Secure Act of 2019: Its Consequences on Retirement and 401k Compliance

The SECURE Act of 2019 approved by the Senate on Dec 19, 2019 is targeted towards helping every community when it comes to their retirement financial future. It consists of significant provisions aimed towards improving access to tax-advantaged accounts and encourages small businesses to provide retirement plans for their workers. Some of the major elements introduced in the bill included raising the minimum age for required minimum distributions from 70.5 to 72 years of age and giving students the ability to repay their student loans using 529 accounts (up to $10000).

Secure Act of 2019: Its Repercussions on Compliance Benefits

As far as small businesses are concerned, here are a few incentives contained in the retirement SECURE Act that encourage and help employers become plan sponsors.

1) Increasing Business Tax Credit for Plan Startup Costs – The current cap will be raised from $500 up to $5000 depending on special circumstances to make the process of setting up retirement plans more affordable for small businesses.

2) Automatic Enrollment – For plans that add automatic enrollment, small businesses will be provided with an additional $500 tax credit for 3 years.

3) Simplification of Rules – Rules related to qualified non-elective contributions have been simplified.

4) More Time – The time for adopting new plans has been extended beyond the end of the year to the date when companies file their tax return.

5) Reduced Plan Administrator Costs – Certain contribution plans with a common administrator now come with a consolidated Form 5500 to reduce costs. It is also important to note that penalties incurred by failure to file Form 5500 and withholding notices have been increased.

The SECURE Act also allows small employers unrelated to one another to come together and open multiple employer plans or MEPs. This can significantly reduce not only overall costs but administrative duties as well. MEPs are also referred to as PEPs (Pooled Employer Plans) and come with a single plan document, Form 5500 filing and independent plan audit. While MEPs could change the game for small businesses, it is important to note that there will be certain restrictions too such as standardized investment options and requirements that might be too much of a hassle to handle.

Until recently, the U.S retirement system was plagued with numerous problems that required a large portion of workers to supplement their social security with their personal savings. Due to reduced scope and lack of incentives, only 55 percent of the adult workforce was seen to participate in retirement plans, according to a 2018 report. However, a lot of things have been changed with the SECURE Act. Although it isn’t perfect, it certainly is a step in the right direction. It helps workers of all ages and those who come from all communities to be better prepared for their retirement age by allowing them different options for investment. Here are some of the ways in which the retirement Secure Act will bring about more positive changes to workers everywhere in the country.

1) It will now be easier for small businesses to set up 401ks as the cap under which they can auto-enroll employees (safe harbor retirement plans) has been increased from 10 percent to 15 percent.

2) It allows businesses to have part-time employees to participate in retirement plans. However, to be eligible, employees must work either 1000 hours in the designated year or have worked 3 years with 500 hours of service. This increases the scope of retirement plan participants by a significant margin allowing more people to have a choice in their financial future.

3) Permits participants to withdraw $5000 from 401k accounts with zero penalties to cover the cost of adopting or having a child.

4) Encourages employers to have more annuities in their 401k plans. Businesses now don’t have to worry about any legal liability that may arise from the annuity provider’s failure to meet financial obligations and don’t have to choose the lowest cost plan either.

5) Qualified disaster distributions will now have their penalties waived off if they are taken before the age of 59 .

The retirement SECURE Act of 2019 creates significant changes for small business owners and widens the scope for enrollment, allowing more people to sign up for a better financial future. Whether it becomes a game-changer is still unknown but it is indeed a step in the right direction.


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Retirement Plan Compliance Guidelines You Must Know

The Employee Benefits Security Administration or EBSA is responsible for assuring that all 401k plans are in compliance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). In recent years, the number of compliance audits conducted by both the IRS and the DOL has increased exponentially. It is the duty of the plan administrator to maintain, understand and ensure compliance to minimize the risk of their plan being audited. Given below is a retirement plan compliance guide that may help you to prevent any compliance issues from arising.

retirement plan compliance time

1) Reviewing Key Documents

There are three main documents that must be maintained, reviewed and retained every year at all costs. One of them is the most recent plan document that includes updated agreements. The other is the plan amendments document that includes any changes as per ERISA. The third one is the latest service agreements with TPAs. It is important for the administrator to not only review these files but also have signed copies of them.

