Attorney Calls Proposed Changes to RMDs From 403(b)s ‘A Big Deal’

Proposed required minimum distribution changes would require a participant to take calculated amounts from each 403(b) contract he has.

A change to required minimum distribution rules for 403(b) retirement plans proposed by the IRS is causing industry chatter.

Currently, the RMD rules applicable to individual retirement accounts apply to section 403(b) contracts. As David Levine, principal at Groom Law Group, Chartered, explains to PLANADVISER, that means a participant doesn’t have to take his RMD amount from each 403(b) contract he has, but can take calculated amounts from any one plan account.

Also, although IRA trustees are required to report to the IRS and provide to IRA owners certain information regarding RMDs, such as whether an RMD is due for a year and the account balance on which it will be based, the IRS requires no reporting with respect to RMDs from 403(b) contracts. “Accordingly, a section 403(b) plan is neither required to automatically make a required minimum distribution for a participant nor required to inform the IRS or the participant that a required minimum distribution is due or the account balance on which the distribution is based,” the IRS explains in its proposed rules.

However, the agency says it is “considering additional changes to the required minimum distribution rules for section 403(b) plans so that they more closely follow the required minimum distribution rules for qualified plans.” Levine says the IRS is proposing to make 403(b)s like 401(k)s under RMD rules. An RMD would have to be taken from each 403(b) contract, rather than a participant being able to request his total RMD amount from one 403(b) account.

Levine says this is a big deal because recordkeepers don’t hold individual annuity contracts for participants and do not have systems in place to force out an RMD from a 403(b) annuity contract. He adds that recordkeepers would have to make updates to their systems and 403(b) plans with individual annuity contracts would have to coordinate RMDs across accounts. Plan sponsors, dust off your information sharing agreements.

Asked whether he thinks this proposed change will be finalized, Levine says there’s a chance, but he believes there will be many comments about it. The comment period for the proposed RMD rules ends May 25.