The SECURE Act will make substantial and highly technical changes to some very specific elements of retirement plan laws, many to which we have been putting a good deal of attention (and written about here) throughout the years-like distribution of 403(b) custodial accounts; aggregating 5500s of unrelated plans; MEPs (see the Multiple Employer Plans Topics Categories in this site’s “Topics” sidebar); and the fiduciary safe harbor for annuity purchases. Before we try wrap our heads around the details of all of these changes, I thought it would be helpful to list-in chronological order-the effective dates for these changes to help in prioritizing what to pay attention to first. With one exception noted in bold below, the section references are to the SECURE Act which are picked up in “Division O” of the legislation. Note that some of these effective date provisions have certain caveats and conditions, so I recommend you look up the relevant date that interests you before making any determinative statement about that date! 

Effective for years beginning before, on, or after the date of the enactment

Sec. 111. Clarification of retirement income account rules relating to church controlled organizations.

Taxable years beginning after December 31, 2008.

Sec. 110. Treatment of custodial accounts on termination of section 403(b) plans.

Plan years beginning after December 31, 2013

Sec. 205. Modification of nondiscrimination rules to protect older, longer service Participants. (this effective date applies if elected by sponsor).

2014 Calendar Year?

Sec. 401. Modification of required distribution rules for designated beneficiaries.(Effective date is the “first calendar year” to which the new 10 year rule applies, which includes any past beneficiaries who are currently subject to the old 5 year rule).

Plan years begining after December 31, 2015.

Portion of Sec. 116 which provides past relief for plans which had excluded difficulty of care payments as compensation for determining the 415 limit.

Plan years ending after December 31, 2017.

Sec. 115. Special rules for minimum funding standards for community newspaper plans.

Distributions made after December 31, 2018

Sec. 302. Expansion of section 529 plans.

Date of Enactment

Sec. 108. Qualified employer plans prohibited from making loans through credit cards and other similar arrangements.

Sec. 116. Treating excluded difficulty of care payments as compensation for determining retirement contribution limitations (for contributions after date of enactment, except see relief provided to 2015, above).

Sec. 204. Fiduciary safe harbor for selection of lifetime income provider. (technically, there is no effective date, but applies as of the “date of selection” of the annuity, which can only meet these requirements once the Act is enacted….)

Sec. 205. Modification of nondiscrimination rules to protect older, longer service Participants (if earlier effective date not elected).

Plan years beginning after December 31, 2019.

Sec. 102. Increase in 10 percent cap for automatic enrollment safe harbor after 1st plan year.

Sec. 103. Rules relating to election of safe harbor 401(k) status.

Sec. 202(d, ). Clarification relating to numbering of returns for deferred Compensation plans (see separate effective date for 202a),(b) and (c).

Sec 104 of Division M—Bipartisan American Miners (allowing in-service withdrawals from governmental 457(b) plans at age 59 1/2)

Taxable years beginning after December 31, 2019.

Sec. 104. Increase in credit limitation for small employer pension plan startupcosts.

Sec. 105. Small employer automatic enrollment credit.

Sec. 106. Certain taxable non-tuition fellowship and stipend payments treated as compensation for IRA purposes.

Sec. 107. Repeal of maximum age for traditional IRA contributions.

Sec. 109. Portability of lifetime income options.

Sec. 113. Penalty-free withdrawals from retirement plans for individuals in caseof birth of child or adoption.

Sec. 114. Increase in age for required beginning date for mandatory distributions (for distributions required to be made after December 31, 2019, with respect to individuals who attain age 701⁄2 after such date).

Sec. 201. Plan adopted by filing due date for year may be treated as in effect as of close of year (for plans adopted after 12/31/2019).

Sec. 206. Modification of PBGC premiums for CSEC plans.

Sec. 301. Benefits provided to volunteer firefighters and emergency medical responders.

Calendar year after December 31, 2019

Sec. 402. Increase in penalty for failure to file (applies to return due dates after this date).

Sec. 403. Increased penalties for failure to file retirement plan returns (this includes the increased IRS Form 5500 non-filer penalty, applies to returns and notice due dates after this date).

Plan years beginning after December 31, 2020.

Sec. 101. Multiple employer plans; pooled employer plans.

Sec. 112. Qualified cash or deferred arrangements must allow long-term employees working more than 500 but less than 1,000 hours per year to participate. (except that, for purposes of section 401(k)(2)(D)(ii)-which was added by the Act- the  12-month periods beginning before January 1, 2021, shall not be taken into account).

 Plan years beginning after December 31, 2021.

Sec. 202(a), (b) and (c). Combined annual report for group of plans (except that the modifications to the Form 5500 must implemented by the IRS and DOL  not later than January 1, 2022).

 Last day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2022, or such later date as the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe.

Sec. 601. Provisions relating to plan amendments.

More than 12 months after the latest of the issuance by the Secretary of Labor of interim final rules,  the model disclosure, and the assumptions upon which notices are based.

Sec. 203. Disclosure regarding lifetime income.