Internal Revenue Bulletin:  2011-47 

November 21, 2011 

Notice 2011-90

2012 Limitations Adjusted As Provided in Section 415(d), etc.[3]


Section 415 of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code) provides for dollar limitations on benefits and contributions under qualified retirement plans. Section 415(d) requires that the Commissioner annually adjust these limits for cost-of-living increases. Other limitations applicable to deferred compensation plans are also affected by these adjustments under § 415. Under § 415(d), the adjustments are to be made pursuant to adjustment procedures which are similar to those used to adjust benefit amounts under § 215(i)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act.

The limitations that are adjusted by reference to § 415(d) generally will change for 2012 because the increase in the cost-of-living index met the statutory thresholds that trigger their adjustment. For example, the limitation under § 402(g)(1) on the exclusion for elective deferrals described in § 402(g)(3) will increase from $16,500 to $17,000 for 2012. This limitation affects elective deferrals to § 401(k) plans, § 403(b) plans, and the Federal Government’s Thrift Savings Plan, among other plans.

Cost-of-Living Adjusted Limits for 2012

Effective January 1, 2012, the limitation on the annual benefit under a defined benefit plan under § 415(b)(1)(A) is increased from $195,000 to $200,000. Pursuant to § 1.415(d)-1(a)(2)(ii) of the Income Tax Regulations, the adjustment to the limitation under a defined benefit plan under § 415(b)(1)(B) is determined using a special rule. This special rule takes into account the following recent history of changes in the cost-of-living indexes: (1) the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended September 30, 2009, was less than the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended September 30, 2008; (2) the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended September 30, 2010, was greater than the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended September 30, 2009, but less than the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended September 30, 2008; and (3) the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended September 30, 2011, was greater than the cost-of-living index for all prior periods.

For a participant who separated from service before Jan. 1, 2010, the participant’s limitation under a defined benefit plan under § 415(b)(1)(B) for 2012 is computed by multiplying the participant’s 2011 compensation limitation by 1.0327 in order to reflect changes in the cost-of-living index from the quarter ended September 30, 2008, to the quarter ended September 30, 2011. For a participant who separated from service during 2010 or 2011, the limitation under a defined benefit plan under § 415(b)(1)(B) for 2012 is computed by multiplying the participant’s 2011 compensation limitation by 1.0376 in order to reflect changes in the cost-of-living index from the quarter ended September 30, 2010, to the quarter ended September 30, 2011.

The limitation for defined contribution plans under § 415(c)(1)(A) is increased in 2012 from $49,000 to $50,000.

The Code provides that various other dollar amounts are to be adjusted at the same time and in the same manner as the dollar limitation of § 415(b)(1)(A). After taking into account the applicable rounding rules, the amounts for 2012 are as follows:

The limitation under § 402(g)(1) on the exclusion for elective deferrals described in § 402(g)(3) is increased from $16,500 to $17,000.

The annual compensation limit under §§ 401(a)(17), 404(l), 408(k)(3)(C), and 408(k)(6)(D)(ii) is increased from $245,000 to $250,000.

The dollar limitation under § 416(i)(1)(A)(i) concerning the definition of key employee in a top-heavy plan is increased from $160,000 to $165,000.

The dollar amount under § 409(o)(1)(C)(ii) for determining the maximum account balance in an employee stock ownership plan subject to a 5-year distribution period is increased from $985,000 to $1,015,000, while the dollar amount used to determine the lengthening of the 5-year distribution period is increased from $195,000 to $200,000.

The limitation used in the definition of highly compensated employee under § 414(q)(1)(B) is increased from $110,000 to $115,000.

The dollar limitation under § 414(v)(2)(B)(i) for catch-up contributions to an applicable employer plan other than a plan described in § 401(k)(11) or 408(p) for individuals aged 50 or over remains unchanged at $5,500. The dollar limitation under § 414(v)(2)(B)(ii) for catch-up contributions to an applicable employer plan described in § 401(k)(11) or 408(p) for individuals aged 50 or over remains unchanged at $2,500.

The annual compensation limitation under § 401(a)(17) for eligible participants in certain governmental plans that, under the plan as in effect on July 1, 1993, allowed cost-of-living adjustments to the compensation limitation under the plan under § 401(a)(17) to be taken into account, is increased from $360,000 to $375,000.

The compensation amount under § 408(k)(2)(C) regarding simplified employee pensions (SEPs) remains unchanged at $550.

The limitation under § 408(p)(2)(E) regarding SIMPLE retirement accounts remains unchanged at $11,500.

The limitation on deferrals under § 457(e)(15) concerning deferred compensation plans of state and local governments and tax-exempt organizations is increased from $16,500 to $17,000.

The compensation amounts under § 1.61-21(f)(5)(i) of the Income Tax Regulations concerning the definition of “control employee” for fringe benefit valuation purposes is increased from $95,000 to $100,000. The compensation amount under § 1.61-21(f)(5)(iii) is increased from $195,000 to $205,000.

The Code also provides that several pension-related amounts are to be adjusted using the cost-of-living adjustment under § 1(f)(3). After taking the applicable rounding rules into account, the amounts for 2012 are as follows:

The adjusted gross income limitation under § 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for taxpayers filing a joint return is increased from $34,000 to $34,500; the limitation under § 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $36,500 to $37, 500; and the limitation under § 25B(b)(1)(C) and (D) is increased from $56,500 to $57,500.

The adjusted gross income limitation under § 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for taxpayers filing as head of household is increased from $25,500 to $25,875; the limitation under § 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $27,375 to $28,125; and the limitation under § 25B(b)(1)(C) and (D) is increased from $42,375 to $43,125.

The adjusted gross income limitation under § 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for all other taxpayers is increased from $17,000 to $17,250; the limitation under § 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $18,250 to $18,750; and the limitation under § 25B(b)(1)(C) and (D) is increased from $28,250 to $28,750.

The deductible amount under § 219(b)(5)(A) for an individual making qualified retirement contributions remains unchanged at $5,000.

The applicable dollar amount under § 219(g)(3)(B)(i) for determining the deductible amount of an IRA contribution for taxpayers who are active participants filing a joint return or as a qualifying widow(er) is increased from $90,000 to $92,000. The applicable dollar amount under § 219(g)(3)(B)(ii) for all other taxpayers (other than married taxpayers filing separate returns) is increased from $56,000 to $58,000. The applicable dollar amount under § 219(g)(7)(A) for a taxpayer who is not an active participant but whose spouse is an active participant is increased from $169,000 to $173,000.

The adjusted gross income limitation under § 408A(c)(3)(C)(ii)(I) for determining the maximum Roth IRA contribution for taxpayers filing a joint return or as a qualifying widow(er) is increased from $169,000 to $173,000. The adjusted gross income limitation under § 408A(c)(3)(C)(ii)(II) for all other taxpayers (other than married taxpayers filing separate returns) is increased from $107,000 to $110,000.

The dollar amount under Section 430(c)(7)(D)(i)(II) used to determine excess employee compensation with respect to a single-employer defined benefit pension plan for which the special election under section 430(c)(2)(D) has been made is increased from $1,014,000 to $1,039,000.

Drafting Information

The principal author of this notice is John Heil of the Employee Plans, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division. For further information regarding the data in this notice, please contact the Employee Plans’ taxpayer assistance telephone service at 1-877-829-5500 (a toll-free call) between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday. For information regarding the methodology used in arriving at the data in this notice, please e-mail Mr. Heil at RetirementPlanQuestions@irs.gov.



[3] Based on News Release IR-2011-103 dated October 20, 2011.


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