Closed Defined Benefit Plans

On December 13, 2013, the IRS issued Notice 2014-5 which provides temporary relief for satisfying the nondiscrimination requirements under Section 401(a)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) for plan sponsors that maintain defined benefit plans which have been closed to new hires.

Many defined benefit plan sponsors have implemented “soft freezes” of their plans, closing them to new hires, but continuing defined benefit plan accruals for participants hired before the “soft-freeze.”   These employers might then implement a new or enhance an existing defined contribution plan for new hires.  Over time, the defined benefit plan might no longer pass coverage testing under Code Section 410(b) on its own because of greater turnover among the non-highly compensated employee group covered by the plan relative to the highly compensated employee population.  As a result, the frozen defined benefit plan must be aggregated with the defined contribution plan to satisfy the coverage requirements of the Code (the defined benefit plan, when aggregated with the defined contribution plan for testing is referred to as the “Aggregated Plan”).