You Don’t Have To Go Home, But You Can’t Stay Here

It’s 2024, which means a new batch of provisions from SECURE Act 2.0 have gone into effect. One of the more significant ones is an increase in the “cashout” limit that a qualified plan can impose to kick former employees with small balances out of their plans.

The cashout limit allows a qualified plan to force a distribution of the accrued benefit of a participant whose account balance is below a certain threshold stated in the Internal Revenue Code. You don’t need the participant to make an election or otherwise consent to the distribution; you just have to give them a reasonable period to make an election as to how they want to receive the benefit. If they don’t respond, the plan ships out the benefit. If the value of the forced distribution is over $1,000 and the participant doesn’t elect how to receive the benefit, the distribution must go into an IRA established for the participant – and it isn’t hard for a plan to find a service provider who will be happy to set up those IRAs.

For a while, this limit was $3,500 and was increased to $5,000 by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. The final regulations for this increase became effective October 17, 2000. SECURE Act 2.0 bumps it up to $7,000 as of January 1, 2024. Plans aren’t required to have a force-out provision, but nearly all do, and for good reason.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where it wouldn’t be smart for a plan to take advantage of the increased limit. Here are the main reasons why:

Recent guidance extended the required amendment adoption date to December 31, 2026, for many SECURE 2.0 provisions, including this increase to the cashout threshold. Plan sponsors wanting to use the higher threshold may do so while waiting to adopt an amendment. Those inclined to increase their cashout level should discuss the change process with their third-party administrators before taking any action themselves.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2024
National Law Review, Volumess XIV, Number 36