IRS Guidance on Windsor Ruling and Qualified Retirement Plans

The IRS has issued guidance on the outcome of the Windsor ruling, saying the decision must apply to qualified retirement plans as of June 26, 2013.

In the case United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court found unconstitutional Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage for federal law purposes as a union between a man and a woman only. In the absence of Section 3 of DOMA, any retirement plan qualification rule that applies to opposite-sex spouses must also apply to same-sex spouses.

For plan sponsors, this generally means:

  • You do not need to make qualified retirement benefits available to employees with same-sex spouses retroactive before June 26, 2013. Employers can choose to do so; however, applying some benefits retroactively can be complex.
  • If your plan’s documents define a marital relationship by reference to Section 3 of DOMA or as opposite-sex spouses, you must amend your plan by the later of December 31, 2014 or the date established in Rev. Proc. 2005-66, 2005-2 C.B. 509, which established a system of cyclical remedial amendment periods for individually designed and pre-approved qualified plans.

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