26 CFR § 1.401(m)-3 - Safe harbor requirements.

§ 1.401(m)-3 Safe harbor requirements.

(a) ACP test safe harbor -

(1) Section 401(m)(11) safe harbor. Matching contributions under a plan satisfy the ACP safe harbor provisions of section 401(m)(11) for a plan year if the plan satisfies the safe harbor contribution requirement of paragraph (b) or (c) of this section for the plan year, the limitations on matching contributions of paragraph (d) of this section, the notice requirement of paragraph (e) of this section, the plan year requirements of paragraph (f) of this section, and the additional rules of paragraphs (g), (h) and (j) of this section, as applicable.

(2) Section 401(m)(12) safe harbor. For a plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2008, matching contributions under a plan satisfy the ACP safe harbor provisions of section 401(m)(12) for a plan year if the matching contributions are made with respect to an automatic contribution arrangement described in paragraph § 1.401(k)-3(j) that satisfies the safe harbor requirements of § 1.401(k)-3, the limitations on matching contributions of paragraph (d) of this section, the notice requirement of paragraph (e) of this section, the plan year requirements of paragraph (f) of this section, and the additional rules of paragraphs (g), (h) and (j) of this section, as applicable.

(3) Requirements applicable to safe harbor contributions. Pursuant to sections 401(k)(12)(E)(ii) and 401(k)(13)(D)(iv), the safe harbor contribution requirement of paragraph (b) or (c) of this section and § 1.401(k)-3(k) must be satisfied without regard to section 401(l). The contributions made under paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section and § 1.401(k)-3(k) are referred to as safe harbor nonelective contributions and safe harbor matching contributions.

(b) Safe harbor nonelective contribution requirement. A plan satisfies the safe harbor nonelective contribution requirement of this paragraph (b) if it satisfies the safe harbor nonelective contribution requirement of § 1.401(k)-3(b).

(c) Safe harbor matching contribution requirement. A plan satisfies the safe harbor matching contribution requirement of this paragraph (c) if it satisfies the safe harbor matching contribution requirement of § 1.401(k)-3(c).

(d) Limitation on contributions - (1) General rule. A plan that provides for matching contributions meets the requirements of this section only if it satisfies the limitations on contributions set forth in this paragraph (d).

(2) Matching rate must not increase. A plan that provides for matching contributions meets the requirements of this paragraph (d) only if the ratio of matching contributions on behalf of an employee under the plan for a plan year to the employee's elective deferrals and employee contributions, does not increase as the amount of an employee's elective deferrals and employee contributions increases.

(3) Limit on matching contributions. A plan that provides for matching contributions satisfies the requirements of this section only if -

(i) Matching contributions are not made with respect to elective deferrals or employee contributions that exceed 6% of the employee's safe harbor compensation (within the meaning of § 1.401(k)-3(b)(2)); and

(ii) Matching contributions that are discretionary do not exceed 4% of the employee's safe harbor compensation.

(4) Limitation on rate of match. A plan meets the requirements of this section only if the ratio of matching contributions on behalf of an HCE to that HCE's elective deferrals or employee contributions (or the sum of elective deferrals and employee contributions) for that plan year is no greater than the ratio of matching contributions to elective deferrals or employee contributions (or the sum of elective deferrals and employee contributions) that would apply with respect to any NHCE for whom the elective deferrals or employee contributions (or the sum of elective deferrals and employee contributions) are the same percentage of safe harbor compensation. An employee is taken into account for purposes of this paragraph (d)(4) if the employee is an eligible employee under the cash or deferred arrangement with respect to which the contributions required by paragraph (b) or (c) of this section are being made for a plan year. A plan will not fail to satisfy this paragraph (d)(4) merely because the plan provides that matching contributions will be made separately with respect to each payroll period (or with respect to all payroll periods ending with or within each month or quarter of a plan year) taken into account under the plan for the plan year, provided that matching contributions with respect to any elective deferrals or employee contributions made during a plan year quarter are contributed to the plan by the last day of the immediately following plan year quarter.

