Form5500help.com is designed to complement official guidance and other internet resources available to preparers of Form 5500 for qualified retirement and welfare benefit plans.
Every year, businesses and organizations that sponsor an employee benefit plan subject to ERISA must file Form 5500. These forms are filed with the Employee Benefits Security Administration’s EFAST operation in Lawrence, Kansas without regard to the plan year. All current, late, or amended filings are processed by EFAST.
Plan sponsors and practitioners -- employee benefit consultants, accountants, attorneys, and other service-providers -- often find the instructions to the Form 5500 to be vague or ambiguous resulting in many hours of frustration while preparing the reports for both pension and welfare benefit plans. Form5500HELP.com offers practical advice to consider when completing the various forms and schedules associated with these filings.
We also lead you to other websites so you can
- quickly download forms,
- locate official regulations and other guidance,
- find software to simplify preparation,
- print copies of forms already on file with the Internal Revenue Service and the Employee Benefits Security Administration, and much more.
New Round of DOL Inquiry Letters
Posted: May 16, 2013
The U S Department of Labor’s Office of the Chief Accountant (OCA) has begun sending correspondence -- both by paper and email -- asking the plan sponsor whether it also sponsors a health benefit plan. The letter reminds filers that certain employee welfare benefit plans must file Form 5500.
These inquiries are being directed to filers of 2011 Form 5500 for retirement plans, without regard to whether the retirement plan is a small or large plan. The correspondence asks the addressee to provide "information to determine whether you were required to file form 5500 for a health benefit plan for 2011."
While a response is required within 15 days from the date of the letter, it should be noted that the letter is not a specific notice to administrators that their filings are delinquent. As such, sponsors discovering any delinquent welfare benefit plan filings may take advantage of the DOL’s Delinquent Filer Program (DFVCP). See http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/calculator/dfvcpmain.html
The OCA is determined to get 100% response, so it’s important to reply promptly. It should be noted the letter is directed to the email address of the "signer" of the 2011 Form 5500 on the EFAST2 system; therefore, practitioners who file on behalf of the plan administrator may receive the notice instead of the affected plan sponsor.
2012 Form 5500 Series Official Release
Posted December 5, 2012.
On December 4, 2012, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced the official release of the 2012 Form 5500 series forms and instructions. [See http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/5500main.html.] The 2012 Forms 5500-EZ and 8955-SSA have not been finalized at this time; however, the draft 2012 Form 8955-SSA and its instructions were posted in the Draft Tax Forms section of the IRS web site on October 5, 2012.
The most important changes to the forms and instructions are noted below.
Disclosure of Paid Preparer (Optional)
The signature line on the Form 5500-SF has been moved to the first page, making it more like the face of the Form 5500. The more important change appears just below the signature line, however, where the IRS has added an optional item to both forms to insert the paid preparer’s name, phone number, and address.
The optional nature of this line should not be taken lightly. Prior to 2009, the Form 5500 series included space at line 5 to indicate the name and address of the preparer. Practitioners who completed this line showed the name of the firm that prepared the filing rather than any specific individual.
The line that appears on the 2012 forms seeks the name of the paid preparer, not the firm responsible for preparation of the filing. A preparer may be reluctant to voluntarily provide this information on the 2012 report because information reported in this section is subject to public disclosure and available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This consequence should not be taken lightly as it would allow the public to quickly and easily identify a preparer’s client list. In addition, plan participants and beneficiaries would be able to make telephone contact with the preparer, who may have little or no involvement in the day-to-day operations of the plan and, therefore, be unable to respond to questions about benefit eligibility and so forth.
It is safe to say that many preparers of Form 5500 would be uncomfortable with either consequence. For 2012, therefore, it may be advisable to leave this line blank.
Currently, the IRS is not authorized to collect information through electronic means and, therefore, cannot require this data be provided. That said, the inclusion of this optional item may signal the IRS’s intention to reconsider its current position that Form 5500 preparers are not subject to PTIN rules.
