Between hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and tornadoes, virtually every part of this country has been affected by extreme weather this year.
If any of your employees suffered extreme damage at the hands of a natural disaster, they may be looking for assistance – in the form of a hardship distribution from their 401(k) plan.
So now’s a good time to review what IRS says about hardship distributions and natural disasters.
While IRS has a detailed FAQ on this topic, attorney Keith McMurdy summarized seven basic points employers should know about hardship distributions:
- A retirement plan may permit hardship distributions, but isn’t required to do so. Check with your 401(k) provider to see how your plan works.
- A plan must set specific criteria for distributions and how a hardship is determined. There has to be a set way for workers to apply for and get approval for the distribution, and the plan rules must be satisfied.
- IRS generally defines a hardships as “an immediate and heavy financial need,” most commonly associated with medical expenses, purchase of a home, tuition, funeral expenses and “certain expenses for the repair or damage of the employee’s principle residence.”
- Workers need to have used all other available distributions and loans from the plan before they can receive the hardship distribution.
- Employees can’t make elective deferrals to their retirement plan for 6 months after receiving the hardship distribution.
- Distributions are generally limited to the amount of an employee’s total elective contributions (minus any previous withdrawals).
- Distributions can generally be included in gross income and may be subject to taxation as an early distribution of elective deferrals.