The IRS published the final rule regarding participant hardship distributions from defined contribution plans. Hardships get a little easier with expanded qualification rules and streamlined review process. Some of these changes are mandatory, requiring employers to make the changes by Jan. 1, 2020, while others are optional. Though the IRS had issued the proposed regulations in 2018, the final regulations clarify a few key provisions.
Earlier this year, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 was passed by Congress and signed into law. While this law made several changes that impact retirement plans, one provision changing the rules around hardship distributions is particularly notable.
Times can get tough for people. With the onset of Hurricane Harvey having decimated parts of the Gulf Coast and Hurricane Irma following its destructive lead, we are reminded that at any point we may find ourselves in hardship. Companies make layoffs, natural disasters occur, emergencies… well, emerge. With nowhere else to turn, some will look to their 401k for their own disaster relief. A withdrawal in the form of a "hardship distribution" is one of the tools that participants may use in this situation.