(5) HCEs participating in multiple plans. The rules of section 401(m)(2)(B) and § 1.401(m)-2(a)(3)(ii) apply for purposes of determining the rate of matching contributions under paragraph (d)(4) of this section. However, a plan will not fail to satisfy the safe harbor matching contribution requirements of this section merely because an HCE participates during the plan year in more than one plan that provides for matching contributions, provided that -

(i) The HCE is not simultaneously an eligible employee under two plans that provide for matching contributions maintained by an employer for a plan year; and

(ii) The period used to determine compensation for purposes of determining matching contributions under each such plan is limited to periods when the HCE participated in the plan.

(6) Permissible restrictions on elective deferrals by NHCEs -

(i) General rule. A plan does not satisfy the safe harbor requirements of this section, if elective deferrals or employee contributions by NHCEs are restricted, unless the restrictions are permitted by this paragraph (d)(6).

(ii) Restrictions on election periods. A plan may limit the frequency and duration of periods in which eligible employees may make or change contribution elections under a plan. However, an employee must have a reasonable opportunity (including a reasonable period after receipt of the notice described in paragraph (e) of this section) to make or change a contribution election for the plan year. For purposes of this section, a 30-day period is deemed to be a reasonable period to make or change a contribution election.

(iii) Restrictions on amount of contributions. A plan is permitted to limit the amount of contributions that may be made by an eligible employee under a plan, provided that each NHCE who is an eligible employee is permitted (unless the employee is restricted under paragraph (d)(6)(v) of this section) to make contributions in an amount that is at least sufficient to receive the maximum amount of matching contributions available under the plan for the plan year, and the employee is permitted to elect any lesser amount of contributions. However, a plan may require eligible employees to make contribution elections in whole percentages of compensation or whole dollar amounts.

(iv) Restrictions on types of compensation that may be deferred. A plan may limit the types of compensation that may be deferred or contributed by an eligible employee under a plan, provided that each eligible NHCE is permitted to make contributions under a definition of compensation that would be a reasonable definition of compensation within the meaning of § 1.414(s)-1(d)(2). Thus, the definition of compensation from which contributions may be made is not required to satisfy the nondiscrimination requirement of § 1.414(s)-1(d)(3).

(v) Restrictions due to limitations under the Internal Revenue Code. A plan may limit the amount of contributions made by an eligible employee under a plan -

(A) Because of the limitations of section 402(g) or section 415;

(B) Due to a suspension under section 414(u)(12)(B)(ii); or

(C) Because, on account of a hardship distribution made before January 1, 2020, an employee's ability to make contributions has been suspended for 6 months.

(e) Notice requirement. A plan satisfies the notice requirement of this paragraph (e) if it satisfies the notice requirement of § 1.401(k)-3(d).

(f) Plan year requirement -

(1) General rule. Except as provided in this paragraph (f) or in paragraph (g) of this section, a plan will fail to satisfy the requirements of section 401(m)(11), section 401(m)(12), and this section unless plan provisions that satisfy the rules of this section are adopted before the first day of that plan year and remain in effect for an entire 12-month plan year. In addition, except as provided in paragraph (h) of this section or in guidance of general applicability published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin (see § 601.601(d)(2)(ii)(b) of this chapter), a plan which includes provisions that satisfy the rules of this section will not satisfy the requirements of § 1.401(m)-1(b) if it is amended to change such provisions for that plan year. Moreover, if, as described in paragraph (j)(4) of this section, safe harbor matching or nonelective contributions will be made to another plan for a plan year, provisions under that other plan specifying that the safe harbor contributions will be made and providing that the contributions will be QNECs or QMACs must also be adopted before the first day of that plan year.

