of paragraph (b)(2) of this section. Thus, the plan provides the same benefit to all employees with the same years of service under the Plan. Plan A is amended to treat all employees with ten or more years of service who terminate employment after attainment of age 55 and between March 1, 1999, and January 31, 2000, as if they had an additional five years of service under the benefit formula. However, in order to ensure the orderly implementation of the early retirement window, the plan amendment provides that designated employees in the human resources department who would otherwise be eligible for the early retirement window benefit are eligible to be treated as having the additional five years of service only if they terminate between January 1, 2000, and April 30, 2000.

(b) The additional benefits provided under this amendment are tested as benefits provided to employees rather than former employees. The effect of this amendment is temporarily to change the benefit formula for employees who are eligible for the early retirement window benefit because the amendment changes (albeit temporarily) the amount of the benefit payable to those employees at normal retirement age. See the definition of benefit formula in §1.401(a)(4)-12. Assume that the additional years of service credited to employees eligible for the window benefit do not represent past service (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(i)(B)) or pre-participation or imputed service (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(ii)(A) or (B), respectively) and thus may not be taken into account as years of service. See §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(i)(A) (regarding years of service that may not be taken into account under §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2)). Thus, the window-eligible employees are entitled to a larger benefit (as a percentage of average annual compensation) than other employees with the same number of years of service, and the plan does not satisfy the uniform normal retirement benefit requirement of paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section.

(c) Plan A is restructured under the provisions of §1.401(a)(4)-9(c) into two component plans: Component Plan A1, consisting of all employees who are not eligible for the early retirement window benefit and all of their accruals and benefits, rights, and features under the plan, and Component Plan A2, consisting of all employees who are eligible for the early retirement window benefit (including the designated employees in the human resource department) and all of their accruals and benefits, rights, and features under the plan.

(d) Component Plan A1 still satisfies paragraph (b) of this section, because there has been no change for the employees in that component plan. Similarly, Component Plan A2 satisfies paragraph (b) of this section disregarding the change in the benefit formula.

(e) Because the early retirement window benefit consists of a temporary change in the benefit formula, paragraph (f)(4)(ii)(B) of this section requires that the plan satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section reflecting the change in order to remain a safe harbor plan. After reflecting the change, Component Plan A2 still provides the same benefit (albeit higher than under the regular benefit formula) to all employees with the same years of service that may be taken into account in testing the plan, and thus the benefit formula (as temporarily amended) satisfies the requirements of paragraphs (b)(2) (i) and (ii) of this section.

(f) Since Component Plan A2 also satisfies all of the other requirements of paragraph (b)(2) of this section and the safe harbor of paragraph (b)(3) of this section reflecting the change in the benefit formula, Component Plan A2 satisfies this paragraph (b) both reflecting and disregarding the change in the benefit formula. Thus, Component Plan A2 satisfies paragraph (b) of this section.

Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that Plan A's benefit formula used the maximum amount of permitted disparity under section 401(l) prior to the amendment. The analysis is the same as in paragraphs (a) through the first sentence of paragraph (e) of Example 1. In order to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b)(2) of this section, a plan that uses permitted disparity must satisfy the requirements of section 401(l) after reflecting the change in the benefit formula. Because, as stated in Example 1, the additional five years of service may not be taken into account for purposes of satisfying paragraph (b) of this section, the disparity that results from crediting that service exceeds the maximum permitted disparity under section 401(l). Thus, Component Plan A2 does not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section.
Example 3. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that Plan A is tested under the general test in paragraph (c) of this section. The early retirement window benefit is disregarded for purposes of determining the normal accrual rates, but is taken into account in 1999 for purposes of determining the most valuable accrual rates, of employees who were eligible for the early retirement window benefit (regardless of whether they elected to receive it). As stated in Example 1, the additional five years of service do not represent past service, pre-participation service, or imputed service, and thus under §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(i)(A) may not be taken into account as testing service.

(5) Unpredictable contingent event benefits—(i) General rule. In general, an unpredictable contingent event benefit (within the meaning of section 412(l)(7)(B)(ii)) is not taken into account under this section until the occurrence of the contingent event. Thus, the special rule in §1.401(a)(4)-4(d)(7) (treating the contingent event as having occurred) does not apply for purposes of this section. In the case of an unpredictable contingent event that is expected to result in the termination from employment of certain employees within a period of time consistent with the rules for defining an early retirement window benefit in paragraph (f)(4)(iii) of this section, the unpredictable contingent event benefit available to those employees is permitted to be treated as an early retirement window benefit, thus permitting the rules of paragraph (f)(4) of this section to be applied to it.

(ii) Example. The following example illustrates the rules of this paragraph (f)(5):

Example. (a) Employer X operates various manufacturing plants and maintains Plan A, a defined benefit plan that covers all of its nonexcludable employees. Plan A provides an early retirement benefit under which employees who retire after age 55 but before normal retirement age and who have at least 10 years of service receive a benefit equal to their normal retirement benefit reduced by four percent per year for each year prior to normal retirement age. Plan A also provides a plant-closing benefit under which employees who satisfy the conditions for receiving the early retirement benefit and who work at a plant where operations have ceased and whose employment has been terminated will receive an unreduced normal retirement benefit. The plant-closing benefit is an unpredictable contingent event benefit.

(b) During the 1997 plan year, Employer X had no plant closings. Therefore, the plant-closing benefit is not taken into account for the 1997 plan year in determining accrual rates or in applying the safe harbors in paragraph (b) of this section.

(c) During the 1998 plan year, Employer X begins to close one plant. Employees M through Z, who are employees at the plant that is closing, are expected to terminate employment with Employer X during the plan year and will satisfy the conditions for the plant-closing benefit. Therefore, in testing Plan A under this section for the 1998 plan year, the availability of the plant-closing benefit to Employees M through Z must be taken into account in determining their accrual rates or in determining whether the plan satisfies one of the safe harbors under paragraph (b) of this section.

(d) Because the employees eligible for the unpredictable contingent event benefit are expected to terminate employment with Employer X during a period consistent with the rules for defining an early retirement window benefit, in testing Plan A under this section for the 1998 plan year, the special rules in paragraph (f)(4)(ii) of this section may be applied. Thus, for example, normal accrual rates may be determined without reference to the unpredictable contingent event benefit.

(e) Despite the closing of the plant, Employee Q remains an employee into the 1999 plan year. Under paragraph (f)(4)(ii)(A) of this section, the availability of the plant-closing benefit to Employee Q may be disregarded in the 1999 plan year.

(6) Determination of benefits on other than plan-year basis. For purposes of this section, accruals are generally determined based on the plan year. Nevertheless, an employer may determine accruals on the basis of any period ending within the plan year as long as the period is at least 12 months in duration. For example, accruals for all employees may be determined based on accrual computation periods ending within the plan year.

(7) Adjustments for certain plan distributions. For purposes of this section, an employee's accrued benefit includes the actuarial equivalent of prior distributions of accrued benefits from the plan to the employee if the years of service taken into account in determining the accrued benefits that were distributed continue to be taken into account under the plan for purposes of determining the employee's current accrued benefit. For purposes of this paragraph (f)(7), actuarial equivalence must be determined in a uniform manner for all employees using reasonable actuarial assumptions. A standard interest rate and a standard mortality table are among the assumptions considered reasonable for this purpose. Thus, for example, if an employee has commenced receipt of benefits in accordance with the minimum distribution requirements of section 401(a)(9), and the plan reduces the employee's accrued benefit to take into account the amount of the distributions, the employee's accrued benefit for purposes of this section is restored to the value it would have had if the distributions had not occurred.

(8) Adjustment for certain QPSA charges. For purposes of this section, an employee's accrued benefit includes the cost of a qualified preretirement survivor annuity (QPSA) that reduces the employee's accrued benefit otherwise determined under the plan, as permitted under §1.401(a)-20, Q&A-21. Thus, an employee's accrued benefit for purposes of this section is determined as if the cost of the QPSA had not been charged against the accrued benefit. This paragraph (f)(8) applies only if the QPSA charges apply uniformly to all employees.

(9) Disregard of certain offsets—(i) General rule. For purposes of this section, an employee's accrued benefit under a plan includes that portion of the benefit that is offset under an offset provision described in §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(i)(D). The rule in the preceding sentence applies only to the extent that the benefit by which the benefit under the plan being tested is offset is attributable to periods for which the plan being tested credits pre-participation service (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(ii)(A)) that satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(iii) or past service (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(i)(B)), and only if—

(A) The benefit under the plan being tested is offset by either—

(1) Benefits under a qualified defined benefit plan or defined contribution plan (whether or not terminated); or

(2) Benefits under a foreign plan that are reasonably expected to be paid; and,

(B) If any portion of the benefit that is offset is nonforfeitable (within the meaning of section 411), that portion is offset by a benefit (or portion of a benefit) that is also nonforfeitable (or vested, in the case of a foreign plan).

(ii) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (f)(9):

Example 1. (a) Employer X maintains two qualified defined benefit plans, Plan A and Plan B. Plan B provides that, whenever an employee transfers to Plan B from Plan A, the service that was credited under Plan A is credited in determining benefits under Plan B. The Plan A service credited under Plan B is pre-participation service that satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(iii). Plan B offsets the benefits determined under Plan B by the employee's vested benefits under Plan A. Plan A does not credit additional benefit service or accrual service after employees transfer to Plan B.

(b) The Plan B provision providing for an offset of benefits under Plan A satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(i)(D). This is because the provision applies to similarly-situated employees and the benefits under Plan A that are offset against the Plan B benefits are attributable to pre-participation service taken into account under Plan B.

(c) This paragraph (f)(9) applies in determining the benefits that are taken into account under this section for employees in Plan B who are transferred from Plan A. This is because the offset provision is described in §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(i)(D), the benefits under the other plan by which the benefits under the plan being tested are offset are attributable solely to pre-participation service that satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(iii), and the benefits are offset solely by vested benefits under another qualified plan. Thus, for example, the accrual rates of employees in Plan B are determined as if there were no offset, i.e., by adding back the benefits that are offset to the net benefits under Plan B.

(d) The result would be the same even if Plan A continued to recognize compensation paid after the transfer in the determination of benefits under Plan A. However, if Plan A continued to credit benefit or accrual service after the transfer, then, to the extent that Plan B's offset of benefits under Plan A increased as a result, the additional benefits offset under Plan B would not be added back in determining the benefits under Plan B that are taken into account under this section.

Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that Plan A is not a plan described in paragraph (f)(9)(i)(A) of this section. None of the benefits under Plan B that are offset by benefits under Plan A may be added back in determining the benefits under Plan B that are taken into account under this section. Thus, benefits under Plan B are tested on a net basis.

(10) Special rule for multiemployer plans. For purposes of this section, if a multiemployer plan increases benefits for service prior to a specific date subject to a plan provision requiring employees to complete a specified amount of service (not to exceed five years) after that date, then benefits are permitted to be determined disregarding the service condition, provided that the condition is applicable to all employees in the multiemployer plan (including collectively bargained employees).

[T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46785, Sept. 3, 1993]

§1.401(a)(4)-4   Nondiscriminatory availability of benefits, rights, and features.

(a) Introduction. This section provides rules for determining whether the benefits, rights, and features provided under a plan (i.e., all optional forms of benefit, ancillary benefits, and other rights and features available to any employee under the plan) are made available in a nondiscriminatory manner. Benefits, rights, and features provided under a plan are made available to employees in a nondiscriminatory manner only if each benefit, right, or feature satisfies the current availability requirement of paragraph (b) of this section and the effective availability requirement of paragraph (c) of this section. Paragraph (d) of this section provides special rules for applying these requirements. Paragraph (e) of this section defines optional form of benefit, ancillary benefit, and other right or feature.

(b) Current availability—(1) General rule. The current availability requirement of this paragraph (b) is satisfied if the group of employees to whom a benefit, right, or feature is currently available during the plan year satisfies section 410(b) (without regard to the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5). In determining whether the group of employees satisfies section 410(b), an employee is treated as benefiting only if the benefit, right, or feature is currently available to the employee.

(2) Determination of current availability—(i) General rule. Whether a benefit, right, or feature that is subject to specified eligibility conditions is currently available to an employee generally is determined based on the current facts and circumstances with respect to the employee (e.g., current compensation, accrued benefit, position, or net worth).

(ii) Certain conditions disregarded—(A) Certain age and service conditions—(1) General rule. Notwithstanding paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section, any specified age or service condition with respect to an optional form of benefit or a social security supplement is disregarded in determining whether the optional form of benefit or the social security supplement is currently available to an employee. Thus, for example, an optional form of benefit that is available to all employees who terminate employment on or after age 55 with at least 10 years of service is treated as currently available to an employee, without regard to the employee's current age or years of service, and without regard to whether the employee could potentially meet the age and service conditions prior to attaining the plan's normal retirement age.

(2) Time-limited age or service conditions not disregarded. Notwithstanding paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A)(1) of this section, an age or service condition is not disregarded in determining the current availability of an optional form of benefit or social security supplement if the condition must be satisfied within a limited period of time. However, in determining the current availability of an optional form of benefit or a social security supplement subject to such an age or service condition, the age and service of employees may be projected to the last date by which the age condition or service condition must be satisfied in order to be eligible for the optional form of benefit or social security supplement under the plan. Thus, for example, an optional form of benefit that is available only to employees who terminate employment between July 1, 1995, and December 31, 1995, after attainment of age 55 with at least 10 years of service is treated as currently available to an employee only if the employee could satisfy those age and service conditions by December 31, 1995.

(B) Certain other conditions. Specified conditions on the availability of a benefit, right, or feature requiring a specified percentage of the employee's accrued benefit to be nonforfeitable, termination of employment, death, satisfaction of a specified health condition (or failure to meet such condition), disability, hardship, family status, default on a plan loan secured by a participant's account balance, execution of a covenant not to compete, application for benefits or similar ministerial or mechanical acts, election of a benefit form, execution of a waiver of rights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act or other federal or state law, or absence from service, are disregarded in determining the employees to whom the benefit, right, or feature is currently available. In addition, if a multiemployer plan includes a reasonable condition that limits eligibility for an ancillary benefit, or other right or feature, to those employees who have recent service under the plan (e.g., a condition on a death benefit that requires an employee to have a minimum number of hours credited during the last two years) and the condition applies to all employees in the multiemployer plan (including the collectively bargained employees) to whom the ancillary benefit, or other right or feature, is otherwise currently available, then the condition is disregarded in determining the employees to whom the ancillary benefit, or other right or feature, is currently available.

(C) Certain conditions relating to mandatory cash-outs. In the case of a plan that provides for mandatory cash-outs of all terminated employees who have a vested accrued benefit with an actuarial present value less than or equal to a specified dollar amount (not to exceed the cash-out limit in effect under §1.411(a)-11(c)(3)(ii)) as permitted by sections 411(a)(11) and 417(e), the implicit condition on any benefit, right, or feature (other than the mandatory cash-out) that requires the employee to have a vested accrued benefit with an actuarial present value in excess of the specified dollar amount is disregarded in determining the employees to whom the benefit, right, or feature is currently available.

(D) Other dollar limits. A condition that the amount of an employee's vested accrued benefit or the actuarial present value of that benefit be less than or equal to a specified dollar amount is disregarded in determining the employees to whom the benefit, right, or feature is currently available.

(E) Certain conditions on plan loans. In the case of an employee's right to a loan from the plan, the condition that an employee must have an account balance sufficient to be eligible to receive a minimum loan amount specified in the plan (not to exceed $1,000) is disregarded in determining the employees to whom the right is currently available.

(3) Benefits, rights, and features that are eliminated prospectively—(i) Special testing rule. Notwithstanding paragraph (b)(1) of this section, a benefit, right, or feature that is eliminated with respect to benefits accrued after the later of the eliminating amendment's adoption or effective date (the elimination date), but is retained with respect to benefits accrued as of the elimination date, and that satisfies this paragraph (b) as of the elimination date, is treated as satisfying this paragraph (b) for all subsequent periods. This rule does not apply if the terms of the benefit, right, or feature (including the employees to whom it is available) are changed after the elimination date.

(ii) Elimination of a benefit, right, or feature—(A) General rule. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(3), a benefit, right, or feature provided to an employee is eliminated with respect to benefits accrued after the elimination date if the amount or value of the benefit, right, or feature depends solely on the amount of the employee's accrued benefit (within the meaning of section 411(a)(7)) as of the elimination date, including subsequent income, expenses, gains, and losses with respect to that benefit in the case of a defined contribution plan.

(B) Special rule for benefits, rights, and features that are not section 411(d)(6)-protected benefits. Notwithstanding paragraph (b)(3)(ii)(A) of this section, in the case of a benefit, right, or feature under a defined contribution plan that is not a section 411(d)(6)-protected benefit (within the meaning of §1.411(d)-4, Q&A-1), e.g., the availability of plan loans, for purposes of this paragraph (b)(3)(ii) each employee's accrued benefit as of the elimination date may be treated, on a uniform basis, as consisting exclusively of the dollar amount of the employee's account balance as of the elimination date.

(C) Special rule for benefits, rights, and features that depend on adjusted accrued benefits. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(3), a benefit, right, or feature provided to an employee under a plan that has made a fresh start does not fail to be eliminated as of an elimination date that is the fresh-start date merely because it depends solely on the amount of the employee's adjusted accrued benefit (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-13(d)(8)).

(c) Effective availability—(1) General rule. Based on all of the relevant facts and circumstances, the group of employees to whom a benefit, right, or feature is effectively available must not substantially favor HCEs.

(2) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules of this paragraph (c):

Example 1. Employer X maintains Plan A, a defined benefit plan that covers both of its highly compensated nonexcludable employees and nine of its 12 nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employees. Plan A provides for a normal retirement benefit payable as an annuity and based on a normal retirement age of 65, and an early retirement benefit payable upon termination in the form of an annuity to employees who terminate from service with the employer on or after age 55 with 30 or more years of service. Both HCEs of Employer X currently meet the age and service requirement, or will have 30 years of service by the time they reach age 55. All but two of the nine NHCEs of Employer X who are covered by Plan A were hired on or after age 35 and, thus, cannot qualify for the early retirement benefit. Even though the group of employees to whom the early retirement benefit is currently available satisfies the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2) when age and service are disregarded pursuant to paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A) of this section, absent other facts, the group of employees to whom the early retirement benefit is effectively available substantially favors HCEs.
Example 2. Employer Y maintains Plan B, a defined benefit plan that provides for a normal retirement benefit payable as an annuity and based on a normal retirement age of 65. By a plan amendment first adopted and effective December 1, 1998, Employer Y amends Plan B to provide an early retirement benefit that is available only to employees who terminate employment by December 15, 1998, and who are at least age 55 with 30 or more years of service. Assume that all employees were hired prior to attaining age 25 and that the group of employees who have, or will have, attained age 55 with 30 years of service by December 15, 1998, satisfies the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2). Assume, further, that the employer takes no steps to inform all eligible employees of the early retirement option on a timely basis and that the only employees who terminate from employment with the employer during the two-week period in which the early retirement benefit is available are HCEs. Under these facts, the group of employees to whom this early retirement window benefit is effectively available substantially favors HCEs.
Example 3. Employer Z amends Plan C on June 30, 1999, to provide for a single sum optional form of benefit for employees who terminate from employment with Employer Z after June 30, 1999, and before January 1, 2000. The availability of this single sum optional form of benefit is conditioned on the employee's having a particular disability at the time of termination of employment. The only employee of the employer who meets this disability requirement at the time of the amendment and thereafter through December 31, 1999, is a HCE. Under paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B) of this section, the disability condition is disregarded in determining the current availability of the single sum optional form of benefit. Nevertheless, under these facts, the group of employees to whom the single sum optional form of benefit is effectively available substantially favors HCEs.

(d) Special rules—(1) Mergers and acquisitions—(i) Special testing rule. A benefit, right, or feature available under a plan solely to an acquired group of employees is treated as satisfying paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section during the period that each of the following requirements is satisfied:

(A) The benefit, right, or feature must satisfy paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section (determined without regard to the special rule in section 410(b)(6)(C)) on the date that is selected by the employer as the latest date by which an employee must be hired or transferred into the acquired trade or business for an employee to be included in the acquired group of employees. This determination is made with reference to the plan of the current employer and its nonexcludable employees.

(B) The benefit, right, or feature must be available under the plan of the current employer after the transaction on the same terms as it was available under the plan of the prior employer before the transaction. This requirement is not violated merely because of a change made to the benefit, right, or feature that is permitted by section 411(d)(6), provided that—

(1) The change is a replacement of the benefit, right, or feature with another benefit, right, or feature that is available to the same employees as the original benefit, right, or feature, and the original benefit, right, or feature is of inherently equal or greater value (within the meaning of paragraph (d)(4)(i)(A) of this section) than the benefit, right, or feature that replaces it; or

(2) The change is made before January 12, 1993.

(ii) Scope of special testing rule. This paragraph (d)(1) applies only to benefits, rights, and features with respect to benefits accruing under the plan of the current employer, and not to benefits, rights, and features with respect to benefits accrued under the plan of the prior employer (unless, pursuant to the transaction, the plan of the prior employer becomes the plan of the current employer, or the assets and liabilities with respect to the acquired group of employees under the plan of the prior employer are transferred to the plan of the current employer in a plan merger, consolidation, or other transfer described in section 414(l)).

(iii) Example. The following example illustrates the rules of this paragraph (d)(1):

Example. Employer X maintains Plan A, a defined benefit plan with a single sum optional form of benefit for all employees. Employer Y acquires Employer X and merges Plan A into Plan B, a defined benefit plan maintained by Employer Y that does not otherwise provide a single sum optional form of benefit. Employer Y continues to provide the single sum optional form of benefit under Plan B on the same terms as it was offered under Plan A to all employees who were acquired in the transaction with Employer X (and to no other employees). The optional form of benefit satisfies paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section immediately following the transaction (determined without taking into account section 410(b)(6)(C)) when tested with reference to Plan B and Employer Y's nonexcludable employees. Under these facts, Plan B is treated as satisfying this section with respect to the single sum optional form of benefit for the plan year of the transaction and all subsequent plan years.

(2) Frozen participants. A plan must satisfy the nondiscriminatory availability requirement of this section not only with respect to benefits, rights, and features provided to employees who are currently benefiting under the plan, but also separately with respect to benefits, rights, and features provided to nonexcludable employees with accrued benefits who are not currently benefiting under the plan (frozen participants). Thus, each benefit, right, and feature available to any frozen participant under the plan is separately subject to the requirements of this section. A plan satisfies paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section with respect to a benefit, right, or feature available to any frozen participant under the plan only if one or more of the following requirements is satisfied:

(i) The benefit, right, or feature must be one that would satisfy paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section if it were not available to any employee currently benefiting under the plan.

(ii) The benefit, right, or feature must be one that would satisfy paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section if all frozen participants were treated as employees currently benefiting under the plan.

(iii) No change in the availability of the benefit, right, or feature may have been made that is first effective in the current plan year with respect to a frozen participant.

(iv) Any change in the availability of the benefit, right, or feature that is first effective in the current plan year with respect to a frozen participant must be made in a nondiscriminatory manner. Thus, any expansion in the availability of the benefit, right, or feature to any highly compensated frozen participant must be applied on a consistent basis to all nonhighly compensated frozen participants. Similarly, any contraction in the availability of the benefit, right, or feature that affects any nonhighly compensated frozen participant must be applied on a consistent basis to all highly compensated frozen participants.

(3) Early retirement window benefits. If a benefit, right, or feature meets the definition of an early retirement window benefit in §1.401(a)(4)-3(f)(4)(iii) (or would meet that definition if the definition applied to all benefits, rights, and features), the benefit, right, or feature is disregarded for purposes of applying this section with respect to an employee for all plan years other than the first plan year in which the benefit is currently available to the employee.

(4) Permissive aggregation of certain benefits, rights, or features—(i) General rule. An optional form of benefit, ancillary benefit, or other right or feature may be aggregated with another optional form of benefit, ancillary benefit, or other right or feature, respectively, and the two may be treated as a single optional form of benefit, ancillary benefit, or other right or feature, if both of the following requirements are satisfied:

(A) One of the two optional forms of benefit, ancillary benefit, or other rights or features must in all cases be of inherently equal or greater value than the other. For this purpose, one benefit, right, or feature is of inherently equal or greater value than another benefit, right, or feature only if, at any time and under any conditions, it is impossible for any employee to receive a smaller amount or a less valuable right under the first benefit, right, or feature than under the second benefit, right, or feature.

(B) The optional form of benefit, ancillary benefit, or other right or feature of inherently equal or greater value must separately satisfy paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section (without regard to this paragraph (d)(4)).

(ii) Aggregation may be applied more than once. The aggregation rule in this paragraph (d)(4) may be applied more than once. Thus, for example, an optional form of benefit may be aggregated with another optional form of benefit that itself constitutes two separate optional forms of benefit that are aggregated and treated as a single optional form of benefit under this paragraph (d)(4).

(iii) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (d)(4):

Example 1. Plan A is a defined benefit plan that provides a single sum optional form of benefit to all employees. The single sum optional form of benefit is available on the same terms to all employees, except that, for employees in Division S, a five-percent discount factor is applied and, for employees of Division T, a seven-percent discount factor is applied. Under paragraph (e)(1) of this section, the single sum optional form of benefit constitutes two separate optional forms of benefit. Assume that the single sum optional form of benefit available to employees of Division S separately satisfies paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section without taking into account this paragraph (d)(4). Because a lower discount factor is applied in determining the single sum optional form of benefit available to employees of Division S than is applied in determining the single sum optional form of benefit available to employees of Division T, the first single sum optional form of benefit is of inherently greater value than the second single sum optional form of benefit. Under these facts, these two single sum optional forms of benefit may be aggregated and treated as a single optional form of benefit for purposes of this section.
Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that, in order to receive the single sum optional form of benefit, employees of Division S (but not employees of Division T) must have completed at least 20 years of service. The single sum optional form of benefit available to employees of Division S is not of inherently equal or greater value than the single sum optional form of benefit available to employees of Division T, because an employee of Division S who terminates employment with less than 20 years of service would receive a smaller single sum amount (i.e., zero) than a similarly-situated employee of Division T who terminates employment with less than 20 years of service. Under these facts, the two single sum optional forms of benefit may not be aggregated and treated as a single optional form of benefit for purposes of this section.

(5) Certain spousal benefits. In the case of a plan that includes two or more plans that have been permissively aggregated under §1.410(b)-7(d), the aggregated plan satisfies this section with respect to the availability of any nonsubsidized qualified joint and survivor annuities, qualified preretirement survivor annuities, or spousal death benefits described in section 401(a)(11), if each plan that is part of the aggregated plan satisfies section 401(a)(11). Whether a benefit is considered subsidized for this purpose may be determined using any reasonable actuarial assumptions. For purposes of this paragraph (d)(5), a qualified joint and survivor annuity, qualified preretirement survivor annuity, or spousal death benefit is deemed to be nonsubsidized if it is provided under a defined contribution plan.

(6) Special ESOP rules. An ESOP does not fail to satisfy paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section merely because it makes an investment diversification right or feature or a distribution option available solely to all qualified participants (within the meaning of section 401(a)(28)(B)(iii)), or merely because the restrictions of section 409(n) apply to certain individuals.

(7) Special testing rule for unpredictable contingent event benefits. A benefit, right, or feature that is contingent on the occurrence of an unpredictable contingent event (within the meaning of section 412(l)(7)(B)(ii)) is tested under this section as if the event had occurred. Thus, the current availability of a benefit that becomes an optional form of benefit upon the occurrence of an unpredictable contingent event is tested by deeming the event to have occurred and by disregarding age and service conditions on the eligibility for that benefit to the extent permitted for optional forms of benefit under paragraph (b)(2) of this section.

(e) Definitions—(1) Optional form of benefit—(i) General rule. The term optional form of benefit means a distribution alternative (including the normal form of benefit) that is available under a plan with respect to benefits described in section 411(d)(6)(A) or a distribution alternative that is an early retirement benefit or retirement-type subsidy described in section 411(d)(6)(B)(i), including a QSUPP. Except as provided in paragraph (e)(1)(ii) of this section, 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 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.

(ii) Exceptions—(A) Differences in benefit formula or accrual method. A distribution alternative available under a defined benefit plan does not fail to be a single optional form of benefit merely because the benefit formulas, accrual methods, or other factors (including service-computation methods and definitions of compensation) underlying, or the manner in which employees vest in, the accrued benefit that is paid in the form of the distribution alternative are different for different employees to whom the distribution alternative is available. Notwithstanding the foregoing, 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) Differences in allocation formula. A distribution alternative available under a defined contribution plan does not fail to be a single optional form of benefit merely because the allocation formula or other factors (including service-computation methods, definitions of compensation, and the manner in which amounts described in §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2)(iii) are allocated) underlying, or the manner in which employees vest in, the accrued benefit that is paid in the form of the distribution alternative are different for different employees to whom the distribution alternative is available.

(C) Distributions subject to section 417(e). A distribution alternative available under a defined benefit plan does not fail to be a single optional form of benefit merely because, in determining the amount of a distribution, the plan applies a lower interest rate to determine the distribution for employees with a vested accrued benefit having an actuarial present value not in excess of $25,000, as required by section 417(e)(3) and §1.417(e)-1.

(D) Differences attributable to uniform normal retirement age. A distribution alternative available under a defined benefit plan does not fail to be a single optional form of benefit, to the extent that the differences are attributable to differences in normal retirement dates among employees, provided that the differences do not prevent the employees from having the same uniform normal retirement age under the definition of uniform normal retirement age in §1.401(a)(4)-12.

(iii) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (e)(1):

Example 1. Plan A is a defined benefit plan that benefits all employees of Divisions S and T. The plan offers a qualified joint and 50-percent survivor annuity at normal retirement age, calculated by multiplying an employee's single life annuity payment by a factor. For an employee of Division S whose benefit commences at age 65, the plan provides a factor of 0.90, but for a similarly-situated employee of Division T the plan provides a factor of 0.85. The qualified joint and survivor annuity is not available to employees of Divisions S and T on substantially the same terms, and thus it constitutes two separate optional forms of benefit.
Example 2. Plan B is a defined benefit plan that benefits all employees of Divisions U and V. The plan offers a single sum distribution alternative available on the same terms and determined using the same actuarial assumptions, to all employees. However, different benefit formulas apply to employees of each division. Under the exception provided in paragraph (e)(1)(ii)(A) of this section, the single sum optional form of benefit available to employees of Division U is not a separate optional form of benefit from the single sum optional form of benefit available to employees of Division V.
Example 3. Defined benefit Plan C provides an early retirement benefit based on a schedule of early retirement factors that is a single optional form of benefit. Plan C is amended to provide an early retirement window benefit that consists of a temporary change in the plan's benefit formula (e.g., the addition of five years of service to an employee's actual service under the benefit formula) applicable in determining the benefits for certain employees who terminate employment within a limited period of time. Under the exception provided in paragraph (e)(1)(ii)(A) of this section, the early retirement optional form of benefit available to window-eligible employees is not a separate optional form of benefit from the early retirement optional form of benefit available to the other employees.

(2) Ancillary benefit. The term ancillary benefit means social security supplements (other than QSUPPs), disability benefits not in excess of a qualified disability benefit described in section 411(a)(9), ancillary life insurance and health insurance benefits, death benefits under a defined contribution plan, preretirement death benefits under a defined benefit plan, shut-down benefits not protected under section 411(d)(6), and other similar benefits. Different ancillary benefits exist if an ancillary benefit is not available on substantially the same terms as another ancillary benefit. Principles similar to those in paragraph (e)(1)(ii) of this section apply in making this determination.

(3) Other right or feature—(i) General rule. The term other right or feature generally means any right or feature applicable to employees under the plan. Different rights or features exist if a right or feature is not available on substantially the same terms as another right or feature.

(ii) Exceptions to definition of other right or feature. Notwithstanding paragraph (e)(3)(i) of this section, a right or feature is not considered an other right or feature if it—

(A) Is an optional form of benefit or an ancillary benefit under the plan;

(B) Is one of the terms that are taken into account in determining whether separate optional forms of benefit or ancillary benefits exist, or that would be taken into account but for paragraph (e)(1)(ii) of this section (e.g., benefit formulas or the manner in which benefits vest); or

(C) Cannot reasonably be expected to be of meaningful value to an employee (e.g., administrative details).

(iii) Examples. Other rights and features include, but are not limited to—

(A) Plan loan provisions (other than those relating to a distribution of an employee's accrued benefit upon default under a loan);

(B) The right to direct investments;

(C) The right to a particular form of investment, including, for example, a particular class or type of employer securities (taking into account, in determining whether different forms of investment exist, any differences in conversion, dividend, voting, liquidation preference, or other rights conferred under the security);

(D) The right to make each rate of elective contributions described in §1.401(k)-6 (determining the rate based on the plan's definition of the compensation out of which the elective contributions are made (regardless of whether that definition satisfies section 414(s)), but also treating different rates as existing if they are based on definitions of compensation or other requirements or formulas that are not substantially the same);

(E) The right to make after-tax employee contributions to a defined benefit plan that are not allocated to separate accounts;

(F) The right to make each rate of after-tax employee contributions described in §1.401(m)-1(a)(3) (determining the rate based on the plan's definition of the compensation out of which the after-tax employee contributions are made (regardless of whether that definition satisfies section 414(s)), but also treating different rates as existing if they are based on definitions of compensation or other requirements or formulas that are not substantially the same);

(G) The right to each rate of allocation of matching contributions described in §1.401(m)-1(a)(2) (determining the rate using the amount of matching, elective, and after-tax employee contributions determined after any corrections under §§1.401(k)-2(b)(1)(i), 1.401(m)-2(b)(1)(i), but also treating different rates as existing if they are based on definitions of compensation or other requirements or formulas that are not substantially the same);

(H) The right to purchase additional retirement or ancillary benefits under the plan; and

(I) The right to make rollover contributions and transfers to and from the plan.

