Technical assistance is the second aspect of OCA's three-pronged approach to ensure compliance with the reporting and disclosure requirements and to enhance the quality of audits of employee benefit plans. EBSA's outreach efforts are primarily aimed at plan administrators and plan auditors to heighten awareness regarding the reporting and disclosure requirements and accounting and auditing issues impacting employee benefit plans.
The OCA has been delegated the responsibility for providing technical assistance to plan professionals and others regarding the reporting and disclosure requirements and accounting and auditing issues impacting employee benefit plans. The following table presents the most common areas of inquiry:
Areas of Concern
Accountants and Auditors
- Application of and compliance withgenerally accepted accounting principles and generally accepted auditing standards
- Areas of audit unique to employee benefit plans
- Reporting and disclosure obligations on supplementary information included in the annual report
- Changes in legislation affecting the audit (e.g., proposal to eliminate the limited-scope audit)
- Reporting and disclosure of information in the Form 5500 Annual Report and supplemental schedules and attachments
- Failure to file or failure to file complete and accurate Form 5500s timely
- Compliance with ERISA's disclosure rules
- Information about their plans
In 1999, EBSA assumed responsibility for processing the Form 5500/5500-EZ Annual Return/Reports (Forms) on behalf of EBSA, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). EBSA established a processing system known as EFAST ("ERISA Filing Acceptance System). At that time, EBSA also assumed responsibility for providing a public point-of-contact to answer inquiries from the filing public. In 2010, the EBSA established a new, paperless, internet-based filing requirement, known as EFAST2, and eliminated paper filings effective January 1, 2010.
Under contract with the EBSA, Vangent's Lawrence Call Center, developed and implement the "EFAST Help Desk" to provide assistance to Form filers on general and specific filing requirements and to provide compliance assistance to filers who have difficulty with filing the electronic forms in the EFAST2 System.
The EFAST Help Desk function became operational in November 2000 and is available to the filing public from 8a.m. to 8p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except federal holidays). Voice mail and pre-recorded frequently asked questions are available to filers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Plan filers and professionals can obtain assistance from by EFAST Help Desk by calling 866-463-3278 (866-GO-EFAST). This is a toll-free number.
The EFAST Help Desk function is managed by OCA DAS staff with the assistance from the DRC staff. The EFAST Help Desk strives to answer filer questions in one call without the need for a transfer. In most cases, no transfer is necessary. However, there are circumstances where callers may require a higher level of technical assistance. In these cases, the calls are transferred either to OCA, IRS or PBGC, as appropriate. In 2009, the EFAST Help Desk handled almost 60,000 calls (6,772 of which required a transfer to OCA) In 2010, OCA handled over 15,000 telephone inquiries.
In addition, OCA receives inquiries directly from the public regarding accounting and auditing issues, Form 5500 reporting, or general employee benefit plan issues.
EBSA has also established a method whereby inquiries can be submitted via the DOL Website via accessing the following internet address: http://askebsa.dol.gov/. These web-based inquiries are forwarded to the appropriate office within EBSA for disposition, some of which are referred to OCA.
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