The implications of the Secure Act will affect your upcoming tax return, whether you’re a 401(k) plan participant or an employer offering a small business 401(k) retirement plan in 2020.
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The SECURE Act stands for “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement.” The bipartisan law — passed by the House in July 2019, approved by the Senate in December 2019, and gone into effect January 1, 2020 — represents the largest retirement reform since the Pension Protection Act of 2006.
At the time of its passage, retirement saving was a real problem in America. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 55% of the adult population was participating in a workplace retirement plan. Even those who did were far behind in their investing, with the median 401(k) balance for those ages 65+ just $58,035. Legislators worried that workplace retirement programs were too expensive and difficult to administer – particularly for small businesses, which make up 99.7 percent of US employers.
Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) issued the following statement: “With passage of this bill, the House made significant progress in fixing our nation’s retirement crisis and helping workers of all ages save for their futures.” SECURE Act 2020 provisions increase access to tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts, prevent older Americans from outliving their assets, and make it easier for small businesses to set up Safe Harbor accounts.
Retirement savings plan participants are affected by the SECURE Act retirement bill in several key ways:
Prior to 2020, individuals with 401(k) plans or IRAs had to take distributions no later than April 1st of the year they turned 70.5. New SECURE Act RMD rules allow plan participants to wait until they’re age 72 to take mandatory withdrawals from their retirement savings accounts. If a plan participant turned 70.5 in 2019, they’re stuck abiding by the old rule, but for anyone who has not yet reached this milestone, there are a few more years of nest egg growth if they want it.
The plan owner must calculate the correct distribution based on the IRS Life Expectancy tables for a single or joint account. More can be taken out if desired, but not less. The money can be taken out in a lump sum, monthly, or quarterly throughout the year. If the owner fails to take out the full amount of the RMD, the amount not withdrawn is still taxed at 50%. This penalty can be waived if the owner can make the case that it was a reasonable error and demonstrate that proper steps are being taken to correct the oversight.
Plan beneficiaries must receive the whole distribution within 10 years of the account owner’s passing, with a few exceptions. A surviving spouse, minor child under 18 years old, disabled/chronically ill heir, or an individual who is not more than 10 years younger than the decedent can follow the traditional rule – taking minimum distributions based on the IRS life expectancy table. Account holders will need to plan their estates carefully, as taking these distributions could push their beneficiaries into a potentially higher tax bracket.
Parents can withdraw up to $5,000 from a 401(k), penalty-free, within a year of a child’s birth or adoption. They may also withdraw up to $10,000 from 529 plans to repay student loans or apprenticeship tuition. This money can be repaid later as a rollover contribution from another qualified plan if desired.
Plan participants aren’t the only ones impacted. Here is a SECURE Act summary for small business owners:
All part-time employees working at least 500 hours a year for three years of their employment are now eligible for a workplace retirement plan that offers one. There are no employer match or contribution requirements, and the law includes special guidelines for top-heavy testing to avoid nondiscrimination test failure.
Small business owners interested in starting a new 401(k) program can claim a tax credit worth $250 per eligible non-highly-compensated employee – a minimum credit of $500 to a maximum of $5,000 – to help cover the cost of setting up the plan. This credit extends to employers with up to 100 employees. If the plan includes auto-enrollment, an additional $500/year credit can be applied. These credits can be applied for the first three years of a new plan.
The new law makes it easier for small businesses to band together to offer defined contribution retirement plans called MEPs. Even if one of the other employers fails to satisfy the tax qualification rules, the others will not necessarily be punished. In the past, “one bad apple” could spoil the tax advantage for the whole bunch.
Prior to the SECURE Act, employers had to abide by certain deadlines to add Safe Harbor protection from nondiscrimination testing rules. With a matching contribution, employers need to give 30 to 90 days’ notice before the start of the plan year. The SECURE Act adds flexibility. Now employers do not need to give notice for changes to employer matching formulas, and can amend their plans as late as the last day of the year if they agree to make a 4% or greater contribution.
This SECURE Act summary only includes a handful of the 29 provisions passed. It can be difficult to keep up with the changing times and ensure your plan is in 100% compliance with the law, and taking full advantage of all the benefits extended your way. Contact us to learn more about small business retirement plans. As a 401(k) plan provider and administrator, Ubiquity offers direct assistance to small business employers and plan participants alike.
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