Can employers reduce or eliminate their safe harbor contribution?
Yes, this is possible. However, plan sponsors should consult with the third-party administrative firm servicing their plan. There are several important implications to eliminating safe harbor provisions that should be considered prior to doing so. For example, if you eliminate a safe harbor contribution it could inadvertently trigger top-heavy contributions that could be more costly than the safe harbor expense.
If you feel that elimination of your plan safe harbor provisions is warranted, please reach out to HBKS Wealth Advisors and we can help you think through this issue in conjunction with the administrative firm servicing your plan.
Reducing or eliminating safe harbor contributions
Final IRS Regulations issued November 15, 2013 and effective since January 1, 2015 now allow an employer to reduce or eliminate safe harbor matching contributions and safe harbor non-elective contributions mid-year provided one of the following requirements are met:
The employer is operating at an economic loss for the plan year as described in IRS section 412(c)(2)(A); or the safe harbor notice provided to employees prior to the beginning of the plan year is written with specific language disclosing the possibility of the safe harbor contributions being eliminated or reduced mid-year.
Factors to consider prior to eliminating safe harbor contributions from a 401(k) Plan
Top heavy implications
An employer suspending its safe harbor match or non-elective contribution will be required to satisfy its top-heavy minimum contribution requirements for the entire plan year. It is recommended that careful consideration be taken prior to eliminating safe harbor contributions, as it is possible for top heavy requirements to exceed safe harbor contribution requirements.
ADP and ACP test requirement
An employer suspending its safe harbor match or non-elective contribution will be required to satisfy the ADP and/or ACP tests for the entire plan year. It is recommended that careful consideration be taken prior to eliminating safe harbor contributions, as it is possible for highly compensated employees to receive refunds due to failed ADP and ACP tests.
What steps must the employer follow to reduce or eliminate the safe harbor 401(k) contribution (match or non-elective) from a retirement plan?
- Adopt an amendment to reduce or eliminate the matching contribution or non-elective contribution, effective at least 30 days after the amendment’s adoption date or at least 30 days after eligible employees are provided the supplemental notice, whichever is later;
- Give a supplemental notice to employees at least 30 days prior to the effective date of the amendment that explains the consequences of the reduction or suspension of the safe harbor contributions, and the procedures for employees to change their deferral elections;
- Provide the employees a reasonable opportunity after receipt of the notice to change their deferral election;
- Fund the match or non-elective contribution requirement with respect to safe harbor compensation paid through the effective date of the amendment and prorated for the 401(a)(17) compensation limit; and
- Apply current year testing for the entire plan year for both the ADP and ACP tests.
Note: The safe harbor matching contributions and safe harbor non-elective contributions will qualify as qualified matching contributions and qualified non-elective contributions, respectively; therefore, the employer may use the contributions in the ADP or ACP test.
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