The Internal Revenue Service has relaxed the schedule for plan sponsors and administrators that need opinions and determination letters for retirement plans.

The change affects applications for a plan that is identical to a mass submitter plan that already has received a favorable opinion or advisory letter concerning implementation of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, IRS officials write in IRS Revenue Procedure 2008-56.

A sponsor or practitioner now can submit an off-cycle application even if it also submitted an on-cycle application, if the new application is for a plan that is identical to a mass submitter plan that has received a favorable EGTRRA opinion or advisory letter, or which has an EGTRRA advisory letter application pending, and the new application is filed according to the mass submitter plan procedures announced in 2005, officials write.

The IRS will not extend the normal 6-year filing cycle, but employers adopting a new, pre-approved plan that is identical to a mass submitter plan can be eligible for the 6-year filing cycle even if the employers already have asked the IRS for an opinion or advisory letter after the beginning of the designated adoption period, officials write.

Moreover, an otherwise eligible adopting employer can rely on a pre-approved plan’s current opinion or advisory letter to retroactively amend its plan by adopting the pre-approved plan within the adoption period for the applicable 6-year cycle, regardless of whether the plan application was filed off-cycle, officials write.

“Thus, for example, an eligible employer may rely on a pre-approved plan’s EGTRRA opinion or advisory letter to retroactively amend its plan for EGTRRA and the other qualification changes listed in … the 2004 Cumulative List … by adopting the pre-approved plan within the adoption period ending on April 30, 2010, even if the application for the opinion or advisory letter for the plan was submitted off-cycle,” officials write.