A random search of Form 5500 series filings will show why the DOL has added language to the instructions for the signature lines. It is common to find the name of the company, for example, in the space provided for the name of the individual signing as plan administrator and/or plan sponsor. What appears to have happened is that EFAST2 credentials have been established in the name of the company sponsoring the plan, rather than that of the individual authorized to sign the Form 5500 series report on behalf of the plan administrator or sponsor.
Such credentials should be updated to reflect the name of the person who is signing the form. This may be accomplished by accessing the EFAST2 credential profile or, alternatively, establishing new credentials for the individual signer(s).
Trust Information (Optional)
Schedules H and I have a new line 6a, while Form 5500-SF has a new line 14a, both intended to permit the filer to provide the name and EIN of the trust. This optional item is less controversial than the paid preparer item discussed above, and it is likely many filers will voluntarily provide this information. The data on this new line is similar to the information provided on Schedule P prior to 2006.
If a plan uses more than one trust or custodial account for its fund, the filer should enter the primary trust or custodial account, based on the greatest dollar amount or largest percentage of assets held as of the end of the reporting year. If no EIN has been assigned to the employee benefit trust or custodial account, the filer should enter the EIN that appears on any Form 1099-R issued by the trust to report distributions to participants and beneficiaries.
Caution! It is common for a bank, trust company, or insurance company to use a single EIN to report distribution information to participants on Form 1099-R for all plans serviced by the institution. In this case, it may be advisable to request a separate EIN for the trust being reported.
The Return of “Same as” Boxes
For the past few years, line 3a -- which identifies the plan administrator - -has been formatted in a way that required insertion of data rather than use of a check-box to indicate the plan administrator is the same as the plan sponsor information shown at line 2a. The 2012 forms show two boxes at line 3a. The first box is checked to indicate the plan administrator’s name is the same as the plan sponsor’s. The second box is checked to indicate the plan administrator’s address is the same as the plan sponsor’s. Alternatively, the information can simply be inserted at line 3a.
Actuarial Schedules MB and SB
Instructions to lines 4d and 4e (Information on Plan Status, page 53), and 9c (amortization charges under the funding standard account, page 56) of Schedule MB have been clarified. The Schedule SB instructions now request additional detail for the prior year’s excess contributions to be added to the prefunding balance (line 11b, page 67). Actuaries preparing Schedule SB also should reference IRS Notice 2012-61 for additional guidance on how to complete the 2012 Schedule SB in accordance with the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP 21).
January 1, 2013 EFAST2 Rollout
Filings for 2012 plan years may only be submitted on a 2011 Form 5500 series report through December 31, 2012. Beginning January 1, 2013, filings for plans with a plan year beginning in 2012 or 2013 must be submitted on a 2012 Form 5500 series report. Any filing submitted after December 31, 2012 on an incorrect year form will not be accepted by EFAST2. The DOL has created a Form Version Selection Tool for help in determining which version of the Form 5500 series report should be filed. See http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/5500selectorinstructions.html.
Prohibited Transactions Arising From ERISA §408(b)(2) Failures
The 2012 instructions are completely silent about how to report prohibited transactions that arise from the failure of a service provider to disclose information required under ERISA §408(b)(2). Large plan filers report prohibited transactions in Part III of Schedule G and line 4d of Schedule H. Small plan filers report prohibited transactions on Schedule I or in line 10b of Form 5500-SF. The excise tax associated with the prohibited transaction is reported and paid with Form 5330.
The DOL has developed a web page that enables plan fiduciaries to electronically notify the Department of such failures. See http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/regs/feedisclosurefailurenotice.html.
While the Form 5330 is currently being updated, IRS has indicated the forms and instructions scheduled for release in early 2013 do not include any mention of reporting service provider failures or calculation of tax due in those situations.
