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February 20, 2009


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An action by a participant and beneficiaries  to have certain treatments apply to their retirement assets. Examples of elections that can be made by participants and beneficiaries include the following:

  • An election to have the five-year rule, instead of the life-expectancy option , apply to inherited retirement assets
  • An election to defer part of compensation to a 401(k) plan as salary deferral contributions
  • An election to have federal tax withheld from distributions, where the withholding is option
  • An election to take a deduction for contributions to a Traditional IRA

Referring Cite

Varies with type of election

Additional Helpful Information

Some elections are irrevocable. For instance a plan may adopt a provision that permits beneficiaries to elect whether the 5-year rule or the life expectancy rule applies to distributions after the death of a participant  .Such an election must be made no later than the earlier of the end of the calendar year in which distribution would be required to commence in order to satisfy the requirements for the life expectancy rule or the end of the calendar year which contains the fifth anniversary of the date of death of the employee. As of the last date the election may be made, the election must be irrevocable

Written By

Denise Appleby

Denise is CEO of Appleby Retirement Consulting Inc., a firm that provides IRA resources for financial/ tax/legal professionals. She has over 20 years of experience in the retirement plans field, which includes training and technical consultation.

Denise writes and publishes educational /marketing tools for advisors; available at Denise co-authored several books on IRAs

Denise is a graduate of The John Marshall Law School, where she obtained a Masters of Jurisprudence in Employee Benefits, and has earned 5 professional retirement designations.
She has appeared on numerous media programs, sharing her insights on retirement tax laws.


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