SECURE Act 2.0 – Timeline Highlights
January 9, 2023
Changes That Are Effective Upon Enactment or January 1, 2023
Increased Required Minimum Distribution Age
Current law requires participants to begin distributions from their retirement plans at age 72, and failure to take such distributions results in a 50% excise tax. SECURE 2.0 increases the required minimum distribution age to 73 effective January 1, 2023 and age 75 effective January 1, 2033. The excise tax is reduced from 50% to 25%, with a further reduction to 10% for IRA distributions that are timely corrected.
Employer Matching or Non-elective Contributions Can Now Be Roth
Under current law, employer matching or non-elective contributions can be made only on a pre-tax basis. Effective immediately, 401(k), 403(b), and governmental 457(b) plans may provide participants with the option to receive matching or non-elective contributions on a Roth basis.
In-Service Distributions for the Terminally Ill
Under current law, an additional 10% tax applies to early distributions from retirement plans. Effective immediately, the early withdrawal penalty does not apply to individuals with a terminal illness.
Military Spouse Eligibility Tax Credit
Small employers (100 or fewer employees) can receive a tax credit if they make military spouses (1) immediately eligible for plan participation within two months of hire, (2) eligible for any matching or non-elective contribution that they would have been otherwise eligible for at two years of service, and (3) 100% immediately vested in all employer contributions. The credit is $200 per participating non-highly compensated military spouse employee plus 100% of employer contributions, up to an additional $300 per employee. The credit is available for up to three years, and employers may rely on an employee’s certification that they are a military spouse.
Small Employer Plan Startup Credit
The startup credit increases from 50% to 100% of administrative costs for small employers with up to 50 employees. The credit remains 50% for employers with 51-100 employees. Employers may also receive an additional credit based on the amount of employer contributions of up to $1,000 per employee. This additional credit phases out for employers with 51-100 employees and phases out over five years.
Eliminating Unnecessary Disclosures for Unenrolled Participants
Employers are no longer required to provide most intermittent ERISA or Code notices to unenrolled participants who have not elected to participate in an employer’s retirement plan. Employers are required to provide (1) an annual reminder notice of the participant’s eligibility to participate in the plan and any applicable election deadlines, and (2) any plan documents requested by the participant.
Current law allows distributions on account of immediate and heavy financial need or an unforeseeable emergency, and the amount must be limited to the amount necessary to satisfy the financial need. Certain listed events are deemed to be on account of hardship, and employees are required to submit records documenting the safe harbor event. Effective for plan years beginning after December 29, 2022, plan administrators can rely on employee self-certification that they experienced a safe harbor event and that the requested amount does not exceed the amount required to satisfy the financial need.
Federally Declared Disasters
The new rules allow for penalty-free distributions of up to $22,000 per participant per disaster, and participants can recontribute distributed amounts to the plan within three years. Plans may also increase loan limits to the lesser of $100,000 or an affected participant’s total vested account balance and extend repayment periods for outstanding loans by one year. This provision is retroactive and applies to disasters occurring on or after January 26, 2021.
Changes That Are Effective January 1, 2024
Employers Can Treat Student Loan Payments as Elective Deferrals for Matching Purposes
Starting in 2024, employers may make a matching contribution to a 401(k), 403(b), governmental 457(b), or SIMPLE IRA plan with respect to an employee’s qualified student loan payment. Furthermore, plans subject to Actual Deferral Percentage testing may separately test employees who receive matching contributions based on student loan repayments.
Catch-up Contributions Must Be Roth Contributions
Under current law, catch-up contributions can be made on a pre-tax or Roth basis (if permitted by the plan sponsor). Effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2023, all age 50+ catch-up contributions made by employees making more than $145,000 per year must be made to Roth accounts.
Current law permits employers to transfer a former employee’s workplace retirement account to an IRA if the balance is between $1,000 and $5,000. Effective for distributions after December 31, 2023, the upper limit is increased to $7,000.
Penalty-Free In-Service Withdrawals
Domestic abuse survivors may withdraw up to the lesser of $10,000 or 50% of the participant’s account balance, and the participant may repay the withdrawal to the plan within three years. Additionally, a participant may receive one penalty-free withdrawal per year of up to $1,000 for unforeseeable or immediate financial needs relating to personal or family emergency expenses. The participant may repay the withdrawal to the plan within three years, and no other emergency withdrawals are allowed during the repayment period unless the participant repays the withdrawal to the plan.
Roth Required Minimum Distributions
Under current law, required minimum distributions from Roth IRAs are not required to begin prior to the account owner’s death, but required minimum distributions from Roth-designated accounts in employer retirement plans must begin at age 72. SECURE 2.0 eliminates the pre-death distribution requirement for Roth accounts in employer plans for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2023. However, this change does not apply to distributions that are required with respect to years beginning before January 1, 2024 but are permitted to be paid on or after such date.
