Many employers are all too familiar with the experience of having to refund contributions made to the organization’s 401(k) plan by highly compensated employees to remedy the previous year’s failed actual deferral percentage (“ADP”) test. The ADP test is designed to ensure that the average deferral rates for highly and non-highly compensated employees are roughly equal. Thanks to the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (“SECURE Act”), the experience of refunding highly compensated employees’ deferrals in order to satisfy the ADP test will in many cases be consigned to history. The below addresses how the SECURE Act relaxes some of the rules affecting 401(k) plan testing.
Q: Can a 401(k) plan retroactively avoid ADP testing?
The year 2021 presents for the first time the opportunity to retroactively escape the prior year’s ADP test without regard to the extent by which contributions from highly compensated employees exceeded the average deferral percentage contributed by the organization’s non-highly compensated employees. Under the SECURE Act, it is now possible to adopt a safe harbor nonelective 401(k) feature that will exempt the plan from ADP testing with respect to the previous year. Unlike in the past, a notice to participants before the beginning of the year in which the safe harbor nonelective contribution applies is no longer required. As such, employers can now wait until the end of the year, or even longer, before deciding whether to make a safe harbor nonelective contribution for the year.