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Effective Dates for Secure Act

Updated: Feb 1


Effective Dates Vary by Provision

The effective dates for SECURE Act changes vary by tax, calendar, and plan years, according to Toth Law and Toth Consulting, with some modifications taking effect in 2020, such as the increase in age for mandatory plan distributions, or in 2021, such as the MEP provisions. Effective dates for major SECURE Act provisions are listed below.


Enactment of the SECURE Act:

  • Plans prohibited from making loans through credit cards and similar arrangements. Fiduciary safe harbor for selection of lifetime income provider

  • Modification of defined-benefit plan nondiscrimination rules to protect longer-service participant expansion of qualified education expenses that can be paid through 529 plans, effective for distributions made after Dec. 31, 2018


Plan years beginning after Dec. 31, 2019:

  • Safe harbor plans using automatic escalation can raise their cap after the first year of participation from 10 percent to 15 percent of compensation.

  • Safe harbor notices eliminate plans using the nonelective contribution option. And employers can wait until 30 days before the end of the plan year to adopt the 3 percent nonelective safe harbor.

  • Employers can choose to add the nonelective safe harbor with an amendment by the end of the following year. Still, the amendment would need to provide 4 percent rather than 3 percent of compensation.

  • In-service distributions from defined-benefit plans and government 457(b) plans can distribute as early as age 59 1/2 rather than starting at age 62.

Tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2019:

  • Increase in credit limit for small employer plan startup costs.

  • Small employer automatic enrollment credit

  • Repeal of maximum age for traditional IRA contributions.Portability of lifetime income options.

  • Penalty-free withdrawals from retirement plans for individuals following the birth of a child or adoption

  • The age for requiring participants to begin taking mandatory distributions rises to 72 from 70 1/2.

Calendar years beginning after Dec. 31, 2019:

  • Increased penalties for failure to file Form 5500 retirement plan returns (applies to returns and notice due dates after this date).

  • Limits on stretch payments to beneficiaries, effective for deaths after 2019.


Plan years beginning after Dec. 31, 2020:

  • MEP provisions.

  • Non-bargained 401(k) plans cannot exclude long-term part-time employees from participating if they work at least 500 hours in each of three consecutive years. Service before 2021 will not count.

Plan years beginning after Dec. 31, 2021:

Combined annual report for a group of plans (IRS and DOL to issue a consolidated Form 5500 no later than Jan. 1, 2022).


Last day of the first plan year beginning after Dec. 31, 2021, or such later date as the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe:

Provisions relating to plan amendments.


More than 12 months after the Secretary of Labor issues interim final rules, the model disclosure and the assumptions on which notices:

Disclosure regarding lifetime income.


Disclosure Note on Information Source

*Toth noted that the act includes caveats and conditions for some of these dates.

*Information of this article is on the SHRM website: www.SHRM.com



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