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Does IRS require an open enrollment period ?

Moe Howard

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I can't find anything in IRC 125 that says a cafeteria plan must have a specific "open enrollment period" and that employer must inform employees of the specific "beginning" date and "eding date" of the open enrollment period prior to the start of the open enrollment period.

Also, does IRC state the minimum and maximum number of days the open enrollment period can be?

Can anyone direct me to the various open enrollment rules that employers are required to communicate to employees?

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If the plan document specifies the beginning and closing dates for open enrollment, and the cafeteria plan is subject to ERISA, the plan administrator would have a duty to operate the plan as written including the provision about open enrollment period.

John Simmons


Note to Readers: For you, I'm a stranger posting on a bulletin board. Posts here should not be given the same weight as personalized advice from a professional who knows or can learn all the facts of your situation.

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Most of what takes place during open enrollment is implied versus being spelled out in the regs. The plan in most cases would not otherwise qualify or comply with regs if employees were not allowed to make elections, which regs state the deductions for which must be completed prior to commencement of the plan year begin date, or subsequent plan year anniversary dates.

Most plans take the opportunity to commence an organized open enrollment, a period of time that allows plan changes to be communicated to employee participants, and for employees to make necessary election changes based on changes in plan options.

Payroll departments must do their administrative magic before the first pay period of the new plan year (emergency extended enrollment periods not withstanding) in order for pre-tax plan deductions to take place during the plan year.

Open enrollment could take place in July for a calander plan year and not be out of compliance. No IRS or DOL regulations prevent it. But open enrollment that far in advance of the new plan year and the anticipated expenses would not be as practical for participants as a 30/60/90 day election period prior to the new plan year being date. A July enrollment might effect participation, with elections that far in advance of particiapnt's anticipated expenses.

all of the above assumes concensus with the principal that Sec. 125 benefits consist of employee elected benefits

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