The IRS Clarifies Form 5558 Instructions
For those of you who routinely monitor the Form 5500 Corner [http://www.irs.gov/retirement/article/0,,id=117588,00.html] on the IRS web site, this may be old news. On May 3, 2012, IRS posted new information about Form 5558, while a video posted January 17, 2012 explains how to complete the filing when reporting multiple plans on a single Form 5558.
Here is a recap of the issues IRS wants you to consider.
No Lists, Please
Form 5558 must be filed by the sponsor of each plan requesting an extension of time to file Form 5500 series, Form 8955-SSA or Form 5330. While IRS had permitted filers to attach a list of the single employer’s plans to Form 5558 in the past, when the most recent Form 5558 was released in July 2011, the instructions specifically eliminated this option. The current form provides three lines for listing plan name, number and year ending and no attachments are permitted.
The latest information on the Form 5500 Corner advises filers that lists attached to Form 5558 received through July 31, 2012 will result in those submissions being returned to the filer, who will be required to properly complete Form 5558 and resubmit Form 5558 for all plans requiring an extension of time to file. Apparently, some filers have been incorrectly submitting a single Form 5558 with a laundry list of unrelated plans for which an extension of time to file was being requested.
Any Form 5558 that includes a list that is received by IRS after July 31, 2012 will not be returned and will not be processed.
While the request to extend the time to file is automatically granted with respect to Form 5500 series returns and Form 8955-SSA, this is only true if Form 5558 is properly completed and, with regard to Form 8955-SSA, properly signed.
Some firms prepare Form 5558 for all of their clients at the same time and send them to IRS in a single package. For control purposes, these filers include a cover sheet that lists each plan / plan sponsor shown on the Form 5558 that are included with the batch.
IRS has confirmed that such cover sheets are acceptable, although it’s unlikely that IRS is comparing the list to the contents of the package. IRS focuses on processing the individual Forms 5558 that are submitted. Any cover letter submitted with Form 5558 filings cannot serve as a part of the request for extension of time to file.
As a reminder, the overnight service address is 1973 Rulon White Boulevard, Ogden, UT 84201-1000.
Who May Sign Form 5558
Signatures are required on any Form 5558 submitted to extend the due date to file Form 5330 or Form 8955-SSA. Per the Form 5500 Reminders [http://www.irs.gov/retirement/article/0,,id=249377,00.html] page, the Form 5558 must be signed by a:
- Plan Administrator, employer, or plan sponsor, or
- An individual or authorized representative permitted to sign the Form 5330 (or Form 8955-SSA).
Typically, the persons who could be authorized to sign the Form 5330 or Form 8955-SSA include so-called Circular 230 preparers, which includes attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, enrolled actuaries, and ERPAs. Generally, unenrolled preparers may not be authorized to sign Form 5330 or Form 8955-SSA. It should be noted that a Power of Attorney (Form 2848) would not be required merely to authorize signature of Form 5558 on behalf of the plan sponsor.
ASPPA’s Government Affairs Committee sent a letter to IRS on November 21, 2011 requesting the elimination of the signature requirement when filing Form 5558 to extend the due date for filing Form 8955-SSA. To date, IRS has not issued any official response; however, while speaking at the recent AICPA Employee Benefits Conference in Atlanta, Monika Templeman (IRS Director of EP Examinations) reportedly stated that the IRS expects to release a proposed regulation that would eliminate the requirement for a plan administrator's signature on Form 5558 for extending the filing deadline for Form 8955-SSA. Until such guidance is official, filers should be aware that a signature is necessary.
Other Common Errors
IRS posted a list of errors that potentially invalidate a Form 5558 in its Retirement News for Employers - Winter 2012 -- Form 5558 [http://www.irs.gov/retirement/article/0,,id=253983,00.html]. Quoting from the IRS web site, the publication provided the following explanation:
- It's possible that the information on your extension application didn’t match your Form 5500-series return (Form 5500, 5500-SF or 5500-EZ), Form 5330 or Form 8955-SSA. For example,
• Mismatched plan sponsor or administrator name -- The plan sponsor or plan administrator listed on Form 5558, Part 1, Block A didn’t match the name listed on the Form 5500-series return. The names must be identical.
