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New IRS Final Regulations for Hardship Distributions Under 401(k) and 403(b) Plans

Notable Changes and Required Amendments for Retirement Plans, Key Compliance Challenges for Plan Sponsors

Note: CPE credit is not offered on this program

Recording of a 90-minute premium CLE webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Thursday, December 12, 2019

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will provide ERISA counsel, plan sponsors, and administrators a detailed analysis of the new IRS final regulations for hardship distributions for 401(k) and 403(b) plans. The panel will discuss key provisions of the final rules, necessary amendments for retirement plan documents, administrative pitfalls to avoid for plan sponsors and administrators, and methods in overcoming key compliance challenges stemming from the new regulations.


The IRS finalized regulations governing hardship distributions under 401(k) and 403(b) plans, providing clarity and guidance on how and when the final regulations apply. Plan sponsors must understand how the new hardship distribution rules apply to their plans and take the necessary steps to modify plan documents and ensure alignment of administrative processes with these rules.

The hardship distribution rules allow 401(k) and 403(b) plan sponsors to permit participants to request distributions if they have an "immediate and heavy financial need," and lack the financial resources to meet that need. The rules deem specific expenses to constitute an immediate and substantial financial need under the safe harbor provisions.

Before the final regulations, requesting a hardship distribution withdrawal required a plan participant first to take all available plan loans and prohibited elective deferrals for at least six months. The new rules lift these restrictions and expand the contribution sources available for hardship withdrawals.

The relief granted to plan sponsors and participants of 401(k) and 403(b) plans under the new rules are not without flaws and potential pitfalls. Plan sponsors must take care in implementing and adopting both required and discretionary plan modifications along with the timing and effective date of such changes.

Listen as our panel discusses critical provisions of the final regulations on hardship distributions, amendments to make to retirement plan documents, administrative pitfalls to avoid, and methods in overcoming compliance challenges stemming from the new rules.



  1. Hardship rules under tax reform and Bipartisan Budget Act
  2. Key provisions of the IRS final regulations
  3. Necessary amendments for retirement plan documents
  4. Correcting plan errors and avoiding IRS examination


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What are the key provisions of the IRS final regulations for 401(k) and 403(b) plan hardship distributions?
  • What are the necessary amendments to retirement plan documents under the new rules?
  • What are other recommended, but not required, retirement plan modifications under the new rules?
  • What are the administrative pitfalls stemming from the new rules and methods to avoid them?


Brewster, Constance
Constance Brewster

Troutman Sanders

Ms. Brewster advises clients on compensation and benefits issues associated with corporate transactions, including...  |  Read More

Gower, Robert
Robert R. Gower

Trucker Huss

Mr. Gower concentrates his practice in all aspects of tax-qualified retirement plan design, compliance, and...  |  Read More

Shah, Mamta
Mamta K. Shah

Troutman Sanders

Ms. Shah has experience advising public and privately-held companies on all aspects of employee benefits law, including...  |  Read More

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