[T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46796, Sept. 3, 1993, as amended by T.D. 8794, 63 FR 70338, Dec. 21, 1998; T.D. 8891, 65 FR 44682, July 19, 2000; T.D. 9169, 69 FR 78153, Dec. 29, 2004]

§1.401(a)(4)-5   Plan amendments and plan terminations.

(a) Introduction—(1) Overview. This paragraph (a) provides rules for determining whether the timing of a plan amendment or series of amendments has the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs or former HCEs. For purposes of this section, a plan amendment includes, for example, the establishment or termination of the plan, and any change in the benefits, rights, or features, benefit formulas, or allocation formulas under the plan. Paragraph (b) of this section sets forth additional requirements that must be satisfied in the case of a plan termination.

(2) Facts-and-circumstances determination. Whether the timing of a plan amendment or series of plan amendments has the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs or former HCEs is determined at the time the plan amendment first becomes effective for purposes of section 401(a), based on all of the relevant facts and circumstances. These include, for example, the relative numbers of current and former HCEs and NHCEs affected by the plan amendment, the relative length of service of current and former HCEs and NHCEs, the length of time the plan or plan provision being amended has been in effect, and the turnover of employees prior to the plan amendment. In addition, the relevant facts and circumstances include the relative accrued benefits of current and former HCEs and NHCEs before and after the plan amendment and any additional benefits provided to current and former HCEs and NHCEs under other plans (including plans of other employers, if relevant). In the case of a plan amendment that provides additional benefits based on an employee's service prior to the amendment, the relevant facts and circumstances also include the benefits that employees and former employees who do not benefit under the amendment would have received had the plan, as amended, been in effect throughout the period on which the additional benefits are based.

(3) Safe harbor for certain grants of benefits for past periods. The timing of a plan amendment that credits (or increases benefits attributable to) years of service for a period in the past is deemed not to have the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs or former HCEs if the period for which the service credit (or benefit increase) is granted does not exceed the five years immediately preceding the year in which the amendment first becomes effective, the service credit (or benefit increase) is granted on a reasonably uniform basis to all employees, benefits attributable to the period are determined by applying the current plan formula, and the service credited is service (including pre-participation or imputed service) with the employer or a previous employer that may be taken into account under §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3) (without regard to §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3)(i)(B)). However, this safe harbor is not available if the plan amendment granting the service credit (or increasing benefits) is part of a pattern of amendments that has the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs or former HCEs.

(4) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (a):

Example 1. Plan A is a defined benefit plan that covered both HCEs and NHCEs for most of its existence. The employer decides to wind up its business. In the process of ceasing operations, but at a time when the plan covers only HCEs, Plan A is amended to increase benefits and thereafter is terminated. The timing of this plan amendment has the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs.
Example 2. Plan B is a defined benefit plan that provides a social security supplement that is not a QSUPP. After substantially all of the HCEs of the employer have benefited from the supplement, but before a substantial number of NHCEs have become eligible for the supplement, Plan B is amended to reduce significantly the amount of the supplement. The timing of this plan amendment has the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs.
Example 3. Plan C is a defined benefit plan that contains an ancillary life insurance benefit available to all employees. The plan is amended to eliminate this benefit at a time when life insurance payments have been made only to beneficiaries of HCEs. Because all employees received the benefit of life insurance coverage before Plan C was amended, the timing of this plan amendment does not have the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs or former HCEs.
Example 4. Plan D provides for a benefit of one percent of average annual compensation per year of service. Ten years after Plan D is adopted, it is amended to provide a benefit of two percent of average annual compensation per year of service, including years of service prior to the amendment. The amendment is effective only for employees currently employed at the time of the amendment. The ratio of HCEs to former HCEs is significantly higher than the ratio of NHCEs to former NHCEs. In the absence of any additional factors, the timing of this plan amendment has the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs.
Example 5. The facts are the same as in Example 4, except that, in addition, the years of prior service are equivalent between HCEs and NHCEs who are current employees, and the group of current employees with prior service would satisfy the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4 in the current and all prior plan years for which past service credit is granted. The timing of this plan amendment does not have the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs or former HCEs.
Example 6. Employer V maintains Plan E, an accumulation plan. In 1994, Employer V amends Plan E to provide that the compensation used to determine an employee's benefit for all preceding plan years shall not be less than the employee's average annual compensation as of the close of the 1994 plan year. The years of service and percentage increases in compensation for HCEs are reasonably comparable to those of NHCEs. In addition, the ratio of HCEs to former HCEs is reasonably comparable to the ratio of NHCEs to former NHCEs. The timing of this plan amendment does not have the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs or former HCEs.
Example 7. Employer W currently has six nonexcludable employees, two of whom, H1 and H2, are HCEs, and the remaining four of whom, N1 through N4, are NHCEs. The ratio of HCEs to former HCEs is significantly higher than the ratio of NHCEs to former NHCEs. Employer W establishes Plan F, a defined benefit plan providing a benefit of one percent of average annual compensation per year of service, including years of service prior to the establishment of the plan. H1 and H2 each have 15 years of prior service, N1 has nine years of past service, N2 has five years, N3 has three years, and N4 has one year. The timing of this plan establishment has the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs.
Example 8. Assume the same facts as in Example 7, except that N1 through N4 were hired in the current year, and Employer W never employed any NHCEs prior to the current year. Thus, no NHCEs would have received additional benefits had Plan F been in existence during the preceding 15 years. The timing of this plan establishment does not have the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs or former HCEs.
Example 9. The facts are the same as in Example 7, except that Plan F limits the grant of past service credit to five years, and the grant of past service otherwise satisfies the safe harbor in paragraph (a)(3) of this section. The timing of this plan establishment is deemed not to have the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs or former HCEs.
Example 10. The facts are the same as in Example 9, except that, five years after the establishment of Plan F, Employer W amends the plan to provide a benefit equal to two percent of average annual compensation per year of service, taking into account all years of service since the establishment of the plan. The ratio of HCEs to former HCEs who terminated employment during the five-year period since the establishment of the plan is significantly higher than the ratio of NHCEs to former NHCEs who terminated employment during the five-year period since the establishment of the plan. Although the amendment described in this example might separately satisfy the safe harbor in paragraph (a)(3) of this section, the safe harbor is not available with respect to the amendment because, under these facts, the amendment is part of a pattern of amendments that has the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs.
Example 11. Employer Y maintains Plan G, a defined benefit plan, covering all its employees. In 1995, Employer Y acquires Division S from Employer Z. Some of the employees of Division S had been covered under a defined benefit plan maintained by Employer Z. Soon after the acquisition, Employer Y amends Plan G to cover all employees of Division S and to credit those who were in Division S's defined benefit plan with years of service for years of employment with Employer Z. Because the timing of the plan amendment was determined by the timing of the transaction, the timing of this plan amendment does not have the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs or former HCEs. See also §1.401(a)(4)-11(d)(3) for other rules regarding the crediting of pre-participation service.
Example 12. Plan H is an insurance contract plan within the meaning of section 412(i). For all plan years before 1999, Plan H purchases insurance contracts from Insurance Company J. In 1999, Plan H shifts future purchases of insurance contracts to Insurance Company K. The shift in insurance companies is a plan amendment subject to this paragraph (a).

(b) Pre-termination restrictions—(1) Required provisions in defined benefit plans. A defined benefit plan has the effect of discriminating significantly in favor of HCEs or former HCEs unless it incorporates provisions restricting benefits and distributions as described in paragraph (b)(2) and (3) of this section at the time the plan is established or, if later, as of the first plan year to which §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13 apply to the plan under §1.401(a)(4)-13(a) or (b). This paragraph (b) does not apply if the Commissioner determines that such provisions are not necessary to prevent the prohibited discrimination that may occur in the event of an early termination of the plan. The restrictions in this paragraph (b) apply to a plan within the meaning of §1.410(b)-7(b) (i.e., a section 414(l) plan). Any plan containing a provision described in this paragraph (b) satisfies section 411(d)(2) and does not fail to satisfy section 411(a) or (d)(3) merely because of the provision.

(2) Restriction of benefits upon plan termination. A plan must provide that, in the event of plan termination, the benefit of any HCE (and any former HCE) is limited to a benefit that is nondiscriminatory under section 401(a)(4).

(3) Restrictions on distributions—(i) General rule. A plan must provide that, in any year, the payment of benefits to or on behalf of a restricted employee shall not exceed an amount equal to the payments that would be made to or on behalf of the restricted employee in that year under—

(A) A straight life annuity that is the actuarial equivalent of the accrued benefit and other benefits to which the restricted employee is entitled under the plan (other than a social security supplement); and

(B) A social security supplement, if any, that the restricted employee is entitled to receive.

(ii) Restricted employee defined. For purposes of this paragraph (b), the term restricted employee generally means any HCE or former HCE. However, an HCE or former HCE need not be treated as a restricted employee in the current year if the HCE or former HCE is not one of the 25 (or a larger number chosen by the employer) nonexcludable employees and former employees of the employer with the largest amount of compensation in the current or any prior year. Plan provisions defining or altering this group can be amended at any time without violating section 411(d)(6).

(iii) Benefit defined. For purposes of this paragraph (b), the term benefit includes, among other benefits, loans in excess of the amounts set forth in section 72(p)(2)(A), any periodic income, any withdrawal values payable to a living employee or former employee, and any death benefits not provided for by insurance on the employee's or former employee's life.

(iv) Nonapplicability in certain cases. The restrictions in this paragraph (b)(3) do not apply, however, if any one of the following requirements is satisfied:

(A) After taking into account payment to or on behalf of the restricted employee of all benefits payable to or on behalf of that restricted employee under the plan, the value of plan assets must equal or exceed 110 percent of the value of current liabilities, as defined in section 412(l)(7).

(B) The value of the benefits payable to or on behalf of the restricted employee must be less than one percent of the value of current liabilities before distribution.

(C) The value of the benefits payable to or on behalf of the restricted employee must not exceed the amount described in section 411(a)(11)(A) (restrictions on certain mandatory distributions).

(v) Determination of current liabilities. For purposes of this paragraph (b), any reasonable and consistent method may be used for determining the value of current liabilities and the value of plan assets.

(4) Operational restrictions on certain money purchase pension plans. A money purchase pension plan that has an accumulated funding deficiency, within the meaning of section 412(a), or an unamortized funding waiver, within the meaning of section 412(d), must comply in operation with the restrictions on benefits and distributions as described in paragraphs (b)(2) and (b)(3) of this section. Such a plan does not fail to satisfy section 411(d)(6) merely because of restrictions imposed by the requirements of this paragraph (b)(4).

[T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46800, Sept. 3, 1993]

§1.401(a)(4)-6   Contributory defined benefit plans.

(a) Introduction. This section provides rules necessary for determining whether a contributory DB plan satisfies the nondiscriminatory amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2). Paragraph (b) of this section provides rules for determining the amount of benefits derived from employer contributions (employer-provided benefits) under a contributory DB plan for purposes of determining whether the plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) with respect to such amounts. Paragraph (c) of this section provides the exclusive rules for determining whether a contributory DB plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) with respect to the amount of benefits derived from employee contributions not allocated to separate accounts (employee-provided benefits). See §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2)(ii)(B) for the exclusive tests applicable to employee contributions allocated to separate accounts under a section 401(m) plan.

(b) Determination of employer-provided benefit—(1) General rule. An employee's employer-provided benefit under a contributory DB plan for purposes of section 401(a)(4) equals the difference between the employee's total benefit and the employee's employee-provided benefit under the plan. The rules of section 411(c) generally must be used to determine the employee's employer-provided benefit for this purpose. However, paragraphs (b)(2) through (b)(6) of this section provide alternative methods for determining the employee's employer-provided benefit.

(2) Composition-of-workforce method—(i) General rule. A contributory DB plan that satisfies paragraph (b)(2)(ii) (A) and (B) of this section may determine employees' employer-provided benefit rates under the rules of paragraph (b)(2)(iii) of this section.

(ii) Eligibility requirements—(A) Uniform rate of employee contributions. A contributory DB plan satisfies this paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A) if all employees make employee contributions at the same rate, expressed as a percentage of plan year compensation (the employee contribution rate). A plan does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A) merely because it eliminates employee contributions for all employees with plan year compensation below a specified contribution breakpoint that is either a stated dollar amount or a stated percentage of covered compensation (within the meaning of §1.401(l)-1(c)(7)); or merely because all employees make employee contributions at the same rate (expressed as a percentage of plan year compensation) with respect to plan year compensation up to the contribution breakpoint (base employee contribution rate) and at a higher rate (expressed as a percentage of plan year compensation) that is the same for all employees with respect to plan year compensation above the contribution breakpoint (excess employee contribution rate). A plan described in paragraph (c)(4)(i) of this section that satisfies paragraph (c)(4)(iii) of this section is deemed to satisfy this paragraph.

(B) Demographic requirements—(1) In general. A contributory DB plan satisfies this paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B) if it satisfies either of the demographic tests in paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B) (2) or (3) of this section.

(2) Minimum percentage test. This test is satisfied only if more than 40 percent of the NHCEs in the plan have attained ages at least equal to the plan's target age, and more than 20 percent of the NHCEs in the plan have attained ages at least equal to the average attained age of the HCEs in the plan. For this purpose, a plan's target age is the lower of age 50 or the average attained age of the HCEs in the plan minus X years, where X equals 20 minus the product of five times the employee contribution rate under the plan. In no case, however, may X years be fewer than zero (0) years. Thus, for example, if the average attained age of the HCEs in the plan is 53 and the employee contribution rate is two percent of plan year compensation, the plan's target age is 43 years (i.e., 53−(20−(5×2))).

(3) Ratio test. This test is satisfied only if the percentage of all nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employees, who are in the plan and who have attained ages at least equal to the average attained age of the HCEs in the plan, is at least 70 percent of the percentage of all highly compensated nonexcludable employees, who are in the plan and who have attained ages at least equal to the average attained age of the HCEs in the plan. Attained ages must be determined as of the beginning of the plan year. In lieu of determining the actual distribution of the attained ages of the HCEs, an employer may assume that 50 percent of all HCEs have attained ages at least equal to the average attained age of the HCEs.

(iii) Determination of employer-provided benefit—(A) Safe harbor plans other than section 401(l) plans. For purposes of applying the exception to the safe harbor in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(6)(viii) with respect to employer-provided benefits under a plan other than a section 401(l) plan, the employee's entire accrued benefit is treated as employer-provided.

(B) Section 401(l) plans—(1) General rule. For purposes of applying the exception to the safe harbor in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(6)(viii) with respect to employer-provided benefits under a section 401(l) plan, an employee's base benefit percentage and excess benefit percentage are reduced, or an employee's gross benefit percentage is reduced, by subtracting the product of the employee contribution rate and the factor determined under paragraph (b)(2)(iv) of this section from the respective percentages for the plan year. For this purpose, the employee contribution rate is the highest rate of employee contributions applicable to any potential level of plan year compensation for that plan year under the plan.

(2) Excess plans with varying contribution rates. In the case of a defined benefit excess plan described in the second sentence of paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A) of this section, solely for purposes of reducing an employee's base benefit percentage as required under paragraph (b)(2)(iii)(B)(1) of this section, it may be assumed that the employee's employee contribution rate equals the weighted average of the base employee contribution rate and the excess employee contribution rate. In determining this weighted average, the weight of the base employee contribution rate is equal to a fraction, the numerator of which is the lesser of the integration level and the contribution breakpoint and the denominator of which is the integration level. The weight of the excess employee contribution rate is equal to the difference between one and the weight of the base employee contribution rate.

(3) Offset plans with varying contribution rates. In the case of an offset plan described in the second sentence of paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A) of this section, an equivalent adjustment to the alternative method in paragraph (b)(2)(iii)(B)(2) of this section may be made to the offset percentage.

(C) Employer-provided benefits under the general test. For purposes of applying the general test of §1.401(a)(4)-3(c) with respect to employer-provided benefits, an employee's normal and most valuable accrual rates otherwise determined under §1.401(a)(4)-3(d) (without applying any of the options under §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(3) other than the fresh-start alternative of §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(3)(iii)) are each reduced by subtracting the product of the employee's contributions (expressed as a percentage of plan year compensation) and the factor determined under paragraph (b)(2)(iv) of this section from the respective accrual rates. A plan may then apply the optional rules in §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(3) (i) and (ii) to this resulting accrual rate.

(D) Additional limitation. A plan may not use the composition-of-workforce method provided in this paragraph (b)(2) to determine an employee's base benefit percentage, excess benefit percentage, gross benefit percentage, offset percentage, or accrual rates unless employee contributions have been made at the same rate (or rates) throughout the period after the fresh-start date or throughout the measurement period used to determine accrual rates.

(iv) Determination of plan factor. The factor for a plan is determined under the following table based on the average entry age of the employees in the plan and on whether the plan determines benefits based on average compensation. For this purpose, average entry age equals the average attained age of all employees in the plan, minus the average years of participation of all employees in the plan. A plan is treated as determining benefits based on average compensation if it determines benefits based on compensation averaged over a specified period not exceeding five consecutive years (or the employee's entire period of employment with the employer, if shorter).

Table of Factors

Average entry age Factors
Average compensation benefit formula Other formulas
Less than 300.50.75
30 to 400.40.6
Over 400.20.3

(v) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules of this paragraph (b)(2):

Example 1. Plan A is a contributory DB plan that is a defined benefit excess plan providing a benefit equal to 2.0 percent of employees' average annual compensation at or below covered compensation, plus 2.5 percent of average annual compensation above covered compensation, times years of service up to 35. Under the plan, average annual compensation is determined using a five-consecutive-year period for purposes of §1.401(a)(4)-3(e)(2). The plan requires employee contributions at a rate of four percent of plan year compensation for all employees. Assume that the plan satisfies the demographic requirements of paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B) of this section. Under these facts, the plan satisfies the eligibility requirements of paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section. Assume, further, that the average attained age for all employees in the plan is 55, and that the average years of participation of all employees in the plan is 10. The average entry age for the plan is therefore 45, and, accordingly, the appropriate factor under the table is 0.2. Thus, in applying the safe harbor requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b) to this plan for the plan year (including the requirements of §1.401(l)-3), the employee's base benefit percentage and excess benefit percentage are each reduced by 0.8 percent (4 percent×0.2) and equal 1.2 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.
Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that the employee contribution rate is two percent of plan year compensation up to the covered compensation level, and four percent for plan year compensation at or above that contribution breakpoint. The employer elects to apply the alternative method in paragraph (b)(2)(iii)(B)(2) of this section to determine the reduction in the base benefit percentage. Because the contribution breakpoint is equal to the integration level, the weight of the employee contribution rate below the contribution breakpoint is 100 percent, and the weight of the employee contribution rate above the contribution breakpoint is zero. Thus, the weighted average of employee contribution rates is two percent. Under the alternative method in paragraph (b)(2)(iii)(B)(2) of this section, the reduction in the employee's base benefit percentage is 0.4. In applying the safe harbor requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b) to this plan (including the requirements of §1.401(l)-3), the employee's base benefit percentage is 1.6 percent, and the employee's excess benefit percentage is 1.7.
Example 3. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that the employee contribution rate is two percent of plan year compensation up to 50 percent of the covered compensation level, and four percent for plan year compensation at or above that contribution breakpoint. Because the contribution breakpoint is equal to 50 percent of the integration level, the weight of the employee contribution rate below the contribution breakpoint is 50 percent, and the weight of the employee contribution rate above the contribution breakpoint is 50 percent. Thus, the weighted average of employee contribution rates is three percent. Under the alternative method in paragraph (b)(2)(iii)(B)(2) of this section, the reduction in the employee's base benefit percentage is 0.6. In applying the safe harbor requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b) to this plan (including the requirements of §1.401(l)-3), the employee's base benefit percentage is 1.4 percent, and the employee's excess benefit percentage is 1.7.
Example 4. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that the plan is tested using the general test in §1.401(a)(4)-3(c). Assume Employee M benefits under Plan A and has a normal accrual rate for the plan year (calculated with respect to Employee M's total accrued benefit) of 2.2 percent of average annual compensation. In applying the general test in §1.401(a)(4)-3(c) with respect to employer-provided benefits, this rate is reduced by 0.8 to yield a normal accrual rate of 1.4 percent. This rate may then be adjusted using either of the optional rules in §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(3)(i) or (ii).

(3) Minimum-benefit method—(i) Application of uniform factors. A contributory DB plan that satisfies the uniform rate requirement of paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A) of this section and the minimum benefit requirement of paragraph (b)(3)(ii) of this section may apply the adjustments provided in paragraph (b)(2)(iii) of this section as if the average entry age of employees in the plan were within the range of 30 to 40, without regard to the actual demographics of the employees in the plan.

(ii) Minimum benefit requirement. This requirement is satisfied if the plan provides that, in plan years beginning on or after the effective date of these regulations, as set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-13(a) and (b), each employee will accrue a benefit that equals or exceeds the sum of—

(A) The accrued benefit derived from employee contributions made for plan years beginning on or after the effective date of these regulations, determined in accordance with section 411(c); and

(B) Fifty percent of the total benefit accrued in plan years beginning on or after the effective date of these regulations, as determined under the plan benefit formula without regard to that portion of the formula designed to satisfy the minimum benefit requirement of this paragraph (b)(3)(ii).

(iii) Example. The following example illustrates the minimum-benefit method of this paragraph (b)(3):

Example. Plan A is contributory DB plan. For the plan year beginning in 1994, Employee M participates in Plan A and accrues a benefit under the terms of the plan (without regard to the minimum benefit requirement of paragraph (b)(3)(ii) of this section) of $3,000. The portion of Employee M's benefit accrual for the plan year beginning in 1994 derived from employee contributions is $2,000, determined by applying the rules of section 411(c) to such contributions. The requirement of paragraph (b)(3)(ii) of this section is not satisfied for the plan year beginning in 1994 unless the plan provides that Employee M's benefit accrual for the plan year beginning in 1994 is equal to $3,500 ($2,000+(50 percent×$3,000)).

(4) Grandfather rule for plans in existence on May 14, 1990. A contributory DB plan that satisfies paragraph (c)(4) of this section may determine an employee's employer-provided benefit by subtracting from the employee's total benefit the employee-provided benefits determined using any reasonable method set forth in the plan, provided that it is the same method used in determining whether the plan satisfies paragraph (c)(4)(ii)(D) of this section.

(5) Government-plan method. A contributory DB plan that is established and maintained for its employees by the government of any state or political subdivision or by any agency or instrumentality thereof may treat an employee's total benefit as entirely employer-provided.

(6) Cessation of employee contributions. If a contributory DB plan provides that no employee contributions may be made to the plan after the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after the effective date of these regulations, as set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-13 (a) and (b), the plan may treat an employee's total benefit as entirely employer-provided.

(c) Rules applicable in determining whether employee-provided benefits are nondiscriminatory in amount—(1) In general. A contributory DB plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) with respect to the amount of employee-provided benefits for a plan year only if the plan satisfies the requirements of paragraph (c)(2), (c)(3), or (c)(4) of this section for the plan year. This requirement applies regardless of the method used to determine the amount of employer-provided benefits under paragraph (b) of this section.

(2) Same rate of contributions. This requirement is satisfied for a plan year if the employee contribution rate (within the meaning of paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A) of this section) is the same for all employees for the plan year.

(3) Total-benefits method. This requirement is satisfied for a plan year if—

(i) The total benefits (i.e., the sum of employer-provided and employee-provided benefits) under the plan would satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-3 if all benefits were treated as employer-provided benefits; and

(ii) The plan's contribution requirements satisfy paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A) of this section.

(4) Grandfather rules for plans in existence on May 14, 1990—(i) In general. This requirement is satisfied for a plan year if the plan contained provisions as of May 14, 1990, that meet the requirements of paragraph (c)(4)(ii) or (c)(4)(iii) of this section.

(ii) Graded contribution rates. The plan's provisions meet the requirements of this paragraph (c)(4)(ii) if all the following requirements are met:

(A) The provisions require employee contributions at a greater rate (expressed as a percentage of compensation) at higher levels of compensation than at lower levels of compensation.

(B) The required rate of employee contributions is not increased after May 14, 1990, although the level of compensation at which employee contributions are required may be increased or decreased.

(C) All employees are permitted to make employee contributions under the plan at a uniform rate with respect to all compensation, beginning no later than the last day of the first plan year to which these regulations apply, as set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-13 (a) and (b).

(D) The benefits provided on account of employee contributions at lower levels of compensation are comparable to those provided on account of employee contributions at higher levels of compensation.

(iii) Prior year compensation. The plan's provisions meet the requirements of this paragraph (c)(4)(iii) if they are part of a plan maintained by more than one employer that requires employee contributions and the rate of required employee contributions, expressed as a percentage of compensation for the last calendar year ending before the beginning of the plan year, is the same for all employees.

[T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46802, Sept. 3, 1993]

§1.401(a)(4)-7   Imputation of permitted disparity.

(a) Introduction. In determining whether a plan satisfies section 401(a)(4) with respect to the amount of contributions or benefits, section 401(a)(5)(C) allows the disparities permitted under section 401(l) to be taken into account. For purposes of satisfying the safe harbors of §§1.401(a)(4)-2(b)(2) and 1.401(a)(4)-3(b), permitted disparity may be taken into account only by satisfying section 401(l) in form in accordance with §1.401(l)-2 or 1.401(l)-3, respectively. For purposes of the general tests of §§1.401(a)(4)-2(c) and 1.401(a)(4)-3(c), permitted disparity may be taken into account only in accordance with the rules of this section. In general, this section allows permitted disparity to be arithmetically imputed with respect to employer-provided contributions or benefits by determining an adjusted allocation or accrual rate that appropriately accounts for the permitted disparity with respect to each employee. Paragraph (b) of this section provides rules for imputing permitted disparity with respect to employer-provided contributions by adjusting each employee's unadjusted allocation rate. Paragraph (c) of this section provides rules for imputing permitted disparity with respect to employer-provided benefits by adjusting each employee's unadjusted accrual rate. Paragraph (d) of this section provides rules of general application.

(b) Adjusting allocation rates—(1) In general. The rules in this paragraph (b) produce an adjusted allocation rate for each employee by determining the excess contribution percentage under the hypothetical formula that would yield the allocation actually received by the employee, if the plan took into account the full disparity permitted under section 401(l)(2) and used the taxable wage base as the integration level. This adjusted allocation rate is used to determine whether the amount of contributions under the plan satisfies the general test of §1.401(a)(4)-2(c) and to apply the average benefit percentage test on the basis of contributions under §1.410(b)-5(d). Paragraphs (b)(2) and (b)(3) of this section apply to employees whose plan year compensation does not exceed and does exceed, respectively, the taxable wage base, and paragraph (b)(4) of this section provides definitions.

(2) Employees whose plan year compensation does not exceed taxable wage base. If an employee's plan year compensation does not exceed the taxable wage base, the employee's adjusted allocation rate is the lesser of the A rate and the B rate determined under the formulas below, where the permitted disparity rate and the unadjusted allocation rate are determined under paragraph (b)(4) (ii) and (iv) of this section, respectively.

A Rate = 2×unadjusted allocation rate

B Rate = unadjusted allocation rate + permitted disparity rate

(3) Employees whose plan year compensation exceeds taxable wage base. If an employee's plan year compensation exceeds the taxable wage base, the employee's adjusted allocation rate is the lesser of the C rate and the D rate determined under the formulas below, where allocations and the permitted disparity rate are determined under paragraph (b)(4) (i) and (ii) of this section, respectively.

eCFR graphic ec05oc91.012.gif

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(4) Definitions. In applying this paragraph (b), the following definitions govern—

(i) Allocations. Allocations means the amount determined by multiplying the employee's plan year compensation by the employee's unadjusted allocation rate.

(ii) Permitted disparity rate—(A) General rule. Permitted disparity rate means the rate in effect as of the beginning of the plan year under section 401(l)(2)(A)(ii) (e.g., 5.7 percent for plan years beginning in 1990).

(B) Cumulative permitted disparity limit. Notwithstanding paragraph (b)(4)(ii)(A) of this section, the permitted disparity rate is zero for an employee who has benefited under a defined benefit plan taken into account under §1.401(l)-5(a)(3) for a plan year that begins on or after one year from the first day of the first plan year to which these regulations apply, as set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-13 (a) and (b), if imputing permitted disparity would result in a cumulative disparity fraction for the employee, as defined in §1.401(l)-5(c)(2), that exceeds 35. See §1.401(l)-5(c)(1) for special rules for determining whether an employee has benefited under a defined benefit plan for this purpose.

(iii) Taxable wage base. Taxable wage base means the taxable wage base, as defined in §1.401(l)-1(c)(32), in effect as of the beginning of the plan year.

(iv) Unadjusted allocation rate. Unadjusted allocation rate means the employee's allocation rate determined under §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2)(i) for the plan year (expressed as a percentage of plan year compensation), without imputing permitted disparity under this section.

(5) Example. The following example illustrates the rules in this paragraph (b):

Example. (a) Employees M and N participate in a defined contribution plan maintained by Employer X. Employee M has plan year compensation of $30,000 in the 1990 plan year and has an unadjusted allocation rate of five percent. Employee N has plan year compensation of $100,000 in the 1990 plan year and has an unadjusted allocation rate of eight percent. The taxable wage base in 1990 is $51,300.

(b) Because Employee M's plan year compensation does not exceed the taxable wage base, Employee M's A rate is 10 percent (2×5 percent), and Employee M's B rate is 10.7 percent (5 percent+5.7 percent). Thus, Employee M's adjusted allocation rate is 10 percent, the lesser of the A rate and the B rate.

(c) Employee N's allocations are $8,000 (8 percent×$100,000). Because Employee N's plan year compensation exceeds the taxable wage base, Employee N's C rate is 10.76 percent ($8,000 divided by ($100,000−( 12 ×$51,300))), and Employee N's D rate is 10.92 percent (($8,000+ (5.7 percent×$51,300)) divided by $100,000). Thus, Employee N's adjusted allocation rate is 10.76 percent, the lesser of the C rate and the D rate.

(c) Adjusting accrual rates—(1) In general. The rules in this paragraph (c) produce an adjusted accrual rate for each employee by determining the excess benefit percentage under the hypothetical plan formula that would yield the employer-provided accrual actually received by the employee, if the plan took into account the full permitted disparity under section 401(l)(3)(A) in each of the first 35 years of an employee's testing service under the plan and used the employee's covered compensation as the integration level. This adjusted accrual rate is used to determine whether the amount of employer-provided benefits under the plan satisfies the alternative safe harbor for flat benefit plans under §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(4)(i)(C)(3) or the general test of §1.401(a)(4)-3(c), and to apply the average benefit percentage test on the basis of benefits under §1.410(b)-5. Paragraphs (c)(2) and (c)(3) of this section apply to employees whose average annual compensation does not exceed and does exceed, respectively, covered compensation, and paragraph (c)(4) of this section provides definitions. Paragraph (c)(5) of this section provides a special rule for employees with negative unadjusted accrual rates.

(2) Employees whose average annual compensation does not exceed covered compensation. If an employee's average annual compensation does not exceed the employee's covered compensation, the employee's adjusted accrual rate is the lesser of the A rate and the B rate determined under the formulas below, where the permitted disparity factor and the unadjusted accrual rate are determined under paragraph (c)(4)(iii) and (v) of this section, respectively.

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(3) Employees whose average annual compensation exceeds covered compensation. If an employee's average annual compensation exceeds the employee's covered compensation, the employee's adjusted accrual rate is the lesser of the C rate and D rate determined under the formulas below, where the employer-provided accrual and the permitted disparity factor are determined under paragraph (c)(4)(ii) and (iii) of this section, respectively.

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(4) Definitions. For purposes of this paragraph (c), the following definitions apply.

(i) Covered compensation. Covered compensation means covered compensation as defined in §1.401(l)-1(c)(7). Notwithstanding §1.401(l)-1(c)(7)(iii), an employee's covered compensation must be automatically adjusted each plan year for purposes of applying this paragraph (c).

(ii) Employer-provided accrual. Employer-provided accrual means the amount determined by multiplying the employee's average annual compensation by the employee's unadjusted accrual rate.

(iii) Permitted disparity factor—(A) General rule. Permitted disparity factor for an employee means the sum of the employee's annual permitted disparity factors determined under paragraph (c)(4)(iii)(B) of this section for each of the years in the measurement period used for determining the employee's accrual rate in §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(1), divided by the employee's testing service during that measurement period.

(B) Annual permitted disparity factor—(1) Definition. An employee's annual permitted disparity factor is generally 0.75 percent adjusted, pursuant to §1.401(l)-3(e), using as the age at which benefits commence the lesser of age 65 or the employee's testing age. No adjustments are made in the annual permitted disparity factor unless an employee's testing age is different from the employee's social security retirement age. An annual permitted disparity factor that is less than the annual permitted disparity factor described in the first sentence of this paragraph (c)(4)(iii)(B)(1) may be used if it is a uniform percentage of that factor (e.g., 50 percent of the annual permitted disparity factor) or a fixed percentage (e.g., 0.65 percent) for all employees.

