Although the main feature of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a significant reduction in the corporate federal income tax rate, the Act also makes a number of significant changes to the rules governing employer-sponsored retirement plans and individual retirement accounts. From plan loans to hardship withdrawals and Roth recharacterizations, employers should make sure that they understand how these new rules might affect them.
Despite rumors to the contrary, the tax bill introduced into the House of Representatives by the Republican Party leadership would do nothing to restrict employees’ ability to make pre-tax deferrals to 401(k), 403(b), or 457(b) plans. Trial balloons had suggested that pre-tax deferrals might be limited to only half of the overall annual deferral limit (or even less), with any remaining deferrals made only on a “Roth” (after-tax) basis. But at least for now, “Rothification” appears to be dead.
What the House bill would do, however, is perhaps even more surprising. A slew of tax-favored fringe benefits would be eliminated. And nonqualified deferred compensation as we now know it would be entirely transformed. Incredibly enough, most of these changes would take effect as of January 1, 2018 – less than two months after the bill’s introduction.
Congress and the IRS are encouraging individuals to convert their retirement savings into Roth accounts (as a means to increase revenue). Pursuant to changes to the Tax Code made by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (“SBJA 2010”), sponsors of Section 401(k) plans, Section 403(b) plans, and governmental Section 457(b) plans may now allow participants to convert their pre-tax accounts into Roth accounts.
On September 27, 2010, President Obama signed the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 (the “Act”), which includes two provisions designed to promote retirement preparation (while raising revenue for the federal government). The first would permit Roth contributions to Section 457(b) plans maintained by state or local governments (a feature that is currently limited to 401(k) and 403(b) plans). The second would permit certain amounts in 401(k), 403(b) and governmental 457(b) plans to be converted to Roth accounts within the plan (i.e., an “in-plan” conversion option).