Congress decided last year to waive required minimum distributions from retirement savings plans for 2009, but there is still some confusion about how to apply the waiver.

The Worker, Retiree, and Employer Recovery Act of 2008  waived the required minimum distributions for 2009 from defined-contribution plans such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans, as well as IRAs (see Congress Kills Minimum Distributions for 2009). The legislation came in response to the financial crisis, which severely reduced the savings of many retirees.

Notice 2009-82 provides two sample plan amendments that sponsors of individually designed or pre-approved plans may adopt or use to amend their plans to either cease making 2009 RMDs unless a participant or beneficiary elects otherwise, or continue making 2009 RMDs unless a participant or beneficiary elects otherwise.

The IRS has granted transitional relief for plans for the period Jan. 1, 2009, to Nov. 30, 2009; therefore, if a plan’s operation conflicts with the adopted sample amendment during this period, the IRS will not consider it an operational failure.

Individuals may roll over any amount they receive from a DC plan or an IRA that, in 2009, would have been an RMD for 2009 but for WRERA, if it meets the definition of an eligible rollover distribution. For plan participants and IRA owners who have already received their 2009 RMDs, but the 60-day rollover period has expired, the IRS has extended the rollover period for these distributions until Nov. 30, 2009. However, because of the special one-rollover-per-year rule for IRAs, which was not changed by WRERA, an IRA owner may be able to make only one rollover if their 2009 RMDs were paid in installments.

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