In late December 2022, while most practitioners and their clients were busy with other things, Congress passed a giant omnibus budget bill. Buried within it was the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement 2.0 Act of 2022 (“SECURE 2.0”), which contains many retirement changes and some other changes that practitioners and their clients need to be aware of. It provides new incentives for employers to offer their employees retirement plans and participate in and improve their retirement security. SECURE 2.0 helps employees and their beneficiaries, owner-employees, small businesses, and retirees and eases costs, administrative burdens, and penalties for inadvertent mistakes. It will also require most plans to be amended to comply with some of its provisions. The 2023 omnibus bill containing the following key provisions that benefit individuals was signed into law by President Biden on December 29, 2022.
Tax-free rollovers from 529 accounts to Roth IRAs. After 2023, SECURE 2.0 permits beneficiaries of 529 college savings accounts to make up to $35,000 of direct trustee-to-trustee rollovers from a 529 account to their Roth IRA without tax or penalty. The 529 account must have been open for more than 15 years, and the rollover is limited to the amount contributed to the 529 account (and its earnings) more than five years earlier. Rollovers are subject to the Roth IRA annual contribution limits but are not limited based on the taxpayer’s AGI.
Age increased for required distributions. Under SECURE 2.0, the age used to determine required distribution beginning dates for IRA owners, retired employer plan members, and active-employee 5%-owners increases in two stages from the current age of 72 to age 73 for those who turn age 72 after 2022, and to age 75 for those who will turn 74 in 2032.
Bigger catch-up contributions permitted. Starting in 2025, SECURE 2.0 increases the current elective deferral catch-up contribution limit for older employees from $7,500 for 2023 ($3,500 for SIMPLE plans) to the greater of $10,000 ($5,000 for SIMPLE plans), or 50% more than the regular catch-up amount in 2024 (2025 for SIMPLE plans) for individuals who attain ages 60-63. The dollar amounts are inflation-indexed after 2025.
More penalty-free withdrawals permitted. SECURE 2.0 adds an exception after 2023 to the 10% pre age-59 1/2 penalty tax for one distribution per year of up to $1,000 used for emergency expenses to meet unforeseeable or immediate financial needs relating to personal or family emergencies. The taxpayer has the option to repay the distribution within three years. No other emergency distributions are permissible during the three-year period unless repayment occurs.
Similarly, plans may permit participants that self-certify as having experienced domestic abuse to withdraw the lesser of $10,000 indexed for inflation, or 50% of their account free from the 10% tax on early distributions. The participant has the opportunity to repay the withdrawn money from the retirement plan over three years and get a refund of income taxes on money that is repaid. Also, the additional 10% early distribution tax no longer applies to distributions to terminally ill individuals.
Beginning December 29, 2025, retirement plans may make penalty-free distributions of up to $2,500 per year for payment of premiums for high quality coverage under certain long term care insurance contracts.
Also, retroactive for disasters after January 25, 2021, penalty free distributions of up to $22,000 may be made from employer retirement plans or IRAs for affected individuals. Regular tax on the distributions is considered gross income over three years. Distributions can be repaid to a tax preferred retirement account. Additionally, amounts distributed prior to the disaster to purchase a home can be recontributed and an employer may provide for a larger amount to be borrowed from a plan by affected individuals and for additional time for repayment of plan loans owed by affected individuals.
SECURE 2.0 also contains an emergency savings provision that allows employers to offer non-highly compensated employees emergency savings accounts linked to individual account plans that automatically opt employees into these accounts at no more than 3% of their salary, capped at a maximum of $2,500. Employees can withdraw up to $1,000 once per year for personal or family emergencies without certain tax consequences.
Reduced penalty tax on failure to take RMDs. For tax years beginning after December 29, 2022, SECURE 2.0 reduces the penalty for failure to take required minimum distributions from qualified retirement plans, including IRAs or deferred compensation plans under Code Sec. 457(b) from the current 50% to 25% of the amount by which the distribution falls short of the required amount. It reduces the penalty to 10% if the failure to take the RMD is corrected in a timely manner.
Favorable surviving spouse election. For plan years after 2023, the surviving sole spousal designated beneficiary of an employee who dies before RMDs have begun under an employer qualified retirement plan may elect to be treated as if the surviving spouse were the employee for purposes of the required minimum distribution rules. If the election is made distributions need not begin until the employee would have had to start them.
This provision allows a designated spousal beneficiary to receive a similar distribution period for lifetime distributions under an employer plan as is permitted if the surviving spouse rolled the amount into an IRA.
The IRS will prescribe the time and manner of the election, which once made may not be revoked without the IRS’ consent.
Employer match for student loan payments. To assist employees who may not be able to save for retirement because they are overwhelmed with student debt and are missing out on available matching contributions for retirement plans, SECURE allows them to receive matching contributions by reason of their student loan repayments. For plan years after 2023, it allows employers to make matching contributions under a 401(k) plan, 403(b) plan, or SIMPLE IRA for “qualified student loan payments.”
Return of excess contributions. SECURE 2.0 specifies that earnings attributable to excess IRA contributions that are returned by the taxpayer’s tax return due date (including extensions) are exempt from the 10% early withdrawal tax. The taxpayer must not claim a deduction for the distributed excess contribution. This applies to any determination of or affecting liability for taxes, interest, or penalties made on or after December 29, 2022.
We know that this amount of information is overwhelming, but there is much here that may affect you or your business and induce or require you to change your retirement plan or how you handle your account and distributions. It’s a lot to consider. Be assured that we can help you with all of this. Please don’t hesitate to call Cray Kaiser at (630) 953-4900 if you would like to discuss how SECURE 2.0 may impact you or your business.