Case of the Week: Does the receipt of dividends on employer stock held in a 401(k) negate a lump sum distribution?

March 17, 2021

The ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings plans. We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with a financial advisor in New Jersey is representative of a common scenario involving participants with employer stock in a 401(k) plan. The advisor asked: 

One of my clients is currently receiving quarterly dividend payments on employer stock he has in his 401(k) plan. Does the receipt of dividends on employer stock held in a 401(k) negate his ability to receive a lump sum distribution and, consequently, my client’s ability to take advantage of the special tax rules for net unrealized appreciation (NUA) in employer securities?”

Highlights of the Discussion

While payments of dividends are considered distributions for certain purposes (Temporary Treasury Regulation 1.404(k)-1T, Q&A3), the IRS has, in at least two private letter rulings (PLR 19947041 and 9024083) concluded that such dividends are not treated as part of the “balance to the credit” of an employee for purposes of determining a lump sum distribution under IRC §§ 402(e)(4)(D). Therefore, such distributions do not prevent a subsequent distribution of the balance to the credit of an employee from being a lump sum distribution for NUA purposes.

For more information on the definition of lump sum distribution, please see RLC’s Case of the Week “Lump Sum Distribution Triggers and NUA.” 

Conclusion

A participant’s receipt of dividends from employer stock held in a qualified plan do not prevent a subsequent distribution of the balance to the credit of the participant from being a lump sum distribution for NUA tax purposes.

Any information provided is for informational purposes only. It cannot be used for the purposes of avoiding penalties and taxes. Consumers should consult with their tax advisor or attorney regarding their specific situation. 

©2021, Retirement Learning Center, LLC. Used with permission.