(2) Initial plan year. A newly established plan (other than a successor plan within the meaning of § 1.401(m)-2(c)(2)(iii)) will not be treated as violating the requirements of this paragraph (f) merely because the plan year is less than 12 months, provided that the plan year is at least 3 months long (or, in the case of a newly established employer that establishes the plan as soon as administratively feasible after the employer comes into existence, a shorter period). Similarly, a plan will not fail to satisfy the requirements of this paragraph (f) for the first plan year in which matching contributions are provided under the plan provided that -

(i) The plan is not a successor plan; and

(ii) The amendment providing for matching contributions is made effective at the same time as the adoption of a cash or deferred arrangement that satisfies the requirements of § 1.401(k)-3, taking into account the rules of § 1.401(k)-3(e)(2).

(3) Change of plan year. A plan that has a short plan year as a result of changing its plan year will not fail to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (f)(1) of this section merely because the plan year has less than 12 months, provided that -

(i) The plan satisfied the requirements of this section for the immediately preceding plan year; and

(ii) The plan satisfies the requirements of this section (determined without regard to paragraph (h) of this section) for the immediately following plan year or for the immediately following 12 months if the immediately following plan year is less than 12 months.

(4) Final plan year. A plan that terminates during a plan year will not fail to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (f)(1) of this section merely because the final plan year is less than 12 months, provided that the plan satisfies the requirement of this section through the date of termination and either -

(i) The plan would satisfy the requirements of paragraph (h) of this section, treating the termination of the plan as a reduction or suspension of safe harbor contributions, other than the requirements of paragraph (h)(1)(i)(A) or (h)(1)(ii)(A) of this section (relating to the employer's financial condition and information included in the initial notice for the plan year) and paragraph (h)(1)(i)(D) or (h)(1)(ii)(D) of this section (requiring that employees have a reasonable opportunity to change their cash or deferred elections and, if applicable, employee contribution elections); or

(ii) The plan termination is in connection with a transaction described in section 410(b)(6)(C) or the employer incurs a substantial business hardship, comparable to a substantial business hardship described in section 412(c).

(g) Plan amendments adopting nonelective safe harbor contributions. Notwithstanding paragraph (f)(1) of this section, a plan that provides for the use of the current year testing method may be amended after the first day of the plan year and no later than 30 days before the last day of the plan year to adopt the safe harbor method of this section, effective as of the first day of the plan year, using nonelective contributions under paragraph (b) of this section if the plan satisfies the requirements of § 1.401(k)-3(f).

(h) Permissible reduction or suspension of safe harbor contributions -

(1) General rule -

(i) Matching contributions. A plan that provides for safe harbor matching contributions intended to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section for a plan year will not fail to satisfy the requirements of section 401(m)(2) merely because the plan is amended during the plan year to reduce or suspend safe harbor matching contributions on future elective deferrals (and, if applicable, employee contributions) provided that -

(A) In the case of plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2015, the employer either -

(1) Is operating at an economic loss as described in section 412(c)(2)(A) for the plan year; or

(2) Includes in the notice described in paragraph (e) of this section, a statement that the plan may be amended during the plan year to reduce or suspend safe harbor matching contributions and that the reduction or suspension will not apply until at least 30 days after all eligible employees are provided notice of the reduction or suspension;

(B) All eligible employees are provided a supplemental notice that satisfies the requirements of paragraph (h)(2) of this section;

(C) The reduction or suspension of safe harbor matching contributions is effective no earlier than the later of the date the amendment is adopted or 30 days after eligible employees are provided the supplemental notice described in paragraph (h)(2) of this section;

(D) Eligible employees are given a reasonable opportunity (including a reasonable period after receipt of the supplemental notice) prior to the reduction or suspension of safe harbor matching contributions to change their cash or deferred elections and, if applicable, their employee contribution elections;

(E) The plan is amended to provide that the ACP test will be satisfied for the entire plan year in which the reduction or suspension occurs using the current year testing method described in § 1.401(m)-2(a)(2)(ii); and

(F) The plan satisfies the requirements of this section (other than this paragraph (h)) with respect to amounts deferred through the effective date of the amendment.

