Apply for an Opinion or Advisory Letter - Pre-Approved 403(b) Plans


Sponsors can obtain IRS pre-approval of a 403(b) prototype or volume submitter plan document as complying with Internal Revenue Code Section 403(b) (see Revenue Procedure 2013-22). 

An employer that adopts a sponsor's 403(b) pre-approved plan generally has assurance that its plan document complies with IRC Section 403(b). Please note that the IRS does not intend to establish a determination letter program for individually designed 403(b) plans at this time.

When to apply

Submit your 403(b) pre-approved plan application beginning June 28, 2013 and on or before April 30, 2015 except for word-for-word identical adopter and minor modifier applicants of certain mass submitter plans.

How to apply

Your 403(b) pre-approved plan application must include all documents required under Revenue Procedure 2013-22 and may include additional documents, as appropriate.

Application Steps

  1. Complete your application package
  2. Pay the appropriate user fee based on the user fee schedule
  3. Mail your application package to:

Internal Revenue Service
Attn: Pre-Approved Plans Coordinator
Room 5106, Group 7521
P.O. Box 2508
Cincinnati, OH 45201-2508

Any request shipped by Express Mail or a delivery service should be sent to:

Internal Revenue Service
Attn: Pre-approved Plans Coordinator
550 Main Street
Room 5106, Group 7521                                
Cincinnati, OH 45202

  1. Wait for your application to be assigned to an IRS employee for review
  2. Respond to any inquiries from the IRS employee assigned to your case
  3. Receive your official IRS opinion letter (prototype plans) or advisory letter (volume submitter plans) once the plan has been approved

Required items

For prototype plans – your 403(b) plan that consists of:

  • a basic plan document that contains all of the plan’s nonelective provisions that apply to all adopting eligible employers and that does not have any options or blanks, and
  • an adoption agreement that allows an adopting eligible employer to select among plan design alternatives available under the basic plan document.

If you have more than one adoption agreement that may be used with your basic plan document, each basic plan document and adoption agreement pair is considered one separate 403(b) prototype plan and requires a separate application.

For volume submitter plans – your 403(b) plan that consists of:

  • a specimen plan, which is a model plan document (as opposed to the actual plan of an employer), and
  • an adoption agreement, if applicable (adoption agreements are not required for volume submitter plans).

If you have more than one adoption agreement that may be used with your specimen plan, each specimen plan and adoption agreement pair constitutes one separate 403(b) volume submitter plan and requires a separate application.

Retirement income accounts cannot be included in the same plan as non-retirement income accounts and, therefore, require their own separate plan document. Retirement income accounts are 403(b) plans available only for churches and may be either prototype or volume submitter plans.  

For mass submitters – your initial application, containing your basic plan document or specimen plan, must include applications filed on behalf of at least 15 word-for-word identical adopters of the basic plan document or specimen plan. The basic plan document or specimen plan must include language designating the mass submitter as agent of the prototype sponsor or volume submitter for purposes of making plan amendments.

Additional items

  • Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative – if you want an attorney or another qualified individual to represent you.
  • Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization – if you want the IRS to mail copies to or correspond about your application with another person.

Who can apply

You can apply for an:

Opinion letter for a 403(b) prototype plans if you’re a:

  1. Prototype sponsor,
  2. A mass submitter for a mass submitter prototype plan, or
  3. A mass submitter on behalf of either (a) a word-for-word identical adopter, or (b) a minor modifier of a mass submitter’s prototype plan.

Advisory letter for 403(b) volume submitter plans if you’re a:

  1. Volume submitter practitioner,
  2. A mass submitter for a mass submitter volume submitter plan, or
  3. A mass submitter on behalf of a word-for-word identical adopter of a mass submitter’s volume submitter plan.

A mass submitter of a volume submitter plan can also submit minor modifiers.

What adopting employers must do

Employers that adopt a 403(b) pre-approved plan within the adoption period that ends March 31, 2020 (See Revenue Procedure 2017-18) will generally be treated as retroactively complying with IRC Section 403(b).

Additional resources