IRS Offers Relief on 403(b) Written Plan Requirement

December 11, 2008 ( - The IRS issued a notice on Thursday announcing relief for 403(b) plans that do not have a written plan in place by January 1, 2009.

The IRS said it was extending the deadline for plan sponsors to adopt new written plans or amend existing plans to satisfy the requirement of the final 403(b) regulations “…because of difficulties expressed by numerous plan administrators” in meeting the current deadline of January 1, 2009 (See  Attorneys Ask for Delay of 403(b) Effective Date ). 

In making the announcement, the IRS said the extension would give plan sponsors additional time to put their plan documents in place.  Notice 2009-3 says the IRS will treat plans as meeting the requirements of 403(b) and the regulations during the 2009 calendar year if:

  • By December 31, 2009, the plan sponsor has adopted a written 403(b) plan that is intended to satisfy the requirements of 403(b) and the regulations;
  • During 2009, the plan sponsor operates the plan in accordance with a reasonable interpretation of 403(b) and the related regulations; and
  • By the end of 2009, the plan sponsor makes its best effort to retroactively correct any operational failure during the 2009 calendar year to conform to the written plan.

The IRS said in a news release that it plans to issue further guidance on 403(b) plans, including a revenue procedure establishing a pre-approved plan program (See IRS Developing Pre-approved Plan Program for 403(b)s ) and guidelines allowing plans to make remedial amendments to retroactively fix plan provisions under rules that similar to those that apply for 401(a) qualified plans. 

IRS Notice 2009-3 is here .