Can we make changes to company match? What about profit-sharing contributions?

Possibly, the extent of flexibility to make changes depends on the type of match and timing of the change. There are two types of matches: fixed, where the formula is written into the plan document, and discretionary, where the employer decides after the close of plan year what and how much they match, if anything.

If a match if is fixed, then a plan amendment is required to stop it. Matching contributions for the portion of the plan year prior to the effective date of the amendment must be made for all participants who already earned the right to that match (that’s why it’s a plan by plan decision). That said, it can be reduced or completely removed on a prospective basis.

When a match is discretionary, employers can start/stop or increase/decrease the match at any time. There is a caveat. If the match is deposited periodically throughout the year (e.g., each pay period) discontinuing that match could result in having to make a special contribution called “a true-up contribution” to ensure that the formula was applied uniformly to all participants.

When discontinuing a match, remember to coordinate with all providers who take part in the process. With a match deposited each pay period, it’s not uncommon to automate this process such that the payroll provider calculates the amount and the investment platform automatically withdraws the total amount from your bank account via ACH. Update the systems and communicate with all parties accordingly.

The same is true about profit-sharing contributions, when employer contributions are entirely discretionary (i.e., a specific percentage of pay of flat dollar amount isn’t built into the plan document) it can be suspended at any time without amendment. Similar to a match, when profit-sharing dollars are contributed on a periodic basis, special contribution to ensure uniformity for all participants may be necessary.

Cetera Retirement Plan Specialists is a third-party administrator and may not offer tax, legal or investment advice. Plan sponsors should consult their own tax, legal or investment professionals.