(2) Annual permitted disparity factor after 35 years. For purposes of determining the sum described in paragraph (c)(4)(iii)(A) of this section, the annual permitted disparity factor for each of the employee's first 35 years of testing service is the amount described in paragraph (c)(4)(iii)(B)(1) of this section, and the annual permitted disparity factor in any subsequent year equals zero. This rule applies regardless of whether the end of the measurement period extends beyond an employee's first 35 years of testing service. Thus, for example, if the measurement period is the current plan year and the employee completed 35 years of testing service prior to the beginning of the current plan year, under this paragraph (c)(4)(iii)(B)(2) the annual permitted disparity factor in the current plan year (and hence the sum of the annual permitted disparity factors for each year in the measurement period) is zero.

(3) Cumulative permitted disparity limit. The 35 years used in paragraph (c)(4)(iii)(B)(2) of this section must be reduced by the employee's cumulative disparity fraction, as defined in §1.401(l)-5(c)(2), but determined solely with respect to the employee's total years of service under all plans taken into account under §1.401(l)-5(a)(3) during the measurement period, other than the plan being tested.

(iv) Social security retirement age. Social security retirement age means social security retirement age as defined in section 415(b)(8).

(v) Unadjusted accrual rate. Unadjusted accrual rate means the normal or most valuable accrual rate, whichever is being determined for the employee under §1.401(a)(4)-3(d), expressed as a percentage of average annual compensation, without imputing permitted disparity under this section.

(5) Employees with negative unadjusted accrual rates. Notwithstanding the formulas in paragraph (c)(2) and (c)(3) of this section, if an employee's unadjusted accrual rate is less than zero, the employee's adjusted accrual rate is deemed to be the employee's unadjusted accrual rate.

(6) Example. The following example illustrates the rules in this paragraph (c):

Example. (a) Employees M and N participate in a defined benefit plan that uses a normal retirement age of 65. The plan is being tested for the plan year under §1.401(a)(4)-3(c), using unadjusted accrual rates determined using a plan year measurement period under §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(1)(iii)(A). Employee M has an unadjusted normal accrual rate of 1.48 percent, average annual compensation of $21,000, and an employer-provided accrual of $311 (1.48 percent×$21,000). Employee N has an unadjusted normal accrual rate of 1.7 percent, average annual compensation of $106,000, and an employer-provided accrual of $1,802 (1.7 percent×$106,000). The covered compensation of both Employees M and N is $25,000, and social security retirement age for both employees is 65. Neither employee has testing service of more than 35 years and neither has ever participated in another plan.

(b) Because Employee M's average annual compensation does not exceed covered compensation, Employee M's A rate is 2.96 percent (2.0×1.48 percent), and Employee M's B rate is 2.23 percent (1.48 percent+0.75 percent). Thus, Employee M's adjusted accrual rate is 2.23 percent, the lesser of the A rate and the B rate.

(c) Because Employee N's average annual compensation exceeds covered compensation, Employee N's C rate is 1.93 percent ($1,802/($106,000−(0.5×$25,000))), and Employee N's D rate is 1.88 percent (($1,802+(0.75 percent×$25,000))/$106,000). Thus, Employee N's adjusted accrual rate is 1.88 percent, the lesser of the C rate and the D rate.

(d) Rules of general application—(1) Eligible plans. The rules in this section may be used only for those plans to which the permitted disparity rules of section 401(l) are available. See §1.401(l)-1(a)(3).

(2) Exceptions from consistency requirements. A plan does not fail to satisfy the consistency requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2)(vi) or §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(2)(i) merely because the plan does not impute disparity for some employees to the extent required to comply with paragraph (d)(3) of this section, or because the plan does not impute disparity for any employees (including self-employed individuals within the meaning of section 401(c)(1)) who are not covered by any of the taxes under section 3111(a), section 3221, or section 1401.

(3) Overall permitted disparity. The annual overall permitted disparity limits of §1.401(l)-5(b) apply to the employer-provided contributions and benefits for an employee under all plans taken into account under §1.401(l)-5(a)(3). Thus, if an employee who benefits under the plan for the current plan year also benefits under a section 401(l) plan for the plan year ending with or within the current plan year, permitted disparity may not be imputed for that employee for the plan year. See §1.401(l)-5(b)(9), Example 4. Similarly, if an employee who benefits under the plan for the current plan year also benefits under another plan of the employer for the plan year ending with or within the current plan year, disparity may be imputed for that employee under only one of the plans.

[T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46804, Sept. 3, 1993]

§1.401(a)(4)-8   Cross-testing.

(a) Introduction. This section provides rules for testing defined benefit plans on the basis of equivalent employer-provided contributions and defined contribution plans on the basis of equivalent employer-provided benefits under §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2). Paragraphs (b)(1) and (c)(1) of this section provide general tests for nondiscrimination based on individual equivalent accrual or allocation rates determined under paragraphs (b)(2) and (c)(2) of this section, respectively. Paragraphs (b)(3), (c)(3), and (d) of this section provide additional safe-harbor testing methods for target benefit plans, cash balance plans, and defined benefit plans that are part of floor-offset arrangements, respectively, that generally may be satisfied on a design basis.

(b) Nondiscrimination in amount of benefits provided under a defined contribution plan—(1) General rule and gateway—(i) General rule. Equivalent benefits under a defined contribution plan (other than an ESOP) are nondiscriminatory in amount for a plan year if—

(A) The plan would satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(1) for the plan year if an equivalent accrual rate, as determined under paragraph (b)(2) of this section, were substituted for each employee's allocation rate in the determination of rate groups; and

(B) For plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2002, the plan satisfies one of the following conditions—

(1) The plan has broadly available allocation rates (within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section) for the plan year;

(2) The plan has age-based allocation rates that are based on either a gradual age or service schedule (within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1)(iv) of this section) or a uniform target benefit allocation (within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1)(v) of this section) for the plan year; or

(3) The plan satisfies the minimum allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(1)(vi) of this section for the plan year.

(ii) Allocations after testing age. A plan does not fail to satisfy paragraph (b)(1)(i)(A) of this section merely because allocations are made at the same rate for employees who are older than their testing age (determined without regard to the current-age rule in paragraph (4) of the definition of testing age in §1.401(a)(4)-12) as they are made for employees who are at that age.

(iii) Broadly available allocation rates—(A) In general. A plan has broadly available allocation rates for the plan year if each allocation rate under the plan is currently available during the plan year (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b)(2)), to a group of employees that satisfies section 410(b) (without regard to the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5). For this purpose, if two allocation rates could be permissively aggregated under §1.401(a)(4)-4(d)(4), assuming the allocation rates were treated as benefits, rights or features, they may be aggregated and treated as a single allocation rate. In addition, the disregard of age and service conditions described in §1.401(a)(4)-4(b)(2)(ii)(A) does not apply for purposes of this paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(A).

(B) Certain transition allocations. In determining whether a plan has broadly available allocation rates for the plan year within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(A) of this section, an employee's allocation may be disregarded to the extent that the allocation is a transition allocation for the plan year. In order for an allocation to be a transition allocation, the allocation must comply with the requirements of paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(C) of this section and must be either—

(1) A defined benefit replacement allocation within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(D) of this section; or

(2) A pre-existing replacement allocation or pre-existing merger and acquisition allocation, within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(E) of this section.

(C) Plan provisions relating to transition allocations—(1) In general. Plan provisions providing for transition allocations for the plan year must specify both the group of employees who are eligible for the transition allocations and the amount of the transition allocations.

(2) Limited plan amendments. Allocations are not transition allocations within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(B) of this section for the plan year if the plan provisions relating to the allocations are amended after the date those plan provisions are both adopted and effective. The preceding sentence in this paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(C)(2) does not apply to a plan amendment that reduces transition allocations to HCEs, makes de minimis changes in the calculation of the transition allocations (such as a change in the definition of compensation to include section 132(f) elective reductions), or adds or removes a provision permitted under paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(C)(3) of this section.

(3) Certain permitted plan provisions. An allocation does not fail to be a transition allocation within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(B) of this section merely because the plan provides that each employee who is eligible for a transition allocation receives the greater of such allocation and the allocation for which the employee would otherwise be eligible under the plan. In a plan that contains such a provision, for purposes of determining whether the plan has broadly available allocation rates within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(A) of this section, the allocation for which an employee would otherwise be eligible is considered currently available to the employee, even if the employee's transition allocation is greater.

(D) Defined benefit replacement allocation. An allocation is a defined benefit replacement allocation for the plan year if it is provided in accordance with guidance prescribed by the Commissioner published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin (see §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b) of this chapter) and satisfies the following conditions—

(1) The allocations are provided to a group of employees who formerly benefitted under an established nondiscriminatory defined benefit plan of the employer or of a prior employer that provided age-based equivalent allocation rates;

(2) The allocations for each employee in the group were reasonably calculated, in a consistent manner, to replace the retirement benefits that the employee would have been provided under the defined benefit plan if the employee had continued to benefit under the defined benefit plan;

(3) Except as provided in paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(C) of this section, no employee who receives the allocation receives any other allocations under the plan for the plan year; and

(4) The composition of the group of employees who receive the allocations is nondiscriminatory.

(E) Pre-existing transition allocations—(1) Pre-existing replacement allocations. An allocation is a pre-existing replacement allocation for the plan year if the allocation satisfies the following conditions—

(i) The allocations are provided pursuant to a plan provision adopted before June 29, 2001;

(ii) The allocations are provided to employees who formerly benefitted under a defined benefit plan of the employer; and

(iii) The allocations for each employee in the group are reasonably calculated, in a consistent manner, to replace some or all of the retirement benefits that the employee would have received under the defined benefit plan and any other plan or arrangement of the employer if the employee had continued to benefit under such defined benefit plan and such other plan or arrangement.

(2) Pre-existing merger and acquisition allocations. An allocation is a pre-existing merger and acquisition allocation for the plan year if the allocation satisfies the following conditions—

(i) The allocations are provided solely to employees of a trade or business that has been acquired by the employer in a stock or asset acquisition, merger, or other similar transaction occurring prior to August 28, 2001, involving a change in the employer of the employees of the trade or business;

(ii) The allocations are provided only to employees who were employed by the acquired trade or business before a specified date that is no later than two years after the transaction (or January 1, 2002, if earlier);

(iii) The allocations are provided pursuant a plan provision adopted no later than the specified date; and

(iv) The allocations for each employee in the group are reasonably calculated, in a consistent manner, to replace some or all of the retirement benefits that the employee would have received under any plan of the employer if the new employer had continued to provide the retirement benefits that the prior employer was providing for employees of the trade or business.

(F) Successor employers. An employer that accepts a transfer of assets (within the meaning of section 414(l)) from the plan of a prior employer may continue to treat any transition allocations provided under that plan as transition allocations under paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(B) of this section, provided that the successor employer continues to satisfy the applicable requirements set forth in paragraphs (b)(1)(iii)(C) through (E) of this section for the plan year.

(iv) Gradual age or service schedule—(A) In general. A plan has a gradual age or service schedule for the plan year if the allocation formula for all employees under the plan provides for a single schedule of allocation rates under which—

(1) The schedule defines a series of bands based solely on age, years of service, or the number of points representing the sum of age and years of service (age and service points), under which the same allocation rate applies to all employees whose age, years of service, or age and service points are within each band; and

(2) The allocation rates under the schedule increase smoothly at regular intervals, within the meaning of paragraphs (b)(1)(iv)(B) and (C) of this section.

(B) Smoothly increasing schedule of allocation rates. A schedule of allocation rates increases smoothly if the allocation rate for each band within the schedule is greater than the allocation rate for the immediately preceding band (i.e., the band with the next lower number of years of age, years of service, or age and service points) but by no more than 5 percentage points. However, a schedule of allocation rates will not be treated as increasing smoothly if the ratio of the allocation rate for any band to the rate for the immediately preceding band is more than 2.0 or if it exceeds the ratio of allocation rates between the two immediately preceding bands.

(C) Regular intervals. A schedule of allocation rates has regular intervals of age, years of service or age and service points, if each band, other than the band associated with the highest age, years of service, or age and service points, is the same length. For this purpose, if the schedule is based on age, the first band is deemed to be of the same length as the other bands if it ends at or before age 25. If the first age band ends after age 25, then, in determining whether the length of the first band is the same as the length of other bands, the starting age for the first age band is permitted to be treated as age 25 or any age earlier than 25. For a schedule of allocation rates based on age and service points, the rules of the preceding two sentences are applied by substituting 25 age and service points for age 25. For a schedule of allocation rates based on service, the starting service for the first service band is permitted to be treated as one year of service or any lesser amount of service.

(D) Minimum allocation rates permitted. A schedule of allocation rates under a plan does not fail to increase smoothly at regular intervals, within the meaning of paragraphs (b)(1)(iv)(B) and (C) of this section, merely because a minimum uniform allocation rate is provided for all employees or the minimum benefit described in section 416(c)(2) is provided for all non-key employees (either because the plan is top heavy or without regard to whether the plan is top heavy) if the schedule satisfies one of the following conditions—

(1) The allocation rates under the plan that are greater than the minimum allocation rate can be included in a hypothetical schedule of allocation rates that increases smoothly at regular intervals, within the meaning of paragraphs (b)(1)(iv)(B) and (C) of this section, where the hypothetical schedule has a lowest allocation rate no lower than 1% of plan year compensation; or

(2) For a plan using a schedule of allocation rates based on age, for each age band in the schedule that provides an allocation rate greater than the minimum allocation rate, there could be an employee in that age band with an equivalent accrual rate that is less than or equal to the equivalent accrual rate that would apply to an employee whose age is the highest age for which the allocation rate equals the minimum allocation rate.

(v) Uniform target benefit allocations. A plan has allocation rates that are based on a uniform target benefit allocation for the plan year if the plan fails to satisfy the requirements for the safe harbor testing method in paragraph (b)(3) of this section merely because the determination of the allocations under the plan differs from the allocations determined under that safe harbor testing method for any of the following reasons—

(A) The interest rate used for determining the actuarial present value of the stated plan benefit and the theoretical reserve is lower than a standard interest rate;

(B) The stated benefit is calculated assuming compensation increases at a specified rate; or

(C) The plan computes the current year contribution using the actual account balance instead of the theoretical reserve.

(vi) Minimum allocation gateway—(A) General rule. A plan satisfies the minimum allocation gateway of this paragraph (b)(1)(vi) if each NHCE has an allocation rate that is at least one third of the allocation rate of the HCE with the highest allocation rate.

(B) Deemed satisfaction. A plan is deemed to satisfy the minimum allocation gateway of this paragraph (b)(1)(vi) if each NHCE receives an allocation of at least 5% of the NHCE's compensation within the meaning of section 415(c)(3), measured over a period of time permitted under the definition of plan year compensation.

(vii) Determination of allocation rate. For purposes of paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B) of this section, allocations and allocation rates are determined under §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2), but without taking into account the imputation of permitted disparity under §1.401(a)(4)-7. However, in determining whether the plan has broadly available allocation rates as provided in paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section, differences in allocation rates attributable solely to the use of permitted disparity described in §1.401(l)-2 are disregarded.

(viii) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (b)(1):

Example 1. (i) Plan M, a defined contribution plan without a minimum service requirement, provides an allocation formula under which allocations are provided to all employees according to the following schedule:
Completed years of service Allocation rate
(in percent)
Ratio of allocation rate for band to allocation rate for immediately preceding band
0-53.0(1)
6-104.51.50
11-156.51.44
16-208.51.31
21-2510.01.18
26 or more11.51.15

1Not applicable.

(ii) Plan M provides that allocation rates for all employees are determined using a single schedule based solely on service, as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(A)(1) of this section. Therefore, if the allocation rates under the schedule increase smoothly at regular intervals as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(A)(2) of this section, then the plan has a gradual age or service schedule described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv) of this section.

(iii) The schedule of allocation rates under Plan M does not increase by more than 5 percentage points between adjacent bands and the ratio of the allocation rate for any band to the allocation rate for the immediately preceding band is never more than 2.0 and does not increase. Therefore, the allocation rates increase smoothly as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(B) of this section. In addition, the bands (other than the highest band) are all 5 years long, so the increases occur at regular intervals as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(C) of this section. Thus, the allocation rates under the plan's schedule increase smoothly at regular intervals as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(A)(2) of this section. Accordingly, the plan has a gradual age or service schedule described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv) of this section.

(iv) Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, Plan M satisfies the nondiscrimination in amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) on the basis of benefits if it satisfies paragraph (b)(1)(i)(A) of this section, regardless of whether it satisfies the minimum allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(1)(vi) of this section.

Example 2. (i) The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that the 4.5% allocation rate applies for all employees with 10 years of service or less.

(ii) Plan M provides that allocation rates for all employees are determined using a single schedule based solely on service, as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(A)(1) of this section. Therefore, if the allocation rates under the schedule increase smoothly at regular intervals as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(A)(2) of this section, then the plan has a gradual age or service schedule described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv) of this section.

(iii) The bands (other than the highest band) in the schedule are not all the same length, since the first band is 10 years long while other bands are 5 years long. Thus, the schedule does not have regular intervals as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(C) of this section. However, under paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(D) of this section, the schedule of allocation rates does not fail to increase smoothly at regular intervals merely because the minimum allocation rate of 4.5% results in a first band that is longer than the other bands, if either of the conditions of paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(D)(1) or (2) of this section is satisfied.

(iv) In this case, the schedule of allocation rates satisfies the condition in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(D)(1) of this section because the allocation rates under the plan that are greater than the 4.5% minimum allocation rate can be included in the following hypothetical schedule of allocation rates that increases smoothly at regular intervals and has a lowest allocation rate of at least 1% of plan year compensation:

Completed years of service Allocation rate
(in percent)
Ratio of allocation rate for band to allocation rate for immediately preceding band
0-52.5(1)
6-104.51.80
11-156.51.44
16-208.51.31
21-2510.01.18
26 or more11.51.15

1Not applicable.

(v) Accordingly, the plan has a gradual age or service schedule described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv) of this section. Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, Plan M satisfies the nondiscrimination in amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) on the basis of benefits if it satisfies paragraph (b)(1)(i)(A) of this section, regardless of whether it satisfies the minimum allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(1)(vi) of this section.
Example 3. (i) Plan N, a defined contribution plan, provides an allocation formula under which allocations are provided to all employees according to the following schedule:
Age Allocation rate
(in percent)
Ratio of allocation rate for band to allocation rate for immediately preceding band
Under 253.0(1)
25-346.02.00
35-449.01.50
45-5412.01.33
55-6416.01.33
65 or older21.01.31

1Not applicable.

(ii) Plan N provides that allocation rates for all employees are determined using a single schedule based solely on age, as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(A)(1) of this section. Therefore, if the allocation rates under the schedule increase smoothly at regular intervals as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(A)(2) of this section, then the plan has a gradual age or service schedule described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv) of this section.

(iii) The schedule of allocation rates under Plan N does not increase by more than 5 percentage points between adjacent bands and the ratio of the allocation rate for any band to the allocation rate for the immediately preceding band is never more than 2.0 and does not increase. Therefore, the allocation rates increase smoothly as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(B) of this section. In addition, the bands (other than the highest band and the first band, which is deemed to be the same length as the other bands because it ends prior to age 25) are all 5 years long, so the increases occur at regular intervals as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(C) of this section. Thus, the allocation rates under the plan's schedule increase smoothly at regular intervals as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(A)(2) of this section. Accordingly, the plan has a gradual age or service schedule described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv) of this section.

(iv) Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, Plan N satisfies the nondiscrimination in amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) on the basis of benefits if it satisfies paragraph (b)(1)(i)(A) of this section, regardless of whether it satisfies the minimum allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(1)(vi) of this section.

Example 4. (i) Plan O, a defined contribution plan, provides an allocation formula under which allocations are provided to all employees according to the following schedule:
Age Allocation rate
(in percent)
Ratio of allocation rate for band to allocation rate for immediately preceding band
Under 403(1)
40-4462.00
45-4991.50
50-54121.33
55-59161.33
60-64201.25
65 or older251.25

1Not applicable.

(ii) Plan O provides that allocation rates for all employees are determined using a single schedule based solely on age, as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(A)(1) of this section. Therefore, if the allocation rates under the schedule increase smoothly at regular intervals as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(A)(2) of this section, then the plan has a gradual age or service schedule described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv) of this section.

(iii) The bands (other than the highest band) in the schedule are not all the same length, since the first band is treated as 15 years long while other bands are 5 years long. Thus, the schedule does not have regular intervals as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(C) of this section. However, under paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(D) of this section, the schedule of allocation rates does not fail to increase smoothly at regular intervals merely because the minimum allocation rate of 3% results in a first band that is longer than the other bands, if either of the conditions of paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(D)(1) or (2) of this section is satisfied.

(iv) In this case, in order to define a hypothetical schedule that could include the allocation rates in the actual schedule of allocation rates, each of the bands below age 40 would have to be 5 years long (or be treated as 5 years long). Accordingly, the hypothetical schedule would have to provide for a band for employees under age 30, a band for employees in the range 30-34 and a band for employees age 35-39.

(v) The ratio of the allocation rate for the age 40-44 band to the next lower band is 2.0. Accordingly, in order for the applicable allocations rates under this hypothetical schedule to increase smoothly, the ratio of the allocation rate for each band in the hypothetical schedule below age 40 to the allocation rate for the immediately preceding band would have to be 2.0. Thus, the allocation rate for the hypothetical band applicable for employees under age 30 would be .75%, the allocation rate for the hypothetical band for employees in the range 30-34 would be 1.5% and the allocation rate for employees in the range 35-39 would be 3%.

(vi) Because the lowest allocation rate under any possible hypothetical schedule is less than 1% of plan year compensation, Plan O will be treated as satisfying the requirements of paragraphs (b)(1)(iv)(B) and (C) of this section only if the schedule of allocation rates satisfies the steepness condition described in paragraph (b)(1)(iv)(D)(2) of this section. In this case, the steepness condition is not satisfied because the equivalent accrual rate for an employee age 39 is 2.81%, but there is no hypothetical employee in the band for ages 40-44 with an equal or lower equivalent accrual rate (since the lowest equivalent accrual rate for hypothetical employees within this band is 3.74% at age 44).

(vii) Since the schedule of allocation rates under the plan does not increase smoothly at regular intervals, Plan O's schedule of allocation rates is not a gradual age or service schedule. Further, Plan O does not provide uniform target benefit allocations. Therefore, under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, Plan O cannot satisfy the nondiscrimination in amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) for the plan year on the basis of benefits unless either Plan O provides for broadly available allocation rates for the plan year as described in paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section (i.e., the allocation rate at each age is provided to a group of employees that satisfies section 410(b) without regard to the average benefit percentage test), or Plan O satisfies the minimum allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(1)(vi) of this section for the plan year.

Example 5. (i) Plan P is a profit-sharing plan maintained by Employer A that covers all of Employer A's employees, consisting of two HCEs, X and Y, and 7 NHCEs. Employee X's compensation is $170,000 and Employee Y's compensation is $150,000. The allocation for Employees X and Y is $30,000 each, resulting in an allocation rate of 17.65% for Employee X and 20% for Employee Y. Under Plan P, each NHCE receives an allocation of 5% of compensation within the meaning of section 415(c)(3), measured over a period of time permitted under the definition of plan year compensation.

(ii) Because the allocation rate for X is not currently available to any NHCE, Plan P does not have broadly available allocation rates within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section. Furthermore, Plan P does not provide for age based-allocation rates within the meaning of paragraph (b)(1)(iv) or (v) of this section. Thus, under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, Plan P can satisfy the nondiscrimination in amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) for the plan year on the basis of benefits only if Plan P satisfies the minimum allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(1)(vi) of this section for the plan year.

(iii) The highest allocation rate for any HCE under Plan P is 20%. Accordingly, Plan P would satisfy the minimum allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(1)(vi) of this section if all NHCEs have an allocation rate of at least 6.67%, or if all NHCEs receive an allocation of at least 5% of compensation within the meaning of section 415(c)(3) (measured over a period of time permitted under the definition of plan year compensation).

(iv) Under Plan P, each NHCE receives an allocation of 5% of compensation within the meaning of section 415(c)(3) (measured over a period of time permitted under the definition of plan year compensation). Accordingly, Plan P satisfies the minimum allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(1)(vi) of this section.

(v) Under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, Plan P satisfies the nondiscrimination in amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) on the basis of benefits if it satisfies paragraph (b)(1)(i)(A) of this section.

(2) Determination of equivalent accrual rates—(i) Basic definition. An employee's equivalent accrual rate for a plan year is the annual benefit that is the result of normalizing the increase in the employee's account balance during the measurement period, divided by the number of years in which the employee benefited under the plan during the measurement period, and expressed either as a dollar amount or as a percentage of the employee's average annual compensation. A measurement period that includes future years may not be used for this purpose.

(ii) Rules of application—(A) Determination of account balance. The increase in the account balance during the measurement period taken into account under paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section does not include income, expenses, gains, or losses allocated during the measurement period that are attributable to the account balance as of the beginning of the measurement period, but does include any additional amounts that would have been included in the increase in the account balance but for the fact that they were previously distributed (including a reasonable adjustment for interest). In the case of a measurement period that is the current plan year, an employer may also elect to disregard the income, expenses, gains, and losses allocated during the current plan year that are attributable to the increase in account balance since the beginning of the year, and thus, determine the increase in account balance during the plan year taking into account only the allocations described in §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2)(ii). In addition, an employer may disregard distributions made to a NHCE as well as distributions made to any employee in plan years beginning before a selected date no later than January 1, 1986.

(B) Normalization. The account balances determined under paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A) of this section are normalized by treating them as single-sum benefits that are immediately and unconditionally payable to the employee. A standard interest rate, and a straight life annuity factor that is based on the same or a different standard interest rate and on a standard mortality table, must be used in normalizing these benefits. In addition, no mortality may be assumed prior to the employee's testing age.

(iii) Options. Any of the optional rules in §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(3) (e.g., imputation of permitted disparity) may be applied in determining an employee's equivalent accrual rate by substituting the employee's equivalent accrual rate (determined without regard to the option) for the employee's normal accrual rate (i.e., not most valuable accrual rate) in that section where appropriate. For this purpose, however, the last sentence of the fresh-start alternative in §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(3)(iii)(A) (dealing with compensation adjustments to the frozen accrued benefit) is not applicable. No other options are available in determining an employee's equivalent accrual rate except those (e.g., selection of alternative measurement periods) specifically provided in this paragraph (b)(2). Thus, for example, none of the optional special rules in §1.401(a)(4)-3(f) (e.g., determination of benefits on other than a plan year basis under §1.401(a)(4)-3(f)(6)) is available.

(iv) Consistency rule. Equivalent accrual rates must be determined in a consistent manner for all employees for the plan year. Thus, for example, the same measurement periods and standard interest rates must be used, and any available options must be applied consistently if at all.

(3) Safe-harbor testing method for target benefit plans—(i) General rule. A target benefit plan is a money purchase pension plan under which contributions to an employee's account are determined by reference to the amounts necessary to fund the employee's stated benefit under the plan. Whether a target benefit plan satisfies section 401(a)(4) with respect to an equivalent amount of benefits is generally determined under paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2) of this section. A target benefit plan is deemed to satisfy section 401(a)(4) with respect to an equivalent amount of benefits, however, if each of the following requirements is satisfied:

(A) Stated benefit formula. Each employee's stated benefit must be determined as the straight life annuity commencing at the employee's normal retirement age under a formula that would satisfy the requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(4)(i)(C) (1) or (2), and that would satisfy each of the uniformity requirements in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(2) (taking into account the relevant exceptions provided in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(6)), if the plan were a defined benefit plan with the same benefit formula. In determining whether these requirements are satisfied, the rules of §1.401(a)(4)-3(f) do not apply, and, in addition, except as provided in paragraph (b)(3)(vii) of this section, an employee's stated benefit at normal retirement age under the stated benefit formula is deemed to accrue ratably over the period ending with the plan year in which the employee is projected to reach normal retirement age and beginning with the latest of: the first plan year in which the employee benefited under the plan, the first plan year taken into account in the stated benefit formula, and any plan year immediately following a plan year in which the plan did not satisfy this paragraph (b)(3). Thus, except as provided in paragraph (b)(3)(vii) of this section, under §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(2)(v) an employee's stated benefit may not take into account service in years prior to the first plan year that the employee benefited under the plan, and an employee's stated benefit may not take into account service in plan years prior to the current plan year unless the plan satisfied this paragraph (b)(3) in all of those prior plan years.

(B) Employer and employee contributions. Employer contributions with respect to each employee must be based exclusively on the employee's stated benefit using the method provided in paragraph (b)(3)(iv) of this section, and forfeitures and any other amounts under the plan taken into account under §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2)(ii) (other than employer contributions) are used exclusively to reduce employer contributions. Employee contributions (if any) may not be used to fund the stated benefit.

(C) Permitted disparity. If permitted disparity is taken into account, the stated benefit formula must satisfy §1.401(l)-3. For this purpose, the 0.75-percent factor in the maximum excess or offset allowance in §1.401(l)-3(b)(2)(i) or (b)(3)(i), respectively, as adjusted in accordance with §1.401(l)-3(d)(9) (and, if the employee's normal retirement age is not the employee's social security retirement age, §1.401(l)-3(e)), is further reduced by multiplying the factor by 0.80.

(ii) Changes in stated benefit formula. A plan does not fail to satisfy paragraph (b)(3)(i) of this section merely because the plan determines each employee's stated benefit in the current plan year under a stated benefit formula that differs from the stated benefit formula used to determine the employee's stated benefit in prior plan years.

(iii) Stated benefits after normal retirement age. A target benefit plan may limit increases in the stated benefit after normal retirement age consistent with the requirements applicable to defined benefit plans under section 411(b)(1)(H) (without regard to section 411(b)(1)(H)(iii)), provided that the limitation applies on the same terms to all employees. Thus, post-normal retirement benefits required under §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(2)(ii) must be provided under the stated benefit formula, subject to any uniformly applicable service cap under the formula.

(iv) Method for determining required employer contributions—(A) General rule. An employer's required contribution to the account of an employee for a plan year is determined based on the employee's stated benefit and the amount of the employee's theoretical reserve as of the date the employer's required contribution is determined for the plan year (the determination date). Paragraph (b)(3)(iv)(B) of this section provides rules for determining an employee's theoretical reserve. Paragraph (b)(3)(iv) (C) and (D) of this section provides rules for determining an employer's required contributions.

(B) Theoretical reserve—(1) Initial theoretical reserve. An employee's theoretical reserve as of the determination date for the first plan year in which the employee benefits under the plan, the first plan year taken into account under the stated benefit formula (if that is the current plan year), or the first plan year immediately following any plan year in which the plan did not satisfy this paragraph (b)(3), is zero.

(2) Theoretical reserve in subsequent plan years. An employee's theoretical reserve as of the determination date for a plan year (other than a plan year described in paragraph (b)(3)(iv)(B)(1) of this section) is the employee's theoretical reserve as of the determination date for the prior plan year, plus the employer's required contribution for the prior plan year (as limited by section 415, but without regard to the additional contributions described in paragraph (b)(3)(v) of this section) both increased by interest from the determination date for the prior plan year through the determination date for the current plan year, but not beyond the determination date for the plan year that includes the employee's normal retirement date. (Thus, an employee's theoretical reserve as of the determination date for a plan year does not include the amount of the employer's required contribution for the plan year.) The interest rate for determining employer contributions that was in effect on the determination date in the prior plan year must be applied to determine the required interest adjustment for this period. For plan years beginning after the effective date applicable to the plan under §1.401(a)(4)-13(a) or (b), a standard interest rate must be used, and may not be changed except on the determination date for a plan year.

(C) Required contributions for employees under normal retirement age. The required employer contributions with respect to an employee whose attained age is less than the employee's normal retirement age must be determined for each plan year as follows:

(1) Determine the employee's fractional rule benefit (within the meaning of §1.411(b)-1(b)(3)(ii)(A)) under the plan's stated benefit formula as if the plan were a defined benefit plan with the same benefit formula.

(2) Determine the actuarial present value of the fractional rule benefit determined in paragraph (b)(3)(iv)(C)(1) of this section as of the determination date for the current plan year, using a standard interest rate and a standard mortality table that are set forth in the plan and that are the same for all employees, and assuming no mortality before the employee's normal retirement age.

(3) Determine the excess, if any, of the amount determined in paragraph (b)(3)(iv)(C)(2) of this section over the employee's theoretical reserve for the current plan year determined under paragraph (b)(3)(iv)(B) of this section.

(4) Determine the required employer contribution for the current plan year by amortizing on a level annual basis, using the same interest rate used for paragraph (b)(3)(iv)(C)(2) of this section, the result in paragraph (b)(3)(iv)(C)(3) of this section over the period beginning with the determination date for the current plan year and ending with the determination date for the plan year in which the employee is projected to reach normal retirement age.

(D) Required contributions for employees over normal retirement age. The required employer contributions with respect to an employee whose attained age equals or exceeds the employee's normal retirement age is the excess, if any, of the actuarial present value, as of the determination date for the current plan year, of the employee's stated benefit for the current plan year (determined using an immediate straight life annuity factor based on a standard interest rate and a standard mortality table, for an employee whose attained age equals the employee's normal retirement age) over the employee's theoretical reserve as of the determination date.

(v) Effect of section 415 and 416 requirements. A target benefit plan does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (b)(3) merely because required contributions under the plan are limited by section 415 in a plan year. Similarly, a target benefit plan does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (b)(3) merely because additional contributions are made consistent with the requirements of section 416(c)(2) (regardless of whether the plan is top-heavy).

