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Compliance Assistance

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that sets minimum standards for retirement and health benefit plans in private industry. ERISA does not require any employer to establish a plan. It only requires that those who establish plans must meet certain minimum standards.

ERISA covers retirement, health and other welfare benefit plans (e.g., life, disability and apprenticeship plans). Among other things, ERISA provides that those individuals who manage plans (and other fiduciaries) must meet certain standards of conduct. The law also contains detailed provisions for reporting to the government and disclosure to participants. There also are provisions aimed at assuring that plan funds are protected and that participants who qualify receive their benefits.

ERISA has also been expanded to include new health laws. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) amended ERISA to provide for the continuation of health care coverage for employees and their beneficiaries (for a limited period of time) if certain events would otherwise result in a reduction in benefits. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) amended ERISA to make health care coverage more portable and secure for employees.

EBSA's compliance assistance information will assist employers and employee benefit plan officials in understanding and complying with the requirements of ERISA as it applies to the administration of employee retirement, health and other welfare benefit plans.

For Apprenticeship and Training Plans

For Health Plans

Affordable Care Act

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COBRA

HIPAA

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008

Children's Health Insurance Program

Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements

Claims Procedure


For Retirement Plans

  • Model Notice of Multiemployer Plan in Critical Status - The PPA of 2006 amended ERISA and the IRC to require that sponsors of multiemployer defined benefit pension plans that are in endangered or critical status provide notice to participants. The Model Notice is intended to facilitate compliance with this notification requirement.
  • Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities – To meet their responsibilities as plan sponsors, employers need to understand some basic rules, specifically the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  ERISA sets standards of conduct for those who manage an employee benefit plan and its assets (called fiduciaries).  This publication provides an overview of the basic fiduciary responsibilities applicable to retirement plans under the law
  • Selecting An Auditor For Your Employee Benefit Plan – Federal law requires employee benefit plans with 100 or more participants to have an audit as part of their obligation to file the Form 5500.  This booklet will assist plan administrators in selecting an auditor and reviewing the audit work and report
  • Selecting And Monitoring Pension Consultants – Tips For Plan Fiduciaries – ERISA requires that fiduciaries of employee benefit plans administer and manage their plans prudently and in the interest of the plan’s participants and beneficiaries. In carrying out these responsibilities, plan fiduciaries often rely heavily on pension consultants and other professionals for help. Findings included in a report by the SEC released in May 2005, however, raise serious questions concerning whether some pension consultants are fully disclosing potential conflicts of interest that may affect the objectivity of the advice they are providing to their pension plan clients
  • Tips For Selecting And Monitoring Service Providers For Your Employee Benefit Plan – Business owners are responsible for ensuring that their 401(k) plans comply with Federal law and rely on other professionals to assist them with their plan duties. Selecting a service provider is one of the most important responsibilities of a plan sponsor
  • Target Date Retirement Funds - Tips for ERISA Plan Fiduciaries - Target date retirement funds (also called target date funds or TDFs) have become an increasingly popular investment option in 401(k) plans and similar employee-directed retirement plans. EBSA prepared the following general guidance to assist plan fiduciaries in selecting and monitoring TDFs and other investment options in 401(k) and similar participant-directed individual account plans.
  • FAQs on the Small Pension Plan Audit Waiver Regulation – FAQs on how to determine whether a small plan has met the conditions for the audit waiver requirements under the amended regulation
  • Reporting And Disclosure Guide For Employee Benefit Plans – A quick reference tool for certain basic reporting and disclosure requirements under ERISA
  • 401(k) Plan Fees Disclosure Tool – A form developed by banking, insurance and mutual fund trade groups to provide employers with a way to collect and compare investment fees and administrative costs of competing providers of plan services, now available in MS Word format. This form was not developed by the Department and was not designed to ensure compliance with the Department's regulations on service provider fee disclosure to plans or plan fee disclosure to 401(k) plan participants and beneficiaries.
  • Pension Plans and ERISA – FAQs that describe the provisions of the federal pension law
  • Cash Balance Pension Plans FAQs – FAQs that describe basic information about cash balance plans
  • QDRO's - An Overview – QDRO's are domestic relations orders that recognize the existence of an alternate payee's right to receive benefits payable to a participant under a pension plan
  • Determining Qualified Status and Paying Benefits – Outlines a plan administrator's duties, requirements for qualification for QDRO's
  • Drafting QDRO's – Outlines the procedure for dividing pension benefits, defines survivor benefits, and explains the form of payment for QDRO's
  • Voluntary Correction Programs
  • Employee Plans News – A publication of the Employee Plans office of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Operating Division of the IRS.  This quarterly newsletter provides information about current developments and upcoming events within the retirement plans arena

Fiduciary Requirements for Disclosure in Participant-Directed Individual Account Plans

Service Provider Disclosures Under Section 408(b)(2)

Lifetime Income Illustration


For 401(k) Plans

Fiduciary Requirements for Disclosure in Participant-Directed Individual Account Plans

Service Provider Disclosures Under Section 408(b)(2)

Lifetime Income Illustration


Reporting And Filing

Revisions to Annual Return/Report – Multiple-Employer Plans

Electronic Filing of Notices for Apprenticeship and Training Plans and Top Hat Plan Statements

