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What You Need to Know About CalSavers’ June 30 Deadline
Public policy 401(k)

What You Need to Know About CalSavers’ June 30 Deadline

Jeff Rosenberger, PhD

An important deadline is on the horizon for California business owners. By June 30 employers with more than 50 employees are required to have a retirement plan in place for workers — either through a private-market option, like a 401(k), or through the state-run CalSavers program.

If you’re a business owner, don’t worry — getting onboard with the mandate will only take a few minutes if you’re enrolling in CalSavers. For small businesses that start a new 401(k) plan, it’s straightforward to get started and employers may be eligible for tax credits including a $500 per year credit when they include certain automatic enrollment provisions.

California’s Push to Help People Save

If you’re new to the topic, California has been working to get affordable retirement savings tools to all workers for several years. Research showed more than 7.5 million Golden State workers — disproportionately women and people of color who work for smaller businesses — had no access to workplace retirement savings tools.

CalSavers, California’s new retirement savings program, closes the gap with a portable, low-cost way to save and enables employers to automatically help workers save in a Roth IRA. Employees enrolled in the plan can choose their own contribution rate, stick with the default contribution or opt out; they can also select investment funds from a simplified investment menu or use the default target date fund.

California is not alone in tackling the retirement savings crisis — nearly all states (46) have either passed some kind of legislation or are exploring potential legislation to offer automatic IRAs or provide a marketplace of savings. Read more.

The June 30, 2021 deadline for California businesses with more than 50 employees is part of a phased plan; smaller employers (5-50 employees) have until next year (June 30, 2022) to comply with the mandate. The largest employers met the deadline last year.

According to Katie Selenski, the Executive Director of CalSavers, as many as 240,000 small businesses are subject to the California mandate to either start a new 401(k) or use the CalSavers auto IRA program. To date, CalSavers has registered more than 10,000 employers since the statewide launch in July of 2019. Participants had already saved more than $66 million.

Smart 401(k)

Here’s What Employers Need to Know About the Coming Deadline

Who needs to take action by June 30?
Employers, including non-profits, with more than 50 full-time employees that don’t sponsor a retirement plan must either start a new 401(k) plan or register with CalSavers by June 30, 2021. However, companies of any size can register now.

What do employers need to do?
Employers can register through the CalSavers website or, if they are offering a qualified private-market alternative like a 401(k), file an exemption on the same site. After registering, the employer is required to add employees within 30 days of completing the registration. There is some light maintenance required after registration.

What if an employer already offers a retirement plan?
Remember to file an exemption on CalSavers site. Many exempt employers have been pre-cleared, however, if you receive a notification from CalSavers and believe you are exempt, report your exemption on the site.

Some of the qualified private-market alternatives include 401(k) plans; 408(k) SEP plans; 408(p) SIMPLE IRA Plan; 401(a) Qualified Plan (including profit-sharing plans and defined benefit plans); and 403(a) or 403(b) Annuity Plan. (See complete list in the CalSavers FAQ.)

How much will it cost employers to sign up for CalSavers?
There are no fees or other costs for employers who enroll in CalSavers. Employees who enroll do pay a percentage of their balance as an annual fee.

How will CalSavers work for employees?
Employees will receive a notice 30 days before they are automatically enrolled in CalSavers. They can join or opt-out. If they join, a standard deduction of 5% from gross pay will be automatically deducted from their payroll with an annual auto-escalation of 1% until it reaches 8%. However, each employee has the option to select their own contribution rate. Contributions will be invested in a Roth IRA within a simple target date fund. Savers will pay between approximately 0.825% and 0.95% of their balance annually, depending on investment choices, in AUM fees which is taken from the balance as an administration cost; the account belongs to the employee even if they change jobs.

What happens if an employer misses the registration deadline?Employers who miss the deadline will pay a fine of $250 per eligible employee if noncompliance extends 90 days or more after the notice; that increases to an additional $500 per eligible employee if noncompliance extends 180 days or more after the notice.

What’s the next deadline for smaller employers?
Employers with between 5 and 50 employees will need to register by June 30, 2022.

What are other options besides CalSavers?
CalSavers is a good place to start, especially for businesses that cannot afford to extend worker benefits. Other options include offering employees a 401(k) plan that is designed for small business, such as Guideline.

With CalSavers, the account offered is a Roth IRA which has a maximum contribution of $6,000 for workers under age 50 in 2021. Participants can recharacterize to a Traditional IRA at tax time. A 401(k) plan, such as those offered by Guideline, have substantially higher contribution limits, allowing for an individual contribution of $19,500 under 2021 limits for workers under age 50.

CalSavers Guideline
Plan type Roth IRA 401(k)
Can employers make matching contributions? No Yes
2021 contribution limits $6,000 for individuals under the age of 50* $19,500 (and up to $58k with employer contributions)
Employer pricing There are no fees for employers Starts at $49 + $8/month per participant
Who pays for plan administration? Employees Employers
Auto enrollment? Yes Yes

Special thanks to Catherine New for her help on this article.

*Individuals over the age of 50 will be able to contribute another $1,000 in “catch-up” contributions for a total of $7,000.

This content is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as tax or investment advice.  You should consult a tax or investment professional to determine the best retirement plan for you.