(vi) Certain conditions on allocations. A target benefit plan does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (b)(3) merely because required contributions under the plan are subject to the conditions on allocations permitted under §1.401(a)(4)-2(b)(4)(iii).

(vii) Special rules for target benefit plans qualified under prior law—(A) Service taken into account prior to satisfaction of this paragraph. For purposes of determining whether the stated benefit formula satisfies paragraph (b)(3)(i)(A) of this section (e.g., whether the period over which an employee's stated benefit is deemed to accrue is the same as the period taken into account under the stated benefit formula as required by paragraph (b)(3)(i)(A) of this section), a target benefit plan that was adopted and in effect on September 19, 1991, is deemed to have satisfied this paragraph (b)(3), and an employee is treated as benefiting under the plan, in any year prior to the effective date applicable to the plan under §1.401(a)(4)-13 (a) or (b) that was taken into account in the stated benefit formula under the plan on September 19, 1991, if the plan satisfied the applicable nondiscrimination requirements for target benefit plans for that prior year.

(B) Initial theoretical reserve. Notwithstanding paragraph (b)(3)(iv)(B)(1) of this section, a target benefit plan under which the stated benefit formula takes into account service for an employee for plan years prior to the first plan year in which the plan satisfied this paragraph (b)(3), as permitted under paragraph (b)(3)(vii)(A) of this section, must determine an initial theoretical reserve for the employee as of the determination date for the last plan year beginning before such plan year under the rules of §1.401(a)(4)-13(e).

(C) Satisfaction of prior law. In determining whether a plan satisfied the applicable nondiscrimination requirements for target benefit plans for any period prior to the effective date applicable to the plan under §1.401(a)(4)-13 (a) or (b), no amendments after September 19, 1991, other than amendments necessary to satisfy section 401(l), are taken into account.

(viii) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (b)(3):

Example 1. (a) Employer X maintains a target benefit plan with a calendar plan year that bases contributions on a stated benefit equal to 40 percent of each employee's average annual compensation, reduced pro rata for years of participation less than 25, payable annually as a straight life annuity commencing at normal retirement age. The UP-84 mortality table and an interest rate of 7.5 percent are used to calculate the contributions necessary to fund the stated benefit. Required contributions are determined on the last day of each plan year. The normal retirement age under the plan is 65. Employee M is 39 years old in 1994, has participated in the plan for six years, and has average annual compensation equal to $60,000 for the 1994 plan year. Assume that Employee M's theoretical reserve as of the last day of the 1993 plan year is $13,909, determined under §1.401(a)(4)-13(e), and that required employer contributions for 1993 were determined using an interest rate of six percent.

(b) Under these facts, Employer X's 1994 required contribution to fund Employee M's stated benefit is $1,318, calculated as follows:

(1) Employee M's fractional rule benefit is $24,000 (40 percent of Employee M's average annual compensation of $60,000).

(2) The actuarial present value of Employee M's fractional rule benefit as of the last day of the 1994 plan year is $30,960 (Employee M's fractional rule benefit of $24,000 multiplied by 1.290, the actuarial present value factor for an annual straight life annuity commencing at age 65 applicable to a 39-year-old employee, determined using the stated interest rate of 7.5 percent and the UP-84 mortality table, and assuming no mortality before normal retirement age).

(3) The actuarial present value of Employee M's fractional rule benefit ($30,960) is reduced by Employee M's theoretical reserve as of the last day of the 1994 plan year. The theoretical reserve on that day is $14,744—the $13,909 theoretical reserve as of the last day of the 1993 plan year, increased by interest for one year at the rate of six percent. Because the required contribution for the 1993 plan year is taken into account under §1.401(a)(4)-13(e)(2) in determining the theoretical reserve as of the last day of the 1993 plan year, it is not added to the theoretical reserve again in this paragraph (b)(3) of this Example 1. The resulting difference is $16,216 ($30,960−$14,744).

(4) The $16,216 excess of the actuarial present value of Employee M's fractional rule benefit over Employee M's theoretical reserve is multiplied by 0.0813, the amortization factor applicable to a 39-year-old employee determined using the stated interest rate of 7.5 percent. The product of $1,318 is the amount of the required employer contribution for Employee M for the 1994 plan year.

Example 2. (a) The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that as of January 1, 1995, the plan's stated benefit formula is amended to provide for a stated benefit equal to 45 percent of average annual compensation, reduced pro rata for years of participation less than 25, payable annually as a straight life annuity commencing at normal retirement age. For the 1995 plan year, Employee M's average annual compensation continues to be $60,000. The mortality table used for the calculation of the employer's required contributions remains the same as in the prior plan year, but the plan's stated interest rate is changed to 8.0 percent effective as of December 31, 1995.

(b) Under these facts, Employer X's required contribution for Employee M is $1,290, calculated as follows:

(1) Employee M's fractional rule benefit is $27,000 (45 percent of $60,000).

(2) The actuarial present value of Employee M's fractional rule benefit as of the last day of the 1995 plan year is $32,319 ($27,000 multiplied by 1.197, the actuarial present value factor for an annuity commencing at age 65 applicable to a 40-year-old employee, determined using the stated interest rate of 8.0 percent and the UP-84 mortality table, and assuming no mortality before normal retirement age).

(3) The actuarial present value of Employee M's fractional rule benefit ($32,319) is reduced by Employee M's theoretical reserve as of the last day of the 1995 plan year. The theoretical reserve as of that day is $17,267—the $14,744 theoretical reserve as of the last day of the 1994 plan year plus the $1,318 required contribution for the 1994 plan year, both increased by interest for one year at the rate of 7.5 percent. The resulting difference is $15,052 ($32,319−$17,267).

(4) The result in paragraph (b)(3) of this Example 2 is multiplied by 0.0857, the amortization factor applicable to a 40-year-old employee determined using the stated interest rate of 8.0 percent. The product, $1,290, is the amount of the required employer contribution for Employee M for the 1995 plan year.

(c) Nondiscrimination in amount of contributions under a defined benefit plan—(1) General rule. Equivalent allocations under a defined benefit plan are nondiscriminatory in amount for a plan year if the plan would satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-3(c)(1) (taking into account §1.401(a)(4)-3(c)(3)) for the plan year if an equivalent normal and most valuable allocation rate, as determined under paragraph (c)(2) of this section, were substituted for each employee's normal and most valuable accrual rate, respectively, in the determination of rate groups.

(2) Determination of equivalent allocation rates—(i) Basic definitions. An employee's equivalent normal and most valuable allocation rates for a plan year are, respectively, the actuarial present value of the increase over the plan year in the benefit that would be taken into account in determining the employee's normal and most valuable accrual rates for the plan year, expressed either as a dollar amount or as a percentage of the employee's plan year compensation. In the case of a contributory DB plan, the rules in §1.401(a)(4)-6(b)(1), (b)(5), or (b)(6) must be used to determine the amount of each employee's employer-provided benefit that would be taken into account for this purpose.

(ii) Rules for determining actuarial present value. The actuarial present value of the increase in an employee's benefit must be determined using a standard interest rate and a standard mortality table, and no mortality may be assumed prior to the employee's testing age.

(iii) Options. The optional rules in §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2)(iv) (imputation of permitted disparity) and (v) (grouping of rates) may be applied to determine an employee's equivalent normal and most valuable allocation rates by substituting those rates (determined without regard to the option) for the employee's allocation rate in that section where appropriate. In addition, the limitations under section 415 may be taken into account under §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(2)(ii)(B), and qualified disability benefits may be taken into account as accrued benefits under §1.401(a)(4)-3(f)(2), in determining the increase in an employee's accrued benefit during a plan year for purposes of paragraph (c)(2)(i) of this section, if those rules would otherwise be available. No other options are available in determining an employee's equivalent normal and most valuable allocations rate except those (e.g., selection of alternative standard interest rates) specifically provided in this paragraph (c)(2). Thus, while all of the mandatory rules in §1.401(a)(4)-3(d) and (f) for determining the amount of benefits used to determine an employee's normal and most valuable accrual rates (e.g., the treatment of early retirement window benefits in §1.401(a)(4)-3(f)(4)) are applicable in determining an employee's equivalent normal and most valuable allocation rates, none of the optional rules under §1.401(a)(4)-3 is available (except the options relating to the section 415 limits and qualified disability benefits noted above).

(iv) Consistency rule. Equivalent allocation rates must be determined in a consistent manner for all employees for the plan year. Thus, for example, the same standard interest rates must be used, and any available options must be applied consistently if at all.

(3) Safe harbor testing method for cash balance plans—(i) General rule. A cash balance plan is a defined benefit plan that defines benefits for each employee by reference to the employee's hypothetical account. An employee's hypothetical account is determined by reference to hypothetical allocations and interest adjustments that are analogous to actual allocations of contributions and earnings to an employee's account under a defined contribution plan. Because a cash balance plan is a defined benefit plan, whether it satisfies section 401(a)(4) with respect to the equivalent amount of contributions is generally determined under paragraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of this section. However, a cash balance plan that satisfies each of the requirements in paragraphs (c)(3)(ii) through (xi) of this section is deemed to satisfy section 401(a)(4) with respect to an equivalent amount of contributions.

(ii) Plan requirements in general. The plan must be an accumulation plan. The benefit formula under the plan must provide for hypothetical allocations for each employee in the plan that satisfy paragraph (c)(3)(iii) of this section, and interest adjustments to these hypothetical allocations that satisfy paragraph (c)(3)(iv) of this section. The benefit formula under the plan must provide that these hypothetical allocations and interest adjustments are accumulated as a hypothetical account for each employee, determined in accordance with paragraph (c)(3)(v) of this section. The plan must provide that an employee's accrued benefit under the plan as of any date is an annuity that is the actuarial equivalent of the employee's projected hypothetical account as of normal retirement age, determined in accordance with paragraph (c)(3)(vi) of this section. In addition, the plan must satisfy paragraphs (c)(3)(vii) through (xi) of this section (to the extent applicable) regarding optional forms of benefit, past service credits, post-normal retirement age benefits, certain uniformity requirements, and changes in the plan's benefit formula, respectively.

(iii) Hypothetical allocations—(A) In general. The hypothetical allocations provided under the plan's benefit formula must satisfy either paragraph (c)(3)(iii)(B) or (C) of this section. Paragraph (c)(3)(iii)(B) of this section provides a design-based safe harbor that does not require the annual comparison of hypothetical allocations under the plan. Paragraph (c)(3)(iii)(C) of this section requires the annual comparison of hypothetical allocations.

(B) Uniform hypothetical allocation formula. To satisfy this paragraph (c)(3)(iii)(B), the plan's benefit formula must provide for hypothetical allocations for all employees in the plan for all plan years of amounts that would satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-2(b)(3) for each such plan year if the hypothetical allocations were the only allocations under a defined contribution plan for the employees for those plan years. Thus, the plan's benefit formula must provide for hypothetical allocations for all employees in the plan for all plan years that are the same percentage of plan year compensation or the same dollar amount. In determining whether the hypothetical allocations satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-2(b)(3), the only provisions of §1.401(a)(4)-2(b)(5) that apply are §1.401(a)(4)-2(b)(5)(ii) (section 401(l) permitted disparity, (iii) (entry dates), (vi) (certain limits on allocations), and (vii) (dollar allocation per uniform unit of service). Thus, for example, the plan's benefit formula may take permitted disparity into account in a manner allowed under §1.401(l)-2 for defined contribution plans.

(C) Modified general test. To satisfy this paragraph (c)(3)(iii)(C), the plan's benefit formula must provide for hypothetical allocations for all employees in the plan for the plan year that would satisfy the general test in §1.401(a)(4)-2(c) for the plan year, if the hypothetical allocations were the only allocations for the employees taken into account under §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2)(ii) under a defined contribution plan for the plan year. In determining whether the hypothetical allocations satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-2(c), the provisions of §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2)(iii) through (v) apply. Thus, for example, permitted disparity may be imputed under §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2)(iv) in accordance with the rules of §1.401(a)(4)-7(b) applicable to defined contribution plans.

(iv) Interest adjustments to hypothetical allocations—(A) General rule. The plan benefit formula must provide that the dollar amount of the hypothetical allocation for each employee for a plan year is automatically adjusted using an interest rate that satisfies paragraph (c)(3)(iv)(B) of this section, compounded no less frequently than annually, for the period that begins with a date in the plan year and that ends at normal retirement age. This requirement is not satisfied if any portion of the interest adjustments to a hypothetical allocation are contingent on the employee's satisfaction of any requirement. Thus, for example, the interest adjustments to a hypothetical allocation must be provided through normal retirement age, even though the employee terminates employment or commences benefits before that age.

(B) Requirements with respect to interest rates. The interest rate must be a single interest rate specified in the plan that is the same for all employees in the plan for all plan years. The interest rate must be either a standard interest rate or a variable interest rate. If the interest rate is a variable interest rate, it must satisfy paragraph (c)(3)(iv)(C) of this section.

(C) Variable interest rates—(1) General rule. The plan must specify the variable interest rate, the method for determining the current value of the variable interest rate, and the period (not to exceed 1 year) for which the current value of the variable interest rate applies. Permissible variable interest rates are listed in paragraph (c)(3)(iv)(C)(2) of this section. Permissible methods for determining the current value of the variable interest rate are provided in paragraph (c)(3)(iv)(C)(3) of this section.

(2) Permissible variable interest rates. The variable interest rate specified in the plan must be one of the following—

(i) The rate on 3-month Treasury Bills,

(ii) The rate on 6-month Treasury Bills,

(iii) The rate on 1-year Treasury Bills,

(iv) The yield on 1-year Treasury Constant Maturities,

(v) The yield on 2-year Treasury Constant Maturities,

(vi) The yield on 5-year Treasury Constant Maturities,

(vii) The yield on 10-year Treasury Constant Maturities,

(viii) The yield on 30-year Treasury Constant Maturities, or

(ix) The single interest rate such that, as of a single age specified in the plan, the actuarial present value of a deferred straight life annuity of an amount commencing at the normal retirement age under the plan, calculated using that interest rate and a standard mortality table but assuming no mortality before normal retirement age, is equal to the actuarial present value, as of the single age specified in the plan, of the same annuity calculated using the section 417(e) rates applicable to distributions in excess of $25,000 (determined under §1.417(e)-1(d)), and the same mortality assumptions.

(3) Current value of variable interest rate. The current value of the variable interest rate that applies for a period must be either the value of the variable interest rate determined as of a specified date in the period or the immediately preceding period, or the average of the values of the variable interest rate as of two or more specified dates during the current period or the immediately preceding period. The value as of a date of the rate on a Treasury Bill is the average auction rate for the week or month in which the date falls, as reported in the Federal Reserve Bulletin. The value as of a date of the yield on a Treasury Constant Maturity is the average yield for the week, month, or year in which the date falls, as reported in the Federal Reserve Bulletin. (The Federal Reserve Bulletin is published by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and is available from Publication Services, Mail Stop 138, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Washington DC 20551.) The plan may limit the current value of the variable interest rate to a maximum (not less than the highest standard interest rate), or a minimum (not more than the lowest standard interest rate), or both.

(v) Hypothetical account—(A) Current value of hypothetical account. As of any date, the current value of an employee's hypothetical account must equal the sum of all hypothetical allocations and the respective interest adjustments to each such hypothetical allocation provided through that date for the employee under the plan's benefit formula (without regard to any interest adjustments provided under the plan's benefit formula for periods after that date).

(B) Value of hypothetical account as of normal retirement age. Under paragraph (c)(3)(vi) of this section, the value of an employee's hypothetical account must be determined as of normal retirement age in order to determine the employee's accrued benefit as of any date at or before normal retirement age. As of any date at or before normal retirement age, the value of an employee's hypothetical account as of normal retirement age must equal the sum of each hypothetical allocation provided through that date for the employee under the plan's benefit formula, plus the interest adjustments provided through normal retirement age on each of those hypothetical allocations for the employee under the plan's benefit formula (without regard to any hypothetical allocations that might be provided after that date under the plan's benefit formula). If the interest rate specified in the plan is a variable interest rate, the plan must specify that the determination in the preceding sentence is made by assuming that the current value of the variable interest rate for all future periods is either the current value of the variable interest rate for the current period or the average of the current values of the variable interest rate for the current period and one or more periods immediately preceding the current period (not to exceed 5 years in the aggregate).

(vi) Determination of accrued benefit—(A) Definition of accrued benefit. The plan must provide that at any date at or before normal retirement age the accrued benefit (within the meaning of section 411(a)(7)(A)(i)) of each employee in the plan is an annuity commencing at normal retirement age that is the actuarial equivalent of the employee's hypothetical account as of normal retirement age (as determined under paragraph (c)(3)(v)(B) of this section). The separate benefit that each employee accrues for a plan year is an annuity that is the actuarial equivalent of the employee's hypothetical allocation for that plan year, including the automatic adjustments for interest through normal retirement age required under paragraph (c)(3)(iv) of this section.

(B) Normal form of benefit. The annuity specified in paragraph (c)(3)(vi)(A) of this section must provide an annual benefit payable in the same form at the same uniform normal retirement age for all employees in the plan. The annual benefit must be the normal retirement benefit under the plan (within the meaning of section 411(a)(9)) under the plan.

(C) Determination of actuarial equivalence. For purposes of this paragraph (c)(3)(vi) and paragraph (c)(3)(ix) of this section, actuarial equivalence must be determined using a standard mortality table and either a standard interest rate or the interest rate specified in the plan for making interest adjustments to hypothetical allocations. If the interest rate used is the interest rate specified in the plan, and that rate is a variable interest rate, the assumed value of the variable interest rate for all future periods must be the same value that would be assumed for purposes of paragraph (c)(3)(v)(B) of this section. The same actuarial assumptions must be used for all employees in the plan.

(D) Effect of section 415 and 416 requirements. A plan does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (c)(3)(vi) merely because the accrued benefits under the plan are limited by section 415, or merely because the accrued benefits under the plan are the greater of the accrued benefits otherwise determined under the plan and the minimum benefit described in section 416(c)(1) (regardless of whether the plan is top-heavy).

(vii) Optional forms of benefit—(A) In general. The plan must satisfy the uniform subsidies requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(2)(iv) with respect to all subsidized optional forms of benefit.

(B) Limitation on subsidies. Unless hypothetical allocations are determined under a uniform hypothetical allocation formula that satisfies paragraph (c)(3)(iii)(B) of this section, the actuarial present value of any QJSA provided under the plan must not be greater than the single sum distribution to the employee that would satisfy paragraph (c)(3)(vii)(C) of this section assuming that it was distributed to the employee on the date of commencement of the QJSA.

(C) Distributions subject to section 417(e). Except as otherwise required under section 415(b), if the plan provides for a distribution alternative that is subject to the interest rate restrictions under section 417(e), the actuarial present value of the benefit paid to an employee under the distribution alternative must equal the nonforfeitable percentage (determined under the plan's vesting schedule) of the greater of the following two amounts—

(1) The current value of the employee's hypothetical account as of the date the distribution commences, calculated in accordance with paragraph (c)(3)(v)(A) of this section.

(2) The actuarial present value (calculated in accordance with §1.417(e)-1(d)) of the employee's accrued benefit.

(D) Determination of actuarial present value. For purposes of this paragraph (c)(3)(vii), actuarial present value must be determined using a reasonable interest rate and mortality table. A standard interest rate and a standard mortality table are considered reasonable for this purpose.

(viii) Past service credit. The benefit formula under the plan may not provide for hypothetical allocations in the curent plan year that are attributable to years of service before the current plan year, unless each of the following requirements is satisfied—

(A) The years of past service credit are granted on a uniform basis to all current employees in the plan.

(B) Hypothetical allocations for the current plan year are determined under a uniform hypothetical allocation formula that satisfies paragraph (c)(3)(iii)(B) of this section.

(C) The hypothetical allocations attributable to the years of past service would have satisfied the uniform hypothetical allocation formula requirement of paragraph (c)(3)(iii)(B) of this section, and the interest adjustments to those hypothetical allocations would have satisfied paragraph (c)(3)(iv)(A) of this section, if the plan provision granting past service had been in effect for the entire period for which years of past service are granted to any employee. In order to satisfy this requirement, the hypothetical allocation attributable to a year of past service must be adjusted for interest in accordance with paragraph (c)(3)(iv) of this section for the period (including the retroactive period) beginning with the year of past service to which the hypothetical allocation is attributable and ending at normal retirement age. If the interest rate specified in the plan is a variable interest rate, the interest adjustments for the period prior to the current plan year either must be based on the current value of the variable interest rate for the period in which the grant of past service first becomes effective or must be reconstructed based on the then current value of the variable interest rate that would have applied during each prior period.

(ix) Employees beyond normal retirement age. In the case of an employee who commences receipt of benefits after normal retirement age, the plan must provide that interest adjustments continue to be made to an employee's hypothetical account until the employee's benefit commencement date. In the case of an employee described in the previous sentence, the employee's accrued benefit is defined as an annuity that is the actuarial equivalent of the employee's hypothetical account determined in accordance with paragraph (c)(3)(v)(A) of this section as of the date of benefit commencement.

(x) Additional uniformity requirements. In addition to any uniformity requirements provided elsewhere in this paragraph (c)(3), the plan must satisfy the uniformity requirements in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(2)(v) (uniform vesting and service requirements) and (vi) (no employee contributions). A plan does not fail to satisfy the uniformity requirements of this paragraph (c)(3)(x) or any other uniformity requirement provided in this paragraph (c)(3) merely because the plan contains one or more of the provisions described in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(8)(iv) (prior vesting schedules), (v) (certain conditions on accruals), or (xi) (multiple definitions of service).

(xi) Changes in benefit formula, allocation formula, or interest rates. A plan does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (c)(3) merely because the plan is amended to change the benefit formula, hypothetical allocation formula, or the interest rate used to adjust hypothetical allocations for plan years after a fresh-start date, provided that the accrued benefits for plan years beginning after the fresh-start date are determined in accordance with §1.401(a)(4)-13(c), as modified by §1.401(a)(4)-13(f).

(d) Safe-harbor testing method for defined benefit plans that are part of a floor-offset arrangement—(1) General rule. A defined benefit plan that is part of a floor-offset arrangement is deemed to satisfy the nondiscriminatory amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) if all of the following requirements are satisfied:

(i) Under the floor-offset arrangement, the accrued benefit (as defined in section 411(a)(7)(A)(i)) that would otherwise be provided to an employee under the defined benefit plan must be reduced solely by the actuarial equivalent of all or part of the employee's account balance attributable to employer contributions under a defined contribution plan maintained by the same employer (plus the actuarial equivalent of all or part of any prior distributions from that portion of the account balance). If any portion of the benefit that is being offset is nonforfeitable, that portion may be offset only by a benefit (or portion of a benefit) that is also nonforfeitable. In determining the actuarial equivalent of amounts provided under the defined contribution plan, an interest rate no higher than the highest standard interest rate must be used, and no mortality may be assumed in determining the actuarial equivalent of any prior distributions from the defined contribution plan or for periods prior to the benefit commencement date under the defined benefit plan.

(ii) The defined benefit plan may not be a contributory DB plan (unless it satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-6(b)(6)), and benefits under the defined benefit plan may not be reduced by any portion of the employee's account balance under the defined contribution plan (or prior distributions from that account) that are attributable to employee contributions.

(iii) The defined benefit plan and the defined contribution plan must benefit the same employees.

(iv) The offset under the defined benefit plan must be applied to all employees on the same terms.

(v) All employees must have available to them under the defined contribution plan the same investment options and the same options with respect to the timing of preretirement distributions.

(vi) The defined benefit plan must satisfy the uniformity requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(2) and the unit credit safe harbor in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(3) without taking into account the offset described in paragraph (d)(1)(i) of this section (i.e., on a gross-benefit basis), and the defined contribution plan must satisfy any of the tests in §1.401(a)(4)-2(b) or (c). Alternatively, the defined benefit plan must satisfy any of the tests in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b) or (c) without taking into account the offset described in paragraph (d)(1)(i) of this section, and the defined contribution plan must satisfy the uniform allocation safe harbor in §1.401(a)(4)-2(b)(2).

(vii) The defined contribution plan may not be a section 401(k) plan or a section 401(m) plan.

(2) Application of safe-harbor testing method to qualified offset arrangements. A defined benefit plan that is part of a qualified offset arrangement as defined in section 1116(f)(5) of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, Public Law No. 99-514, is deemed to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (d)(1)(vi) and (vii) of this section, if the only defined contribution plans included in the qualified offset arrangement are section 401(k) plans, section 401(m) plans, or both, and the defined benefit plan would satisfy the requirements of paragraph (d)(1)(vi) of this section assuming the elective contributions for each employee under the defined contribution plan were the same (either as a dollar amount or as a percentage of compensation) for all plan years since the establishment of the plan.

[T.D. 8360, 56 FR 47580, Sept. 19, 1991; 57 FR 4720, Feb. 7, 1992; 57 FR 10952, 10953, Mar. 31, 1992, as amended by T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46807, Sept. 3, 1993; T.D. 8954, 66 FR 34540, June 29, 2001]

§1.401(a)(4)-9   Plan aggregation and restructuring.

(a) Introduction. Two or more plans that are permissively aggregated and treated as a single plan under §§1.410(b)-7(d) must also be treated as a single plan for purposes of section 401(a)(4). See §1.401(a)(4)-12 (definition of plan). An aggregated plan is generally tested under the same rules applicable to single plans. Paragraph (b) of this section, however, provides special rules for determining whether a plan that consists of one or more defined contribution plans and one or more defined benefit plans (a DB/DC plan) satisfies section 401(a)(4) with respect to the amount of employer-provided benefits and the availability of benefits, rights, and features. Paragraph (c) of this section provides rules allowing a plan to be treated as consisting of separate component plans and allowing the component plans to be tested separately under section 401(a)(4).

(b) Application of nondiscrimination requirements to DB/DC plans—(1) General rule. Except as provided in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, whether a DB/DC plan satisfies section 401(a)(4) is determined using the same rules applicable to a single plan. In addition, paragraph (b)(3) of this section provides an optional rule for demonstrating nondiscrimination in availability of benefits, rights, and features provided under a DB/DC plan.

(2) Special rules for demonstrating nondiscrimination in amount of contributions or benefits—(i) Application of general tests. A DB/DC plan satisfies section 401(a)(4) with respect to the amount of contributions or benefits for a plan year if it would satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-3(c)(1) (without regard to the special rule in §1.401(a)(4)-3(c)(3)) for the plan year if an employee's aggregate normal and most valuable allocation rates, as determined under paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A) of this section, or an employee's aggregate normal and most valuable accrual rates, as determined under paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B) of this section, were substituted for each employee's normal and most valuable accrual rates, respectively, in the determination of rate groups.

(ii) Determination of aggregate rates—(A) Aggregate allocation rates. An employee's aggregate normal and most valuable allocation rates are determined by treating all defined contribution plans that are part of the DB/DC plan as a single plan, and all defined benefit plans that are part of the DB/DC plan as a separate single plan; and determining an allocation rate and equivalent normal and most valuable allocation rates for the employee under each plan under §§1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2) and 1.401(a)(4)-8(c)(2), respectively. The employee's aggregate normal allocation rate is the sum of the employee's allocation rate and equivalent normal allocation rate determined in this manner, and the employee's aggregate most valuable allocation rate is the sum of the employee's allocation rate and equivalent most valuable allocation rate determined in this manner.

(B) Aggregate accrual rates. An employee's aggregate normal and most valuable accrual rates are determined by treating all defined contribution plans that are part of the DB/DC plan as a single plan, and all defined benefit plans that are part of the DB/DC plan as a separate single plan; and determining an equivalent accrual rate and normal and most valuable accrual rates for the employee under each plan under §§1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(2) and 1.401(a)(4)-3(d), respectively. The employee's aggregate normal accrual rate is the sum of the employee's equivalent accrual rate and the normal accrual rate determined in this manner, and the employee's aggregate most valuable accrual rate is the sum of the employee's equivalent accrual rate and most valuable accrual rate determined in this manner.

(iii) Options applied on an aggregate basis. The optional rules in §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(2)(iv) (imputation of permitted disparity) and (v) (grouping of rates) may not be used to determine an employee's allocation or equivalent allocation rate, but may be applied to determine an employee's aggregate normal and most valuable allocation rates by substituting those rates (determined without regard to the option) for the employee's allocation rate in that section where appropriate. The optional rules in §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(3) (e.g., imputation of permitted disparity) may not be used to determine an employee's accrual or equivalent accrual rate, but may be applied to determine an employee's aggregate normal and most valuable accrual rate by substituting those rates (determined without regard to the option) for the employee's normal and most valuable accrual rates, respectively, in that section where appropriate.

(iv) Consistency rule—(A) General rule. Aggregate normal and most valuable allocation rates and aggregate normal and most valuable accrual rates must be determined in a consistent manner for all employees for the plan year. Thus, for example, the same measurement periods and interest rates must be used, and any available options must be applied consistently, if at all, for the entire DB/DC plan. Consequently, options that are not permitted to be used under §1.401(a)(4)-8 in cross-testing a defined contribution plan or a defined benefit plan (such as measurement periods that include future periods, non-standard interest rates, the option to disregard compensation adjustments described in §1.401(a)(4)-13(d), or the option to disregard plan provisions providing for actuarial increases after normal retirement age under §1.401(a)(4)-3(f)(3)) may not be used in testing a DB/DC plan on either a benefits or contributions basis, because their use would inevitably result in inconsistent determinations under the defined contribution and defined benefit portions of the plan.

(B) Exception for section 415 alternative. A DB/DC plan does not fail to satisfy the consistency rule in paragraph (b)(2)(iv)(A) of this section merely because the limitations under section 415 are not taken into account, or may not be taken into account, under §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(2)(ii)(B) in determining employees' accrual or equivalent allocation rates under the defined benefit portion of the plan, even though those limitations are applied in determining employees' allocation and equivalent accrual rates under the defined contribution portion of the plan.

(v) Eligibility for testing on a benefits basis—(A) General rule. For plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2002, unless, for the plan year, a DB/DC plan is primarily defined benefit in character (within the meaning of paragraph (b)(2)(v)(B) of this section) or consists of broadly available separate plans (within the meaning of paragraph (b)(2)(v)(C) of this section), the DB/DC plan must satisfy the minimum aggregate allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(2)(v)(D) of this section for the plan year in order to be permitted to demonstrate satisfaction of the nondiscrimination in amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) on the basis of benefits.

(B) Primarily defined benefit in character. A DB/DC plan is primarily defined benefit in character if, for more than 50% of the NHCEs benefitting under the plan, the normal accrual rate for the NHCE attributable to benefits provided under defined benefit plans that are part of the DB/DC plan exceeds the equivalent accrual rate for the NHCE attributable to contributions under defined contribution plans that are part of the DB/DC plan.

(C) Broadly available separate plans. A DB/DC plan consists of broadly available separate plans if the defined contribution plan and the defined benefit plan that are part of the DB/DC plan each would satisfy the requirements of section 410(b) and the nondiscrimination in amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) if each plan were tested separately and assuming that the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5 were satisfied. For this purpose, all defined contribution plans that are part of the DB/DC plan are treated as a single defined contribution plan and all defined benefit plans that are part of the DB/DC plan are treated as a single defined benefit plan. In addition, if permitted disparity is used for an employee for purposes of satisfying the separate testing requirement of this paragraph (b)(2)(v)(C) for plans of one type, it may not be used in satisfying the separate testing requirement for plans of the other type for the employee.

(D) Minimum aggregate allocation gateway—(1) General rule. A DB/DC plan satisfies the minimum aggregate allocation gateway if each NHCE has an aggregate normal allocation rate that is at least one third of the aggregate normal allocation rate of the HCE with the highest such rate (HCE rate), or, if less, 5% of the NHCE's compensation, provided that the HCE rate does not exceed 25% of compensation. If the HCE rate exceeds 25% of compensation, then the aggregate normal allocation rate for each NHCE must be at least 5% increased by one percentage point for each 5-percentage-point increment (or portion thereof) by which the HCE rate exceeds 25% (e.g., the NHCE minimum is 6% for an HCE rate that exceeds 25% but not 30%, and 7% for an HCE rate that exceeds 30% but not 35%).

(2) Deemed satisfaction. A plan is deemed to satisfy the minimum aggregate allocation gateway of this paragraph (b)(2)(v)(D) if the aggregate normal allocation rate for each NHCE is at least 712 % of the NHCE's compensation within the meaning of section 415(c)(3), measured over a period of time permitted under the definition of plan year compensation.

(3) Averaging of equivalent allocation rates for NHCEs. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(2)(v)(D), a plan is permitted to treat each NHCE who benefits under the defined benefit plan as having an equivalent normal allocation rate equal to the average of the equivalent normal allocation rates under the defined benefit plan for all NHCEs benefitting under that plan.

(E) Determination of rates. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(2)(v), the normal accrual rate and the equivalent normal allocation rate attributable to defined benefit plans, the equivalent accrual rate attributable to defined contribution plans, and the aggregate normal allocation rate are determined under paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section, but without taking into account the imputation of permitted disparity under §1.401(a)(4)-7, except as otherwise permitted under paragraph (b)(2)(v)(C) of this section.

(F) Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of this paragraph (b)(2)(v):

Example 1. (i) Employer A maintains Plan M, a defined benefit plan, and Plan N, a defined contribution plan. All HCEs of Employer A are covered by Plan M (at a 1% accrual rate), but are not covered by Plan N. All NHCEs of Employer A are covered by Plan N (at a 3% allocation rate), but are not covered by Plan M. Because Plan M does not satisfy section 410(b) standing alone, Plans M and N are aggregated for purposes of satisfying sections 410(b) and 401(a)(4).