2009 Form 5500 Revision

  • Final Rule – Annual Reporting and Disclosure – The final rules conform the Department's annual reporting regulations to the changes to the Form 5500 Annual Return/Report
  • Notice of Adoption of Forms Revisions – The Notice of Adoption of Forms Revisions describes changes to the Form 5500 Annual Return/Report for reporting years beginning on or after January 1, 2009, including a new Short Form 5500 (5500-SF) for eligible plans. Filers are cautioned that the forms appearing in the Federal Register are for information purposes only and cannot be used for filing. Filers should monitor the EFAST Website for information on approved software vendors for completing the 2008 and later forms and on the availability of the official government-printed forms
  • Technical Appendix – Providing supporting documentation for the Regulatory Impact Analysis included in the Final Rule - Annual Reporting and Disclosure

Final Rule On Electronic Filing

  • Final Rule – Electronic Filing of Annual Reports – The Final Rule establishes an electronic filing requirement for the Form 5500 Annual Return/Report. The electronic filing requirement was deferred from reporting years beginning on or after January 1, 2008, to reporting years beginning on or after January 1, 2009 by the Final Rule above under 2009 Form 5500 Revision

General Reporting And Filing Compliance Assistance


General Fiduciary Compliance Assistance

Service Provider Disclosures Under Section 408(b)(2):

Fiduciary Requirements for Disclosure in Participant-Directed Individual Account Plans:

  • Guidance On Fiduciary Duties In Response To Recent Events Involving The Madoff Investment Firm - Guidance for fiduciaries, investment managers and other investment service providers to plans who believe they may have exposure to losses on investments with entities related to the Madoff firm. The guidance also provides steps that can be taken to assess and protect the interests of plans, participants and beneficiaries under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
  • Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities – To meet their responsibilities as plan sponsors, employers need to understand some basic rules, specifically the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  ERISA sets standards of conduct for those who manage an employee benefit plan and its assets (called fiduciaries).  This publication provides an overview of the basic fiduciary responsibilities applicable to retirement plans under the law
  • Understanding Retirement Plan Fees And Expenses – This booklet will help retirement plan sponsors better understand and evaluate their plan's fees and expenses.  While the focus is on fees and expenses involved with 401(k) plans, many of the principles discussed in the booklet also will have application to all types of retirement plans
  • 401(k) Plan Fee Disclosure Tool – A form developed by banking, insurance and mutual fund trade groups to provide employers with a way to collect and compare investment fees and administrative costs of competing providers of plan services, now available in MS Word format. This form was not developed by the Department and was not designed to ensure compliance with the Department's regulations on service provider fee disclosure to plans or plan fee disclosure to 401(k) plan participants and beneficiaries.
  • Selecting An Auditor For Your Employee Benefit Plan – Federal law requires employee benefit plans with 100 or more participants to have an audit as part of their obligation to file the Form 5500.  This booklet will assist plan administrators in selecting an auditor and reviewing the audit work and report
  • Reporting and Disclosure Guide for Employee Benefit Plans – This guide is intended to be used as a quick reference tool for certain basic reporting and disclosure requirements under ERISA
  • ERISA Advisory Opinions – The policies, regulations, opinions, and interpretation regarding the fiduciary, reporting, disclosure, and coverage provisions of ERISA
  • ERISA Procedure 76-1: Filing Requests for Advisory Opinions/Information Letters – This ERISA procedure describes the general procedures of the department in issuing information letters and advisory opinions under the Act
  • Class Exemptions – A class exemption is an administrative "blanket" exemption, which permits a person to engage in a similar transaction or a series of similar transactions with plan in accordance with the terms and conditions of the class exemption, without requiring the person to obtain an individual exemption
  • EXPRO Exemptions – PTE 96-62 currently requires that applicants demonstrate that their proposed transactions are substantially similar to transactions in at least two exemptions previously granted by the department within five years of their submission
  • Individual Exemptions – An individual exemption is an administrative exemption, which applies only to the specific person named or otherwise defined in the exemption, and allows such person to engage in a variety of transactions that would be otherwise prohibited
  • Exemption Procedures Under Federal Pension Law – This booklet provides information to employers, plan administrators and employee benefit practitioners about the basic requirements and procedures needed to apply for exemptions from the prohibited transaction rules of ERISA
  • Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP) – A voluntary compliance program intended to protect the financial security of workers through the identification and correction of transactions that violate Part 4 of Title I of ERISA
  • Strategic Enforcement Plan (STEP) – Explains the general framework through which EBSA's enforcement resources may be focused to achieve the agency's policy and operational objectives
  • The Enforcement Manual – A manual providing detailed information on procedures used by the EBSA Office of Enforcement in its investigative programs

For Small Employers


Voluntary Correction Programs

Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program

The Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP) encourages voluntary compliance by self-correcting violations of the law. The program also helps plan officials understand the law and gives immediate relief from payment of excise taxes under a class exemption.

Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program

The Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (DFVCP) encourages voluntary compliance with ERISAs annual reporting requirements and gives delinquent plan administrators a way to avoid higher civil penalty assessments by satisfying the program’s requirements and voluntarily paying a reduced penalty.

Effective March 29, 2011, the address for the Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (DFVCP) lockbox changed to: DFVC DOL, PO Box 71361, Philadelphia, PA 19176-1361. Do not send by express mail. There is no overnight delivery address. Note that submissions to the DFVCP also can be done electronically.


Abandoned Plan Program

The Abandoned Plan Program facilitates the termination of, and distribution of benefits from, individual account pension plans that have been abandoned by their sponsoring employers.  The program was established pursuant to three final regulations and a related class exemption and is administered by EBSA national and regional offices.