Relief from Physical Presence Requirement Extended for Retirement Plan Consents

The IRS issued Notice 2021-03, extending previous guidance released under Notice 2020-42, which provided temporary relief from the physical presence requirements for certain elections that are made by participants and beneficiaries in qualified retirement plans and other tax-favored retirement arrangements. The extension is being issued in consideration of continued business shutdowns and social distancing in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and provides relief through June 30, 2021. This includes signatures of those making an election that ordinarily need to be witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative or notary public, including spousal consent and certain forms of distribution from retirement plans.

Under this relief, live audio-video technologies may be used to facilitate remote notarization for distributions if meeting other election requirements and if this is consistent with state laws governing notarization. Also, for certain plan elections that must be witnessed by a plan representative, witnessing may be accomplished by live audio-video technology, but only if certain access, security, review, and confirmation conditions are met.

The IRS is requesting comments, particularly on whether relief from the physical presence test should be made permanent and, if permanent, what, if any, safeguards are necessary to reduce risk of fraud or abuse in the absence of the requirement. There is no stated deadline for comments.