A pre-approved retirement plan is a plan sold to employers by a document provider such as a financial institution or benefits practitioner. The document provider is the “pre-approved plan provider.” The document provider requests IRS approval (“pre-approval”) of a defined contribution or defined benefit plan document as meeting the requirements of Internal Revenue Code Sections 401, 403(a) or 403(b). The pre-approved plan provider then makes the IRS-approved plan available to adopting employers. The IRS also issues opinion letters for prototype IRAs.

For employers

For document providers

How to apply - procedures and forms

When to apply

Plan language resources

  • Amend or update a plan - Cumulative lists, listings of required modifications (LRM), quality assurance bulletins (QABs), etc.

Providers of a pre-approved plan

LRMs contain model plan language:

  • for laws effective during the third remedial amendment cycle
  • that reflects qualification requirements and guidance in the 2017 Cumulative List (Notice 2017-37).

The IRS pre-approved plan program changed, as announced in Revenue Procedure 2017-41. For example:

  • Two types of pre-approved plans – the IRS recognizes standardized and non-standardized plans. Standardized plans are safe harbor plans, whereas non-standardized plans adopt the flexibility of plans under the predecessor Volume Submitter program.
  • Separate trust document – trust and custodial agreements must be segregated, and the plan must contain a provision that its terms will govern in the case of a conflict (see Defined Contribution LRM #81). The IRS does not review trust documents.

Additional resources