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Is It Too Late to Establish a 401(k) Safe Harbor Plan for 2018? The answer of course is – it depends. If you currently sponsor a retirement plan that includes a 401(k) feature, to use either of the standard 401(k) safe harbor provisions, (the mandatory employer matching contributions or the non-elective contributions) you must adopt those provisions before the first day of the plan year (i.e., adopt the safe harbor provisions in 2017, effective for the 2018 plan year).