(ii) Because none of the NHCEs participate in the defined benefit plan, the aggregated DB/DC plan is not primarily defined benefit in character within the meaning of paragraph (b)(2)(v)(B) of this section nor does it consist of broadly available separate plans within the meaning of paragraph (b)(2)(v)(C) of this section. Accordingly, the aggregated Plan M and Plan N must satisfy the minimum aggregate allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(2)(v)(D) of this section in order be permitted to demonstrate satisfaction of the nondiscrimination in amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) on the basis of benefits.

Example 2. (i) Employer B maintains Plan O, a defined benefit plan, and Plan P, a defined contribution plan. All of the six employees of Employer B are covered under both Plan O and Plan P. Under Plan O, all employees have a uniform normal accrual rate of 1% of compensation. Under Plan P, Employees A and B, who are HCEs, receive an allocation rate of 15%, and participants C, D, E and F, who are NHCEs, receive an allocation rate of 3%. Employer B aggregates Plans O and P for purposes of satisfying sections 410(b) and 401(a)(4). The equivalent normal allocation and normal accrual rates under Plans O and P are as follows:
Employee Equivalent normal allocation rates for the 1% accural under plan O (defined benefit plan)
(in percent)
Equivalent normal accural rates for the 15%/3% allocation under plan P (defined contribution plan)
(in percent)
HCE A (age 55)3.933.82
HCE B (age 50)2.615.74
C (age 60)5.91.51
D (age 45)1.741.73
E (age 35).773.90
F (age 25).348.82
(ii) Although all of the NHCEs benefit under Plan O (the defined benefit plan), the aggregated DB/DC plan is not primarily defined benefit in character because the normal accrual rate attributable to defined benefit plans (which is 1% for each of the NHCEs) is greater than the equivalent accrual rate under defined contribution plans only for Employee C. In addition, because the 15% allocation rate is available only to HCEs, the defined contribution plan cannot satisfy the requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-2 and does not have broadly available allocation rates within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(1)(iii). Further, the defined contribution plan does not satisfy the minimum allocation gateway of §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(1)(vi) (3% is less than 13 of the 15% HCE rate). Therefore, the defined contribution plan within the DB/DC plan cannot separately satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) and does not constitute a broadly available separate plan within the meaning of paragraph (b)(2)(v)(C) of this section. Accordingly, the aggregated plans are permitted to demonstrate satisfaction of the nondiscrimination in amounts requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) on the basis of benefits only if the aggregated plans satisfy the minimum aggregate allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(2)(v)(D) of this section.

(iii) Employee A has an aggregate normal allocation rate of 18.93% under the aggregated plans (3.93% from Plan O plus 15% from Plan P), which is the highest aggregate normal allocation rate for any HCE under the plans. Employee F has an aggregate normal allocation rate of 3.34% under the aggregated plans (.34% from Plan O plus 3% from Plan P) which is less than the 5% aggregate normal allocation rate that Employee F would be required to have to satisfy the minimum aggregate allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(2)(v)(D) of this section.

(iv) However, for purposes of satisfying the minimum aggregate allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(2)(v)(D) of this section, Employer B is permitted to treat each NHCE who benefits under Plan O (the defined benefit plan) as having an equivalent allocation rate equal to the average of the equivalent allocation rates under Plan O for all NHCEs benefitting under that plan. The average of the equivalent allocation rates for all of the NHCEs under Plan O is 2.19% (the sum of 5.91%, 1.74%, .77%, and .34%, divided by 4). Accordingly, Employer B is permitted to treat all of the NHCEs as having an equivalent allocation rate attributable to Plan O equal to 2.19%. Thus, all of the NHCEs can be treated as having an aggregate normal allocation rate of 5.19% for this purpose (3% from the defined contribution plan and 2.19% from the defined benefit plan) and the aggregated DB/DC plan satisfies the minimum aggregate allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(2)(v)(D) of this section.

(3) Optional rules for demonstrating nondiscrimination in availability of certain benefits, rights, and features—(i) Current availability. A DB/DC plan is deemed to satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-4(b)(1) with respect to the current availability of a benefit, right, or feature other than a single sum benefit, loan, ancillary benefit, or benefit commencement date (including the availability of in-service withdrawals), that is provided under only one type of plan (defined benefit or defined contribution) included in the DB/DC plan, if the benefit, right, or feature is currently available to all NHCEs in all plans of the same type as the plan under which it is provided.

(ii) Effective availability. The fact that it may be difficult or impossible to provide a benefit, right, or feature described in paragraph (b)(3)(i) of this section under a plan of a different type than the plan or plans under which it is provided is one of the factors taken into account in determining whether the plan satisfies the effective availability requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-4(c)(1).

(c) Plan restructuring—(1) General rule. A plan may be treated, in accordance with this paragraph (c), as consisting of two or more component plans for purposes of determining whether the plan satisfies section 401(a)(4). If each of the component plans of a plan satisfies all of the requirements of sections 401(a)(4) and 410(b) as if it were a separate plan, then the plan is treated as satisfying section 401(a)(4).

(2) Identification of component plans. A plan may be restructured into component plans, each consisting of all the allocations, accruals, and other benefits, rights, and features provided to a selected group of employees. The employer may select the group of employees used for this purpose in any manner, and the composition of the groups may be changed from plan year to plan year. Every employee must be included in one and only one component plan under the same plan for a plan year.

(3) Satisfaction of section 401(a)(4) by a component plan—(i) General rule. The rules applicable in determining whether a component plan satisfies section 401(a)(4) are the same as those applicable to a plan. Thus, for this purpose, any reference to a plan in section 401(a)(4) and the regulations thereunder (other than this paragraph (c)) is interpreted as a reference to a component plan. As is true for a plan, whether a component plan satisfies the uniformity and other requirements applicable to safe harbor plans under §§1.401(a)(4)-2(b) and 1.401(a)(4)-3(b) is determined on a design basis. Thus, for example, plan provisions are not disregarded merely because they do not currently apply to employees in the component plan if they will apply to those employees as a result of the mere passage of time.

(ii) Restructuring not available for certain testing purposes. The safe harbor in §1.401(a)(4)-2(b)(3) for plans with uniform points allocation formulas is not available in testing (and thus cannot be satisfied by) contributions under a component plan. Similarly, component plans cannot be used for purposes of determining whether a plan provides broadly available allocation rates (as defined in §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(1)(iii)), determining whether a plan has a gradual age or service schedule (as defined in §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(1)(iv)), determining whether a plan has allocation rates that are based on a uniform target benefit allocation (as defined in §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(1)(v)), or determining whether a plan is primarily defined benefit in character or consists of broadly available separate plans (as defined in paragraphs (b)(2)(v)(B) and (C) of this section). In addition, the minimum allocation gateway of §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(1)(vi) and the minimum aggregate allocation gateway of paragraph (b)(2)(v)(D) of this section cannot be satisfied on the basis of component plans. See §§1.401(k)-1(b)(3)(iii) and 1.401(m)-1(b)(3)(ii) for rules regarding the inapplicability of restructuring to section 401(k) plans and section 401(m) plans.

(4) Satisfaction of section 410(b) by a component plan—(i) General rule. The rules applicable in determining whether a component plan satisfies section 410(b) are generally the same as those applicable to a plan. However, a component plan is deemed to satisfy the average benefit percentage test of §1.410(b)-5 if the plan of which it is a part satisfies §1.410(b)-5 (without regard to §1.410(b)-5(f)). In the case of a component plan that is part of a plan that relies on §1.410(b)-5(f) to satisfy the average benefit percentage test, the component plan is deemed to satisfy the average benefit percentage test only if the component plan separately satisfies §1.410(b)-5(f). In addition, all component plans of a plan are deemed to satisfy the average benefit percentage test if the plan makes an early retirement window benefit (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-3(f)(4)(iii)) currently available (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-3(f)(4)(ii)(A)) to a group of employees that satisfies section 410(b) (without regard to the average benefit percentage test), and if it would not be necessary for the plan or any rate group or component plan of the plan to satisfy that test in order for the plan to satisfy sections 401(a)(4) and 410(b) in the absence of the early retirement window benefit.

(ii) Relationship to satisfaction of section 410(b) by the plan. Satisfaction of section 410(b) by a component plan is relevant solely for purposes of determining whether the plan of which it is a part satisfies section 401(a)(4), and not for purposes of determining whether the plan satisfies section 410(b) itself. The plan must still independently satisfy section 410(b) in order to be a qualified plan. Similarly, satisfaction of section 410(b) by a plan is relevant solely for purposes of determining whether the plan, and not the component plan, satisfies section 410(b). Thus, for example, a component plan that does not satisfy the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2) must still satisfy the average benefit test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(3), even though the plan of which it is a part satisfies the ratio percentage test.

(5) Effect of restructuring under other sections. The restructuring rules provided in this paragraph (c) apply solely for purposes of sections 401(a)(4) and 401(l), and those portions of sections 410(b), 414(s), and any other provisions that are specifically applicable in determining whether the requirements of section 401(a)(4) are satisfied. Thus, for example, a component plan is not treated as a separate plan under section 401(a)(26).

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

Example 1. Employer X maintains a defined benefit plan. The plan provides a normal retirement benefit equal to 1.0 percent of average annual compensation times years of service to employees at Plant S, and 1.5 percent of average annual compensation times years of service to employees at Plant T. Under paragraph (c)(2) of this section, the plan may be treated as consisting of two component defined benefit plans, one providing retirement benefits equal to 1.0 percent of average annual compensation times years of service to the employees at Plant S, and another providing benefits equal to 1.5 percent of average annual compensation times years of service to employees at Plant T. If each component plan satisfies sections 401(a)(4) and 410(b) as if it were a separate plan under the rules of this paragraph (c), then the entire plan satisfies section 401(a)(4).
Example 2. (a) Employer Y maintains Plan A, a defined benefit plan, for its Employees M, N, O, P, Q, and R. Plan A provides benefits under a uniform formula that satisfies the requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-3 (b)(2) and (b)(3) before it is amended on February 14, 1994. The amendment provides an early retirement window benefit that is a subsidized optional form of benefit under §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(2)(iii) and that is available on the same terms to all employees who satisfy the eligibility requirements for the window. The early retirement window benefit is available only to employees who retire between June 1, 1994, and November 30, 1994.

(b) Assume that Employees M, N, and O will be eligible to receive the window benefit by the end of the window period and Employees P, Q, and R will not. Because substantially all employees will not satisfy the eligibility requirements for the early retirement window benefit by the close of the early retirement window benefit period, Plan A fails to satisfy the uniform subsidies requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(2)(iii). See §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(2)(vi), Example 6.

(c) Under paragraph (c)(2) of this section, Employees M, N, O, P, Q, and R may be grouped into two component plans, one consisting of Employees M, N, and O, and all their accruals and other benefits, rights, and features under the plan (including the early retirement window benefit), and another consisting of Employees P, Q, and R, and all their accruals and other benefits, rights, and features under the plan. Each of the component plans identified in this manner satisfies the uniform subsidies requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(2)(iii), and thus satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-3(b). The entire plan satisfies section 401(a)(4) under the rules of this paragraph (c), if each of these component plans also satisfies section 410(b) as if it were a separate plan (including, if applicable, the reasonable classification requirement of §1.410(b)-4(b), and taking into account the special rule of paragraph (c)(4)(i) of this section that forgives the average benefit percentage test in certain situations in which the average benefit percentage test would be required solely as a result of the early retirement window benefit).

Example 3. (a) Employer Z maintains Plan B, a defined benefit plan with a benefit formula that provides two percent of average annual compensation for each year of service up to 20 to each employee. Assume that Plan B would satisfy the fractional accrual rule safe harbor in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(4), except that some employees accrue a portion of their normal retirement benefit in the current plan year that is more than one-third larger than the portion of the same benefit accrued by other employees for the current plan year, and the plan therefore fails to satisfy the one-third-larger requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(4)(i)(C)(1).

(b) Employer Z restructures Plan B into two plans, one covering employees with 30 years or less of service at normal retirement age, and the other covering all other employees. Each component plan would separately satisfy the one-third-larger requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(4)(i)(C)(1) if the only employees taken into account were those employees included in the component plan in the current plan year. Under paragraph (c)(3)(i) of this section and §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(4)(i)(C)(1), however, the component plans do not satisfy the one-third-larger requirement because the safe harbor determination is made taking into account the effect of the plan benefit formula on any potential employee in the component plan (other than employees with more than 33 years of service at normal retirement age), and not just those employees included in the component plan in the current plan year.

[T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46810, Sept. 3, 1993, as amended by T.D. 8954, 66 FR 34544, June 29, 2001]

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 paragraph (c)(3)(ii) of §1.401-(a)(4)-9 by removing “1.401(k)-1(b)(3)(ii) and 1.401(m)-1(b)(3)(ii)” and inserting “1.401(k)-1(b)(4)(vi)(B) and 1.401(m)-1(b)(4)(iv)”. However, because of inaccurate amendatory language, this amendment could not be incorporated.

§1.401(a)(4)-10   Testing of former employees.

(a) Introduction. This section provides rules for determining whether a plan satisfies the nondiscriminatory amount and nondiscriminatory availability requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) and (3), respectively, with respect to former employees. Generally, this section is relevant only in the case of benefits provided through an amendment to the plan effective in the current plan year. See the definitions of employee and former employee in §1.401(a)(4)-12.

(b) Nondiscrimination in amount of contributions or benefits—(1) General rule. A plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) with respect to the amount of contributions or benefits provided to former employees if, under all of the relevant facts and circumstances, the amount of contributions or benefits provided to former employees does not discriminate significantly in favor of former HCEs. For this purpose, contributions or benefits provided to former employees includes all contributions or benefits provided to former employees or, at the employer's option, only those contributions or benefits arising out of the amendment providing the contributions or benefits. A plan under which no former employee currently benefits (within the meaning of §1.410(b)-3(b)) is deemed to satisfy this paragraph (b).

(2) Permitted disparity. Section 401(l) and §1.401(a)(4)-7 generally apply to benefits provided to former employees in the same manner as those provisions apply to employees. Thus, for example, for purposes of determining a former employee's cumulative permitted disparity limit, the sum of the former employee's total annual disparity fractions (within the meaning of §1.401(l)-5) as an employee continues to be taken into account. However, the permitted disparity rate applicable to a former employee is determined under §1.401(l)-3(e) as of the age the former employee commenced receipt of benefits, not as of the date the employee receives the accrual for the current plan year.

(3) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (b):

Example 1. Employer X maintains a section 401(l) plan, Plan A, that uses maximum permitted disparity. Plan A is amended to increase the benefits of all former employees in pay status. The percentage increase for each former employee is reasonably comparable to the adjustment in social security benefits under section 215(i)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act since the former employee commenced receipt of benefits. Plan A does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (b) merely because of the amendment.
Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that the amendment provides an across-the-board 20 percent increase in benefits for all former employees in pay status. The cost of living has increased at an average rate of three percent in the two years preceding the amendment, and some HCEs have retired and become former HCEs during that period. Because this amendment increases the disparity in the plan formula beyond the maximum permitted disparity adjusted for any reasonable approximation of the increase in the cost of living since the HCEs retired, Plan A discriminates significantly in favor of former HCEs, and thus does not satisfy this paragraph (b).
Example 3. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that Plan A is only amended to increase the benefits of former employees in pay status who terminated employment with Employer X after attaining early retirement age. The determination of whether the amendment causes Plan A to fail to satisfy this paragraph (b) must take into account the relative numbers of former HCEs and former NHCEs who have terminated employment with Employer X after attaining early retirement age.

(c) Nondiscrimination in availability of benefits, rights, or features. A plan satisfies section 401(a)(4) with respect to the availability of benefits, rights, and features provided to former employees if any change in the availability of any benefit, right, or feature to any former employee is applied in a manner that, under all of the relevant facts and circumstances, does not discriminate significantly in favor of former HCEs. For purposes of demonstrating that a plan satisfies section 401(a)(4) with respect to the availability of loans provided to former employees, an employer may treat former employees who are parties in interest within the meaning of section 3(14) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 as employees.

[T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46812, Sept. 3, 1993]

§1.401(a)(4)-11   Additional rules.

(a) Introduction. This section provides additional rules for determining whether a plan satisfies section 401(a)(4). Paragraph (b) of this section provides rules for the treatment of the portion of an employee's accrued benefit or account balance that is attributable to rollovers, transfers between plans, and employee buybacks. Paragraph (c) of this section provides rules regarding vesting. Paragraph (d) of this section provides rules regarding service crediting. Paragraph (e) of this section, regarding family aggregation, and paragraph (f) of this section, regarding governmental plans, are reserved. Paragraph (g) of this section provides rules regarding the extent to which corrective amendments may be made for purposes of section 401(a).

(b) Rollovers, transfers, and buybacks—(1) Rollovers and elective transfers. The portion of an employee's accrued benefit or account balance under a plan that is attributable to rollover (including direct rollover) contributions to the plan that are described in section 402(c), 402(e)(6), 403(a)(4), 403(a)(5), or 408(d)(3), or elective transfers to the plan that are described in §1.411(d)-4, Q&A-3(b), is not taken into account in determining whether the plan satisfies the nondiscriminatory amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2).

(2) Other transfers. [Reserved]

(3) Employee buybacks—(i) Rehired employee buyback of previous service. An employee's repayment to a plan of a prior distribution from the plan (including reasonable interest from the time of the distribution) that results in the restoration of the employee's accrued benefit under the plan (or the service associated with that accrued benefit) that would otherwise be disregarded in determining the employee's accrued benefit in accordance with section 411 on account of the distribution is not treated as an employee contribution for purposes of §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13.

(ii) Make-up of missed employee contributions. If a contributory DB plan gives all employees who did not make employee contributions for a prior period the right to make the missed contributions at a later date (including reasonable interest from the time of the missed contributions) and, once the contributions have been made, determines benefits under the plan by treating the employee contributions (excluding the interest) as if they were actually made during that prior period, then those contributions must satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-6(c) as if they were employee contributions actually made during that prior period. Thus, for example, §1.401(a)(4)-6(c)(2) is not satisfied for the current plan year if the employee contribution rate (within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-6(b)(2)(ii)(A) but determined without regard to the interest) for the employees making up missed contributions is different than the employee contribution rate applicable to other employees during the prior period. The rule in this paragraph (b)(3)(ii) may be extended to employees who did not make employee contributions for a period of service that is or would otherwise have been credited under the plan and that preceded their participation in the plan.

(c) Vesting—(1) General rule. A plan satisfies this paragraph (c) if the manner in which employees vest in their accrued benefits under the plan does not discriminate in favor of HCEs. Whether the manner in which employees vest in their accrued benefits under a plan discriminates in favor of HCEs is determined under this paragraph (c) based on all of the relevant facts and circumstances, taking into account any relevant provisions of sections 401(a)(5)(E), 411(a)(10), 411(d)(1), 411(d)(2), 411(d)(3), 411(e), and 420(c)(2), and taking into account any plan provisions that affect the nonforfeitability of employees' accrued benefits (e.g., plan provisions regarding suspension of benefits permitted under section 411(a)(3)(B)), other than the method of crediting years of service for purposes of applying the vesting schedule provided in the plan.

(2) Deemed equivalence of statutory vesting schedules. For purposes of this paragraph (c), the manner in which employees vest in their accrued benefits under the vesting schedules in section 411(a)(2) (A) and (B) are treated as equivalent to one another, and the manner in which employees vest in their accrued benefits under the vesting schedules in section 416(b)(1) (A) and (B) are treated as equivalent to one another.

(3) Safe harbor for vesting schedules. The manner in which employees vest in their accrued benefits under a plan is deemed not to discriminate in favor of HCEs if each combination of plan provisions that affect the nonforfeitability of any employee's accrued benefit would satisfy the nondiscriminatory availability requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-4 if that combination were an other right or feature.

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

Example 1. Plan A provides the six-year graded vesting schedule described in section 416(b)(1)(B). In 1996, Plan A is amended to provide the five-year vesting schedule described in section 411(a)(2)(A). To comply with section 411(a)(10)(B), the plan amendment also provides that all employees with at least three years of service may elect to retain the prior vesting schedule. The manner in which employees vest in their accrued benefits under Plan A does not discriminate in favor of HCEs merely because the prior vesting schedule continues to apply to the accrued benefits of electing employees, even if, at the time of the election or in future years, the prior vesting schedule applies only to a group of employees that does not satisfy section 410(b).
Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that, for administrative convenience in complying with section 411(a)(10)(B), the plan amendment automatically provides all employees employed on the date of the amendment with the higher of the nonforfeitable percentages determined under either schedule. The manner in which employees vest in their accrued benefits under Plan A does not discriminate in favor of HCEs merely because, for administrative convenience in complying with section 411(a)(10), the amendment exceeds the requirements of section 411(a)(10). The result would be the same if the plan amendment automatically provided the higher of the nonforfeitable percentages only to those employees with at least three years of service.
Example 3. (a) Employer Y maintains Plan B covering all of its employees. On January 1, 1996, Employer Y sells Division M to Employer Z, and all of the employees in Division M become employees of Employer Z. Employer Y obtains a determination letter that the resulting cessation of participation by these employees in Plan B constitutes a partial termination. Therefore, in order to satisfy section 411(d)(3), Plan B fully vests the accrued benefit of each of the employees of Division M whose participation in Plan B ceased as a result of the sale on January 1, 1996.

(b) The manner in which employees vest in their accrued benefits under Plan B does not discriminate in favor of HCEs merely because, in order to satisfy section 411(d)(3), the accrued benefits of all employees affected by the partial termination become fully vested. This is true even if the affected group of employees does not satisfy section 410(b).

Example 4. (a) The facts are the same as in Example 3, except that Employer Y does not obtain a determination letter that the sale of Division M to Employer Z will cause a partial termination. Instead, based on its reasonable belief that the sale will cause a partial termination, and in order to ensure that Plan B will satisfy section 411(d)(3), Employer Y amends Plan B to vest fully the accrued benefit on January 1, 1996 of each of the employees it reasonably believes to be an affected employee.

(b) The manner in which employees vest in their accrued benefits under Plan B does not discriminate in favor of HCEs merely because, based on Employer Y's reasonable belief that the sale will cause a partial termination, Plan B is amended to vest fully the accrued benefits of each of the employees it reasonably believes to be an affected employee.

(d) Service-crediting rules—(1) Overview—(i) In general. A defined benefit plan or a defined contribution plan does not satisfy this paragraph (d) with respect to the manner in which service is credited under the plan unless the plan satisfies paragraph (d)(2) of this section. Paragraph (d)(3) of this section provides rules for determining whether service other than actual service with the employer may be taken into account in determining whether a defined benefit plan or a defined contribution plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-1 (b)(2) or (b)(3). (However, for purposes of cross-testing a defined contribution plan, only years in which the employee benefited under the plan may be taken into account in determining equivalent accrual rates. See §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(2)(i).) The rules of this paragraph (d) apply separately to service credited under a plan for each different purpose under the plan, including, but not limited to: application of the benefit formula (benefit service), application of the accrual method (accrual service), application of the vesting schedule (vesting service), entitlement to benefits, rights, and features (entitlement service), application of the requirements for eligibility to participate in the plan (eligibility service).

(ii) Special rule for pre-effective date service. A plan is deemed to satisfy this paragraph (d) with respect to service credited for periods prior to the effective date applicable to the plan under §1.401(a)(4)-13 (a) or (b) under a plan provision adopted and in effect as of February 11, 1993 (and any such service may be taken into account for purposes of satisfying §1.401(a)(4)-1 (b)(2) or (b)(3)), if the plan satisfied the applicable nondiscrimination requirements with respect to the service that were in effect for all relevant periods prior to the applicable effective date.

(2) Manner of crediting service—(i) General rule. A plan satisfies this paragraph (d)(2) if, on the basis of all of the relevant facts and circumstances, the manner in which employees' service is credited for all purposes under the plan does not discriminate in favor of HCEs.

(ii) Equivalent service-crediting methods. For purposes of this paragraph (d)(2), a service-crediting method used for a specified purpose that is based on hours of service, as provided in 29 CFR 2530.200b-2, and a service-crediting method used for the same purpose that is based on one of the equivalencies set forth in 29 CFR 2530.200b-3, are treated as equivalent if the service-crediting methods are otherwise the same.

(iii) Safe harbor for service-crediting. The manner in which service is credited under a plan for a specified purpose is deemed to satisfy this paragraph (d)(2) if each combination of service-crediting provisions applied for that purpose would satisfy the nondiscriminatory availability requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-4 if that combination were an other right or feature.

(iv) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (d)(2):

Example 1. (a) Plan A covers both salaried employees and hourly employees. All of the HCEs in Plan A are salaried employees. For administrative convenience, salaried employees in Plan A (none of whom are part-time) have their years of service calculated in accordance with the elapsed time provisions in §1.410(a)-7. Hourly employees in Plan A (most of whom are scheduled to work 2,000 hours in a year) have their hours of service calculated in accordance with 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 and are credited with a year of service for each plan year in which they complete 1,000 hours of service.

(b) Plan A does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (d)(2) merely because different service-crediting provisions are applied to salaried and hourly employees for administrative convenience. The service-crediting provisions for hourly employees in Plan A are reasonably comparable to the service-crediting provisions for salaried employees. This is because the amount of service credited to hourly employees who complete fewer than 1,000 hours of service before termination of employment (i.e., quit, retirement, discharge, or death) during the plan year (and are treated less favorably than the salaried employees with the same period of employment during the plan year) is balanced by the amount of service credited to hourly employees who complete more than 1,000 hours of service before termination of employment during the plan year (who are treated more favorably than the salaried employees with the same period of employment during the plan year).

Example 2. (a) The facts are the same as in Example 1, except Plan A requires hourly employees to complete 2,000 hours of service in order to be credited with a full year of service, with a pro rata reduction for hourly employees who complete fewer than 2,000 hours of service.

(b) Plan A does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (d)(2) merely because different service-crediting provisions are applied to salaried and hourly employees for administrative convenience. The service-crediting provisions for hourly employees in Plan A are reasonably comparable to the service-crediting provisions for salaried employees. This is because the amount of service credited to hourly employees whose employment terminates (i.e., quit, retire, are discharged, or die) during the plan year is reasonably comparable to the amount of service credited to salaried employees whose employment is terminated during the plan year with the same period of employment during the plan year.

(3) Service-crediting period—(i) Limitation on service taken into account—(A) General rule. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph (d)(3), service for periods in which an employee does not perform services as an employee of the employer or in which the employee did not participate in the plan may not be taken into account in determining whether the plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-1 (b)(2) and (b)(3). In addition, in determining whether a plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-1 (b)(2) and (b)(3), no more than one year of service may be taken into account with respect to any 12-consecutive-month period (with adjustments for shorter periods, if appropriate) unless the additional service is required to be credited under section 410 or 411, whichever is applicable.

(B) Past service. Notwithstanding paragraph (d)(3)(i)(A) of this section, service for periods in which an employee performed services as an employee of the employer and did not participate in a plan, but in which the employee would have participated in the plan but for the fact that the plan (or the plan amendment extending coverage to the employee) was not in existence during that period, may be taken into account in determining whether the plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-1 (b)(2) and (b)(3). This is because service for such periods generally would have been credited for the employee but for the timing of the plan establishment or amendment, and the timing of the plan establishment or amendment must satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-5(a).

(C) Pre-participation and imputed service. Notwithstanding paragraph (d)(3)(i)(A) of this section, to the extent that a plan treats pre-participation service and imputed service as actual service with the employer, such service may be taken into account in determining whether the plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-1 (b)(2) and (b)(3) if the service satisfies each of the requirements in paragraph (d)(3)(iii) of this section taking into account, in the case of imputed service, the additional rules in paragraph (d)(3)(iv) of this section.

(D) Additional limitations on service-crediting in the case of certain offsets. Notwithstanding paragraphs (d)(3)(i) (B) and (C) of this section, if a plan credits benefit service or accrual service under paragraph (d)(3)(i) (B) or (C) of this section for a period before an employee becomes a participant in the plan, but offsets the benefits determined under the plan by benefits under another plan (whether or not qualified or terminated) that are attributable to the same period for which that service is credited, then that service may not be taken into account for purposes of determining whether the first plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-1 (b)(2) or (b)(3) unless the offset provision applies on the same basis to all similarly-situated employees (within the meaning of paragraph (d)(3)(iii)(A) of this section).

(ii) Definitions—(A) Pre-participation service. For purposes of this section, pre-participation service includes all years of service credited under a plan for years of service with the employer or a prior employer for periods before the employee commenced or recommenced participation in the plan (other than past service described in paragraph (d)(3)(i)(B) of this section).

(B) Imputed service. For purposes of this section, imputed service includes any service credited for periods after an employee has commenced participation in a plan while the employee is not performing services as an employee for the employer (including a period in which the employee performs services for another employer, e.g., a joint venture), or while the employee has a reduced work schedule and would not otherwise be credited with service at the level being credited under the general terms of the plan.

(iii) Requirements for pre-participation and imputed service—(A) Provision applied to all similarly-situated employees—(1) General rule. A plan provision crediting pre-participation service or imputed service to any HCE must apply on the same terms to all similarly-situated NHCEs. Whether two employees are similarly situated for this purpose must be determined based on reasonable business criteria, generally taking into account only the circumstances resulting in the employees being covered under the plan or being granted imputed service and on the situation of the employees (e.g., the plan in which the employees benefit or the employer by which they are employed) during the period for which the pre-participation service or imputed service is credited. For example, employees who enter a plan as a result of a particular merger and who participated in the same plan of a prior employer are generally similarly situated. As another example, employees who are transferred to different joint ventures or different spun-off divisions are generally not similarly situated.

(2) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (d)(3)(iii)(A):

Example 1. Employer X maintains defined benefit Plans A and B and defined contribution Plan C. Plan A covers all employees who work at the headquarters of Employer X. Plan B covers some employees in Division M of Employer X, and Plan C covers the other employees of Division M. Plans B and C have not been aggregated for purposes of satisfying section 401(a)(4) or 410(b) for the period for which service is being credited. Plan A provides that, whenever an employee covered by Plan B transfers from Division M to the headquarters, the employee's service credited under Plan B is credited under Plan A, and the employee's benefit under Plan A is offset by the employee's benefit under Plan B. However, Plan A provides for no similar recognition of service or offset for employees covered by Plan C who transfer from Division M to the headquarters. Plan A does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (d)(3)(iii)(A) merely because it credits service for employees transferring from Plan B but not from Plan C, because it is reasonable to treat employees participating in different plans that have not been aggregated as not being similarly situated.
Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that Employer X acquires two trades or businesses from different employers. Employees of the acquired trades or businesses become employees of Division M and become covered by Plan B. In addition, Plan B is amended to credit service with one of the trades or businesses but not the other. Plan B does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (d)(3)(iii)(A) merely because it credits service for one acquired trade or business but not another, because it is reasonable to treat employees of one acquired trade or business as not similarly situated to employees of another acquired trade or business.

(B) Legitimate business reason—(1) General rule. There must be a legitimate business reason, based on all of the relevant facts and circumstances, for a plan to credit imputed service or for a plan to credit pre-participation service for a period of service with another employer.

(2) Relevant facts and circumstances when crediting service with another employer. The following are examples of relevant facts and circumstances for determining whether a legitimate business reason exists for a plan to credit pre-participation or imputed service for a period of service with another employer as service with the employer: whether one employer has a significant ownership, control, or similar interest in, or relationship with, the other employer (though not enough to cause the two employers to be treated as a single employer under section 414); whether the two employers share interrelated business operations; whether the employers maintain the same multiple-employer plan; whether the employers share similar attributes, such as operation in the same industry or the same geographic area; and whether the employees are an acquired group of employees or the employees became employed by the other employer in a transaction between the two employers that was a stock or asset acquisition, merger, or other similar transaction involving a change in the employer of the employees of a trade or business. Other factors may also be relevant for this purpose, such as the plan's treatment of service with other employers with which the employer has a similar relationship and the type of service being credited (e.g., vesting service as compared to benefit service or accrual service). A legitimate business reason is deemed to exist for a plan to credit military service as service with the employer.

(3) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (d)(3)(iii)(B):

Example 1. Twenty unrelated employers jointly sponsor a multiple-employer plan that covers all employees of the employers. From time to time, employees transfer employment among the employers. There is a legitimate business reason for a disaggregated portion of the plan that benefits the employees of one of the employers to treat service with any of the other employers as service with the employer.
Example 2. Employer X owns 20 percent of the outstanding stock of Employer Y. From time to time, employees transfer from Employer X to Employer Y at the request of Employer X. Employer X maintains defined benefit Plan A. Plan A provides that years of service include an employee's years of service with Employer Y. There is a legitimate business reason for Plan A to credit service with Employer Y because Employer X, through its 20-percent ownership interest, benefits from the service that the transferred employees provide to Employer Y.
Example 3. Employer Z manufactures widgets and belongs to the National Widget Manufacturers' Association. From time to time, Employer Z hires employees from other widget manufacturers. Employer Z maintains a defined benefit plan, Plan B, which credits pre-participation service for periods of service with all other members of the Association located in the western half of the United States as service with Employer Z. There is a legitimate business reason for Plan B to treat service with other members of the Association as service with Employer Z.

