Eligibilty Requirements for 403(b) Plans Differ From 401(k) Plans


Employers who sponsor a 403(b) tax-deferred annuity plan for their employees need to be aware of the "universal availability" eligibility requirement for employee pre-tax deferral contributions. This rule requires that all employees must be eligible to make deferral contributions to the plan as of their first day of employment.

The universal availability requirement for 403(b) plans is significantly different from the rules applicable to qualified retirement plans. For example, a 401(k) plan can require employees to wait for up to a year before becoming eligible to make deferral contributions.

One of our tax-exempt clients who sponsors a 403(b) plan ran afoul of the universal availability requirement by requiring employees to complete a 90-day "probationary" period before being eligible to make deferral contributions. This service requirement could have been included in a 401(k) plan, but not in a 403(b) plan.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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