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IRS Revises Safe Harbor Explanation for Rollovers

By Dave Baker


The Internal Revenue Service initially released a "Safe Harbor Explanation" to the public in late December, which plan administrators may provide to recipients of eligible rollover distributions from employer plans in order to satisfy section 402(f) of the Internal Revenue Code. But after that initial release, several minor corrections were made by the IRS to the text of the Safe Harbor Explanation. The corrections appear in the version of IRS Notice 2002-3 that was printed in the Internal Revenue Bulletin dated January 14, 2002.

If your firm downloaded the initial release of Notice 2002-3 from the IRS web site or from a press site (such as BenefitsLink), you will want to make a note of the corrections, which are detailed below. As of February 22, 2002, the HTML and Microsoft Word copies of the explanation on BenefitsLink have been revised to include the corrections.

List of Corrections Made to Safe Harbor Explanation

In the safe harbor explanation for use by section 401(a) qualified plans, section 403(a) annuity plans or section 403(b) tax sheltered annuities, three corrections were made.

  1. The phrase "if you own 5% or more of your employer" in the following paragraph is changed to "if you own more than 5% of your employer".

    OLD: Required minimum payments. Beginning when you reach age 70 1/2 or retire, whichever is later, a certain portion of your payment cannot be rolled over because it is a "required minimum payment" that must be paid to you. Special rules apply if you own 5% or more of your employer.

    NEW: Required minimum payments. Beginning when you reach age 70 1/2 or retire, whichever is later, a certain portion of your payment cannot be rolled over because it is a "required minimum payment" that must be paid to you. Special rules apply if you own more than 5% of your employer.

  2. The phrase "10% will be taken out" in the following paragraph is changed to "an amount will be taken out".

    OLD: Voluntary withholding. If any portion of your payment is taxable but cannot be rolled over under Part I above, the mandatory withholding rules described above do not apply. In this case, you may elect not to have withholding apply to that portion. If you do nothing, 10% will be taken out of this portion of your payment for federal income tax withholding. To elect out of withholding, ask the Plan Administrator for the election form and related information.

    NEW: Voluntary withholding. If any portion of your payment is taxable but cannot be rolled over under Part I above, the mandatory withholding rules described above do not apply. In this case, you may elect not to have withholding apply to that portion. If you do nothing, an amount will be taken out of this portion of your payment for federal income tax withholding. To elect out of withholding, ask the Plan Administrator for the election form and related information.

  3. The phrase ", a governmental 457 plan," is added to the following paragraph.

    OLD: There are other limits on the special tax treatment for lump sum distributions. For example, you can generally elect this special tax treatment only once in your lifetime, and the election applies to all lump sum distributions that you receive in that same year. You may not elect this special tax treatment if you rolled amounts into this Plan from a 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity contract or from an IRA not originally attributable to a qualified employer plan. If you have previously rolled over a distribution from this Plan (or certain other similar plans of the employer), you cannot use this special averaging treatment for later payments from the Plan. If you roll over your payment to a traditional IRA, governmental 457 plan, or 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity, you will not be able to use special tax treatment for later payments from that IRA, plan, or annuity. Also, if you roll over only a portion of your payment to a traditional IRA, governmental 457 plan, or 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity, this special tax treatment is not available for the rest of the payment. See IRS Form 4972 for additional information on lump sum distributions and how you elect the special tax treatment.

    NEW: There are other limits on the special tax treatment for lump sum distributions. For example, you can generally elect this special tax treatment only once in your lifetime, and the election applies to all lump sum distributions that you receive in that same year. You may not elect this special tax treatment if you rolled amounts into this Plan from a 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity contract, a governmental 457 plan, or from an IRA not originally attributable to a qualified employer plan. If you have previously rolled over a distribution from this Plan (or certain other similar plans of the employer), you cannot use this special averaging treatment for later payments from the Plan. If you roll over your payment to a traditional IRA, governmental 457 plan, or 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity, you will not be able to use special tax treatment for later payments from that IRA, plan, or annuity. Also, if you roll over only a portion of your payment to a traditional IRA, governmental 457 plan, or 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity, this special tax treatment is not available for the rest of the payment. See IRS Form 4972 for additional information on lump sum distributions and how you elect the special tax treatment.

In the safe harbor explanation for use by governmental section 457 plans, one correction was made.

  1. The phrase "10% will be taken out" in the following paragraph is changed to "an amount will be taken out".

    OLD: Voluntary withholding. If any portion of your payment is taxable but cannot be rolled over under Part I above, the mandatory withholding rules described above do not apply. In this case, you may elect not to have withholding apply to that portion. If you do nothing, 10% will be taken out of this portion of your payment for federal income tax withholding. To elect out of withholding, ask the Plan Administrator for the election form and related information.

    NEW: Voluntary withholding. If any portion of your payment is taxable but cannot be rolled over under Part I above, the mandatory withholding rules described above do not apply. In this case, you may elect not to have withholding apply to that portion. If you do nothing, an amount will be taken out of this portion of your payment for federal income tax withholding. To elect out of withholding, ask the Plan Administrator for the election form and related information.

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