(C) No significant discrimination—(1) General rule. Based on all of the relevant facts and circumstances, a plan provision crediting pre-participation or imputed service must not by design or in operation discriminate significantly in favor of HCEs.

(2) Relevant facts and circumstances. The following are examples of relevant facts and circumstances for determining whether a plan provision crediting pre-participation service or imputed service discriminates significantly in favor of HCEs: whether the service credit does not duplicate benefits but merely makes an employee whole (i.e., prevents the employee from being disadvantaged with respect to benefits by a change in job or employer or provides the employee with benefits comparable to those of other employees); the degree of business ties between the current employer and the prior employer, such as the degree of ownership interest or other affiliation; the degree of excess coverage under section 410(b) of NHCEs for the plan crediting the service, taking into account employees who are credited with pre-participation service; whether the other employer maintains a qualified plan for its employees; the existence of reciprocal service credit under other plans of the employer or the prior employer; the circumstances underlying the employee's transfer into the group of employees covered by the plan; the type of service being credited; and the relative number of employees other than five-percent owners or the most highly-paid HCEs of the employer (determined without regard to the one officer rule of section 414(q)(5)(B)) who are being credited with pre-participation service or imputed service. The relative number referred to in the last factor is determined taking into account all employees who have been over time, or are reasonably expected to be in the future, credited with such service.

(3) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (d)(3)(iii)(C). It is assumed that facts not described in an example do not, in the aggregate, suggest that the relevant plan provision either does or does not discriminate significantly in favor of HCEs.

Example 1. (a) Employer U maintains defined benefit Plans A and B. Plan A covers all employees who work at the headquarters of Employer U. Plan B covers all employees of Division M of Employer U. Plan A provides that, whenever an employee transfers from Division M to the headquarters, the employee's service credited under Plan B is credited under Plan A, and the employee's benefit under Plan A is offset by the employee's benefit under Plan B. Employees, including a meaningful number of NHCEs, are periodically transferred from Division M to the headquarters of Employer U for bona fide business reasons.

(b) The Plan A provision crediting service under Plan B does not discriminate significantly in favor of HCEs. The provision is designed only to prevent employees from being disadvantaged by being transferred from Division M to the headquarters, and a meaningful number of NHCEs can be expected to benefit from it.

Example 2. (a) The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that the only employees transferred from Division M to the headquarters of Employer U are HCEs (but not the most highly-paid HCEs of Employer U).

(b) Employer U determines that Plan A would have satisfied sections 401(a)(4) and 410(b) for the period for which the transferred employees are being credited with pre-participation service had the employees participated in Plan A during that period. This determination is based on test results under sections 401(a)(4) and 410(b) for the current year, taking into account significant demographic changes over this period.

(c) The Plan A provision crediting service under Plan B does not significantly discriminate in favor of HCEs in the current year. This conclusion is based on the fact that the circumstances underlying the transfers indicate that they were made for bona fide business reasons, that Plan A would have satisfied sections 401(a)(4) and 410(b) had the transferred employees participated in Plan A during the period for which the pre-participation service is credited, and that the transferred employees are not the most highly-paid HCEs of Employer U.

Example 3. (a) The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that the only employee who is transferred from Division M to the headquarters of Employer U is Employee P, who is among the most highly-paid HCEs of Employer U. Plan A provides an unreduced early retirement benefit at age 55 for employees with 20 years of service, but Plan B's early retirement benefits are not subsidized. Employee P is transferred to the headquarters with 20 years of service credited under Plan B and shortly before attainment of age 55. Employee P is expected to retire upon reaching age 55.

(b) The Plan A provision crediting service under Plan B discriminates significantly in favor of HCEs in the year of the transfer. This is because the circumstances underlying this transfer (i.e., its occurrence shortly before Employee P's expected retirement and the fact that the transfer significantly increased Employee P's early retirement benefits) indicate that Employee P was transferred to the headquarters primarily to obtain the higher pension benefits provided under Plan A.

(c) Because of this conclusion, the pre-participation service credited to Employee P cannot be taken into account in determining whether Plan A satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-1 (b)(2) and (b)(3). Thus, if Plan A credits the service, it cannot be a safe harbor plan because the benefit formula will take into account service that may not be taken into account under this paragraph (d)(3). In addition, Employee P's accrual rates under the general test in §1.401(a)(4)-3(c) are likely to be higher than those of other employees because, while the pre-participation service may be used to determine Employee P's benefits under Plan A, the service must be disregarded in determining Employee P's testing service. Also, if Employee P's pre-participation service is used in determining Employee P's entitlement to a benefit, right, or feature under Plan A, the fact that the service must be disregarded in determining Employee P's entitlement service for purposes of §1.401(a)(4)-4 may cause the benefit, right, or feature to be treated as a separate benefit, right, or feature that is currently available only to Employee P.

Example 4. (a) Employer V manufactures widgets and belongs to the National Widget Manufacturers' Association. Each member of the Association maintains a defined benefit plan that credits pre-participation service for periods of service with other members and offsets benefits under the plan by benefits under the plans of the other members. Employer V maintains defined benefit Plan C. Employer V periodically hires employees from other widget manufacturers who are not among its most highly-paid HCEs. In 1997, however, the only employee hired by Employer V from another member of the Association is Employee Q, who is among Employer V's most highly-paid HCEs. Employee Q receives pre-participation service credit in accordance with the terms of Plan C. Some of the plans maintained by other members of the Association credited pre-participation service to NHCEs for the same period for which the pre-participation service is credited to Employee Q.

(b) The provision of Plan C crediting pre-participation service with other members of the Association does not discriminate significantly in 1997, despite the fact that the only employee who received pre-participation service credit under the provision in that year was among the most highly-paid HCEs of Employer V. This conclusion is based on the relative number of employees other than Employer V's most highly-paid HCEs who have been credited in the past, or are reasonably expected to be credited in the future, with pre-participation service for periods of service with other members of the Association, and the fact that other employees who are NHCEs are being credited with pre-participation service under a reciprocal agreement.

Example 5. Employer W owns 79 percent of the outstanding stock of Employer X. From time to time, employees transfer from Employer W to Employer X at the request of Employer W. The only employees who have ever been transferred are HCEs. Employer W maintains a defined benefit plan, Plan D, which credits employees transferred to Employer X with imputed benefit and accrual service while employed by Employer X. Employer X maintains no qualified plan. Plan D would fail either section 401(a)(4) or section 410(b) in the current plan year if the individuals employed by Employer X were treated as employed by Employer W. In addition, Plan D would fail either section 401(a)(4) or section 410(b) in the current plan year if the portion of Plan D covering the transferred employees were treated as maintained by Employer X. The Plan D provision crediting imputed benefit and accrual service to employees transferred to Employer X significantly discriminates in favor of HCEs in the current plan year.
Example 6. The facts are the same as in Example 5, except that Plan D credits the individuals who transfer to Employer X only with imputed vesting and entitlement service. The Plan D provision crediting imputed vesting and entitlement service to individuals transferred to Employer X does not significantly discriminate in favor of HCEs in the current plan year, because there is less potential for discrimination when the only types of service being imputed are vesting and entitlement service.

(iv) Additional rules for imputed service—(A) Legitimate business reasons for crediting imputed service—(1) General rule. A legitimate business reason does not exist for a plan to impute service after an individual has permanently ceased to perform services as an employee (within the meaning of §1.410(b)-9) for the employer maintaining the plan, i.e., is not expected to resume performing services as an employee for the employer. The preceding sentence does not apply in the case of an individual who is not performing services for the employer because of disability or is performing services for another employer under an arrangement (such as a transfer of the employee to another employer) that provides some ongoing business benefit to the original employer. The first sentence in this paragraph (d)(3)(iv)(A)(1) also does not apply in the case of vesting and entitlement service if the employee is performing services for another employer that is being treated under the plan as actual service with the original employer.

(2) Certain presumptions applicable. Whether an individual has permanently ceased to perform services as an employee for an employer is determined taking into account all of the relevant facts and circumstances. There is a rebuttable presumption for a period of up to two years that an individual who has ceased to perform services as an employee for an employer is nonetheless expected to resume performing services as an employee for the employer, if the employer continues to treat the individual as an employee for significant purposes unrelated to the plan. After two years, there is a rebuttable presumption that an individual who has ceased to perform services as an employee for the employer is not expected to resume performing services as an employee for the employer. The fact that an individual is absent to perform jury duty or military service automatically rebuts the latter presumption. Other evidence, such as the employer's layoff policy, the terms of an employment contract, or specific leave to pursue a degree requiring more than two years of study, may also rebut this presumption.

(3) Imputed service for part-time employees. Rules similar to the rules in paragraph (d)(3)(iv)(A) (1) and (2) of this section apply in the case of an employee whose work hours are temporarily reduced and who therefore would normally be credited with service at a reduced rate, but who continues to be credited with service at the same rate as before the reduction (e.g., an employee who continues to be credited with service as if the employee were a full-time employee during a temporary change from a full-time to a part-time work schedule).

(B) Additional factors for determining whether a provision crediting imputed service discriminates significantly. In addition to the factors described in paragraph (d)(3)(iii)(C)(2) of this section, relevant facts and circumstances for determining whether a plan provision crediting imputed service during a leave of absence or a period of reduced services discriminates significantly include any employer policies or practices that restrict the ability of employees to take leaves of absence or work temporarily on a part-time basis, respectively.

(v) Satisfaction of other service-crediting rules. A plan does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (d)(3) merely because it credits service to the extent necessary to satisfy the service-crediting rules in section 410(a), 411(a), 413, or 414(a), §1.410(a)-7 (elapsed-time method of service-crediting) or 29 CFR 2530.200b-2 (regarding hours of service to be credited), whichever is applicable, or 29 CFR §2530.204-2(d) (regarding double proration of service and compensation).

(e) Family aggregation rules. [Reserved]

(f) Governmental plans. [Reserved]

(g) Corrective amendments—(1) In general. A corrective amendment that satisfies the rules of this paragraph (g) is taken into account for purposes of satisfying certain section 401(a) requirements for a plan year, by treating the corrective amendment as if it were adopted and effective as of the first day of the plan year. These rules apply in addition to the rules of section 401(b). Paragraph (g)(2) of this section describes the scope of the corrective amendments that are permitted to be made. Paragraph (g)(3) of this section specifies the conditions under which a corrective amendment may be made. Paragraph (g)(4) of this section provides a rule prohibiting a corrective amendment from being taken into account to the extent that it does not have substance. Paragraph (g)(5) of this section discusses the effect of the corrective amendments permitted under this paragraph (g) under provisions other than section 401(a).

(2) Scope of corrective amendments. For purposes of satisfying the minimum coverage requirements of section 410(b), the nondiscriminatory amount requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2), or the nondiscriminatory plan amendment requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(4), a corrective amendment may retroactively increase accruals or allocations for employees who benefited under the plan during the plan year being corrected, or may grant accruals or allocations to individuals who did not benefit under the plan during the plan year being corrected. In addition, for purposes of satisfying the nondiscriminatory current availability requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b) for benefits, rights, or features, a corrective amendment may make a benefit, right, or feature available to employees to whom it was previously not available. A corrective amendment may not, however, correct for a failure to incorporate the pre-termination restrictions of §1.401(a)(4)-5(b).

(3) Conditions for corrective amendments—(i) In general. A corrective amendment is not taken into account prior to its adoption under this paragraph (g) unless it satisfies each of the requirements of paragraph (g)(3) (ii) through (vii) of this section, whichever are applicable. Thus, for example, if any of the applicable requirements are not satisfied, any additional accruals arising from an amendment adopted after the end of a plan year are not given retroactive effect and, thus, are tested in the plan year in which the amendment is adopted.

(ii) Benefits not reduced. Except as permitted under paragraph (g)(3)(vi)(C)(2) of this section, the corrective amendment may not result in a reduction of an employee's benefits (including any benefit, right, or feature), determined based on the terms of the plan in effect immediately before the amendment.

(iii) Amendment effective for all purposes. For purposes of determining an employee's rights and benefits under the plan, the corrective amendment must generally be effective as if the amendment had been made on the first day of the plan year being corrected. Thus, if the corrective amendment is made after the close of the plan year being corrected, an employee's allocations or accruals, along with the associated benefits, rights, and features, must be increased to the level at which they would have been had the amendment been in effect for the entire preceding plan year. Accordingly, such increases are taken into account for testing purposes as if the increases had actually occurred in the prior plan year. However, to the extent that an amendment makes a benefit, right, or feature available to a group of employees, the amendment does not fail to satisfy this paragraph (g)(3)(iii) merely because it is not effective prior to the date of adoption and, therefore, the benefit, right, or feature is not made currently available to those employees before that date.

(iv) Time when amendment must be adopted and put into effect—(A) General rule. Any corrective amendment intended to apply to the preceding plan year must be adopted and implemented on or before the 15th day of the 10th month after the close of the plan year in order to be taken into account for the preceding plan year.

(B) Determination letter requested by employer or plan administrator. If, on or before the end of the period set forth in paragraph (g)(3)(iv)(A) of this section, the employer or plan administrator files a request pursuant to §601.201(o) of this chapter (Statement of Procedural Rules) for a determination letter on the amendment, the initial or continuing qualification of the plan, or the trust that is part of the plan, the period set forth in paragraph (g)(3)(iv)(A) of this section is extended in the same manner as provided for an extension of the remedial amendment period under §1.401(b)-1(d)(3).

(v) Corrective amendment for coverage or amounts testing—(A) Retroactive benefits must be provided to nondiscriminatory group. Except as provided in paragraph (g)(3)(v)(B) of this section, if the corrective amendment is adopted after the close of the plan year, the additional allocations or accruals for the preceding year resulting from the corrective amendment must separately satisfy section 401(a)(4) for the preceding plan year and must benefit a group of employees that separately satisfies section 410(b) (determined by applying the same rules as are applied in determining whether a component plan separately satisfies section 410(b) under §1.401(a)(4)-9(c)(4)). Thus, for example, in applying the rules of this paragraph (g)(3)(v), an employer may not aggregate the additional accruals or allocations for the preceding plan year resulting from the corrective amendment with the other accruals or allocations already provided under the terms of the plan as in effect during the preceding plan year without regard to the corrective amendment.

(B) Corrective amendment to conform to safe harbor. The requirements of paragraph (g)(3)(v)(A) of this section need not be met if the corrective amendment is for purposes of conforming the plan to one of the safe harbors in §1.401(a)(4)-2(b) or §1.401(a)(4)-3(b) (including for purposes of applying the requirements of those safe harbors under the optional testing methods in §1.401(a)(4)-8 (b)(3) or (c)(3)), or ensuring that the plan continues to meet one of those safe harbors.

(vi) Conditions for corrective amendment of the availability of benefits, rights, and features. A corrective amendment may not be taken into account under this paragraph (g) for purposes of satisfying §1.401(a)(4)-4(b) for a given plan year unless—

(A) The corrective amendment is not part of a pattern of amendments being used to correct repeated failures with respect to a particular benefit, right, or feature;

(B) The relevant provisions of the plan immediately after the corrective amendment with respect to the benefit, right, or feature (including a corrective amendment eliminating the benefit, right, or feature) remain in effect until the end of the first plan year beginning after the date of the amendment; and

(C) The corrective amendment either—

(1) Expands the group of employees to whom the benefit, right, or feature is currently available so that for each plan year in which the corrective amendment is taken into account in determining whether the plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-4(b), the group of employees to whom the benefit, right, or feature is currently available, after taking into account the amendment, satisfies the nondiscriminatory classification requirement of §1.410(b)-4 (and thus the current availability requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b)) with a ratio percentage greater than or equal to the lesser of—

(i) The safe harbor percentage applicable to the plan; and

(ii) The ratio percentage of the plan; or

(2) Eliminates the benefit, right, or feature (to the extent permitted under section 411(d)(6)) on or before the last day of the plan year for which the corrective amendment is taken into account.

(vii) Special rules for section 401(k) plans and section 401(m) plans—(A) Minimum coverage requirements. In the case of a section 401(k) plan, a corrective amendment may only be taken into account for purposes of satisfying §1.410(b)-3(a)(2)(i) under this paragraph (g) for a given plan year to the extent that the corrective amendment grants qualified nonelective contributions within the meaning of §1.401(k)-6 (QNECs) to nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employees who were not eligible employees within the meaning of §1.401(k)-6 for the given plan year, and the amount of the QNECs granted to each nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employee equals the product of the nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employee's plan year compensation and the actual deferral percentage (within the meaning of section 401(k)(3)(B)) for the given plan year for the group of NHCEs who are eligible employees. Similarly, in the case of a section 401(m) plan, a corrective amendment may only be taken into account for purposes of satisfying §1.410(b)-3(a)(2)(i) under this paragraph (g) for a given plan year to the extent that the corrective amendment grants qualified nonelective contributions (QNECs) to nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employees who were not eligible employees within the meaning of §1.401(m)-5 for the given plan year, and the amount of the QNECs granted to each nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employee equals the product of the nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employee's plan year compensation and the actual contribution percentage (within the meaning of section 401(m)(3)) for the given plan year for the group of NHCEs who are eligible employees.

(B) Correction of rate of match. In the case of a section 401(m) plan, allocations for a given plan year granted under a corrective amendment to NHCEs who made contributions for the plan year eligible for a matching contribution may be treated as matching contributions. These allocations treated as matching contributions may be taken into account for purposes of satisfying the current availability requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b) with respect to the right to a rate of match, but may not be taken into account for satisfying other amounts testing.

(4) Corrective amendments must have substance. A corrective amendment is not taken into account in determining whether a plan satisfies section 401(a)(4) or 410(b) to the extent the amendment affects nonvested employees whose employment with the employer terminated on or before the close of the preceding year, and who therefore would not have received any economic benefit from the amendment if it had been made in the prior year. Similarly, in determining whether the requirements of paragraph (g)(3)(vi)(C)(1) of this section are satisfied, a corrective amendment making a benefit, right, or feature available to employees is not taken into account to the extent the benefit, right, or feature is not currently available to any of those employees immediately after the amendment. However, a plan will not fail to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (g)(3)(vi)(C)(1) of this section by operation of the provisions in this paragraph (g)(4) if the benefit, right, or feature is made available to all employees in the plan as of the date of the amendment.

(5) Effect under other statutory requirements. A corrective amendment under this paragraph (g) is treated as if it were adopted and effective as of the first day of the plan year only for the specific purposes described in this paragraph (g). Thus, for example, the corrective amendment is taken into account not only for purposes of sections 401(a)(4) and 410(b), but also for purposes of determining whether the plan satisfies sections 401(l). By contrast, the amendment is not given retroactive effect for purposes of section 404 (deductions for employer contributions) or section 412 (minimum funding standards), unless otherwise provided for in rules applicable to those sections.

(6) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules in this paragraph (g):

Example 1. Employer U maintains a calendar year defined benefit plan that in 1994 is tested using the safe harbor for flat benefit plans in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(4). In 1996, Employer U is concerned that the plan will not satisfy the demographic requirement in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(4)(i)(C)(3) for the 1995 plan year because the average of the normal accrual rates for all NHCEs is less than 70 percent of the average of the normal accrual rates for all HCEs. Provided the corrective amendment would otherwise satisfy this paragraph (g), Employer U may make a corrective amendment to the plan to increase the number of NHCEs so that the amended plan satisfies the safe harbor for the 1995 plan year. The corrective amendment need not satisfy paragraph (g)(3)(v)(A) of this section because Employer U is retroactively amending the plan to conform to a safe harbor in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b). See paragraph (g)(3)(v)(B) of this section.
Example 2. (a) Employer V maintains a calendar year defined contribution plan covering all the employees in Division M and Division N. Under the plan, only employees in Division M have the right to direct the investments in their account. For plan years prior to 1996, the plan met the current availability requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b) because the employees in Division M were a group of employees that satisfied the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4. Because of attrition in the employee population in Division M in 1996, the group of employees to whom the right to direct investments is available during that plan year no longer meets the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4. Thus, the right to direct investments under the plan does not meet the current availability requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b) during the 1996 plan year.

(b) Employer V may amend the plan in 1997 (but on or before October 15) to make the right to direct investments available from the date of the corrective amendment to a larger group of employees and the corrective amendment may be taken into account for purposes of satisfying the current availability requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b) for 1996 if the amendment satisfies this paragraph (g). Thus, for example, the group of employees to whom the right to direct investments is currently available, after taking into account the corrective amendment, must satisfy the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4 for 1996 using a safe harbor percentage (or if lower, the ratio percentage of the plan for 1996). In addition, the corrective amendment making the right to direct investments available to a larger group of employees must remain in effect through the end of the 1998 plan year.

(c) In order for Employer V to take the corrective amendment into account for purposes of satisfying the current availability requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b) for the portion of the 1997 plan year before the amendment, the group of employees to whom the right to direct investments is currently available, taking into account the amendment, must satisfy the nondiscriminatory classification test of §1.410(b)-4 for 1997 using a safe harbor percentage (or if lower, the ratio percentage of the plan for 1997).

(d) Alternatively, if Employer V adopts the corrective amendment before the end of the 1996 plan year, the corrective amendment need only remain in force through the end of the 1997 plan year, or the corrective amendment may eliminate the right to direct investments (provided that the elimination remains in effect through the end of the 1997 plan year).

Example 3. The facts are the same as in Example 2. In 1997, Employer V makes a corrective amendment to extend the plan to employees of Division O as well as Divisions M and N. Assume that the corrective amendment satisfies paragraph (g)(3)(v)(A) of this section, and thus, may be taken into account for purposes of satisfying the nondiscriminatory amounts requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-1(b)(2) or the minimum coverage requirements of section 410(b). However, the employees in Division O will not be taken into account in determining whether the right to direct investments meets the current availability requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b) unless the corrective amendment meets the requirements of paragraph (g)(3)(vi) of this section. Thus, for example, the group of employees to whom the right to direct investments is made available as a result of the expansion of coverage, after taking into account the corrective amendment, must satisfy the nondiscriminatory clarification test of §1.410(b)-4 for 1996 using a safe harbor percentage (or if lower, the ratio percentage of the plan for 1996). In addition, the amendment making the right to direct investments available to a larger group of employees must remain in effect though the end of the 1998 plan year.
Example 4. Employer W maintains a defined benefit plan that covers all employees and that offsets an employee's benefit by the employee's projected primary insurance amount. The plan is not eligible to use the safe harbors under §1.401(a)(4)-3(b) because the plan does not satisfy section 401(l). Under the plan, the accrual rates for all HCEs (determined under the general test of §1.401(a)(4)-3(c)) for 1998 are less than 1.5 percent of average annual compensation, and the accrual rates for all NHCEs (determined under the general test of §1.401(a)(4)-3(c)) for 1998 are two percent of average annual compensation. If Employer W adopts a corrective amendment adopted in 1999 that retroactively increases HCEs' benefits under the plan so that their accrual rates equal those of the NHCEs, the corrective amendment may not be taken into account in testing the 1998 plan year (i.e., the accruals that result from the corrective amendment are treated as 1999 accruals), because the accruals for the 1998 plan year resulting from the corrective amendment would not separately satisfy sections 410(b) and 401(a)(4). This is the case even if, after taking the amendment into account, the plan would satisfy sections 410(b) and 401(a)(4) for the 1998 plan year.
Example 5. Employer X maintains two plans—Plan A and Plan B. Plan A satisfies the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2), but Plan B does not. Thus, in order to satisfy section 410(b), Plan B must satisfy the average benefits test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(3). The average benefit percentage of Plan B is 60 percent. Employer X may take into account a corrective amendment that increases the accruals under either Plan A or Plan B so that the average benefit percentage meets the 70 percent requirement of the average benefits test, if the amendment satisfies paragraph (g)(3)(v) of this section.
Example 6. Employer Y maintains Plan C, which does not satisfy section 401(a)(4) in a plan year. Under the terms of paragraph (g)(2) of this section, Employer Y amends Plan C to increase the benefits of certain employees retroactively. In designing the amendment, Employer Y identifies those employees who have terminated without vested benefits during the period after the end of the prior plan year and before the adoption date of the amendment, and the amendment provides increases in benefits primarily to those employees. It would be inconsistent with the purpose of preventing discrimination in favor of HCEs for Plan C to treat the amendment as retroactively effective under this paragraph (g). See §1.401(a)(4)-1(c)(2).
Example 7. Employer Z maintains both a section 401(k) plan and a section 401(m) plan that provides matching contributions at a rate of 50 percent with respect to elective contributions under the section 401(k) plan. In plan year 1995, the section 401(k) plan fails to satisfy the actual deferral percentage test of section 401(k)(3). In order to satisfy section 401(k)(3), Employer Z makes corrective distributions to HCEs H1 through H10 of their excess contributions as provided under §1.401(k)-2(b). The matching contributions that H1 through H10 had received on account of their excess contributions are not forfeited, however. Thus, the effective rate of matching contributions provided to H1 through H10 is increased as a result of the corrective distributions. See §1.401(a)(4)-4(e)(3)(iii)(G). Since no NHCE in the section 401(m) plan is provided with an equivalent rate of matching contributions, the rate of matching contributions provided to H1 through H10 does not satisfy the nondiscriminatory availability requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-4 in plan year 1995. Employer Z makes a corrective amendment by October 15, 1996, that grants allocations to NHCEs who made contributions for the 1995 plan year eligible for a matching contribution. Employer Z may treat the allocations granted under the corrective amendment to those NHCEs as matching contributions for the 1995 plan year and, as a result, take them into account in determining whether the availability of the rate of matching contributions provided to H1 through H10 satisfies the current availability requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-4(b) for the 1995 plan year.

[T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46813, Sept. 3, 1993, as amended by T.D. 9169, 69 FR 78153, Dec. 29, 2004]

§1.401(a)(4)-12   Definitions.

Unless otherwise provided, the definitions in this section govern in applying the provisions of §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13.

Accumulation plan. Accumulation plan means a defined benefit plan under which the benefit of every employee for each plan year is separately determined, using plan year compensation (if benefits are determined as a percentage of compensation rather as than a dollar amount) separately calculated for the plan year, and each employee's total accrued benefit as of the end of a plan year is the sum of the separately determined benefit for that plan year and the total accrued benefit as of the end of the preceding plan year.

Acquired group of employees. Acquired group of employees means employees of a prior employer who become employed by the employer in a transaction between the employer and the prior employer that is a stock or asset acquisition, merger, or other similar transaction involving a change in the employer of the employees of a trade or business, plus employees hired by or transferred into the acquired trade or business on or before a date selected by the employer that is within the transition period defined in section 410(b)(6)(C)(ii). In addition, in the case of a transaction prior to the effective date of these regulations, the date by which employees must be hired by or transferred into the acquired trade or business in order to be included in the acquired group of employees may be any date prior to February 11, 1993, without regard to whether it is later than the end of the transition period defined in section 410(b)(6)(C)(ii).

Actuarial equivalent. An amount or benefit is the actuarial equivalent of, or is actuarially equivalent to, another amount or benefit at a given time if the actuarial present value of the two amounts or benefits (calculated using the same actuarial assumptions) at that time is the same.

Actuarial present value. Actuarial present value means the value as of a specified date of an amount or series of amounts due thereafter, where each amount is—

(1) Multiplied by the probability that the condition or conditions on which payment of the amount is contingent will be satisfied; and

(2) Discounted according to an assumed rate of interest to reflect the time value of money.

Ancillary benefit. Ancillary benefit is defined in §1.401(a)(4)-4(e)(2).

Average annual compensation. Average annual compensation is defined in §1.401(a)(4)-3(e)(2).

Base benefit percentage. Base benefit percentage is defined in §1.401(l)-1(c)(3).

Benefit formula. Benefit formula means the formula a defined benefit plan applies to determine the accrued benefit (within the meaning of section 411(a)(7)(A)(i)) in the form of an annual benefit commencing at normal retirement age of an employee who continues in service until normal retirement age. Thus, for example, the benefit formula does not include the accrual method the plan applies (in conjunction with the benefit formula) to determine the accrued benefit of an employee who terminates employment before normal retirement age. For purposes of this definition, a change in plan provisions that applies only to certain employees who terminate within a limited period of time (e.g., an early retirement window benefit) is treated as a change in the plan's benefit formula for the employees to whom the change is potentially applicable during the period that the change is potentially applicable to them. The preceding sentence applies only to the extent that the change in plan provisions would result in a change in the benefit formula if it were permanent and applied without regard to when the employees' employment was terminated.

Benefit, right, or feature. Benefit, right, or feature means an optional form of benefit, an ancillary benefit, or an other right or feature within the meaning of §1.401(a)(4)-4(e).

Contributory DB plan. Contributory DB plan means a defined benefit plan that includes employee contributions not allocated to separate accounts.

Defined benefit excess plan. Defined benefit excess plan is defined in §1.401(l)-1(c)(16)(i).

Defined benefit plan. Defined benefit plan is defined in §1.410(b)-9.

Defined contribution plan. Defined contribution plan is defined in §1.410(b)-9.

Determination date. Determination date is defined in §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(3)(iv)(A).

Employee. With respect to a plan for a given plan year, employee means an employee (within the meaning of §1.410(b)-9) who benefits as an employee under the plan for the plan year (within the meaning of §1.410(b)-3).

Employer. Employer is defined in §1.410(b)-9.

ESOP. ESOP is defined in §1.410(b)-9.

Excess benefit percentage. Excess benefit percentage is defined in §1.401(l)-1(c)(14).

Former employee. With respect to a plan for a given plan year, former employee means a former employee (within the meaning of §1.410(b)-9).

Former HCE. Former HCE means a highly compensated former employee as defined in §1.410(b)-9.

Former NHCE. Former NHCE means a former employee who is not a former HCE.

Fresh-start date. Fresh-start date is defined in §1.401(a)(4)-13(c)(5)(iii).

Fresh-start group. Fresh-start group is defined in §1.401(a)(4)-13(c)(5)(ii).

Gross benefit percentage. Gross benefit percentage is defined in §1.401(l)-1(c)(18).

HCE. HCE means a highly compensated employee as defined in §1.410(b)-9 who benefits under the plan for the plan year (within the meaning of §1.410(b)-3).

Integration level. Integration level is defined in §1.401(l)-1(c)(20).

Measurement period. Measurement period is defined in §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(1)(iii).

Multiemployer plan. Multiemployer plan is defined in §1.410(b)-9.

NHCE. NHCE means an employee who is not an HCE.

Nonexcludable employee. Nonexcludable employee means an employee within the meaning of §1.410(b)-9, other than an excludable employee with respect to the plan as determined under §1.410(b)-6. A nonexcludable employee may be either a highly or nonhighly compensated nonexcludable employee, depending on the nonexcludable employee's status under section 414(q).

Normalize. With respect to a benefit payable to an employee in a particular form, normalize means to convert the benefit to an actuarially equivalent straight life annuity commencing at the employee's testing age. The actuarial assumptions used in normalizing a benefit must be reasonable and must be applied on a gender-neutral basis. A standard interest rate and a standard mortality table are among the assumptions considered reasonable for this purpose.

Offset plan. Offset plan is defined in §1.401(l)-1(c)(24).

Optional form of benefit. Optional form of benefit is defined in §1.401(a)(4)-4(e)(1).

Other right or feature. Other right or feature is defined in §1.401(a)(4)-4(e)(3).

Plan. Plan means a plan within the meaning of §1.410(b)-7 (a) and (b), after application of the mandatory disaggregation rules of §1.410(b)-7(c) and the permissive aggregation rules of §1.410(b)-7(d).

Plan year. Plan year is defined in §1.410(b)-9.

Plan year compensation—(1) In general. Plan year compensation means section 414(s) compensation for the plan year determined by measuring section 414(s) compensation during one of the periods described in paragraphs (2) through (4) of this definition. Whichever period is selected must be applied uniformly to determine the plan year compensation of every employee.

(2) Plan year. This period consists of the plan year.

(3) Twelve-month period ending in the plan year. This period consists of a specified 12-month period ending with or within the plan year, such as the calendar year or the period for determining benefit accruals described in §1.401(a)(4)-3(f)(6).

(4) Period of plan participation during the plan year. This period consists of the portion of the plan year during which the employee is a participant in the plan. This period may be used to determine plan year compensation for the plan year in which participation begins, the plan year in which participation ends, or both. This period may be used to determine plan year compensation when substituted for average annual compensation in §1.401(a)(4)-3(e)(2)(ii)(A) only if the plan year is also the period for determining benefit accruals under the plan rather than another period as permitted under §1.401(a)(4)-3(f)(6). Further, selection of this period must be made on a reasonably consistent basis from plan year to plan year in a manner that does not discriminate in favor of HCEs.

(5) Special rule for new employees. Notwithstanding the uniformity requirement of paragraph (1) of this definition, if employees' plan year compensation for a plan year is determined based on a 12-month period ending within the plan year under paragraph (3) of this definition, then the plan year compensation of any employees whose date of hire was less than 12 months before the end of that 12-month period must be determined uniformly based either on the plan year or on the employees' periods of participation during the plan year, as provided in paragraphs (2) and (4), respectively, of this definition.

QJSA. QJSA means a qualified joint and survivor annuity as defined in section 417(b).

QSUPP—(1) In general. QSUPP or qualified social security supplement means a social security supplement that meets each of the requirements in paragraphs (2) through (6) of this definition.

(2) Accrual—(i) General rule. The amount of the social security supplement payable at any age for which the employee is eligible for the social security supplement must be equal to the lesser of—

(A) The employee's old-age insurance benefit, unreduced on account of age, under title II of the Social Security Act; and

(B) The accrued social security supplement, determined under one of the methods in paragraph (2) (ii) through (iv) of this definition.

