Proposed Retirement Plan Changes in $3.5 Trillion Bill
Angela Krause from Madison, WI asks: Good Afternoon, Mitch. I understand that the potential $3.5 trillion spending bill may include some changes to retirement plans. Could you explain what the changes are? Thank you.
Thanks for sending in your question, Angela. There are a few retirement-focused provisions in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, so I’ll list them out here.
But before I do, it’s important that you and readers remember: these are just proposals, they are not the law. This spending bill, in particular, faces several challenges before getting passed, and Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in the Senate. The bill that ultimately passes may look very different than what is in the bill today, and some of these retirement provisions could get scrapped or changed.1
The first major retirement provision would require businesses of basically all sizes to ‘automatically enroll’ employees in retirement plans. The provision applies to businesses at least two years old and with five or more employees. It says that these businesses must not only offer employees a retirement plan option, they must also enroll them. While at first glance this provision seems to place a burden on small business owners, the upshot is that businesses would receive a tax credit to offset administrative costs incurred with starting a plan. Businesses that fail to comply would be charged an excise tax.
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This particular provision is designed to address a problem with retirement plan participation. According to U.S. Census data, 79% of Americans work at a company that offers a retirement plan, but only 41% of them participate and make contributions. The budget bill provision seeks to not only close that gap but also raise the number of companies offering retirement plans to closer to 100%. On the employee side, once enrolled an employee may decide to opt-out, and/or lower or raise their contribution amount as desired.
A second provision in the bill targets high-income earners with retirement plans having balances over $10 million. The law would alter contribution limits for these earners while also increasing the level of required minimum distributions for high-income earners, making them withdraw more each year which would generate more tax revenue. Another closely-watched and related rule would be to limit the ability of high-income earners to access the “back door Roth IRA,” i.e., the ability to convert traditional IRAs into Roth IRAs.
There are other provisions in the bill that are less impactful, such as allowing tax filers to automatically contribute tax refunds to retirement accounts. And there may be more provisions to come. The key for you Angela, and other readers, however, is to wait until this bill arrives at President Biden’s desk. Only then will we truly know what retirement implications are in the bill – for now, keep a watchful eye but do not make any adjustments to your plan, it’s still too early in the process.
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