2) Understanding the Plan Document

Every retirement plan will have a set amount of provisions that define the eligibility of participants and the benefits they can gain from it. The administrator must always go through the plan document to understand every aspect of eligibility from age requirements, service requirements to employee classification to ensure that all eligible employees get included in the plan. The document will also contain key information pertaining to the sources of compensation such as bonuses, severance pay, and taxable benefits, etc.

3) Understanding TPA Duties

Misunderstanding TPA’s duties is another reason why a retirement plan compliance issue may arise. To prevent errors from occurring, it is vital to keep a signed copy of the latest service agreements and read them fully to understand its full scope. Calculations related to employer contributions are mostly done by the TPA but some service agreements might indicate that it is the responsibility of the plan administrator to do so. Therefore, it is important to ensure that there is no confusion regarding the duties or it might lead to negligence and compliance issues in the end.

4) Adherence to Regulations

Retirement plans have a ton of rules and regulations to follow and sometimes a few of them might slip through the crack and never get enforced. For instance, most plans have a provision where employees who leave and then get rehired within a set amount of time can gain eligibility for participating in a 401k plan but it is often overlooked by a lot of companies. When it comes to an audit, even the tiniest detail will be under heavy scrutiny.

5) Ensuring Consistency of Day to Day Operations

It’s not sufficient to just have a plan document that meets all the required compliance needs. Day to day operations of the plan must be consistently upheld to all the rules and regulations as per the law. Sometimes, regulations may change before the sponsor is required to make changes to the plan. In such cases, operations might vary from the written terms of the plan. By maintaining consistency in the day to day operations of the plan, both the administrator and the sponsor can better prepare for any hurdle that may come their way.

By ensuring that there aren’t any issues when it comes to retirement plan compliance, everyone benefits, including the business owner and his/her employees. A happy workforce will always be a productive one too. We provide a number of different services such as Form 5500, ERISA compliance, benefits compliance, 401k and our specialty wrap form planning aimed at helping companies keep all their plans in accordance with the rules and regulations set by the IRS and DOL.

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Who is Exempt from Filing Form 5500?

Is your business exempt from filing Form 5500?

The Form 5500 is an annual report that is filed with the department of labor containing information about the financial conditions, investments and operations of a 401k plan. It is a vital part of any business that provides a retirement plan to its employees. Generally, a company has to deposit their employee’s salary deferrals no later than the 15th business day of the month after the contribution date. Small businesses that have 100 or fewer employees get an extension of 7 days after the collection of salary deferrals.

Plans not covered by ERISA or Employee Retirement Income Security Act are exempt from filing form 5500. If you are wondering who is exempt from filing Form 5500, then read on.

1) Business Owner Only Plan – A retirement plan that covers only the business owner and the spouse (if applicable) is usually exempt from filing form 5500. This is only possible if the total plan’s assets are worth $250,000 or more, as of the first day of the plan year. This is because it assumes that the business doesn’t have employees that are eligible for the plan. If employees are improperly excluded, then the exemption is void and the Form 5500 must be filled.

2) Non-Erisa 403(b) Plans – 403(b) plans are generally exempt from filing Form 5500 and so Churches and government institutions usually get an exemption as they both frequently sponsorexempt from filing Form 5500 it. Apart from them, if an employer has limited involvement in its operation and maintenance, then that plan will also get an exemption. However, it is important to note that it is very hard to define what “limited involvement” means and so in such cases, one should consult the exemption status with an entity that has in-depth knowledge about it. Not all 403 (b) plans get an exemption.

3) Unfunded Welfare Plans – If a welfare plan has less than 100 participants at the start of the plan year and is insured or entirely unfunded, then there is no need to file Form 5500. So what makes a plan to be considered unfunded? Well, if the employer is paying the full cost of the plan from their general account, the plan is considered to be unfunded. If there is a trust involved or if the cost comes from a specific account (where the participant contributions are separated from general assets), they won’t get an exemption.

