IRS Logo

Determination, Opinion and Advisory Letter for Retirement Plans - Pre-Approved Plans

Pre-approved plans are either Master and Prototype and Volume Submitter.

Master and Prototype (M&P)
An M&P plan consists of a basic plan document and an adoption agreement. The basic plan document contains non-elective provisions. The adoption agreement contains elective provisions that an adopting employer selects.

An M&P may be standardized or non-standardized (see Revenue Procedure 2011-49, sections 4.09 and 4.10).

  • Standardized
    A plan designed to satisfy the qualification requirements solely based on its terms. An employer who adopts a standardized pre-approved plan can rely on the opinion letter issued to the pre-approved plan sponsor as if it were its own determination letter.

  • Nonstandardized
    A plan that provides plan design choices and elective provisions that do not ensure compliance with the nondiscrimination requirements (see Revenue Procedure 2011-49, section 19).

The M&P program involves M&P mass submitters, M&P sponsors and adopting employers. The IRS issues an opinion letter to an M&P sponsor on the acceptability of the M&P plan's form. The sponsor then makes its plan or plans available for employers to adopt. See section 4 of Revenue Procedure 2011-49.

Volume Submitter (VS)
A VS plan is a specimen plan (sample plan) of a VS practitioner that its employer-clients adopt on an identical or substantially identical basis. It consists of a specimen plan document that offers choices over plan terms and a trust or custodial account. It may or may not have an adoption agreement.

The VS program involves mass submitters, VS practitioners and adopting employers. The IRS issues advisory letters to VS practitioners on the acceptability of the specimen plans’ form. The practitioner then makes its plan or plans available for employers to adopt. See section 13 of Revenue Procedure 2011-49.

Additional Resource

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 2012-08-03