Employers may perform top-heavy testing separately on non-excludible and excludible employees. This conforms top-heavy testing with the other nondiscrimination testing that already permits this separate testing.
Employers that do not sponsor a retirement plan may offer a new type of plan, a “starter” 401(k) or 403(b) plan. Starter plans are deferral-only arrangements that enroll all employees at a deferral rate of 3% to 15% of their compensation. The annual deferral limit is the same limit applied to IRAs. These starter plans are safe harbor plans that are exempt from nondiscrimination and top-heavy testing requirements.
SIMPLE Plan Conversion
Employers may replace a SIMPLE IRA plan during the plan year with a SIMPLE 401(k) plan or other 401(k) plan that requires mandatory employer contributions.
Additional Non-elective Employer Contributions to SIMPLE Plans
Employers with SIMPLE plans may make additional employer contributions above the existing 2% of compensation or 3% of employee elective deferrals requirement. Additional employer contributions must be made in a uniform manner and cannot exceed the lesser of 10% of compensation or $5,000 (indexed to inflation).
Emergency Savings Account
Effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 2023, employers may offer non-highly compensated employees an option to link an emergency savings account to their retirement plan. Employers may automatically opt employees into these accounts at no more than 3% of their salary, and the employee’s contribution is capped at $2,500. Contributions up to the cap are made on a Roth-like basis and are treated as elective deferrals for matching purposes.
Changes That Are Effective January 1, 2025 and Beyond
Automatic Retirement Plan Enrollment
New 401(k) and 403(b) plans must automatically enroll participants, unless employees affirmatively opt out of such enrollment. Initial deferral amounts must be at least 3% but no more than 10% of the employee’s compensation, with automatic annual increases of 1% until the deferral amount is at least 10% but no more than 15%. All current 401(k) and 403(b) plans are grandfathered, and there is an exception for small businesses with 10 or fewer employees, entities that have been in business for less than three years, church plans, and governmental plans.
Part-Time Employee Eligibility
Long-term, part-time employees (LTPT) must be allowed to contribute to 401(k) and ERISA Section 403(b) plans after two consecutive years with 500 or more hours of service. Employees eligible for this provision also earn vesting credit for years with 500 hours of service.
Additional Catch-Up Contributions
Under current law, employees aged 50 or older in 2023 are permitted to make catch-up contributions of $7,500 ($3,500 for SIMPLE plans) in excess of otherwise applicable annual limits. Effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2024, SECURE 2.0 creates an additional “tier” of catch-up contributions for individuals who are ages 60, 61, 62 and 63.
Such individuals will have an increased catch-up limit of $10,000 or 150% of the regular catch-up amount, whichever is greater. The increased amounts are indexed for inflation after 2025.
Effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 2025, defined contribution plans must provide a paper benefit statement at least once annually, unless a participant elects otherwise. The other three quarterly statements required under ERISA may be provided electronically.
Saver’s Match Becomes a Federal Matching Contribution
Current law provides for a nonrefundable credit for certain individuals who make contributions to IRAs, employer retirement plans, and ABLE accounts. For taxable years beginning after December 31, 2026, this tax credit is replaced by a “federal matching contribution” credit, received by the taxpayer as part of their tax refund that must be deposited into the taxpayer’s IRA or retirement plan. The match is 50% of IRA or retirement plan contributions up to $2,000 per individual for those below the adjusted gross threshold ($41,000 for joint filers and $20,500 for single taxpayers or those married filing separately). The match phases out above the threshold and ceases when the participant’s adjusted gross income exceeds $71,000 (joint filers) or $35,500 (single or married filing separately).
Future Regulations EPCRS Expansion
The Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (“EPCRS”) is expanding to allow more types of errors (such as plan loan and automatic deferral errors) to be self-corrected and exempt certain failures from excise taxes. The IRS is required to issue revised Revenue Procedures within two years. Participant Notices and Plan Reporting. SECURE 2.0 directs applicable departments and agencies to review and revise regulations covering multiple areas. We expect to see updated guidance in the following areas:
- Consolidating separate defined contribution plan notices into a single notice
- Improving fee disclosures required for defined contribution plans
- Simplifying and consolidating defined benefit plan reporting and disclosure requirements
Retirement Savings Lost and Found Database
SECURE 2.0 directs the Department of Labor to create and maintain a national online database that will help participants find contact information for retirement plan administrators. Plans will have annual reporting requirements regarding participants who separated with vested benefits, and we expect additional guidance to clarify the scope of information required and how such information will be reported.
Plan sponsors must adopt amendments to implement mandatory and any desired optional SECURE 2.0 provisions by the end of the first plan year that starts in 2025.