1. Example abbreviation: Form 5500 shows “Dana Kay Inc.” as the plan sponsor, while Form 5558 shows “DK Inc.” as the plan sponsor.
2. Example common variation: Form 5500-SF shows “Hawk Inc.” as the plan sponsor, while Form 5558 shows “The Hawk.”
3. Example different entity: Form 5500-EZ shows “Alvin Cooke P.C.” as the plan sponsor, while the Form 5558 shows “Alvin Cooke.”
• Mismatched EIN, plan year-end or plan number -- The employer identification number, Social Security number, plan year-end, or 3-digit plan number on Form 5558 didn’t match the ones used on your 5500-series return. Always use the EIN assigned to the plan sponsor for the Form 5500-series return. If you don’t have an EIN, you can apply for one over the phone or online.
• Mismatched plan name -- The name you entered in Form 5558, Part 1, Block C didn’t match the name used on your Form 5500-series return.
- Sponsors of multiple plans
If you sponsor more than one plan, make sure the plan name and number on the Form 5558 match the plan name and number on the Form 5500-series return for that plan. This is especially important if you have recently merged one plan into another or changed your plan’s name.
- Always use the current version of the form
Check that you are using the most current version of any IRS form. The Retirement Plan Forms and Publications Web page has the latest version of forms, including the fillable versions if available.
We Can Dream....
As we have become comfortable with the electronic efficiencies of EFAST2 and FIRE, many filers / preparers would prefer an electronic option for filing Form 5558. With limited resources and recurring budget constraints, however, IRS can only share that fantasy for the time being.
The IRS Updates FAQs on
As noted in my last posting, IRS has issued both the 2009 and 2010 Form 8955-SSA but indicates that it intends the following rules will apply:
- A filer that has used the 2009 Form 8955-SSA to report both 2009 and 2010 data need not file again using the 2010 form.
- Filers may still use the 2009 form to report combined 2009 and 2010 data.
- If only 2010 data is being reported, then the 2010 form should be used to report that data or to provide additional data for 2010 that has not previously been reported; however, a 2009 form used to report only 2010 data will not be rejected.
Even though the PY 2010 Form 8955-SSA is available to the public, can I still combine PY 2009 and PY 2010 data on the PY 2009 Form 8955-SSA?
Yes, plan administrators can continue to use the PY 2009 form for the combined 2009 and 2010 data even though the 2010 form has been released. As stated in the Instructions to the 2009 Form 8955-SSA, plan administrators may use a PY 2009 form to report information for the 2010 plan year, or combine the information for the 2009 and 2010 plan years on a single PY 2009 form. The release of the 2010 form does not affect this rule.
If you file one Form 8955-SSA covering both 2009 and 2010 reportable employees, the 2010 reportable employees are treated as reported in 2009. Enter the beginning and ending date for the 2009 plan year on the Form 8955-SSA when combining information for the 2009 and 2010 plan years. For example, a plan that reports on a calendar year basis and combines information for the 2009 and 2010 plan years should enter January 1, 2009 as the beginning date and December 31, 2009 as the ending date.
On November 18, 2011, the IRS further updated its FAQ regarding filing Form 5558 to extend the due date for filing Form 8955-SSA, as follows:
Can the January 17, 2012 deadline for filing 2009 Form 8955-SSA be extended by filing a Form 5558?
No. Ordinarily, the rules applicable to the extension of time for filing Form 8955-SSA are the same as those applicable to the extension of time for filing Schedule SSA (Form 5500). Thus, Form 5558, Application for Extension of Time To File Certain Employee Plan Returns, may generally be used to file for a one-time extension of time of up to 2 1/2 months after the normal due date. However, because of the special extended filing date for the 2009 and 2010 Form 8955-SSA, this automatic extension is not available for filings due on January 17, 2012. A Form 5558 may be filed, however, if the due date for filing the Form 8955-SSA (with or without extension) falls after January 17, 2012.