(ii) Section 401(l) plans. In the case of a section 401(l) plan that is a defined benefit excess plan, each employee's accrued social security supplement equals the employee's average annual compensation up to the integration level, multiplied by the disparity provided by the plan for the employee's years of service used in determining the employee's accrued benefit under the plan. In the case of a section 401(l) plan that is an offset plan, each employee's accrued social security supplement equals the dollar amount of the offset accrued for the employee under the plan.

(iii) PIA offset plan. In the case of a PIA offset plan, each employee's accrued social security supplement equals the dollar amount of the offset accrued for the employee under the plan. For this purpose, a PIA offset plan is a plan that reduces an employee's benefit by an offset based on a stated percentage of the employee's primary insurance amount under the Social Security Act.

(iv) Other plans. In the case of any other plan, each employee's social security supplement accrues ratably over the period beginning with the later of the employee's commencement of participation in the plan or the effective date of the social security supplement and ending with the earliest age at which the social security supplement is payable to the employee. The effective date of the social security supplement is the later of the effective date of the amendment adding the social security supplement or the effective date of the amendment modifying an existing social security supplement to comply with the requirements of this definition. If, by the end of the first plan year to which these regulations apply, as set forth in §1.401(a)(4)-13 (a) and (b), an amendment is made to a social security supplement in existence on September 19, 1991, the employer may treat the accrued portion of the social security supplement, as determined under the plan without regard to amendments made after September 19, 1991, as included in the employee's accrued social security supplement, provided that the remainder of the social security supplement is accrued under the otherwise-applicable method.

(3) Vesting. The plan must provide that an employee's right to the accrued social security supplement becomes nonforfeitable within the meaning of section 411 as if it were an early retirement benefit.

(4) Eligibility. The plan must impose the same eligibility conditions on receipt of the social security supplement as on receipt of the early retirement benefit in conjunction with which the social security supplement is payable. Furthermore, if the service required for an employee to become eligible for the social security supplement exceeds 15 years, then the ratio percentage of the group of employees who actually satisfy the eligibility conditions on receipt of the QSUPP in the current plan year must equal or exceed the unsafe harbor percentage applicable to the plan under §1.410(b)-4(c)(4)(ii).

(5) QJSA. At each age, the most valuable QSUPP commencing at that age must be payable in conjunction with the QJSA commencing at that age. In addition, the plan must provide that, in the case of a social security supplement payable in conjunction with a QJSA, the social security supplement will be paid after the employee's death on the same terms as the QJSA, but in no event for a period longer than the period for which the social security supplement would have been paid to the employee had the employee not died. For example, if the QJSA is in the form of a joint annuity with a 50-percent survivor's benefit, the social security supplement must provide a 50-percent survivor's benefit. When section 417(c) requires the determination of a QJSA for purposes of determining a qualified pre-retirement survivor's annuity as defined in section 417(c) (QPSA), the social security supplement payable in conjunction with that QJSA must be paid in conjunction with the QPSA.

(6) Protection. The plan must specifically provide that the social security supplement is treated as an early retirement benefit that is protected under section 411(d)(6) (other than for purposes of sections 401(a)(11) and 417). Thus, the accrued social security supplement must continue to be payable notwithstanding subsequent amendment of the plan (including the plan's termination), and an employee may meet the eligibility requirements for the social security supplement after plan termination.

Qualified plan. Qualified plan means a plan that satisfies section 401(a). For this purpose, a qualified plan includes an annuity plan described in section 403(a).

Rate group. Rate group is defined in §1.401(a)(4)-2(c)(1) or is defined in §1.401(a)(4)-3(c)(1).

Ratio percentage. Ratio percentage is defined in §1.410(b)-9.

Section 401(a)(17) employee. Section 401(a)(17) employee is defined in §1.401(a)(17)-1(e)(2)(ii).

Section 401(k) plan. Section 401(k) plan is defined in §1.410(b)-9.

Section 401(l) plan. Section 401(l) plan is defined in §1.410(b)-9.

Section 401(m) plan. Section 401(m) plan is defined in §1.410(b)-9.

Section 414(s) compensation—(1) General rule. When used with reference to compensation for a plan year, 12-month period, or other specified period, section 414(s) compensation means compensation measured using an underlying definition that satisfies section 414(s) for the applicable plan year. Whether an underlying definition of compensation satisfies section 414(s) is determined on a year-by-year basis, based on the provisions of section 414(s) in effect for the applicable plan year and, if relevant, the employer's HCEs and NHCEs for that plan year. See §1.414(s)-1(i) for transition rules for plan years beginning before the effective date applicable to the plan under §1.401(a)(4)-13 (a) or (b). For a plan year or 12-month period beginning before January 1, 1988, any underlying definition of compensation may be used to measure the amount of employees' compensation for purposes of this definition, provided that the definition was nondiscriminatory based on the facts and circumstances in existence for that plan year or for the plan year in which that 12-month period ends.

(2) Determination period for section 414(s) nondiscrimination requirement—(i) General rule. If an underlying definition of compensation must satisfy the nondiscrimination requirement in §1.414(s)-1(d)(3) in order to satisfy section 414(s) for a plan year, any one of the following determination periods may be used to satisfy the nondiscrimination requirement—

(A) The plan year;

(B) The calendar year ending in the plan year; or

(C) The 12-month period ending in the plan year that is used to determine the underlying definition of compensation.

(ii) Exception for partial plan year compensation. Notwithstanding the general rule in paragraph (2)(i) of this definition, if the period for measuring the underlying compensation is the portion of the plan year during which each employee is a participant in the plan (as provided in paragraph (4) of the definition of plan year compensation in this section), that period must be used as the determination period.

(3) Plans using permitted disparity. In the case of a section 401(l) plan or a plan that imputes permitted disparity in accordance with §1.401(a)(4)-7, an underlying definition of compensation is not section 414(s) compensation if the definition results in significant under- inclusion of compensation for employees.

(4) Double proration of service and compensation. If a defined benefit plan prorates benefit accruals as permitted under section 411(b)(4)(B) by crediting less than full years of participation, then compensation for a plan year, 12-month period, or other specified period that is used to determine the amount of an employee's benefits under the plan will not fail to be section 414(s) compensation, merely because the amount of compensation for that period is adjusted to reflect the equivalent of full-time compensation to the extent necessary to satisfy the requirements of 29 CFR 2530.204-2(d) (regarding double proration of service and compensation). This adjustment is disregarded in determining whether the underlying definition of compensation used satisfies the requirements of section 414(s). Thus, for example, if the underlying definition of compensation is an alternative definition that must satisfy the nondiscrimination requirement of §1.414(s)-1(d)(3), in determining whether that requirement is satisfied with regard to the underlying definition, the compensation included for any employee is determined without any adjustment to reflect the equivalent of full-time compensation required by 29 CFR 2530.204-2(d).

Social security supplement. Social security supplement is defined in §1.411(a)-7(c)(4)(ii).

Standard interest rate. Standard interest rate means an interest rate that is neither less than 7.5 percent nor greater than 8.5 percent, compounded annually. The Commissioner may, in revenue rulings, notices, and other guidance of general applicability, change the definition of standard interest rate.

Standard mortality table. Standard mortality table means one of the following tables: the UP-1984 Mortality Table (Unisex); the 1983 Group Annuity Mortality Table (1983 GAM) (Female); the 1983 Group Annuity Mortality Table (1983 GAM) (Male); the 1983 Individual Annuity Mortality Table (1983 IAM) (Female); the 1983 Individual Annuity Mortality Table (1983 IAM) (Male); the 1971 Group Annuity Mortality Table (1971 GAM) (Female); the 1971 Group Annuity Mortality Table (1971 GAM) (Male); the 1971 Individual Annuity Mortality Table (1971 IAM) (Female); or the 1971 Individual Annuity Mortality Table (1971 IAM) (Male). These standard mortality tables are available from the Society of Actuaries, 475 N. Martingale Road, Suite 800, Schaumberg, Illinois 60173. The Commissioner may, in revenue rulings, notices, and other guidance of general applicability, change the definition of standard mortality table. See §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b) of this Chapter. The applicable mortality table under section 417(e)(3)(A)(ii)(I) is also a standard mortality table.

Straight life annuity. Straight life annuity means an annuity payable in equal installments for the life of the employee that terminates upon the employee's death.

Testing age. With respect to an employee, testing age means the age determined for the employee under the following rules:

(1) If the plan provides the same uniform normal retirement age for all employees, the employee's testing age is the employee's normal retirement age under the plan.

(2) If a plan provides different uniform normal retirement ages for different employees or different groups of employees, the employee's testing age is the employee's latest normal retirement age under any uniform normal retirement age under the plan, regardless of whether that particular uniform normal retirement age actually applies to the employee under the plan.

(3) If the plan does not provide a uniform normal retirement age, the employee's testing age is 65.

(4) If an employee is beyond the testing age otherwise determined for the employee under paragraphs (1) through (3) of this definition, the employee's testing age is the employee's current age. The rule in the preceding sentence does not apply in the case of a defined benefit plan that fails to satisfy the requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-3(f)(3)(i) (permitting certain increases in benefits that commence after normal retirement age to be disregarded).

Testing service. Testing service is defined in §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(1)(iv).

Uniform normal retirement age—(1) General rule. Uniform normal retirement age means a single normal retirement age under the plan that does not exceed the maximum age in paragraph (2) of this definition and that is the same for all of the employees in a given group. A group of employees does not fail to have a uniform normal retirement age merely because the plan contains provisions described in paragraphs (3) and (4) of this definition.

(2) Maximum age. The maximum age is generally 65. However, if all employees have the same social security retirement age (within the meaning of section 415(b)(8)), the maximum age is the employees' social security retirement age. Thus, for example, a component plan has a uniform normal retirement age of 67 if it defines normal retirement age as social security retirement age and all employees in the component plan have a social security retirement age of 67.

(3) Stated anniversary date—(i) General rule. A group of employees does not fail to have a uniform normal retirement age merely because the plan provides that the normal retirement age of all employees in the group is the later of a stated age (not exceeding the maximum age in paragraph (2) of this definition) or a stated anniversary no later than the fifth anniversary of the time each employee commenced participation in the plan. For employees who commenced participation in the plan before the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 1988, the stated anniversary date may be later than the anniversary described in the preceding sentence if it is no later than the earlier of the tenth anniversary of the date the employee commenced participation in the plan (or such earlier anniversary selected by the employer, if less than 10) or the fifth anniversary of the first day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 1988.

(ii) Use of service other than anniversary of commencement of participation. In lieu of using a stated anniversary date as permitted under paragraph (3)(i) of this definition, a plan may use a stated number of years of service measured on another basis, provided that the determination is made on a basis that satisfies section 411(a)(8) and that the stated number of years of service does not exceed the number of anniversaries permitted under paragraph (3)(i) of this definition. For example, a uniform normal retirement age could be based on the earlier of the fifth anniversary of the commencement of participation and the completion of five years of vesting service.

(4) Conversion of normal retirement age to normal retirement date. A group of employees does not fail to have a uniform normal retirement age merely because a defined benefit plan provides for the commencement of normal retirement benefits on different retirement dates for different employees if each employee's normal retirement date is determined on a reasonable basis with reference to an otherwise uniform normal retirement age and the difference between the normal retirement date and the uniform normal retirement age cannot exceed six months for any employee. Thus, for example, benefits under a plan do not fail to commence at a uniform normal retirement age of age 62 for purposes of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(2)(i), merely because the plan's normal retirement date is defined as the last day of the plan year nearest attainment of age 62.

Year of service. Year of service means a year of service as defined in the plan for a specific purpose, including the method of crediting service for that purpose under the plan.

[T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46820, Sept. 3, 1993, as amended by T.D. 8954, 66 FR 34545, June 29, 2001]

§1.401(a)(4)-13   Effective dates and fresh-start rules.

(a) General effective dates—(1) In general. Except as otherwise provided in this section, §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13 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), §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13 apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1996.

(3) Compliance during transition period. For plan years beginning before the effective date of these regulations, as set forth in paragraph (a)(1) and (2) of this section, and on or after the first day of the first plan year to which the amendments made to section 410(b) by section 1112(a) of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (TRA '86) apply, a plan must be operated in accordance with a reasonable, good faith interpretation of section 401(a)(4), taking into account pre-existing guidance and the amendments made by TRA '86 to related provisions of the Code (including, for example, sections 401(l), 401(a)(17), and 410(b)). Whether a plan is operated in accordance with a reasonable, good faith interpretation of section 401(a)(4) will generally be determined on the basis of all the relevant facts and circumstances, including the extent to which an employer has resolved unclear issues in its favor. A plan will be deemed to be operated in accordance with a reasonable, good faith interpretation of section 401(a)(4) if it is operated in accordance with the terms of §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13.

(b) 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), §§1.401(a)(4)-1 through 1.401(a)(4)-13 apply to plan years beginning on or after the later of 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 401(a)(4) for plan years before that effective date. For purposes of this paragraph (b), 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.

(c) Fresh-start rules for defined benefit plans—(1) Introduction. This paragraph (c) provides rules that must be satisfied in order to use the fresh-start testing options for defined benefit plans in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(6)(vii) and (d)(3)(iii), relating to the safe harbors and the general test, respectively. Those fresh-start options are designed to allow a plan to be tested without regard to benefits accrued before a selected fresh-start date. To the extent provided in paragraph (d) of this section, those options also may be used to disregard certain increases in benefits attributable to compensation increases after a fresh-start date. Although this paragraph (c) generally requires a plan to be amended to freeze employees' accrued benefits as of a fresh-start date and to provide any additional accrued benefits after the fresh-start date solely in accordance with certain specified formulas, certain of these requirements do not apply to a plan that is tested under the general test of §1.401(a)(4)-3(c). See §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(6)(vii) and (d)(3)(iii).

(2) General rule. A defined benefit plan satisfies this paragraph (c) if—

(i) Accrued benefits of employees in the fresh-start group are frozen as of the fresh-start date in accordance with paragraph (c)(3) of this section;

(ii) Accrued benefits after the fresh-start date for employees in the fresh-start group are determined under one of the fresh-start formulas in paragraph (c)(4) of this section; and

(iii) Paragraph (c)(5) of this section is satisfied.

(3) Definition of frozen—(i) General rule. An employee's accrued benefit under a plan is frozen as of the fresh-start date if it is determined as if the employee terminated employment with the employer as of the fresh-start date (or the date the employee actually terminated employment with the employer, if earlier), and without regard to any amendment to the plan adopted after that date, other than amendments recognized as effective as of or before that date under section 401(b) or §1.401(a)(4)-11(g). The assumption that an employee has terminated employment applies solely for purposes of this paragraph (c)(3). Thus, for example, the fresh start has no effect on the service taken into account for purposes of determining vesting and eligibility for benefits, rights, and features under the plan.

(ii) Permitted compensation adjustments. An employee's accrued benefit under a plan that satisfies paragraph (d) of this section does not fail to be frozen as of the fresh-start date merely because the plan makes the adjustments described in paragraph (d)(7) and (8) of this section with regard to the fresh-start date. In addition, if the frozen accrued benefit of an employee under the plan includes top-heavy minimum benefits, an employee's accrued benefit under a plan does not fail to be frozen as of the fresh-start date merely because the plan increases the frozen accrued benefit of each employee in the fresh-start group solely to the extent necessary to comply with the average compensation requirement of section 416(c)(1)(D)(i).

(iii) Permitted changes in optional forms. An employee's accrued benefit under a plan does not fail to be frozen as of the fresh-start date merely because the plan provides a new optional form of benefit with respect to the frozen accrued benefit, if—

(A) The optional form is provided with respect to each employee's entire accrued benefit (i.e., accrued both before and after the fresh-start date);

(B) The plan provided meaningful coverage as of the fresh-start date, as described in paragraph (d)(4) of this section; and

(C) The plan provides meaningful current benefit accruals as described in paragraph (d)(6) of this section.

(iv) Floor-offset plans. In the case of a plan that was a floor-offset plan described in §1.401(a)(4)-8(d) prior to the fresh-start date, an employee's accrued benefit as of the fresh-start date does not fail to be frozen merely because the actuarial equivalent of the account balance in the defined contribution plan that is offset against the defined benefit plan varies as a result of investment return that is different from the assumed interest rate used to determine the actuarial equivalent of the account balance.

(4) Fresh-start formulas—(i) Formula without wear-away. An employee's accrued benefit under the plan is equal to the sum of—

(A) The employee's frozen accrued benefit; and

(B) The employee's accrued benefit determined under the formula applicable to benefit accruals in the current plan year (current formula) as applied to the employee's years of service after the fresh-start date.

(ii) Formula with wear-away. An employee's accrued benefit under the plan is equal to the greater of—

(A) The employee's frozen accrued benefit; or

(B) The employee's accrued benefit determined under the current formula as applied to the employee's total years of service (before and after the fresh-start date) taken into account under the current formula.

(iii) Formula with extended wear-away. An employee's accrued benefit under the plan is equal to the greater of—

(A) The amount determined under paragraph (c)(4)(i) of this section; or

(B) The amount determined under paragraph (c)(4)(ii)(B) of this section.

(5) Rules of application—(i) Consistency requirement. This paragraph (c)(5) is not satisfied unless the fresh-start rules in this paragraph (c) (and paragraph (d) of this section, if applicable) are applied consistently to all employees in the fresh-start group. Thus, for example, the same fresh-start date and fresh-start formula (within the meaning of paragraph (c)(4) of this section) must apply to all employees in the fresh-start group. Similarly, if a plan makes a fresh start for all employees with accrued benefits on the fresh-start date and, for a later plan year, is aggregated for purposes of section 401(a)(4) with another plan that did not make the same fresh start, the aggregated plan must make a new fresh start in order to use the fresh-start rules for that later plan year or any subsequent plan year.

(ii) Definition of fresh-start group. Generally, the fresh-start group with respect to a fresh start consists of all employees who have accrued benefits as of the fresh-start date and have at least one hour of service with the employer after that date. However, a fresh-start group with respect to a fresh start may consist exclusively of all employees who have accrued benefits as of the fresh-start date, have at least one hour of service with the employer after that date, and are—

(A) Section 401(a)(17) employees;

(B) Members of an acquired group of employees (provided the fresh-start date is the date determined under paragraph (c)(5)(iii)(B) of this section); or

(C) Employees with a frozen accrued benefit that is attributable to assets and liabilities transferred to the plan as of a fresh-start date in connection with the transfer (provided the fresh-start date is the date determined under paragraph (c)(5)(iii)(C) of this section) and for whom the current formula is different from the formula used to determine the frozen accrued benefit.

(iii) Definition of fresh-start date. Generally, the fresh-start date is the last day of a plan year. However, a plan may use a fresh-start date other than the last day of the plan year if—

(A) The plan satisfied the safe harbor rules of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b) for the period from the beginning of the plan year through the fresh-start date;

(B) The fresh-start group is an acquired group of employees, and the fresh-start date is the latest date of hire or transfer into an acquired trade or business selected by the employer for any employees to be included in the acquired group of employees; or

(C) The fresh-start group is the group of employees with a frozen accrued benefit that is attributable to assets and liabilities transferred to the plan and the fresh-start date is the date as of which the employees begin accruing benefits under the plan.

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

Example 1. (a) Employer X maintains a defined benefit plan with a calendar plan year. The plan formula provides an employee with a normal retirement benefit at age 65 of one percent of average annual compensation up to covered compensation multiplied by the employee's years of service for Employer X, plus 1.5 percent of average annual compensation in excess of covered compensation, multiplied by the employee's years of service for Employer X up to 40.

(b) For plan years beginning after 1994, Employer X amends the plan formula to provide a normal retirement benefit of 0.75 percent of average annual compensation up to covered compensation multiplied by the employee's total years of service for Employer X up to 35, plus 1.4 percent of average annual compensation in excess of covered compensation multiplied by the employee's years of service for Employer X up to 35. For plan years after 1994, each employee's accrued benefit is determined under the fresh-start formula in paragraph (c)(4)(iii) of this section (formula with extended wear-away), using December 31, 1994, as the fresh-start date.

(c) As of December 31, 1994, Employee M has 10 years of service for Employer X, has average annual compensation of $38,000, and has covered compensation of $30,000. Employee M's accrued benefit as of December 31, 1994, is therefore $4,200 ((1 percent×$30,000×10 years)+(1.5 percent×$8,000×10 years)). As of December 31, 1995, Employee M has 11 years of service for Employer X, has average annual compensation of $40,000 (determined by taking into account compensation before and after the fresh-start date), and has covered compensation of $32,000. Employee M's accrued benefit as of December 31, 1995, is $4,552, the greater of—

(1) $4,552, the sum of Employee M's accrued benefit frozen as of December 31, 1994, ($4,200) and the amended formula applied to Employee M's years of service after 1994 ((0.75 percent×$32,000×1 year)+(1.4 percent×$8,000×1 year), or $352); or

(2) $3,872, the amended formula applied to Employee M's total years of service ((0.75 percent×$32,000×11 years)+(1.4 percent×$8,000×11 years)).

Example 2. (a) Employer Y maintains a defined benefit plan, Plan A, that has a calendar plan year. For the 1995 plan year, Plan A satisfies the requirements for a safe harbor plan in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b). Employer Y selects a date in 1995 for all the employees, freezes the employees' accrued benefits as of that date under the rules of paragraph (c)(3) of this section, and, in accordance with the rules of this paragraph (c), amends Plan A to determine benefits for all employees after that date using the formula with wear-away described in paragraph (c)(4)(ii) of this section. The new benefit formula would satisfy the requirements for a safe harbor plan in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b) if all accrued benefits were determined under it.

(b) Because Plan A satisfied the requirements for a safe harbor plan for the period from the beginning of the plan year through the selected date, paragraph (c)(5)(iii)(A) of this section permits the selected date to be a fresh-start date, even if it is not the last day of the plan year. Thus, Plan A satisfies the requirements in this paragraph (c) for a fresh start as of the fresh-start date.

(c) Under §1.401(a)(4)-3(b)(6)(vii), a plan does not fail to satisfy the requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b), merely because of benefits accrued under a different formula prior to a fresh-start date. Thus, Plan A still satisfies the safe harbor requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b) after the amendment to the benefit formula. Because Plan A satisfied the requirements for a safe harbor plan for the period from the beginning of the plan year, taking the amendment into account, Employer Y may select any date within the plan year (which may be the same date as the first fresh-start date) and apply the fresh-start rules in this paragraph (c) a second time as of that date.

(d) Compensation adjustments to frozen accrued benefits—(1) Introduction. In addition to the fresh-start rules in paragraph (c) of this section, this paragraph (d) sets forth requirements that must be satisfied in order for a plan to disregard increases in benefits accrued as of a fresh-start date that are attributable to increases in employees' compensation after the fresh-start date.

(2) In general. In the case of a defined benefit plan that is tested under the safe harbors in §1.401(a)(4)-3(b) or §1.401(a)(4)-8(c)(3), an employee's adjusted accrued benefit (determined under the rules in paragraph (d)(8) of this section) may be substituted for the employee's frozen accrued benefit in applying the formulas in paragraph (c)(4) of this section (or paragraph (f)(2) of this section, if applicable) if paragraphs (d)(3) through (d)(7) of this section are satisfied. Thus, for example, in determining whether such a plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-3(b), any compensation adjustments to the employee's frozen accrued benefit described in paragraph (d)(8) of this section are disregarded. Similarly, in the case of a defined benefit plan tested under the general test in §1.401(a)(4)-3(c), the compensation adjustments described in paragraph (d)(8) of this section may be disregarded under the rules of §1.401(a)(4)-3(d)(3)(iii) if paragraphs (d)(3) through (d)(7) of this section are satisfied. Of course, any increases in accrued benefits exceeding these adjustments must be taken into account under the general test, and a plan providing such excess increases generally will fail to satisfy the safe harbor requirements of §1.401(a)(4)-3(b). Where paragraphs (d)(3) through (d)(7) of this section are satisfied with respect to a plan as of the fresh-start date, but one or more of those paragraphs fail to be satisfied for a later plan year, further compensation adjustments described in paragraph (d)(8) of this section may not be disregarded in testing the plan under §1.401(a)(4)-3.

(3) Plan requirements—(i) Pre-fresh-start date. As of the fresh-start date, the plan must have contained a benefit formula under which benefits of each employee in the fresh-start group that are accrued as of the fresh-start date and are attributable to service before the fresh-start date would be affected by the employee's compensation after the fresh-start date. A plan satisfies this requirement, for example, if it based benefits on an employee's highest average pay over a fixed period of years or on an employee's average pay over the employee's entire career with the employer. A plan does not satisfy this paragraph (d)(3)(i) if the Commissioner determines, based on all of the relevant facts and circumstances, that the plan provision described in the first sentence of this paragraph (d)(3) was added primarily in order to provide additional benefits to HCEs that are disregarded under the special testing rules described in this paragraph (d).

(ii) Post-fresh-start date. The plan by its terms must provide that the accrued benefits of each employee in the fresh-start group after the fresh-start date be at least equal to the employee's adjusted accrued benefit (i.e., the frozen accrued benefit as of the fresh-start date, adjusted as provided under paragraph (d)(7) of this section, plus the compensation adjustments described in paragraph (d)(8) of this section).

(4) Meaningful coverage as of fresh-start date. The plan must have provided meaningful coverage as of the fresh-start date. A plan provided meaningful coverage as of the fresh-start date if the group of employees with accrued benefits under the plan as of the fresh-start date satisfied the minimum coverage requirements of section 410(b) as in effect on that date (determined without regard to section 410(b)(6)(C)). In order to satisfy the requirement in the preceding sentence, an employer may amend the plan to grant past service credit under the formula in effect as of the fresh-start date to NHCEs, if the amount of past service granted them is reasonably comparable, on average, to the amount of past service HCEs have under the plan. Any benefit increase that results from the grant of past service credit to a NHCE under this paragraph (d)(4) is included in the employee's frozen accrued benefit.

(5) Meaningful ongoing coverage—(i) General rule. The fresh-start group must have satisfied the minimum coverage requirements of section 410(b) for all plan years from the first plan year beginning after the fresh-start date through the current plan year. Thus, if a fresh-start group fails to satisfy the minimum coverage requirements of section 410(b) for any plan year, this paragraph (d)(5) is not satisfied for that plan year or any subsequent plan year; however, such a failure is not taken into account in determining whether this paragraph (d)(5) is satisfied for any previous plan year.

(ii) Alternative rules. Notwithstanding paragraph (d)(5)(i) of this section, a fresh-start group is deemed to satisfy this paragraph (d)(5) for all plan years following the fresh-start date if any one of the following requirements is satisfied:

(A) Section 410(b) coverage for first five years. The fresh-start group must have satisfied the minimum coverage requirements of section 410(b) for the first five plan years beginning after the fresh-start date.

(B) Ratio percentage coverage as of fresh-start date. The fresh-start group must have satisfied the ratio percentage test of §1.410(b)-2(b)(2) as of the fresh-start date.

(C) Fresh start for acquired group of employees. The fresh-start group must consist of an acquired group of employees that satisfied the minimum coverage requirements of section 410(b) (determined without regard to section 410(b)(6)(C)) as of the fresh-start date.

(D) Fresh start before applicable effective date. The fresh-start date with respect to the fresh-start group must have been on or before the effective date applicable to the plan under paragraph (a) or (b) of this section.

(6) Meaningful current benefit accruals. The benefit formula and accrual method under the plan that applies to the fresh-start group in the aggregate must provide benefit accruals in the current plan year (other than increases in benefits accrued as of the fresh-start date) at a rate that is meaningful in comparison to the rate at which benefits accrued for the fresh-start group in plan years beginning before the fresh-start date. Whether this requirement is satisfied with respect to a fresh-start group that does not include all employees in the plan with an hour of service after the fresh-start date may be determined taking into account the rate at which benefits are provided to other employees in the plan.

(7) Minimum benefit adjustment—(i) In general. In the case of a section 401(l) plan or a plan that imputes disparity under §1.401(a)(4)-7, the plan must make the minimum benefit adjustment described in paragraph (d)(7)(ii) or (iii) of this section.

(ii) Excess or offset plans. In the case of a plan that is a defined benefit excess plan as of the fresh-start date, each employee's frozen accrued benefit is adjusted so that the base benefit percentage is not less than 50 percent of the excess benefit percentage. In the case of a plan that is a PIA offset plan (as defined in paragraph (2)(iii) of the definition of QSUPP in §1.401(a)(4)-12) as of the fresh-start date, each employee's offset as applied to determine the frozen accrued benefit is adjusted so that it does not exceed 50 percent of the benefit determined without applying the offset.

(iii) Other plans. In the case of a plan that is not described in paragraph (d)(7)(ii) of this section, each employee's frozen accrued benefit is adjusted in a manner that is economically equivalent to the adjustment required under that paragraph, taking into account the plan's benefit formula, accrual rate, and relevant employee factors, such as period of service.

(8) Adjusted accrued benefit—(i) General rule. The term adjusted accrued benefit means an employee's frozen accrued benefit that is adjusted as provided in paragraph (d)(7) of this section and then multiplied by a fraction (not less than one), the numerator of which is the employee's compensation for the current plan year and the denominator of which is the employee's compensation as of the fresh-start date determined under the same definition. For purposes of this adjustment, the compensation definition must be either the same compensation definition and formula used to determine the frozen accrued benefit or average annual compensation (determined without regard to §1.401(a)(4)-3(e)(2)(ii)(A) (use of plan year compensation)).

(ii) Alternative formula for pre-effective-date fresh starts. In the case of a fresh-start date before the effective date that applies to the plan under paragraph (a) or (b) of this section, the adjusted accrued benefit may be determined by multiplying the frozen accrued benefit by a fraction (not less than one) determined under this paragraph (d)(8)(ii). The numerator of the fraction is the employee's average annual compensation for the current plan year. The denominator of the fraction is the employee's reconstructed average annual compensation as of the fresh-start date. An employee's reconstructed average annual compensation is determined by—

(A) Selecting a single plan year beginning after the fresh-start date but beginning not later than the last day of the first plan year to which these regulations apply under paragraph (a) or (b) of this section;

(B) Determining the employee's average annual compensation for the selected plan year under the same method used to determine the employee's average annual compensation for the current plan year under this paragraph (d)(8)(ii); and

(C) Multiplying the employee's average annual compensation for the selected plan year by a fraction, the numerator of which is the employee's compensation as of the fresh-start date determined under the same compensation definition and formula used to determine the employee's frozen accrued benefit and the denominator of which is the employee's compensation for the selected plan year determined under the compensation definition and formula used to determine the employee's frozen accrued benefit.

(iii) Effect of section 401(a)(17). In determining the numerators and the denominators of the fractions described in this paragraph (d)(8), the annual compensation limit under section 401(a)(17) generally applies. See, however, §1.401(a)(17)-1(e)(4) for special rules applicable to section 401(a)(17) employees.

(iv) Option to make less than the full permitted adjustment. A plan may limit the increase in an employee's frozen accrued benefit for the current and all future years to a percentage (not more than 100 percent) of the increase otherwise provided under this paragraph (d)(8). Furthermore, the plan may, at any time, terminate all future adjustments permitted under this paragraph (d).

(v) Alternative determination of adjusted accrued benefit. In lieu of applying the fractions in paragraph (d)(8)(i) or (ii) of this section, a plan may determine an employee's adjusted accrued benefit by substituting the employee's compensation for the current plan year (determined under the same compensation formula and underlying definition of compensation used to determine the employee's frozen accrued benefit) in the benefit formula used to determine the frozen accrued benefit. For this purpose, insignificant changes in the underlying definition of compensation to reflect current compensation practices will not be treated as a change in the definition of compensation. A plan may apply the alternative in this paragraph (d)(8)(v), only if it is reasonable to expect as of the fresh-start date that, over time, the use of this method instead of the general rule of paragraph (d)(8)(i) will not discriminate significantly in favor of HCEs.

(9) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules of this paragraph (d).

Example 1. (a) Employer X maintains a defined benefit plan that is an excess plan with a calendar plan year. For plan years before 1989, the plan is integrated with benefits provided under the Social Security Act, providing each employee with a normal retirement benefit equal to one percent of the employee's average annual compensation in excess of the employee's covered compensation, multiplied by the employee's years of service for Employer X. The benefit formula thus provides no benefit with respect to average annual compensation up to covered compensation.

(b) As of December 31, 1988, Employee M has 10 years of service for Employer X and has covered compensation of $25,000 and average annual compensation of $20,000. Employee M's average annual compensation has never exceeded $20,000. Therefore, as of December 31, 1988, Employee M's accrued benefit under the plan is zero.

(c) Effective with the 1989 plan year, the plan is amended to provide each employee with a normal retirement benefit of 0.6 percent of average annual compensation up to covered compensation plus 1.2 percent of average annual compensation in excess of covered compensation, multiplied by the employee's years of service up to 35. The plan also provides that, for plan years after 1988, each employee's accrued benefit is determined under the formula in paragraph (c)(4)(i) of this section (formula without wear-away) and, in applying the fresh-start formula, each employee's frozen accrued benefit under paragraph (c)(4)(i) of this section will be adjusted under this paragraph (d), using the same compensation definition and formula used to determine the frozen accrued benefit under paragraph (d)(8)(i) of this section.

(d) The plan uses the permitted disparity of section 401(l) and thus must also make the minimum benefit adjustment under paragraph (d)(7) of this section. Because the excess benefit percentage under the plan for years before 1989 was one percent, the plan must provide a base benefit percentage for those years of at least 0.5 percent. After the minimum benefit adjustment, Employee M's accrued benefit as of December 31, 1988, is $1,000 (0.5 percent×$20,000×10 years).