4) Plans with Only Certain Specified Benefits – If the plan provides only certain specified benefits then there is no need to file Form 5500 even if the number of participants is high. Daycare centers, certain apprenticeships and union plans, etc. generally get an exemption.

If you are unsure as to whether you or your company is exempt from filing Form 5500 you need to consult with a knowledgeable authority. Otherwise, you may end up with a penalty of $25 per day up to a maximum of $15,000 from the IRS and up to $1,100 per day from the department of labor. Most companies realize their mistake only after they receive a letter from the IRS or DOL (department of labor). As this letter is usually sent a year after its due, a substantial amount of penalty fees may be levied upon the company. It’s always wiser to be cautious to minimize potential risks especially when it comes to the IRS. We provide a number of different services ranging from Form 5500 preparation to providing retirement wrap plans to help companies navigate easier when it comes to financial hurdles.

How ERISA Compliance Works

Here is how ERISA Compliance works.

ERISA is a law that governs the operations of different retirement plans in the United States. The law also safeguards welfare benefit plans such as insurance plans for group life, dental, among others. By reading this article, you will get answers to a question such as “what is a wrap plan?”

The Department of Labor is mandated by the federal government to enforce ERISA. One of the primary objectives of the legal provision is to protect workers of different organizations from unfair actions and practices by various retirement plans and welfare programs.

Every employer is required to sensitize their employees about the options they have and how they can benefit from them. Every private institution in the country that offers retirement plans and health insurance benefits must adhere to ERISA. However, churches and all government bodies are exempted. Additionally, if you are self-employed or in a partnership and you do not have employees, you are not subject to ERISA guidelines.

The Main Sections of ERISA.

Every section of the legal provision has its relevant regulations, as explained below:

  • Disclosure.

Administrators of retirement plans are expected to provide any crucial information about a plan to their employees. The information should include details about types of coverage offered, levels available, and relevant reports. In some cases, the Department of Labor may ask the administrators to send the relevant documentation concerning employee programs. For example, an employer may be asked to send a document called a wrap plan which shows all their health and welfare plans.

  • Payment of Claims.

There must be a claims process for every welfare program offered by an organization and employers should inform their workers about it. An employer is required by the legal provision to provide a thorough explanation if any claim by an employee is denied.

  • Reporting.

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Other than providing the information requested by the Department of Labor, organizations must file documentation with information about welfare programs available for their workers and coverage types for each of them. The information is provided if an employer decides to increase or decrease the levels of coverage for their employees.

Classification of Benefit Plans.

Benefit plans organized by employers are divided into two main categories; welfare plans and retirement plans. Most employee welfare programs are required to adhere to guidelines of ERISA irrespective of their size.

Generally, the federal law applies to all group health plans that are funded by employers, including ones that are self and fully-insured. Benefits such as overtime payments and medical leave are also subject to the federal law.

ERISA provides guidelines that ensure that every employee gets the money that has accumulated in their accounts over their working life. It is not mandatory for employers are to have retirement plans for their workers. However, if they decide to have a plan, they must adhere to the minimum standards of the law.

Employers should ensure that their workers can easily access written information about their funds through regular mailing and hard copies. ERISA also requires organizations to explain to their workers how they can file claims for their retirement benefits with ease.

Employers should also diversify their investment portfolios to minimize the risk of loss and ensure that they will have the ability to pay out retirement benefits when due. An organization that complies with retirement plan guidelines set by the law should provide information about investments made and their returns to employees.

Now that you know how ERISA Compliance works let’s look at the…

Common Violations of ERISA.

A violation of the federal law refers to the failure by a party to meet their obligations. Some of the common violations include failure by some employers to offer benefits due to their employees and failure to observe the rights of workers covered by a benefit plan.

Action Taken against ERISA violators.

