Two of the most-feared government agencies for employers — the DOL and IRS — have decided there’s a real problem with the way retirement plans are being run, and they’re ramping up their audits to find out why that is.
In response to the many mistakes the agencies are seeing from retirement plan sponsors, the IRS and DOL will be increasing the frequency of their audits.
What does that mean for you? According to experts, plan sponsors can expect the feds to dig deep into the minute operations of plans. That means the unfortunate employers who find themselves in the midst of an audit can expect to be asked for heaps of plan info.
Linda Canafax, a senior retirement consultant with Willis Towers Watson, put it like this:
“The DOL and IRS are truly diving deep into the operations of the plans. We have seen a deeper dive into the operations of plans, particularly with data. Plans may be asked for a full census file on the transactions for each participant. Expect the DOL and IRS to do a lot of data mining.”
What to watch for
Ultimately, it’s impossible to completely prevent an audit. But employers can — and should — do certain things to safeguard themselves in the event the feds come knocking.
First, a self-audit is always a good idea. It’s always better for you to discover any problems before the feds do. Next, you’ll want to be on the lookout for the types of errors that can lead the feds to your workplace in the first place.
The most common errors the IRS and the DOL are looking for:
- Untimely remittance of employee deferrals (i.e., contributions)
- Incorrect compensation definition (plan documents dictate which types of comp employees are eligible to contribute from)
- Not following the plan’s own directives, and
- Not having a good long-term system (20-30 years out) for tracking and paying benefits to vested participants.