(e) As of December 31, 1992, Employee M has 14 years of service and has covered compensation of $30,000 and average annual compensation of $35,000. Employee M's adjusted accrued benefit as of December 31, 1992, is $1,750 ($1,000×$35,000/$20,000), and Employee M's accrued benefit as of December 31, 1992, is $2,710 (the sum of $1,750 plus $960 ((0.6 percent×$30,000×4 years) plus (1.2 percent×$5,000×4 years))).

Example 2. (a) The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that in determining adjusted accrued benefits, the plan specifies the alternative method of paragraph (d)(8)(v) of this section. This method may be used because it is reasonable to expect as of the fresh-start date that, over time, the use of this method instead of the general rule of paragraph (d)(8)(i) will not discriminate significantly in favor of HCEs.

(b) As of December 31, 1992, Employee M's adjusted accrued benefit is $2,000 (10 years of service prior to the fresh-start date×(0.5 percent of $30,000+1.0 percent of the excess of $35,000 over $30,000)).

(c) Alternatively, Employer X may choose to use the method of paragraph (d)(8)(v) of this section but freezes the covered compensation level at the dollar level in place as of the fresh-start date. In such case, Employee M's adjusted accrued benefit as of December 31, 1992, would have been $2,250 (10 years of service prior to the fresh-start date×(0.5 percent of $25,000+1.0 percent of the excess of $35,000 over $25,000)). This method may be used because it is reasonable to expect as of the fresh-start date that, over time, the use of this method instead of the general rule of paragraph (d)(8)(i) will not discriminate significantly in favor of HCEs.

Example 3. (a) The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that for plan years before 1989, the plan provided a minimum benefit to certain employees equal to $120 per year of service. Employee M is entitled to the minimum benefit, and thus, Employee M's frozen accrued benefit as of December 31, 1988 was $1,200 (the greater of 10 years of service×$120 and $1,000, Employee M's benefit under the underlying formula, after the minimum benefit adjustment of paragraph (d)(7) of this section).

(b) Employer X's plan specifies instead the alternative method of adjusting accrued benefits described in paragraph (d)(8)(v) of this section. (The fact that a minimum benefit applying to certain employees is not adjusted under the alternative method of paragraph (d)(8)(v) of this section, but would be adjusted under the general rule of paragraph (d)(8)(i) of this section does not change the conclusion in Example 2, that the plan may apply the alternative method).

(e) Determination of initial theoretical reserve for target benefit plans—(1) General rule. In the case of a target benefit plan the stated benefit formula under which takes into account service for years in which the plan did not satisfy §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(3), as permitted under §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(3)(vii), the theoretical reserve as of the determination date for the last plan year beginning before the first day of the first plan year in which the plan satisfies §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(3) of an employee who was a participant in the plan on that determination date, is determined as follows:

(i) Determine the actuarial present value, as of that determination date, of the stated benefit that the employee is projected to have at the employee's normal retirement age, using the actuarial assumptions, the provisions of the plan, and the employee's compensation as of that determination date. For an employee whose attained age equals or exceeds the employee's normal retirement age, determine the actuarial present value of the employee's stated benefit at the employee's current age, but using an immediate straight life annuity factor for an employee whose attained age equals the employee's normal retirement age.

(ii) Calculate the actuarial present value of future required employer contributions (without regard to limitations under section 415 or additional contributions described in §1.401(a)(4)-8(b)(3)(v)) as of that determination date (i.e., the actuarial present value of the level contributions due for each plan year through the end of the plan year in which the employee attains normal retirement age). This calculation is made assuming that the required contribution in each future year will be equal to the required contribution for the plan year that includes that determination date, and applying the interest rate that was used in determining that required contribution.

(iii) Determine the excess, if any, of the amount determined in paragraph (e)(1)(i) of this section over the amount determined in paragraph (e)(1)(ii) of this section. This excess is the employee's theoretical reserve on that determination date.

(2) Example. The following example illustrates the determination of an employee's theoretical reserve.

Example. (a) A target benefit plan was adopted and in effect before September 19, 1991, and satisfied the requirements of Rev. Rul. 76-464, 1976-2 C.B. 115, with respect to all years credited under the stated benefit formula through 1993. The plan provides a stated benefit equal to 40 percent of compensation, payable annually as a straight life annuity beginning at normal retirement age. Normal retirement age under the plan is 65. The stated interest rate under the plan is six percent. The determination date for required contributions under the plan is the last day of the plan year. Employee M is 38 years old on the determination date for the 1993 plan year, has participated in the plan for five years, and has compensation equal to $60,000 in 1993. The amount of employer contribution to Employee M's account for 1993 was $2,468.

(b) Under these facts, Employee M's theoretical reserve is equal to $13,909, calculated as follows:

(1) The actuarial present value of Employee M's stated benefit is calculated using the actuarial assumptions, provisions of the plan and Employee M's compensation as of the determination date for the 1993 plan year. This amount is equal to $46,512, Employee M's stated benefit of $24,000 ($60,000 multiplied by 40 percent), multiplied by 1.938, the actuarial present value factor applicable to a participant who is 38 years old using a stated interest rate of six percent.

(2) The actuarial present value of future employer contributions is calculated assuming that the required contribution in each future year will be equal to the required contribution for the 1993 plan year and assuming the same interest rate as was used in determining that contribution. This amount is equal to $32,603, which is equal to the amount of the level annual employer contribution ($2,468) multiplied by a factor of 13.2105 (the temporary annuity factor for a period of 27 years, assuming the six percent interest rate that was used to determine the required employer contribution).

(3) Employee M's theoretical reserve is $13,909, the excess of the amount determined in paragraph (b)(1) of this Example over the amount determined in paragraph (b)(2) of this Example.

(f) Special fresh-start rules for cash balance plans—(1) In general. In order to satisfy the optional testing method of §1.401(a)(4)-8(c)(3) after a fresh-start date, a cash balance plan must apply the rules of paragraph (c) of this section as modified under this paragraph (f). Paragraph (f)(2) of this section provides an alternative formula that may be used in addition to the formulas in paragraphs (c)(2) through (c)(4) of this section. Paragraph (f)(3) of this section sets forth certain limitations on use of the formulas in paragraph (c) or (f)(2) of this section.

(2) Alternative formula—(i) In general. An employee's accrued benefit under the plan is equal to the greater of—

(A) The employee's frozen accrued benefit, or

(B) The employee's accrued benefit determined under the plan's benefit formula applicable to benefit accruals in the current plan year as applied to years of service after the fresh-start date, modified in accordance with paragraph (f)(2)(ii) of this section.

(ii) Addition of opening hypothetical account. As of the first day after the fresh-start date, the plan must credit each employee's hypothetical account with an amount equal to the employee's opening hypothetical account (determined under paragraph (f)(2)(iii) of this section), adjusted for interest for the period that begins on the first day after the fresh-start date and that ends at normal retirement age. The interest adjustment in the preceding sentence must be made using the same interest rate applied to the hypothetical allocation for the first plan year beginning after the fresh-start date.

(iii) Determination of opening hypothetical account—(A) General rule. An employee's opening hypothetical account equals the actuarial present value of the employee's frozen accrued benefit as of the fresh-start date. For this purpose, if the plan provides for a single sum distribution as of the fresh-start date, the actuarial present value of the employee's frozen accrued benefit as of the fresh-start date equals the amount of a single sum distribution payable under the plan on that date, assuming that the employee terminated employment on the fresh-start date, the employee's accrued benefit was 100-percent vested, and the employee satisfied all eligibility requirements under the plan for the single sum distribution. If the plan does not offer a single sum distribution as of the fresh-start date, the actuarial present value of the employee's frozen accrued benefit as of the fresh-start date must be determined using a standard mortality table and the applicable section 417(e) rates, as defined in §1.417(e)-1(d).

(B) Alternative opening hypothetical account. Alternatively, the employee's opening hypothetical account is the greater of the opening hypothetical account determined under paragraph (f)(2)(ii)(A) of this section and the employee's hypothetical account as of the fresh-start date determined in accordance with §1.401(a)(4)-8(c)(3)(v)(A) calculated under the plan's benefit formula applicable to benefit accruals in the current plan year as applied to the employee's total years of service through the fresh-start date in a manner that satisfies the past service credit rules of §1.401(a)(4)-8(c)(3)(viii).

(3) Limitations on formulas—(i) Past service restriction. If the plan does not satisfy the uniform hypothetical allocation formula requirement of §1.401(a)(4)-8(c)(3)(iii)(B) as of the fresh-start date, under §1.401(a)(4)-8(c)(3)(viii) the plan may not provide for past service credits, and thus may not use the formula in paragraph (c)(3) of this section (formula with wear-away), the formula in paragraph (c)(4) of this section (formula with extended wear-away), or the alternative determination of the opening hypothetical account in paragraph (f)(2)(iii)(B) of this section.

(ii) Change in interest rate. If the interest rate used to adjust employees' hypothetical allocations under §1.401(a)(4)-8(c)(3)(iv) for the plan year is different from the interest rate used for this purpose in the immediately preceding plan year, the plan must use the formula in paragraph (c)(2) of this section (formula without wear-away).

(iii) Meaningful benefit requirement. A plan is permitted to use the formula provided in paragraph (f)(2) of this section only if the plan satisfies paragraphs (d)(3) through (d)(5) of this section (regarding coverage as of fresh-start date, current benefit accruals, and minimum benefit adjustment, respectively).

[T.D. 8360, 56 FR 47598, Sept. 19, 1991; 57 FR 4721, Feb. 7, 1992; 57 FR 10953, Mar. 31, 1992, as amended by T.D. 8485, 58 FR 46823, Sept. 3, 1993]

§1.401(a)(5)-1   Special rules relating to nondiscrimination requirements.

(a) In general. Section 401(a)(5) sets out certain provisions that will not of themselves be discriminatory within the meaning of section 410(b)(2)(A)(i) or section 401(a)(4). The exceptions specified in section 401(a)(5) are not an exclusive enumeration, but are merely a recital of provisions frequently encountered that will not of themselves constitute prohibited discrimination in contributions or benefits. See section 401(a)(4) and the regulations thereunder for the basic nondiscrimination rules. See §1.410(b)-4 for the rule of section 410(b)(2)(A)(i) (relating to the nondiscriminatory classification test that is part of the minimum coverage requirements) referred to in section 401(a)(5)(A). See paragraphs (b) through (f) of this section for special rules used in applying the section 401(a)(4) nondiscrimination requirements under the remaining provisions of section 401(a)(5).

(b) Salaried or clerical employees. A plan does not fail to satisfy the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4) merely because contributions or benefits provided under the plan are limited to salaried or clerical employees.

(c) Uniform relationship to compensation. A plan does not fail to satisfy the nondiscrimination requirements of section 401(a)(4) merely because the contributions or benefits of, or on behalf of, the employees under the plan bear a uniform relationship to the compensation (within the meaning of section 414(s)) of those employees.

(d) Certain disparity permitted. Under section 401(a)(5)(C), a plan does not discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees (as defined in section 414(q)), within the meaning of section 401(a)(4), in the amount of employer-provided contributions or benefits solely because—

(1) In the case of a defined contribution plan, employer contributions allocated to the accounts of employees favor highly compensated employees in a manner permitted by section 401(l) (relating to permitted disparity in plan contributions and benefits), and

(2) In the case of a defined benefit plan, employer-provided benefits favor highly compensated employees in a manner permitted by section 401(l) (relating to permitted disparity in plan contributions and benefits).

See §§1.401(l)-1 through 1.401(l)-6 for rules under which a plan may satisfy section 401(l) for purposes of the safe harbors of §§1.401(a)(4)-2(b)(3) and 1.401(a)(4)-3(b).

(e) Defined benefit plans integrated with social security—(1) In general. Under section 401(a)(5)(D), a defined benefit plan does not discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees (as defined in section 414(q)) with respect to the amount of employer-provided contributions or benefits solely because the plan provides that, with respect to each employee, the employer-provided accrued retirement benefit under the plan is limited to the excess (if any) of—

(i) The employee's final pay from the employer, over

(ii) The employer-provided retirement benefit created under the Social Security Act and attributable to service by the employee for the employer.

(2) Final pay. For purposes of paragraph (e)(1)(i) of this section, an employee's final pay from the employer as of a plan year is the employee's compensation (as defined in section 414(q)(7)) for the year (ending with or within the 5-plan-year period ending with the plan year in which the employee terminates from employment with the employer) in which the employee receives the highest compensation from the employer. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, final pay for each employee under the plan may be determined with reference to the 5-plan-year period ending with the plan year before the plan year in which the employee terminates from employment with the employer. In determining an employee's final pay, the plan may specify any 12-month period (ending with or within the applicable 5-plan-year period) as a year provided the specified 12-month period is uniformly and consistently applied with respect to all employees. In determining an employee's final pay, compensation for any year in excess of the applicable limit under section 401(a)(17) for the year may not be taken into account.

(3) Rules for determining amount of employer-provided social security retirement benefit. For purposes of paragraph (e)(1)(ii) of this section, the following rules apply.

(i) The employer-provided retirement benefit on which any reduction or offset in the employee's accrued retirement benefit is based is limited solely to the employer-provided primary insurance amount payable under section 215 of the Social Security Act attributable to service by the employee for the employer.

(ii) The employer-provided primary insurance amount attributable to service by the employee for the employer is determined by multiplying the employer-provided portion of the employee's projected primary insurance amount by a fraction (not exceeding 1), the numerator of which is the employee's number of complete years of covered service for the employer under the Social Security Act, and the denominator of which is 35.

(4) Projected primary insurance amount. (i) As of a plan year, an employee's projected primary insurance amount is the primary insurance amount, determined as of the close of the plan year (the “determination date”), payable to the employee upon attainment of the employee's social security retirement age (as determined under section 415(b)(8)), assuming the employee's annual compensation from the employer that is treated as wages for purposes of the Social Security Act remains the same from the plan year until the employee's attainment of social security retirement age. With respect to service by the employee for the employer before the determination date, the actual compensation paid to the employee by the employer during all periods of service of the employee for the employer covered by the Social Security Act must be used in determining an employee's projected primary insurance amount. With respect to years before the employee's commencement of service for the employer, in determining the employee's projected primary insurance amount, it may be assumed that the employee received compensation in an amount computed by using a six-percent salary scale projected backwards from the determination date to the employee's 21st birthday. However, if the employee provides the employer with satisfactory evidence of the employee's actual past compensation for the prior years treated as wages under the Social Security Act at the time the compensation was earned and the actual past compensation results in a smaller projected primary insurance amount, the plan must use the actual past compensation. The plan administrator must give clear written notice to each employee of the employee's right to supply actual compensation history and of the financial consequences of failing to supply the history. The notice must be given each time the summary plan description is provided to the employee and must also be given upon the employee's separation from service. The notice must also state that the employee can obtain the actual compensation history from the Social Security Administration. In determining the employee's projected primary insurance amount, the employer may not take into account any compensation from any other employer while the employee is employed by the employer.

(ii) As of a plan year, the employer-provided portion of the employee's projected primary insurance amount under the Social Security Act is 50 percent of the employee's projected primary insurance amount (as determined under paragraph (e)(4)(i) of this section).

(5) Employer-provided accrued retirement benefit. For purposes of this section, the employee's employer-provided accrued retirement benefit as of a plan year is the employee's accrued retirement benefit under the plan (determined on an actual basis and not on a projected basis) attributable to employer contributions under the plan. With respect to plans that provide for employee contributions, see section 411(c) for rules relating to the allocation of accrued benefits between employer contributions and employee contributions.

(6) Additional rules. (i) As of a plan year, paragraph (e)(1) of this section does not apply to the extent that its application would result in a decrease in an employee's accrued benefit. See sections 411(b)(1)(G) and 411(d)(6).

(ii) Section 401(a)(5)(D) and this paragraph (e) do not apply to a plan maintained by an employer, determined for purposes of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act or the Railroad Retirement Tax Act, as applicable, that does not pay any wages within the meaning of section 3121(a) or compensation within the meaning of section 3231(e). For this purpose, a plan maintained for a self-employed individual within the meaning of section 401(c)(1), who is also subject to the tax under section 1401, is deemed to be a plan maintained by an employer that pays wages within the meaning of section 3121(a).

(iii) If a plan provides for the payment of an employee's accrued retirement benefit (whether or not subsidized) commencing before an employee's social security retirement age, the projected employer-provided primary insurance amount attributable to service by the employee for the employer (as determined under paragraphs (e)(3) and (e)(4) of this section) that may be applied as an offset to limit the employee's accrued retirement benefit must be reduced in accordance with §1.401(l)-3(e)(1). The reduction is made by multiplying the employee's projected employer-provided primary insurance amount by a fraction, the numerator of which is the appropriate factor under §1.401(l)-3(e)(1), and the denominator of which is 0.75 percent.

(iv) The Commissioner may, in revenue rulings, notices or other documents of general applicability, prescribe additional rules that may be necessary or appropriate to carry out the purposes of this section, including rules relating to the determination of an employee's projected primary insurance amount attributable to the employee's service for former employers and rules applying section 401(a)(5)(D) with respect to an employer that pays wages within the meaning of section 3121(a) or compensation within the meaning of section 3231(e) for some years and not for other years.

(7) Examples. The following examples illustrate this paragraph (e).

Example 1. Employer Z maintains a noncontributory defined benefit plan that uses the calendar year as its plan year. The plan provides a normal retirement benefit, commencing at age 65, equal to $500 a year, multiplied by the employee's years of service for Z, limited to the excess of the amount of the employee's final pay from Z (as determined in accordance with paragraph (e)(2) of this section) over the employee's employer-provided primary insurance amount attributable to the employee's service for Z. If an employee's social security retirement age is greater than 65, the plan provides for reduction of the employee's employer-provided primary insurance amount in accordance with paragraph (e)(6)(iii) of this section. The plan provides no limitation on the number of years of service taken into account in determining benefits under the plan. Employee A retires on July 6, 1995, at A's social security retirement age of 65 with 35 years of service for Z. The plan uses the plan year as the 12- month period for determining an employee's year of final highest pay from the employer. A's compensation for A's final 5 plan years is as follows:
1995 plan year$10,500
1994 plan year$20,000
1993 plan year$18,000
1992 plan year$17,000
1991 plan year$16,500
A's annual primary insurance amount under social security, determined as of A's social security retirement age, is $9,000, of which $4,500 is the employer-provided portion attributable to A's service for Z ($9,000×50 percent×35/35). Under the plan's benefit formula (disregarding the final pay limitation), A would be entitled to receive a normal retirement benefit of $17,500 ($500×35 years). However, under the plan, A's otherwise determined normal retirement benefit of $17,500 is limited to the excess of the amount of A's final pay from Z over A's employer-provided primary insurance amount under social security attributable to A's service for Z. Accordingly, A's normal retirement benefit is determined to be $15,500 ($20,000 (A's final pay from Z) less $4,500 (A's employer-provided primary insurance amount attributable to A's service for Z)) rather than $17,500. The final pay limitation in Z's plan satisfies section 401(a)(5)(D) and this paragraph (e). Accordingly, the plan maintained by Z does not discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees within the meaning of section 401(a)(4) merely because of the final pay limitation contained in the plan.
Example 2. Assume the same facts as in Example 1, except that A has 32 years of service for Z when A retires at A's social security retirement age. Under the plan's benefit formula (disregarding the final pay limitation), A would be entitled to receive an annual normal retirement benefit of $16,000 ($500×32 years). However, the plan provides that A's normal retirement benefit of $16,000 will be limited to $15,500 ($20,000 (the amount of A's final pay from Z) less $4,500 ( 12 of A's primary insurance amount under the Social Security Act)). The final pay limitation does not satisfy this paragraph (e). The portion of A's employer-provided primary insurance amount under the Social Security Act attributable to A's service for Z is 32/35×$4,500, or $4,114. Therefore, to satisfy this paragraph (e), the final pay provision in Z's plan may not limit A's otherwise determined normal retirement benefit of $16,000 to less than $15,886 ($20,000 (the amount of X's final pay) minus $4,114 (the portion of A's employer-provided primary insurance amount attributable to A's service for Z)).
Example 3. (a) Employer X maintains a noncontributory defined benefit plan that uses the calendar year as its plan year. The formula for determining benefits under the plan provides a normal retirement benefit at age 65 equal to 90 percent of an employee's final average compensation, with the benefit reduced by 130 th for each year of the employee's service less than 30 and limited to the employee's final pay (as determined in accordance with paragraph (e)(2) of this section) less the employee's employer-provided primary insurance amount under social security attributable to the employee's service for X. The plan determines an employee's employer-provided projected primary insurance amount under social security attributable to the employee's service for X in accordance with paragraph (e)(3) of this section and applies the reductions applicable under paragraph (e)(6)(iii) of this section if benefits commence before social security retirement age. The plan determines an employee's accrued benefit under the fractional accrual method of section 411(b)(1)(C).

(b) Employee A commences participation in the plan on January 1, 1990, when A is 35 years of age. A's social security retirement age is 67. As of the close of the 2014 plan year, A's final average compensation from X is $15,000; A's final pay from X is $15,400, and A's projected employer-provided annual primary insurance amount under social security attributable to A's service for X is $4,000 (after the reduction applicable under paragraph (e)(6)(iii) of this section). Under the plan formula, A's accrued benefit as of the close of the 2014 plan year is $11,250 (90 percent×$15,000×25/30). As of the close of the 2014 plan year, the plan's final pay limitation does not affect A's benefit because A's benefit under the plan as of the close of the plan year and before application of the final pay limitation ($11,250) does not exceed A's final pay of $15,400 from X, determined as of the close of the plan year, less A's employer-provided projected primary insurance amount under social security attributable to A's service for X ($4,000).

(c) Assume that, as of the close of the 2015 plan year, A's final average compensation from X is $14,500 and A's final pay from X is $15,400. Assume also that as of the close of the 2015 plan year, A's employer-provided primary insurance amount attributable to A's service for X is $4,200 (after the reduction applicable under paragraph (e)(6)(iii) of this section). Accordingly, A's benefit as of the close of the 2015 plan year and before application of the final pay limitation is $11,310 (90 percent×$14,500×26/30). Under the plan's final pay limitation, A's benefit of $11,310 would be limited to $11,200, the amount of A's final pay from X ($15,400), less A's employer-provided projected primary insurance amount under social security attributable to A's service for X ($4,200). However, the plan's final pay limitation may not be applied to limit A's accrued benefit for the 2015 plan year to an amount below $11,250, which was A's accrued benefit under the plan at the close of the prior plan year. The foregoing is further illustrated in the following table for the plan years presented above and for additional years of service performed by A for X.

Table

[In dollar amounts]

1234567
Years of serviceFinal average compensationBenefit under plan formula (Column 2 × 0.9 × years of service/30)Final payEmployer-provided projected primary insurance amount under social security attributable to service for employerBenefit if final pay reduction is applied in full (Column 4 − Column 5)Benefit to which A is entitled (smaller of Column 6 or Column 3, but not less than Column 7 for prior year)
25$15,000$11,250$15,400$4,000$11,400$11,250
2614,50011,31015,4004,20011,20011,250
2715,50012,55515,8004,40011,40011,400
2815,50013,02016,0004,50011,50011,500
2915,00013,05016,0004,80011,20011,500
3014,50013,05016,0005,00011,00011,500

(f) Certain benefits not taken into account. In determining whether a plan satisfies section 401(a)(4) and this section, other benefits created under state or federal law (e.g., worker's compensation benefits or black lung benefits) may not be taken into account.

(g) More than one plan treated as single plan. [Reserved]

(h) Effective date—(1) In general. Except as provided in paragraph (h)(2) of this section, this section is effective for 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), this section is effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 1996.

(3) Compliance during transition period. For plan years beginning before the effective date of these regulations, as set forth in paragraphs (h)(1) and (h)(2) of this section, and on or after the first day of the first plan year to which the amendments made to section 401(a)(5) by section 1111(b) of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (TRA '86) apply, a plan must be operated in accordance with a reasonable, good faith interpretation of section 401(a)(5), taking into account pre-existing guidance and the amendments made by TRA '86 to related provisions of the Code. Whether a plan is operated in accordance with a reasonable, good faith interpretation of section 401(a)(5) 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. A plan will be deemed to be operated in accordance with a reasonable, good faith interpretation of section 401(a)(5) if it is operated in accordance with the terms of this section.

[T.D. 8359, 56 FR 47614, Sept. 19, 1991; 57 FR 10817, 10818, 10951, Mar. 31, 1992, as amended by T.D. 8486, 58 FR 46830, Sept. 3, 1993]

§1.401(a)(9)-0   Required minimum distributions; table of contents.

This table of contents lists the regulations relating to required minimum distributions under section 401(a)(9) of the Internal Revenue Code as follows:

§1.401(a)(9)-0   Required minimum distributions; table of contents.

§1.401(a)(9)-1   Minimum distribution requirement in general.

§1.401(a)(9)-2   Distributions commencing during an employee's lifetime.

§1.401(a)(9)-3   Death before required beginning date.

§1.401(a)(9)-4   Determination of the designated beneficiary.

§1.401(a)(9)-5   Required minimum distributions from defined contribution plans.

§1.401(a)(9)-6   Required minimum distributions for defined benefit plans and annuity contracts.

§1.401(a)(9)-7   Rollovers and transfers.

§1.401(a)(9)-8   Special rules.

§1.401(a)(9)-9   Life expectancy and distribution period tables.

[T.D. 8987, 67 FR 18994, Apr. 17, 2002, as amended by T.D. 9130, 69 FR 33293, June 15, 2004]

§1.401(a)(9)-1   Minimum distribution requirement in general.

Q-1. What plans are subject to the minimum distribution requirement under section 401(a)(9), this section, and §§1.401(a)(9)-2 through 1.401(a)(9)-9?

A-1. Under section 401(a)(9), all stock bonus, pension, and profit-sharing plans qualified under section 401(a) and annuity contracts described in section 403(a) are subject to required minimum distribution rules. See this section and §§1.401(a)(9)-2 through 1.401(a)(9)-9 for the distribution rules applicable to these plans. Under section 403(b)(10), annuity contracts or custodial accounts described in section 403(b) are subject to required minimum distribution rules. See §1.403(b)-6e for the distribution rules applicable to these annuity contracts or custodial accounts. Under section 408(a)(6) and 408(b)(3), individual retirement plans (including, for some purposes, Roth IRAs under section 408A) are subject to required minimum distribution rules. See §1.408-8 for the distribution rules applicable to individual retirement plans and see §1.408A-6 for the distribution rules applicable to Roth IRAs under section 408A. Under section 457(d)(2), certain deferred compensation plans for employees of tax exempt organizations or state and local government employees are subject to required minimum distribution rules.

Q-2. Which employee account balances and benefits held under qualified trusts and plans are subject to the distribution rules of section 401(a)(9), this section, and §§1.401(a)(9)-2 through 1.401(a)(9)-9?

A-2. (a) In general. The distribution rules of section 401(a)(9) apply to all account balances and benefits in existence on or after January 1, 1985. This section and §§1.401(a)(9)-2 through 1.401(a)(9)-9 apply for purposes of determining required minimum distributions for calendar years beginning on or after January 1, 2003.

(b) Beneficiaries. (1) The distribution rules of this section and §§1.401(a)(9)-2 through 1.401(a)(9)-9 apply to account balances and benefits held for the benefit of a beneficiary for calendar years beginning on or after January 1, 2003, even if the employee died prior to January 1, 2003. Thus, in the case of an employee who died prior to January 1, 2003, the designated beneficiary must be redetermined in accordance with the provisions of §1.401(a)(9)-4 and the applicable distribution period (determined under §1.401(a)(9)-5 or 1.401(a)(9)-6, whichever is applicable) must be reconstructed for purposes of determining the amount required to be distributed for calendar years beginning on or after January 1, 2003.

(2) A designated beneficiary that is receiving payments under the 5-year rule of section 401(a)(9)(B)(ii), either by affirmative election or default provisions, may, if the plan so provides, switch to using the life expectancy rule of section 401(a)(9)(B)(iii) provided any amounts that would have been required to be distributed under the life expectancy rule of section 401(a)(9)(B)(iii) for all distribution calendar years before 2004 are distributed by the earlier of December 31, 2003 or the end of the 5-year period determined under A-2 of §1.401(a)(9)-3.

(c) Trust documentation. If a trust fails to meet the rule of A-5 of §1.401(a)(9)-4 (permitting the beneficiaries of the trust, and not the trust itself, to be treated as the employee's designated beneficiaries) solely because the trust documentation was not provided to the plan administrator by October 31 of the calendar year following the calendar year in which the employee died, and such documentation is provided to the plan administrator by October 31, 2003, the beneficiaries of the trust will be treated as designated beneficiaries of the employee under the plan for purposes of determining the distribution period under section 401(a)(9).

(d) Special rule for governmental plans. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this A-2, a governmental plan (within the meaning of section 414(d)), or an eligible governmental plan described in §1.457-2(f), is treated as having complied with section 401(a)(9) for all years to which section 401(a)(9) applies to the plan if the plan complies with a reasonable and good faith interpretation of section 401(a)(9).

Q-3. What specific provisions must a plan contain in order to satisfy section 401(a)(9)?

A-3. (a) Required provisions. In order to satisfy section 401(a)(9), the plan must include the provisions described in this paragraph reflecting section 401(a)(9). First, the plan must generally set forth the statutory rules of section 401(a)(9), including the incidental death benefit requirement in section 401(a)(9)(G). Second, the plan must provide that distributions will be made in accordance with this section and §§1.401(a)(9)-2 through 1.401(a)(9)-9. The plan document must also provide that the provisions reflecting section 401(a)(9) override any distribution options in the plan inconsistent with section 401(a)(9). The plan also must include any other provisions reflecting section 401(a)(9) that are prescribed by the Commissioner in revenue rulings, notices, and other guidance published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin. See §601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b) of this chapter.

(b) Optional provisions. The plan may also include written provisions regarding any optional provisions governing plan distributions that do not conflict with section 401(a)(9) and the regulations thereunder.

(c) Absence of optional provisions. Plan distributions commencing after an employee's death will be required to be made under the default provision set forth in §1.401(a)(9)-3 for distributions unless the plan document contains optional provisions that override such default provisions. Thus, if distributions have not commenced to the employee at the time of the employee's death, distributions after the death of an employee are to be made automatically in accordance with the default provisions in A-4(a) of §1.401(a)(9)-3 unless the plan either specifies in accordance with A-4(b) of §1.401(a)(9)-3 the method under which distributions will be made or provides for elections by the employee (or beneficiary) in accordance with A-4(c) of §1.401(a)(9)-3 and such elections are made by the employee or beneficiary.

[T.D. 8987, 67 FR 18994, Apr. 17, 2002, as amended by T.D. 9130, 69 FR 33293, June 15, 2004; T.D. 9340, 72 FR 41159, July 26, 2007; T.D. 9459, 74 FR 45994, Sept. 8, 2009]

§1.401(a)(9)-2   Distributions commencing during an employee's lifetime.

Q-1. In the case of distributions commencing during an employee's lifetime, how must the employee's entire interest be distributed in order to satisfy section 401(a)(9)(A)?

A-1. (a) In order to satisfy section 401(a)(9)(A), the entire interest of each employee must be distributed to such employee not later than the required beginning date, or must be distributed, beginning not later than the required beginning date, over the life of the employee or joint lives of the employee and a designated beneficiary or over a period not extending beyond the life expectancy of the employee or the joint life and last survivor expectancy of the employee and the designated beneficiary.

(b) Section 401(a)(9)(G) provides that lifetime distributions must satisfy the incidental death benefit requirements.

(c) The amount required to be distributed for each calendar year in order to satisfy section 401(a)(9)(A) and (G) generally depends on whether a distribution is in the form of distributions under a defined contribution plan or annuity payments under a defined benefit plan or under an annuity contract. For the method of determining the required minimum distribution in accordance with section 401(a)(9)(A) and (G) from an individual account under a defined contribution plan, see §1.401(a)(9)-5. For the method of determining the required minimum distribution in accordance with section 401(a)(9)(A) and (G) in the case of annuity payments from a defined benefit plan or an annuity contract, see §1.401(a)(9)-6.

Q-2. For purposes of section 401(a)(9)(C), what does the term required beginning date mean?

A-2. (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this A-2 with respect to a 5-percent owner, as defined in paragraph (c) of this A-2, the term required beginning date means April 1 of the calendar year following the later of the calendar year in which the employee attains age 7012 or the calendar year in which the employee retires from employment with the employer maintaining the plan.

(b) In the case of an employee who is a 5-percent owner, the term required beginning date means April 1 of the calendar year following the calendar year in which the employee attains age 7012 .

(c) For purposes of section 401(a)(9), a 5-percent owner is an employee who is a 5-percent owner (as defined in section 416) with respect to the plan year ending in the calendar year in which the employee attains age 7012 .

(d) Paragraph (b) of this A-2 does not apply in the case of a governmental plan (within the meaning of section 414(d)) or a church plan. For purposes of this paragraph, the term church plan means a plan maintained by a church for church employees, and the term church means any church (as defined in section 3121(w)(3)(A)) or qualified church-controlled organization (as defined in section 3121(w)(3)(B)).

(e) A plan is permitted to provide that the required beginning date for purposes of section 401(a)(9) for all employees is April 1 of the calendar year following the calendar year in which an employee attains age 7012 regardless of whether the employee is a 5-percent owner.

Q-3. When does an employee attain age 701⁄<