The federal law has two types of actions taken against violators; when a beneficiary of a plan files a complaint against a violator and when the Department of Labor takes action. Before a beneficiary files a lawsuit against a violator, they are required by the law to exhaust other administrative procedures.

There are civil and criminal punishments for violators of ERISA. Civil punishments include making payments, fines, or changing the provisions of a plan. The complainant receives any benefits that had been denied, interest accrued over time, and legal fees that they have incurred during a lawsuit.

On the other hand, criminal punishments include paying fines and violators may also face imprisonment. If an employer provides false documents about plan benefits, they may be required to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

 

Form 5500 Facts

What is Form 5500?

This is an annual report that your business needs to file with the Department of Labor (DOL) to report information about your 401(k) plan operations, investments, and financial conditions. In general, if you have a retirement plan such as the 401(k) and Profit-Sharing Plans, you need to file a Form 5500 every year you have the plan. The following are important Form 5500 Facts.

Who is Required to File the ERISA Form 5500?

Any sponsor of a plan that is subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) needs to complete Form 550. These may include:

1. Pension plans
2. Severance pay, life insurance, dental, or medical plans
3. Retirement arrangements
4. Annuity arrangements
5. Stock bonus, money purchase, 401(k), or profit-sharing plans

When Should it be Filed

The deadline for filing Form 5500 is the last day of the month after the seventh month following the end of the plan year. If your plan follows a calendar year plan, you have to file the form by July 31st. Nonetheless, you can always file Form 5558, which gets you an automatic two and half month extension. However, you have to file your Form 5558 before your Form 5500 deadline.

form 5500 facts and filing How to file Form 5500 Filed

Since January 1st, 2010 the US Department of Labor requires that you file your Form 5500 through the EFAST system on https://www.efast.dol.gov/welcome.html

The Different Plans Available

One Participant Plans

The one-participant plan applies to you if you are a business owner with no employees. However, the plan can cover you and your spouse.

If you are running a one-participant plan, you could either file a Form 5500-SF or the Form 5500-EZ. Form 5500-SF needs to be filed electronically while Form 5500-EZ needs to be filled in on paper and submitted to the IRS. In some instances, you may not have to file any 5500 form when you are operating under the one-participant plan. Generally, if the assets in your plan are no more than $250,000, you may be exempted from filing.Plans with less than 100 participants.

If your plan has less than 100 participants, you will need to file Form 5500-SF through EFAST.

Plans with 100 or more participants

If you have a plan that has 100 or more participants then you have to file Form 5500 electronically.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

There are stiff penalties for compliance that may include:

1. A fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for five years or both for any person that makes false representations or false statements, or knowingly conceals or fails to disclose any fact required by ERISA.
2. A fine of $2,063 for every day the sponsor refuses or fails to file an accurate or complete report.
3. Imprisonment of up to 10 years or a fine of $100,000 or both for knowingly violating the requirements of ERISA
4. A fine of $1,000 for failing to submit an actuarial statement according to the provisions.
5. A fine of $25 every day to a maximum of $15,000 for failing to file returns for bond purchase plans by the due date, annuities, and trusts, and certain plans of deferred compensation.

Retirement plans need to file Form 5500 every year to avoid heavy penalties. As a sponsor, it is very important to file Form 5500 on time and ensure the accuracy of the data reported to avoid stiff penalties. While it is not your typical tax return, the form is an important source of data by the DOL and the IRS for identifying what plans need an audit. The time spent reviewing that information will be time well spent. Overall, both the DOL, the IRS and you as the plan sponsor will benefit from having a well-operated employee benefit plan.


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Technology Compliance Benefits Businesses

Compliance benefits businesses in many ways.

It is obvious we live in a world where technology has now become part of our daily lives. Technology has come to change so many things that were hard to accomplish to be easy tasks completed in a matter of minutes.

Technology has made life quite easy in all aspects not just in the business world. Communication has been enhanced greatly between people who are miles away but they can now see each other as they converse. Information from the head company will reach its branches in a short span of time thanks to technology.

