To help ensure that companies extend their 401(k) plans to low-paid employees, an IRS rule limits the maximum deferral by the company's highly compensated employees (HCEs) based on the average deferral by the company's non-highly compensated employees (NHCEs). If the less compensated employees save more for retirement, then the HCEs are allowed to save more for retirement. This provision is enforced via "non-discrimination testing". Non-discrimination testing takes the deferral rates of HCEs and compares them to NHCEs. In 2008, an HCE was defined as an employee with compensation greater than $100,000 in 2007, or as an employee that owned more than 5% of the business at any time during the year or the preceding year. In addition to the $100,000 limit for determining HCEs, employers can elect to limit the top-paid group of employees to the top 20% of employees ranked by compensation. That is, for plans with the first day of the plan-year in the 2007 calendar year, HCEs are employees who earned more than $100,000 in gross compensation (also known as 'Medicare wages') in the prior year. For example, most testing done in 2009 was for the 2008 plan-year, which compared 2007 plan-year gross compensation to the $100,000 threshold in order to determine who was an HCE and who was an NHCE. The threshold was $125,000 for 2019, and is $130,000 for 2020.
Account owners must begin making distributions from their accounts by April 1 of the calendar year after turning age 70 1/2 or April 1 of the calendar year after retiring, whichever is later. The amount of distributions is based on life expectancy according to the relevant factors from the appropriate IRS tables. For individuals who attain age 70 1/2 after December 31, 2019, distributions are required by April 1 of the calendar year after turning age 72 or April 1 of the calendar year after retiring, whichever is later.