(ii) Nonelective contributions. For plan amendments adopted after May 18, 2009, a plan that provides for safe harbor nonelective contributions intended to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section will not fail to satisfy the requirements of section 401(m)(2) for the plan year merely because the plan is amended during the plan year to reduce or suspend safe harbor nonelective contributions provided that -

The employer either -

Is operating at an economic loss as described in section 412(c)(2)(A) for the plan year; or

Includes in the notice described in paragraph (e) of this section a statement that the plan may be amended during the plan year to reduce or suspend safe harbor nonelective contributions and that the reduction or suspension will not apply until at least 30 days after all eligible employees are provided notice of the reduction or suspension;

All eligible employees are provided a supplemental notice that satisfies the requirements of paragraph (h)(2) of this section;

The reduction or suspension of safe harbor nonelective contributions is effective no earlier than the later of the date the amendment is adopted or 30 days after eligible employees are provided the supplemental notice described in paragraph (h)(2) of this section;

Eligible employees are given a reasonable opportunity (including a reasonable period after receipt of the supplemental notice) prior to the reduction or suspension of nonelective contributions to change their cash or deferred elections and, if applicable, their employee contribution elections;

The plan is amended to provide that the ACP test will be satisfied for the entire plan year in which the reduction or suspension occurs using the current year testing method described in § 1.401(m)-2(a)(2)(ii); and

The plan satisfies the requirements of this section (other than this paragraph

) with respect to safe harbor compensation paid through the effective date of the amendment.

(2) Supplemental notice. The supplemental notice requirement of this paragraph (h)(2) is satisfied if each eligible employee is given a notice that satisfies the requirements of § 1.401(k)-3(g)(2).

(i) [Reserved]

(j) Other rules -

(1) Contributions taken into account. A contribution is taken into account for purposes of this section for a plan year under the same rules as § 1.401(k)-3(h)(1).

(2) Use of safe harbor nonelective contributions to satisfy other nondiscrimination tests. A safe harbor nonelective contribution used to satisfy the nonelective contribution requirement under paragraph (b) of this section may also be taken into account for purposes of determining whether a plan satisfies section 401(a)(4) under the same rules as § 1.401(k)-3(h)(2).

(3) Early participation rules. Section 401(m)(5)(C) and § 1.401(m)-2(a)(1)(iii)(A), which provide an alternative nondiscrimination rule for certain plans that provide for early participation, do not apply for purposes of section 401(m)(11), section 401(m)(12), and this section. Thus, a plan is not treated as satisfying this section with respect to the eligible employees who have not completed the minimum age and service requirements of section 410(a)(1)(A) unless the plan satisfies the requirements of this section with respect to such eligible employees.

(4) Satisfying safe harbor contribution requirement under another defined contribution plan. Safe harbor matching or nonelective contributions may be made to another defined contribution plan under the same rules as § 1.401(k)-3(h)(4). Consequently, each NHCE under the plan providing for matching contributions must be eligible under the same conditions under the other defined contribution plan and the plan to which the contributions are made must have the same plan year as the plan providing for matching contributions.

(5) Contributions used only once. Safe harbor matching or nonelective contributions cannot be used to satisfy the requirements of this section with respect to more than one plan.

(6) Plan must satisfy ACP with respect to employee contributions. If the plan provides for employee contributions, in addition to satisfying the requirements of this section, it must also satisfy the ACP test of § 1.401(m)-2. See § 1.401(m)-2(a)(5)(iv) for special rules under which the ACP test is permitted to be performed disregarding some or all matching when this section is satisfied with respect to the matching contributions.

[T.D. 9169, 69 FR 78184, Dec. 29, 2004, as amended by T.D. 9447, 74 FR 8211, Feb. 24, 2009; T.D. 9641, 78 FR 68738, Nov. 15, 2013; T.D. 9875, 84 FR 49658, Sept. 23, 2019]