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Agencies Seek Input on Form 5500 Revisions

Agencies Seek Input on Form 5500 Revisions

Federal agencies are seeking public comments on proposed revisions to the Form 5500 Annual Return/Report filed by private-sector employee benefit plans to comply with statutory changes under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, which became law in 2019.”The proposed form changes and related regulatory amendments address [SECURE] Act changes, especially for multiple employer plans, and improve [Form 5500 as a] critical enforcement, research and public disclosure tool,” said Ali Khawar, Department of Labor (DOL) acting assistant secretary for employee benefits security.On Sept. 15, the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the IRS and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) published two proposed rules in the Federal Register: Annual Reporting and Disclosure, to conform Form 5500 reporting regulations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) with the proposed Form 5500 revisions.The agencies also released a fact sheet summarizing the proposed changes.SECURE Act ChangesWhile employers in the same industry had previously been allowed to form multiple employer plans, known as MEPs, the SECURE Act permits unaffiliated employers, as of January 2021, to join together in a single 401(k) pooled employer plan (PEP).”A PEP has a single plan document, a single Form 5500 filing and a single independent plan audit,” noted Craig P. Hoffman, an attorney with San Francisco-based Trucker Huss, when the SECURE Act became law. A pooled plan provider, whether a financial services firm, insurance company, third-party administrator or similar entity, “must serve as the ERISA section 3(16) plan administrator, as well as the named fiduciary for the plan,” he explained.Defined Contribution Group PlansThe SECURE Act also established another new type of plan arrangement, often referred to as a group of plans (GoP) but which the proposed rules now call a defined contribution group (DCG).A DCG allows employers, whether unrelated or related, to file a single Form 5500 for multiple defined contribution plans if the plans have the same trustee, administrator, fiduciaries, investments and plan year. However, unlike PEPs, plans in a DCG remain distinct entities. While they can file a single consolidated Form 5500, individual plans participating in a DCG arrangement with a consolidated Form 5500 filing remain subject to audit requirements, the proposed revisions clarify.After considering multiple issues, “the departments decided to propose that a large plan that elects to participate in a DCG must continue to be subject to an IQPA [independent qualified plan accountant] audit and that the audit report for the plan would have to be filed with the consolidated Form 5500 of the DCG reporting arrangement,” the Proposed Revision of Annual Information Return/Reports states.Pete Swisher, president of Waypoint Fiduciary, a consultancy in Versailles, Ky., focused on group retirement plans, wrote that “as part of the package of guidance, the Departments addressed the audit requirement in GoPs by killing the hopes of those who expected a GoP to have a single consolidated audit like that of multiple employer plans.”MEWAs Also AffectedAs an ancillary matter, some of the proposed Form 5500 revisions would apply to multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWAs) that offer …