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Opinion & Advisory Letters for Pre-Approved Plans- Submission Procedures

Plan sponsors can obtain IRS approval (“pre-approval”) of whether the form of defined contribution and defined benefit plans meet the requirements of Internal Revenue Code Sections 401, 403(a) and 403(b). The IRS also issues opinion letters for prototype IRAs.

Application steps

  1. Complete the current appropriate application forms
  2. Pay the appropriate user fee based on the user fee schedule
  3. Mail your application and user fee
  4. Wait for your application to be assigned to an IRS specialist for review
  5. Respond to any inquiries from the IRS specialist assigned to your case
  6. Interim email – You may receive an interim email stating that the plan appears to be in compliance.  This email is not an official opinion/advisory letter and it provides no qualification reliance. (Revenue Procedure 2011-49, Sections 7.07, 12.01, 17.05 and 18.01)
  7. Receive your official opinion/advisory letter from the IRS

Forms to submit

Defined contribution plans (mass submitters and non-mass submitters)

  • Form 4461, Application for Approval of Master or Prototype or Volume Submitter Defined Contribution Plans 

  • Attachment I to Form 4461

Defined benefit plans

  • Form 4461-A, Application for Approval of Master or Prototype or Volume Submitter Defined Benefit Plan

  • Attachment I-A to Form 4461-A

Word-for-word identical adopters and minor modifiers

  • Form 4461-B, Application for Approval of Master or Prototype or Volume Submitter Plans
    For approval of a plan submitted by a mass submitter on behalf of an adopting sponsor or practitioner, which is based on a plan submitted by the mass submitter.

All plans

  • Form 8717-A, User Fee for Employee Plan Opinion or Advisory Letter Request

  • Certification Regarding Interim Amendments
    The application must contain a certification signed by the M&P sponsor or VS practitioner that the applicant has made all required amendments to retain the plan’s qualified status and communicated them to all adopting employers.  

  • Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative

  • Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization

Mailing addresses

Forms 4461, 4461-A, or 4461-B (including M&P or VS mass submitters)

Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 2508
Cincinnati, OH 45201
Attn: Pre-Approved Plans Coordinator
Room 5106

Applications shipped by express mail or a delivery service:

Internal Revenue Service
550 Main Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Attn: Pre-Approved Plans Coordinator
Room 5106

What adopting employers must do

Adopting employers of pre-approved plans must adopt the plan within the two-year adoption period  announced by IRS.  

Adopting employers generally do not apply for their own determination letters because they can rely on the pre-approved plan’s opinion or advisory letter. However, if an adopting employer makes certain changes to its plan, it may lose this reliance. It would then need to apply for a determination letter if it wants assurance that the form of its revised plan is qualified. Depending on the changes, an employer may need to file Form 5307 or Form 5300. See Revenue Procedure 2011-49, Section 19 for a discussion of employer reliance on a pre-approved plan.

Additional resources


Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 25-Sep-2014