You probably know that establishing a qualified retirement plan requires the formal adoption of a written, legal plan document. And, if you’ve had a plan in place for any amount of time, you’ve most likely also been required to adopt a handful of mandatory amendments along the way.
Topic Archive: Plan Correction
While it might not seem like that big of a deal if 401(k) deposits are made a couple days or weeks late, the Department of Labor (DOL) considers those payroll withholdings to be plan money on the deposit deadlines regardless of where the money is physically located. To the extent those monies are still in the plan sponsor’s control, the delayed deposit is treated as a prohibited loan of plan assets to the plan sponsor, which is a very big deal (not in a good way). If that wasn’t motivation enough to fix the delinquency, the fact that late deposits must be reported on the Form 5500 each year until fully corrected (which is like waving a red flag in front of a bull, only the bull here is the DOL) certainly should be motivation to fix it. Pronto!
Our 401(k) plan allows new employees to make contributions on the first day of the quarter after they work for us for a year. All of our full-time employees have been with us for a long time. Most of our new hires are for short-term projects, so they almost always terminate employment in less than a year and never become eligible for our 401(k) plan. Recently, however, we had two new hires that did stay with us for a year and should have become eligible for the plan. One of them heard about the plan from a co-worker and submitted a deferral election form, but since we are not used to new hires sticking around that long, we overlooked implementing the election. The other never knew about the plan at all.
In order to be eligible for our company’s 401(k) plan, employees must have worked for us for at least a year and be a minimum of 21 years old. They can join the plan on the next January 1st or July 1st following the date they meet those requirements. Recently, we discovered that we allowed an employee to start contributing to the plan before he met those requirements. He also received company matching contributions.
ABC Company maintains a 401(k) plan that includes the following provisions:
- It operates on a calendar year.
- Compensation is defined as W2 wages with pre-tax deferrals added back and no exclusions.
- Eligible participants can defer up to the IRS limit $18,500 + $6,000 for those age 50 or older (2018 limits, indexed for inflation)
- The company provides a match equal to 100% of the first 5% deferred by each participant, calculated using compensation and deferrals for the full year.
In addition to regular compensation, ABC pays performance-based bonuses at the end of each calendar quarter.
While compiling the year-end census, it was noted that the overall deferral percentages did not appear quite right for certain employees based on their elections. On closer review, it was determined that employees who received quarterly bonuses did not have any 401(k) deferrals withheld from those amounts. With no deferrals withheld, ABC also did not make the corresponding matching contributions.
Our company sponsors a safe harbor 401(k) plan with a match, and we also make a profit sharing contribution each year. Our payroll company calculates match and profit sharing contributions along the way, and we fund both of those each pay period. This year, when our TPA calculated the total match and profit sharing contributions for the year, we discovered that we funded more than we needed to throughout the year.
Contrary to what some people may think while writing out checks for penalty fees, the IRS doesn't actually want to find compliance issues in retirement plans.
When I was kid, I used to love Schoolhouse Rock during the commercial breaks of Saturday morning cartoons. Even now, I have them all on DVD as well as a CD of covers by various rock musicians, and I still sing along with all of them word-for-word!
If you’ve spent any time working with retirement plans, you know how complicated they can be. It seems like every rule has an exception and an exception to that exception. It is no wonder that accidents occasionally happen - and correction is required - despite everyone’s best efforts to follow the rules.