However, there is no good thing that does not have its share of downfalls. Technology too has its limitations. Sometimes it may not be in compliance with the set ethics and standards. It has drastic setbacks in as much as it has made work much easier. In this article, you are going to learn about the benefits of technology in the compliance industry and also the disadvantages of technology as far as compliance is concerned.

Merits of Compliance Technology

It is through technology that compliance programs are able to reduce risk, enhance flexibility, increase efficiency and improve on their performance.

1. Reduce Risk

Your business requires you to roll out a risk-based compliance structure. Technology is known to manage risks more effectively. If you have sufficient knowledge on your compliance program as a complete loop then you have better chances of knowing how to handle when risks occur before they become catastrophic problems.

This will lead to an effective program and thus reduces instances of potential lawsuits. It ensures you reduce your expenses on insurance premiums. Risky activities will now have less impact on the organization’s core business.

Accessing real-time data enables you to find weaknesses and upcoming issues in your program. You will therefore be able to deal with that problem before it grows to a major disaster and hence continuance improvement of your program.

2. Enhance Flexibility

This is another benefits compliance of technology. Have a look back at the time when there were no electrical gadgets like phones and computers. Everything was just very slow and even misquoted. Information did not reach people at the right time.

But look at the world we live in today. Everything is so swift and accurate just like what is needed for the compliance programs. They are constantly changing and therefore people need to adopt real quick. The program ought to be scalable, changeable and flexible to help your employees get updated on any issues and also give them a chance to show their reaction.
As companies grow and open up new branches in other areas, they also need to extend their compliance programs to these new entities to ensure benefits compliance is achieved as you run the program. This pushes the companies to move the compliance technology from desktop and static storage to cloud-based interfaces that are also mobile-friendly.

3. Increase Efficiency

An efficient compliance program needs to have a backbone. These are the driving factors of the same. They are normally the controls, procedures, and policies. The ancient types of programs did not make things run efficiently but technology has really eased the compliance programs and made it an easy task for people.
It becomes easier to develop and upgrade that program, to refresh, review and even update it.

4. Improve Performance

A centralized type of compliance program is more efficient. In the old days, technology was not used as of now where business is keeping the program centralized and control from only one point. This definitely increases your team performance and the program as a whole.
Integrated platforms allow the teams in the organization to link their data together and get to know how a part of your program affects the other.

compliance benefits

Technology Setbacks

The major downfall of technology is they are prone to attack. This is especially if we are talking about electronic gadgets such as computers. They can be attacked by harmful programs that will erase all that is stored on the computer.

These digital tools also use electricity for them to function. In case you do not have back-up generators to use when electricity is lost then the technology is useless at that instance.
Some believe technology have made humans become lazy. Since most of these tasks are being done by machines you find that if the technology fails to work then probably no work that day. Whereas it could just be a simple task but humans are now used to the machine so they feel they cannot do it. Others might believe that the machines do more work in one day than humans do in a month and does a better job. Either way, technology compliance benefits businesses.

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Are You ERISA Compliant? Hire a Consultant to Provide Guidance

ERISA, which stands for Employee Retirement Income Security Act is a federal law that safeguards retirement plans such as 401ks and health and welfare benefit plans for private employers. The law has been amended many times since its inception in 1974 in order to provide wider benefits for participants and beneficiaries. The law is administered by the Department of Labor and while violation can have serious consequences in the way of penalties imposed by the DOL, participants and beneficiaries can also launch lawsuits against employers who they feel are not ERISA compliant.

Any employer who maintains welfare benefits plans for employees is subject to this law. This includes corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, sole proprietorships and nonprofit organizations. The size of the employer doesn’t matter – so long as the employees are subject to benefits the employer is subject to ERISA compliance. There are, however, a couple of exemptions:

• Benefits plans that are maintained by government employers are not subject to ERISA and that includes local, state and federal.

• Benefits plans that are maintained by religious organizations are also exempt.

A small employer who wants to be exempt would have to find a way to fit in either of these two categories.

Which benefits are covered by ERISA compliance?

