Are You Ready for Cycle 3 (Post-PPA) Retirement Plan Restatement?

Retirement Plan Restatement Cycle 3 Post PPANow’s the time to move forward with updating your employee retirement plan so that its in compliance with the latest IRS requirements.

Every six years the IRS mandates that retirement plans with pre-approved status update their plan document or restate… to incorporate any recent regulatory or legislative changes. In return, they receive a new “opinion letter” from the IRS.   

We’re in the middle of a two-year restatement period for pre-approved defined contribution plans, which includes 401(k)s. The restatement period started August 1, 2020 and will close July 31, 2022. Since it is the third cycle of defined contribution plan restatement since the Pension Protection Act (PPA) of 2006, it’s also known as Cycle 3 Restatement.   

What does it mean to do a plan restatement? In simple terms it is a complete rewrite of your retirement plan document. It will reflect those mandatory regulatory changes and include any voluntary changes you’ve made to your plan document since your last restatement.

Pre-approved document definition: A pre-approved plan document has fixed provisions and pre-selected choices that can be chosen by the plan sponsor. The pre-approved language has already been reviewed and approved by the IRS. Any employer adopting a pre-approved plan can be confident that the terms of the plan will satisfy IRS code requirements. An important terminology note: “prototype”/ “volume submitter” are terms you’re likely familiar with but are no longer recognized by the IRS. There are now two types of pre-approved plans: standardized and non-standardized. The chart below offers a helpful side-by-side comparison.



Standardized Pre-Approved Plan


Non-standardized Pre-Approved Plan

The format is composed of an adoption agreement and corresponding basic plan document.

The format is either composed of an adoption agreement and corresponding basic plan document or a single integrated plan document.

The design is to satisfy the qualification requirements based solely on the plan terms. There are fewer design choices and elective provisions permitted.

Flexibility in design choices and elective provisions that go beyond the basic provisions.

May rely on the issued opinion letter.

May rely on the issued opinion letter if non-standardized document is word-for-word.

Modifications to the plan will result in becoming individually designed and losing reliance on the pre-approved status.

Minor modifications are permitted but the employer should file a Form 5307 by the restatement deadline.    

The number of allocation groups for Non-Highly Compensated Employees (NHCEs) is restricted based on the number of eligible Highly Compensated Employees (HCEs).

No restrictions on the number of allocation groups for NHCEs. 

      **Preferred for cross-tested allocations**

Cannot offer non-safe harbor hardships.

Cannot offer non-safe harbor hardships.


Why do you need a plan restatement? As laws and regulations change, so must your plan document to remain in compliance. It must reflect new rules because of acts of Congress and new requirements from the IRS and US Department of Labor.

The IRS released its “Cumulative List of Changes” document in 2017, including new regulations in place since the prior restatement period that ended in April of 2016. But the cumulative list of changes happened before some other major changes included in the SECURE Act and the CARES Act.

SECURE Act and CARES Act changes won’t be part of Cycle 3 (or Post-PPA) restatement, but instead be incorporated separately through good faith amendments. 

Why should you act now? The two-year plan restatement period is already half over. If you don’t do a plan restatement by the July 31, 2022 deadline, you’re subject to IRS penalties and can also jeopardize the plan’s tax status.

Some other important considerations:

  • Any plans terminated and cashed out prior to the restatement period will only need to address the changes brought on by the SECURE Act and the CARES Act. They won’t need to do a full restatement.
  • Plans you’re considering terminating, are inactive or frozen do need to go through the restatement process.

Our Specialization.

GJM Accounting Services Manager Molly Wolf specializes in employee benefit plans and assists many GJM clients with plan restatement. In many cases she works very closely with those responsible for managing their company retirement plan document. Other times the client prefers to be more hands off with the project. Each business must determine their level of comfort and what works best for them.

“There’s quite a bit involved in terms of evaluating a plan document, ensuring compliance, and avoiding any penalties,” says Wolf. “Quite often the retirement plan manager will step aside and let our team take the lead. That way they can rest assured they’ll stay in compliance.” 

If you have yet to begin your plan restatement, Wolf says you probably don’t want to wait much longer. She says now’s the time to reach out to your service provider to be sure Cycle 3 (Post-PPA) restatement isn’t an afterthought, but a priority. GJM clients in need of a plan document restatement who haven’t begun this work already, are encouraged to reach out to their GJM team to discuss what’s needed.

Molly Wolf is an accounting services manager with over 15 years of experience specializing in employee benefit plans. The first 9 years of her career were spent as a dedicated employee benefit plan auditor. Her expertise also includes consulting for third party plan administration and benefit plan design, compliance testing, payroll integration and reconciliation. Since joining Gilmore Jasion Mahler in September of 2019, Molly continues to provide third party administration services, prepares related tax forms, consults on plan design, and prepares plan documents. She is a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Science in business administration with accounting specialization

Established in 1996, Gilmore Jasion Mahler, LTD (GJM) is the largest public accounting firm in Northwest Ohio, with offices in Maumee and Findlay. Locally owned, GJM offers cloud-based accounting and provides comprehensive services including assurance, business advisory, tax, risk advisory, healthcare management and outsourced accounting. The firm’s professionals specialize in industries including construction & real estate, healthcare, manufacturing & distribution and utilities.

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