Also on November 18, 2011 the IRS added FAQs to address questions raised by 403(b) plan filers, given that these plans have not previously reported information to SSA. Here are the two FAQs:
403(b) FAQ #1
Does the Form 8955-SSA filed for 2009 by a 403(b) plan sponsor have to report participants who separated from service prior to 2008 with a deferred vested benefit under the plan?
Generally, no. Form 8955-SSA filed for 2009 generally only has to report participants who separated from service in 2008. Thus, participants with a 403(b) contract or account who separated from service prior to 2008 are not required to be reported on the Form 8955-SSA filed for 2009 (or for any subsequent year).
However, a participant should be reported on the Form 8955-SSA filed for 2009 if that participant separated from service in a year before 2008 and began receiving payments under the contract or account, but the payments stopped in 2008 before all of the participant’s benefits were paid. See the Instructions for 2009 Form 8955-SSA. See also Question and Answer 2 for an exception that applies even in the case where payments stopped in 2008.
403(b) FAQ #2
Does a 403(b) plan sponsor have to report all participants who separated from service after 2007 with a deferred vested benefit under the plan?
No. A plan sponsor is not required to report a separated participant if the participant’s deferred vested benefits are attributable to an annuity contract or custodial account that is not required to be treated as part of the section 403(b) plan assets for purposes of the reporting requirements of ERISA Title I, as set forth in DOL Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) 2009-02.
For this exception to apply, (1) the contract or account would have to have been issued to a current or former employee before January 1, 2009, (2) the employer would have ceased having any obligation to make contributions (including employee salary reduction contributions), and in fact ceased making contributions to the contract or account before January 1, 2009, (3) all of the rights and benefits under the contract or account would be legally enforceable against the issuer or custodian by the participant without any involvement by the employer, and (4) the participant would have to be fully vested in the contract or account. For further information, please see DOL FAB 2009-02, www.dol.gov/ebsa.
EFAST2 Practitioner Filing Authorization and Other Updates
Renew Practitioner-Filer Authorization Annually
On May 13, 2010, the DOL announced an option that permits service providers to submit Form 5500 series reports on behalf of clients. While plan administrators and plan sponsors may continue to obtain signer credentials and execute the Form 5500 or Form 5500-SF signing ceremony either through I-FILE or their service provider’s software, many practitioners found this option a simpler way to manage the filing process.
The practitioner filing option is described in FAQ 33a [see http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq-EFAST2.html], which has been updated to reflect the modifications recently made to the public disclosure web site. Although not specifically mentioned in the FAQ, the DOL’s Help Desk advises that the plan administrator must provide written authorization to the service provider on a year-by-year basis and cannot simply sign an open-ended, or evergreen, authorization. [click here]
It is acceptable to reference more than one plan in an authorization; for example, when an employer offers both pension and welfare benefit plans that require a Form 5500 filing. However, the authorization may not cover more than one plan year for such plans.
Other EFAST2 FAQ Updates
On March 31, 2011 the EFAST2 FAQs were updated, as follows:
- FAQs 3 and 9 were removed because they applied only to 2009 plan year filings;
- FAQ 33b was added to explain what happens when the Form 5500 series report is not signed with a valid electronic signature;
- FAQs 1, 2, 4, 8, 10, 11, 18, 23a, 29, 33a, 38 have been modified with updated language and new links to reflect the current EFAST2 system;
- FAQs 16b-c-d-e have been added to provide information about retrieving forgotten passwords and credentials; and
- FAQ 27a has been added to provide more information about submitting secured attachments.
More information about Form 5500 matters -- including Forms 5558 and 8955-SSA -- will be posted as it becomes available.