There are many of them and that is why many employers would rather hire a consultant to deal with this specific issue. Compliance can be tricky and confusing and sometimes employers find themselves afoul of the law through no fault of their own. The benefits that are covered include:

• Medical, hospital and surgical benefits

• Dental benefits

• Vision benefits

• Prescription drug benefits

• Health reimbursement benefits

• Health flexible spending accounts

• Group insurance benefits

• Accidental death and dismemberment

• Death benefits (not life insurance)

• Wellness programs

• Employee assistance plans

• Short term and long term disability benefits

• Disease specific benefits

There are certain benefits that are not covered under ERISA compliance:

• Adoption assistance plans

• Section 125 premium only plans

• Commuting benefits

• Dependent care assistance programs

• Health saving accounts

• Pet insurance

• Financial retirement planning programs

• Health and exercise club memberships

• Liability insurance plans

• Professional development classes

• Scholarship programs

• Tuition reimbursement

• Workman’s compensation as provided by state law

As is often the case with the law, in each of these categories there are clauses and sub-clauses that can be very confusing to a layman. Even for those who understand the law navigating the issue can be a time consuming process that takes them away from other more important duties in the workplace. That is why it is such a good idea to hire a consultant. An ERISA compliance consultant understands what it means to be ERISA complaint and ensures that all clients are doing as required by law.

How do you choose an ERISA compliance consultant?

There are many agencies that claim to help employers with ERISA compliance but you should be careful when you are choosing. You should be looking for a consultant who has guaranteed experience in this area – they should be able to show you proof of some of their work. Ideally, a consultant who has been around for at least 10 years is a good idea because in that time they will have gathered the necessary experience to ensure that their clients are ERISA compliant. They also know the loopholes that the government can use to come after you and they will help you plug them.

A good consultant will be ready with advice and play a preventative rather than a curative role, helping you make sure that you have complied with all federal requirements.

Once you hire an ERISA consultant like us you will be doing to ensure that your employees get their benefits as required by law.


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Wrap Plan Document Preparation Assistance and Support

More and more employers are now choosing to get wrap plan document preparation assistance, which means that wrap plan document preparation at this time is more important than ever before. Employers that offer a lot of health benefits and benefits in general to their employees will often have a difficult time explaining everything that has been outlined in those benefits packages. Offering benefits to employees can be a complex process. An official wrap plan document brings all of the associated contracts and group insurance policies together, so there will be only one plan for employers and employees to examine. In many cases, the resultant plan will include information about health reimbursement, medical benefits, cafeteria access, dental benefits, and the vision benefits that an employer might offer.

The administrative process associated with employee benefits packages can certainly be complicated. When employers are able to use a wrap plan instead, they will be able to save time and money. Their employees will also have an easier time learning about their benefits packages, making them feel more secure and giving them the chance to understand everything associated with a particular job.

We at BC2 are wrap plan document preparation experts.

It should be noted that wrap plan documents typically contain more information than most insurance documents. Employers and employees will not find themselves doing research on their own in order to fully understand some of the employee benefits policies. Wrap plan documents manage to be both simple and detailed at the same time, which is a great balance to strike.

There is a lot of information that ERISA wants that is not always included in some insurance documents, or at least not thoroughly included. Issues like that are less likely to happen when wrap plan documents are prepared. Employers will avoid a lot of different problems this way. Employees will also have an easier time planning for their own futures in the process.

Putting together a wrap plan document initially can require some care, obviously. Employers have to avoid making errors at this stage. Making mistakes at this stage can be serious, and making mistakes at any other stage in this process can be just as problematic. Getting professional assistance with the whole wrap plan document preparation process can make all the difference in the world for the employers who are trying to make sure that everything goes smoothly and successfully. Our organization would be happy to help companies with this stage.

