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"The Hong Kong gov't is instituting something called the Mandatory Provident Fund--all employers have to contribute
the lesser of 5% of a worker's salary or HKD$1000 (about USD$125) per month to what is essentially a retirement fund. Workers have to do the same. Such a thing is brand new here. We've not been covered by any such thing up to now.

Would the IRS consider this a 'qualified retirement plan'? (As you might guess, this is an IRA eligibility question. We've qualified for deductible IRAs each year because we weren't covered by any plan.) Anyone have a clue whether the plan described will meet the IRS's 'qualified' standard? Or how I might research this?"

Interesting question. National Provident fund systems are becoming increasingly widespread, epecially in countries that haven't had a defined benefit retirement program (which our current Social Security system basically is).
For those of you who aren't familar with provident fund systems: Money is collected on a mandatory basis from both employee and employer (as with SS), and invested for long-term capital appreciation. Investments methods vary country to country, from a Trustee system (in effect a government operated mutual fund) as Hong Kong has created to a limited option menu of typically balanced (stock and bond) funds with a requirement that the share due the employee on retirement be used to buy an annuity (as in Chile).

As to whether the Hong Kong MPF is a "qualified retirement plan," I would suspect that it does. However, I would contact the IRS directly for their guidelines. Seeing as how many countries have adopted a provident system, I expect that there has been a formal ruling on the matter by now.
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