Form 8955-SSA IRS Dribbles Out Information
About Filing of New Form
Form 8955-SSA Replaces Schedule SSA
With the implementation of the fully electronic EFAST2 system beginning with 2009 plan year filings of Form 5500, the Schedule SSA was eliminated as the method of reporting to IRS and the Social Security Administration those participants who had terminated employment and who had not started receiving benefit payments. Instead, the IRS created Form 8955-SSA and released the draft form and instructions for public comment on November 1, 2010. [click here]
A previous article on this website described some of the loose ends in the instructions. Although the form and instructions have been not finalized as of March 6, 2011, the IRS issued Announcement 2011-21 on March 3, 2011 to describe some of the rules that will surround the new form.
Without the final form and instructions, the information provided in the release causes many practitioners to have more questions than answers. Here are a few of the tidbits gleaned from the IRS document:
- The IRS will be releasing the 2009 form and instructions in the near future; however, the 2010 form and instructions will not be available until later this year.
- The 2009 and 2010 filings are due by the later of (1) the due date that generally applies for filing Form 8955-SSA for the 2010 plan year, or (2) August 2, 2011.
- Plan administrators will be permitted to report information that would otherwise be required to be reported on the 2010 Form 8955-SSA using the 2009 form. What the announcement doesn't indicate is whether or not a plan may file both the 2009 and 2010 information on a single 2009 Form 8955-SSA.
- It appears that Form 8955-SSA will be filed only for years for which there is data to report. Thus, an annual filing may not be required depending on the facts and circumstances.
- The IRS has adapted the FIRE [Filing Information Returns Electronically] system to permit voluntary electronic filing of Form 8955-SSA. Form 4419, Application for Filing Information Returns Electronically, must be completed to request a specific TCC (Transmitter Control Code) for purposes of transmitting the Form 8955-SSA data. The FIRE help desk confirmed that a single TCC may be used for all client plans. IRS forms and publications may be ordered by calling toll-free at 800-829-3676 or downloaded from the IRS website at www.irs.gov. Also see http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc802.html
- While the Form 5558 is being adapted to permit a request for an extension of time to file Form 8955-SSA, Announcement 2011-21 states that plan administrators also are granted an automatic extension of time to file the report until the due date of the federal income tax return of the employer if certain conditions are satisfied.
No PTIN Required for Form 8955-SSA
On March 4, 2011, IRS updated its FAQs at http://www.irs.gov/taxpros/article/0,,id=218611,00.html to indicate that Form 8955-SSA is not subject to the PTIN rules. The text of the FAQ is as follows:
9. I am a retirement plan administrator who prepares Forms 5500 and the accompanying schedules for my clients. I also prepare Forms 8955-SSA and Form 5558 for my clients. While the Form 5500 series returns are included in the list of forms exempted from the PTIN requirements in Notice 2011-6, the Forms 8955-SSA and Forms 5558 are not included in that list. Am I required to obtain a PTIN? (posted 3/4/11)
No. The Form 8955-SSA, Annual Registration Statement Identifying Separated Participants With Deferred Vested Participants, and Form 5558, Application for Extension of Time to File Certain Employee Plan Returns, are, for purposes of Notice 2011-6, part of the "Form 5500 series" of tax returns inasmuch as these forms are prepared either in conjunction with the filing of a retirement plan's Form 5500 filing or to request an extension of time to file a Form 5500 series tax return.
More information about Form 8955-SSA will be posted as it becomes available.
Form 5500 Not Subject to PTIN Rules
Under New IRS Guidance
IRS issued Notice 2011-6 [click here] to provide additional guidance regarding the implementation of the new Treasury regulations governing paid tax return preparers. ASPPA and other organizations representing tax return preparers worked with the IRS to achieve a more practical application of the PTIN rules.
