Changes to Hardship Distributions for Retirement Plans

By Jo-Ann Lewandowski, QKA
Manager, Retirement Plan Services
As part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, the IRS has proposed new regulations on hardship distributions for retirement plans. Once these regulations become law, plan sponsors will then need to amend their plans’ hardship distribution provisions by the last day of the plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2019.

A hardship distribution is an optional distribution feature in a 401(k) plan. The following is a list of common financial needs that qualify as hardships.

  • Funeral expenses
  • Unreimbursed medical expenses for you, your spouse or dependents
  • Payment of college tuition and corresponding education costs for you, your spouse, your dependents or children who are no longer dependents
  • Payments to prevent eviction or home mortgage foreclosure
  • Purchase of an employee’s principal residence
  • Expenses for damage to employee’s principal residence
Listed below are the major changes that will be implemented in conjunction with the passing of the Bipartisan Budget Act. Companies need to amend their retirement plan in order to take advantage of these changes.
  • Employees will no longer have to wait 6 months to make 401(k) contributions after the issuance of a hardship distribution.
  • Employees are no longer required to obtain a plan loan option to qualify for a hardship.
  • 401(k) contributions, safe harbor contributions and investment earnings are now eligible for hardship withdrawals.
  • Employees can add a “primary beneficiary under the plan” – an individual for whom qualifying medical, educational and funeral expenses may be incurred (regulations had previously referenced only a spouse or dependent).
  • Certain disasters – such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires, etc. – are now qualifying expenses.
  • The home casualty reason for hardship does not have to be in a federally declared disaster area.
For more information about employee benefit and retirement plans, please contact Jo-Ann Lewandowski at (317) 613-7842 or email

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