U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
Regulations most recently checked for updates: Mar 28, 2023
(a) Scope. This interpretive bulletin sets forth the Department of Labor's (the Department's) interpretation of section 3(2)(A) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, (ERISA) and 29 CFR 2510.3-2(d), as applied to payroll deduction programs established by employers
(b) General. It has been the Department's long-held view that an employer who simply provides employees with the opportunity for making contributions to an IRA through payroll deductions does not thereby establish a “pension plan” within the meaning of section 3 (2) (A) of ERISA. In this regard, 29 CFR 2510.3-2 (d) sets forth a safe harbor under which IRAs will not be considered to be pension plans when the conditions of the regulation are satisfied. Thus, an employer may, with few constraints, provide to its employees an opportunity for saving for retirement, under terms and conditions similar to those of certain other optional payroll deduction programs, such as for automatic savings deposits or purchases of United States savings bonds, without thereby creating a pension plan under Title I of ERISA. The guidance provided herein is intended to clarify the application of the IRA safe harbor set forth at 29 CFR 2510.3-2 (d) and, thereby, facilitate the establishment of payroll deduction IRAs.
(c) Employee communications. (1) It is the Department's view that, so long as an employer maintains neutrality with respect to an IRA sponsor in its communications with its employees, the employer will not be considered to “endorse” an IRA payroll deduction program for purposes of 29 CFR 2510.3-2(d).
(2) The employer may also do the following without converting a payroll deduction IRA program into an ERISA plan: An employer may answer employees' specific inquiries about the mechanics of the IRA payroll deduction program and may refer other inquiries to the appropriate IRA sponsor. An employer may provide to employees informational materials written by the IRA sponsor describing the sponsor's IRA programs or addressing topics of general interest regarding investments and retirement savings, provided that the material does not itself suggest that the employer is other than neutral with respect to the IRA sponsor and its products; the employer may request that the IRA sponsor prepare such informational materials and it may review such materials for appropriateness and completeness. The fact that the employer's name or logo is displayed in the informational materials in connection with describing the payroll deduction program would not in and of itself, in the Department's view, suggest that the employer has “endorsed” the IRA sponsor or its products, provided that the specific context and surrounding facts and circumstances make clear to the employees that the employer's involvement is limited to facilitating employee contributions through payroll deductions.
(d) Employer Limitations on the number of IRA sponsors offered under the program. The Department recognizes that the cost of permitting employees to make IRA contributions through payroll deductions may be significantly affected by the number of IRA sponsors to which the employer must remit contributions. It is the view of the Department that an employer may limit the number of IRA sponsors to which employees may make payroll deduction contributions without exceeding the limitations of 29 CFR 2510.3-2(d), provided that any limitations on, or costs or assessments associated with an employee's ability to transfer or roll over IRA contributions to another IRA sponsor is fully disclosed in advance of the employee's decision to participate in the program. The employer may select one IRA sponsor as the designated recipient for payroll deduction contributions, or it may establish criteria by which to select IRA sponsors, e.g., standards relating to the sponsor's provision of investment education, forms, availability to answer employees' questions, etc., and may periodically review its selectees to determine whether to continue to designate them. However, an employer may be considered to be involved in the program beyond the limitations set forth in 29 CFR 2510.3-2(d) if the employer negotiates with an IRA sponsor and thereby obtains special terms and conditions for its employees that are not generally available to similar purchasers of the IRA. The employer's involvement in the IRA program would also be in excess of the limitations of the regulation if the employer exercises any influence over the investments made or permitted by the IRA sponsor.
(e) Administrative fees. The employer may pay any fee the IRA sponsor imposes on employers for services the sponsor provides in connection with the establishment and maintenance of the payroll deduction process itself, without exceeding the limitations of 29 CFR 2510.3-2(d). Further, the employer may assume the internal costs (such as for overhead, bookkeeping, etc) of implementing and maintaining the payroll deduction program without reimbursement from either employees or the IRA sponsor without exceeding the limits of the regulation. However, if an employer pays, in connection with operating an IRA payroll deduction program, any administrative, investment management, or other fee that the IRA sponsor would require employees to pay for establishing or maintaining the IRA, the employer would, in the view of the Department, fall outside the safe harbor and, as a result, may be considered to have established a “pension plan” for its employees.
(f) Reasonable Compensation for Services. 29 CFR 2510.3-2(d) provides that an employer may not receive any consideration in connection with operating an IRA payroll deduction program, but may be paid “reasonable compensation for services actually rendered in connection with payroll deductions or dues checkoffs.” Employers have asked whether “reasonable compensation” under section 2510.3-2(d) includes payments from an IRA sponsor to an employer for the employer's cost of operating the IRA payroll deduction program. It is the Department's view that the IRA sponsor may make such payments, to the extent that they constitute compensation for the actual costs of the program to the employer. However, “reasonable compensation” does not include any profit to the employer. See 29 CFR 2510.3-1(j), relating to group or group-type insurance programs. For example, if an IRA sponsor offers to pay an employer an amount equal to a percentage of the assets contributed by employees to IRAs through payroll deduction, such an arrangement might exceed “reasonable compensation” for the services actually rendered by the employer in connection with the IRA payroll deduction program. An employer will also be considered to have received consideration that is not “reasonable compensation” if the IRA sponsor agrees to make or to permit particular investments of IRA contributions in consideration for the employer's agreement to make a payroll deduction program available to its employees, or if the IRA sponsor agrees to extend credit to or for the benefit of the employer in return for the employer's making payroll deduction available to the employees.
(g) Additional rules when employer is IRA sponsor or affiliate of IRA sponsor. Under certain circumstances, an employer that offers IRAs in the normal course of its business to the general public or that is an affiliate