There are different types of wrap plan documents. We can help different clients decide on the wrap plan document that is going to really work for them and meet the needs of their organization. Different welfare and health plans have different structures. We have plenty of different templates for wrap plan documents, and we should be able to find a template that will work perfectly for your company, given the structure of your welfare and health plan. You’ll have an easier time analyzing those health and welfare plans, and this will also be the case for your employees.

wrap plan document preparation assistanceGetting assistance with the wrap plan document preparation process can already make everything better for the people involved. However, it’s important to remember that this is something of an ongoing process to a certain extent. A wrap plan document is not necessarily a finished product. It might be a functionally finished product for a year or so, but many things can change in a year.

Wrap plan documents will have to be revised once a year in a lot of cases, since the laws involved will change. In some cases, employers will also update the benefits packages that they offer their employees in the first place, and they will have to adjust their wrap plan documents accordingly. We will certainly be available to help at those moments as well, making it easier for employers to adapt when necessary. Employees will also have an easier time adapting to the changes to their benefits packages, since these might occur each year.

Getting wrap plan documents is going to become more common over the next few years, since more and more employers are now realizing that there are lots of benefits associated with them. Some employees are going to come to expect them. Employees tend to change jobs relatively frequently these days, and this means that they will have a lot of experience with different workplaces. Many of them will expect there to be wrap plan documents, and employers will find that many of their competitors will use them. It makes sense to start planning your wrap plan document as soon as possible.


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ERISA Compliance Checklist: Make Sure You Are Compliant

We have put together an ERISA Compliance Checklist that you can follow to make sure you are following the rules.

Does your business offer a qualified retirement plan to your employees? If so, you most likely fall under the guidelines of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, otherwise known as ERISA. If you fail to follow the guidelines outlined by ERISA, your company can be subject to investigation and large fines.

If you answer “NO” to any of the following questions it could lead to compliance problems for your company.

1. Are all participants in your plan provided an annual financial report, a summary of the plan and of any changes made to the plan during the year? You should make sure all participants sign for their copy of the plans to assure they received them.

2. Do all participants know who the plan administrator is and that the plan administrator has copies of all plan details they can view at any time?

3. Is your plan protected with a fidelity bond to protect you and the participants from fraud or dishonest administrators?

4. Did your plan make all payments on time and in the correct amounts?

5. Did payments into the plan happen on a timely basis?

6. Did the company, or the administrator, respond to all written requests for information in 30 days or less?

7. Do you have written rules for requesting benefits and appealing denied claims? Did you adhere to the rules?

8. Is the plan diversified to protect the investments of participants?

9. Are the investment plans reviewed to make sure they are done in the best interest of the participants?

10. If the plan allows for participants to choose their own investments, are they provided with proper and full information to make informed decisions?

erisa compliance checklist

Similarly, if you answer “YES” to any of the following questions you may be in jeopardy.

1. Have any plan assets were used to pay expenses that were not authorized, excessive or unreasonable?

2. Has any official or administrator of the plan used funds from the plan for their personal benefit?

3. Has the plan invested in the company or any plan officials?

This short ERISA compliance checklist should get you started thinking. Let us dig a little deeper into a few of the concerns.

Your company plan is closely monitored by the IRS. If they determine you have not been following the rules setup in your plans guidelines, the IRS can invalidate the entire plan eliminating tax advantages to both the company and participants. For this reason, we should discuss a few key elements.

All current participants, beneficiaries and terminated employees should be receiving an annual fee report. Additionally, if you plan to make any changes to your plan, you must notify them 30 to 90 days in advance of the changes taking affect.

What constitutes timely deposits? The federal guidelines suggest you should make deposits into the plan no later than the same time you pay payroll taxes. Ideally, payments into the plan are made as quickly as possible.

Another area to watch closely is your “eligible to enroll” employees. You must make sure they are provided all paperwork, information and the opportunity to enroll at the time outlined in your plan.

Does your plan allow employees to take out loans? If so, make sure this area is closely monitored for proper repayment of loans as stated in your plan’s guidelines. Failure of a participant to repay the loan on time can result in forfeiture of their tax benefits.

One area which is carefully evaluated during audits is employer matching contributions. Make sure all contributions from the company have been properly allocated to the correct employee. This can be particularly challenging in companies with variable contribution amounts.

