26 CFR § 1.401(a)(4)-2 - Nondiscrimination in amount of employer contributions under a defined contribution plan.

§ 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)
H1 20 $150,000 1,700 $17,000 11.3
H2 10 150,000 1,600 16,000 10.7
H3 30 100,000 1,300 13,000 13.0
H4 3 100,000 1,030 10,300 10.3
N1 10 40,000 500 5,000 12.5
N2 5 35,000 400 4,000 11.4
N3 3 30,000 330 3,300 11.0
N4 1 25,000 260 2,600 10.4
Total 7,120 71,200
(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 N HCEs) 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]