The Internal Revenue Service has released final regs totaling over 230 pages with rules for plans that permit employees to make pre-tax contributions and for plans that have employer matching contributions or employee after-tax contributions. The existing regulations covering these plans were last updated in 1994. Since then, there have been significant statutory changes. The new regs will be fully effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2006, although employers are permitted to use the new rules for any plan year that ends after Dec. 28, 2004. These comprehensive final rules are the result of a long effort of input gathering from retirement plan participants, sponsors, and service providers. Specifically, they address many of the concerns raised by comments submitted in response to the proposed regulations. These final regulations will make it easier for employers to sponsor plans to help employees save for their retirement and will assist administrators in keeping the plans qualified. The final regulations update and simplify many of the current rules for 401(k) plans. In addition, the new regulations strengthen the nondiscrimination rules that ensure benefits for rank-and-file employees. They require certain employer contributions to be spread over a large group of rank-and-file employees before they can boost the ability of high-paid employees to defer income under the plan.

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