Non-Discrimination – You should verify that both your plan and the company’s practices adhere to 401(k) ADP and ACP discriminatory tests. These tests verify the plan does not favor business owners, the company, or higher-paid employees. Fairness is required in all plan details.

Verify all deferrals in excess of plan rules are distributed back to the appropriate participants.

It is advised you have your entire plan reviewed by an expert in ERISA compliance on a regular basis. Laws and IRS Rules change almost every year making an annual review of your plan a necessity.

Using our ERISA compliance checklist and discussion, you can keep your company retirement plan in compliance and be prepared for your next review or audit.

Does your company need ERISA Compliance consulting, Form 5500 preparation or other ERISA compliance services? Call (515)-244-2424 for service or questions or request quote.

Is Your Business ERISA Compliant? How To Make Sure Your Small Business Is In Compliance

‘Compliance’ is a term that is commonly heard in the business world. Having a business that is in compliance is often a goal for many small businesses. However, if you are wondering is your business ERISA compliant, it cannot simply be a goal. In fact, ERISA non-compliance is the law, and stiff penalties await any business that fails to follow the law.

The ERISA, or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, is a Federal law that stipulates specific minimum standards for welfare plans, health plans and retirement plans that qualify. Although this sounds simple enough at first glance, right beneath the surface lies the confusion and complexity of the law that often stops small business owners in their tracks.

The complexity of the law is becoming even more evident, especially with the passing of certain legislation such as the PPACA, or Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act. This is also known as the Health Care Reform Act. The PPACA has a direct impact on health plans that are covered by ERISA.

The Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service are two Federal agencies that not only oversee these types of plans but also work to ensure the plans are enforced. These agencies are also paying very close attention to sponsors, those who are compliant and those who are not. Between 2008 and 2010, over 70 percent of these retirement plans were audited by the DoL (Department of Labor), and the penalties averaged over $400,000 per plan.

So, with all of this information, it can be nerve-wracking for business owners to know is your business ERISA compliant. Fortunately, there are several things that can be done to make sure businesses are indeed compliant.

Plan Documents

All plan documents have to be compliant with the regulations and laws. Any amendments made to the documents have to be signed by the appropriate parties wherever applicable. All plan operations are also required to be in compliance.

Having A Summary Plan Description And Summary Of Benefits In Place

A summary plan description, or SPD, is information that informs participants about all of the terms and conditions of the plan. Some of the information included is:

Obligations
Rights
Benefits

These SPDs are typically given to participants, and ERISA compliance requires that these documents are automatically sent to participants within a certain time frame.

On the other hand, an SBC (summary of benefits and coverage) provides participants with general information and they also allow participants the opportunity to compare different health plans before choosing one.

Employers can choose to integrate these two documents, but failure to provide one or the other is an ERISA violation that can result in hefty fines.

Health Plans Compliant With ERISA

Almost all group health plans should have SPD. These types of plans include all key medical benefits, but also include plans for dental, wellness, and vision. It is important to remember that the rules for ERISA apply to more than just the main health benefits, so be sure you account for all of them.

Responsibility Of Plan Administrator
ERISA compliance is the job of the plan administrator. This can be a designated person within the organization, or it can be the employer (sponsor of the plan). The plan administrator must be named in the SPD (summary plan description), and this person is not able to avoid liability for any SPDs by delegating tasks to other people in the organization.

Also, keep in mind that most TPAs (third-party administrators) are not usually designated to be plan administrators of ERISAs. However, they may assist with the distribution and drafting of a summary plan description if they are under contract.

Insurers are not responsible for creating SPDs for ERISAs either. They may decide to assist with benefit descriptions or certificates of coverage, but these items are not considered SPDs.

So, is your business ERISA compliant? These regulations can be difficult to understand, but by working with compliance professionals and resources, you will avoid making costly mistakes.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you or a business is in need of ERISA compliance services. We will provide best service for best price. Form 5500 Champions!

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