26 CFR § 1.414(e)-1 - Definition of church plan.

§ 1.414(e)-1 Definition of church plan.

(a)General rule. For the purposes of part I of subchapter D of chapter 1 of the Code and the regulations thereunder, the term “church plan” means a plan established and at all times maintained for its employees by a church or by a convention or association of churches (hereinafter included within the term “church”) which is exempt from tax under section 501(a), provided that such plan meets the requirements of paragraphs (b) and (if applicable) (c) of this section. If at any time during its existence a plan is not a church plan because of a failure to meet the requirements set forth in this section, it cannot thereafter become a church plan.

(b)Unrelated businesses -

(1)In general. A plan is not a church plan unless it is established and maintained primarily for the benefit of employees (or their beneficiaries) who are not employed in connection with one or more unrelated trades or businesses (within the meaning of section 513).

(2)Establishment or maintenance of a plan primarily for persons not employed in connection with one or more unrelated trades or businesses.

(i)(A) A plan, other than a plan in existence on September 2, 1974, is established primarily for the benefit of employees (or their beneficiaries) who are not employed in connection with one or more unrelated trades or businesses if on the date the plan is established the number of employees employed in connection with the unrelated trades or businesses eligible to participate in the plan is less than 50 percent of the total number of employees of the church eligible to participate in the plan.

(B) A plan in existence on September 2, 1974, is to be considered established as a plan primarily for the benefit of employees (or their beneficiaries) who are not employed in connection with one or more unrelated trades or businesses if it meets the requirements of both paragraphs (b)(2)(ii) (A) and (B) (if applicable) in either of its first 2 plan years ending after September 2, 1974.

(ii) For plan years ending after September 2, 1974, a plan will be considered maintained primarily for the benefit of employees of a church who are not employed in connection with one or more unrelated trades or businesses if in 4 out of 5 of its most recently completed plan years -

(A) Less than 50 percent of the persons participating in the plan (at any time during the plan year) consist of and in the same year

(B) Less than 50 percent of the total compensation paid by the employer during the plan year (if benefits or contributions are a function of compensation) to employees participating in the plan is paid to,

employees employed in connection with an unrelated trade or business. The determination that the plan is not a church plan will apply to the second year (within a 5 year period) for which the plan fails to meet paragraph (b)(2)(ii) (A) or (B) (if applicable) and to all plan years thereafter unless, taking into consideration all of the facts and circumstances as described in paragraph (b)(2)(iii) of this section, the plan is still considered to be a church plan. A plan that has not completed 5 plan years ending after September 2, 1974, shall be considered maintained primarily for the benefit of employees not employed in connection with an unrelated trade or business unless it fails to meet paragraphs (b)(2)(ii) (A) and (B) in at least 2 such plan years.

(iii) Even though a plan does not meet the provisions of paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section, it nonetheless will be considered maintained primarily for the benefit of employees who are not employed in connection with one or more unrelated trades or businesses if the church maintaining the plan can demonstrate that based on all of the facts and circumstances such is the case. Among the facts and circumstances to be considered in evaluating each case are:

(A) The margin by which the plan fails to meet the provisions of paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section, and

(B) Whether the failure to meet such provisions was due to a reasonable mistake as to what constituted an unrelated trade or business or whether a particular person or group of persons were employed in connection with one or more unrelated trades or businesses.

(iv) For purposes of this section, an employee will be considered eligible to participate in a plan if such employee is a participant in the plan or could be a participant in the plan upon making mandatory employee contributions to the plan.

(3)Employment in connection with one or more unrelated trades or businesses. An employee is employed in connection with one or more unrelated trades or businesses of a church if a majority of such employee's duties and responsibilities in the employ of the church are directly or indirectly related to the carrying on of such trades or businesses. Although an employee's duties and responsibilities may be insignificant with respect to any one unrelated trade or business, such employee will nonetheless be considered as employed in connection with one or more unrelated trades or businesses if such employee's duties and responsibilities with respect to all of the unrelated trades or businesses of the church represent a majority of the total of such person's duties and responsibilities in the employ of the church.

(c)Plans of two or more employers. The term “church plan” does not include a plan which, during the plan year, is maintained by two or more employers unless -

(1) Each of the employers is a church that is exempt from tax under section 501(a), and

(2) With respect to the employees of each employer, the plan meets the provisions of paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section or would be determined to be a church plan based on all the facts and circumstances described in paragraph (b)(2)(iii) of this section.

Thus, if with respect to a single employer the plan fails to meet any provision of this paragraph, the entire plan ceases to be a church plan unless that employer ceases maintaining the plan for all plan years beginning after the plan year in which it receives a final notification from the Internal Revenue Service that it does not meet the provisions of this paragraph. If the employer does cease maintaining the plan in accordance with this paragraph, the fact that the employer formerly did maintain the plan will not prevent the plan from being a church plan for prior years.

(d)Special rule.

(1) Notwithstanding paragraph (c)(1) of this section, a plan maintained by a church and one or more agencies of such church for the employees of such church and of such agency or agencies, that is in existence on January 1, 1974, shall be treated as a church plan for plan years ending after September 2, 1974, and beginning before January 1, 1983, provided that the plan is described in paragraph (c) of this section without regard to paragraph (c)(1) of this section, and the plan is not maintained by an agency which did not maintain the plan on January 1, 1974.

(2) For the purposes of section 414(e) and this section, an agency of a church means an organization which is exempt from tax under section 501 and which is either controlled by, or associated with, a church. For example, an organization, a majority of whose officers or directors are appointed by a church's governing board or by officials of a church, is controlled by a church within the meaning of this paragraph. An organization is associated with a church if it shares common religious bonds and convictions with that church.

(e)Religious orders and religious organizations. For the purpose of this section the term “church” includes a religious order or a religious organization if such order or organization (1) is an integral part of a church, and (2) is engaged in carrying out the functions of a church, whether as a civil law corporation or otherwise.

(f)Separately incorporated fiduciaries. A plan which otherwise meets the provisions of this section shall not lose its status as a church plan because of the fact that it is administered by a separately incorporated fiduciary such as a pension board or a bank.

(g)Cross reference.

(1) For rules relating to treatment of church plans, see section 410(c), 411(e), 412(h), 4975(g), and the regulations thereunder.

(2) For rules relating to church plan elections, see section 410(d) and the regulations thereunder.

[T.D. 7688, 45 FR 20797, Mar. 31, 1980]