As a result, the IRS has decided to allow persons who are not attorneys, certified public accountants, enrolled agents, or registered tax return preparers to obtain a PTIN and prepare, or assist in the preparation of, all or substantially all of a tax return in certain circumstances. While the IRS broadly interprets the term tax forms, the Notice also exempts certain forms, many of them employee benefit plan related, from the PTIN requirements.
Forms Not Requiring a PTIN
Section .03 of the Notice specifically exempts the following benefit plan related tax forms from the PTIN requirements:
- Form 1099 series;
- Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative;
- Form 5300, Application for Determination of Employee Benefit Plan;
- Form 5307, Application for Determination for Adopters of Master or Prototype or Volume Submitter Plans;
- Form 5310, Application for Determination for Terminating Plan;
- Form 5500 series;
- Form 8717 User Fee for Employee Plan Determination, Opinion, and Advisory Letter Request
Additional forms are listed in Section .03 of the Notice, and the IRS may in future guidance modify the list of documents to which the PTIN rules apply.
Forms Requiring a PTIN
Benefit plan practitioners may still need a PTIN, however, because certain tax forms frequently prepared by benefit plan practitioners require the insertion of the PTIN and are not included on the exempted list (shown above). Such forms include:
- Form 945, Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax
- Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax
- Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return
- Form 5330, Return of Excise Taxes Related to Employee Benefits Plans
It is unclear whether or how the PTIN rules might apply to Form 5558, Application for Extension of Time to File Certain Employee Benefit Plan Returns, which has not been updated since 2008. ASPPA anticipates the Form 5558 will be revised after the release of the new Form 8955-SSA, Annual Registration Statement Identifying Separated Participants With Deferred Vested Benefits; however, any PTIN requirement associated with Form 5558 is likely to apply only with regard to a request for an extension of time to file Form 5330.
PTINs for Non-Circular 230 Individuals Require No Testing / Continuing Education
Beginning January 1, 2011, all individuals who are compensated for preparing, or assisting in the preparation of, all or substantially all of a tax return or claim for refund of tax must have a PTIN.
Circular 230 practitioners. This PTIN category includes an individual who is already subject to the rules of Circular 230, including attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, enrolled actuaries, and ERPAs. Such persons may sign tax returns and continue to be subject to professional conduct, ethics, and continuing education rules.
Non-Circular 230 practitioners. Many preparers will most likely benefit from the IRS’s decision to issue PTINs and not require competency exams covering tax returns and claims for refunds not prepared by the individual (e.g., the Form 1040 series). However, the application process will require such an individual to certify that he or she does not prepare, or assist in the preparation of, all or substantially all of any tax return or claim for refund covered by the competency exams for registered tax return preparers administered by IRS (Form 1040 series until further notice) and the individual must pass the requisite tax compliance check and suitability check (when available). Currently, there is no continuing education requirement for these PTIN holders; however, such persons are subject to the duties and restrictions relating to practice in subpart B of Circular 230 (Duties and Restrictions Relating to Practice Before the Internal Revenue Service).
The IRS does not expect to offer any competency examination before mid-2011 and then only to those who prepare Form 1040 series returns. Tax preparers who are not attorneys, CPAs, or enrolled agents will be allowed to obtain a provisional PTIN and continue to prepare and sign tax returns or claims for refund until the appropriate competency exam is available.
Theadditional PTIN guidance issued by IRS is helpful. Benefit plan consultants and administrators should review their return preparation practices and identify those individuals who should apply for a PTIN. This most immediately affects those persons who prepare Form 945, which is due by January 31, 2011 (or by February 10, 2011 if tax deposits were made on time and in full).
Little Known Code Section Requires Notice to
Participants Reported on Form 8955-SSA
In the November 1, 2010 Federal Register, the IRS published a notice and request for comments on the proposed Form 8955-SSA, Annual Registration Statement Identifying Separated Participants with Deferred Vested Benefits, which replaces the previous Schedule SSA filed with Form 5500. [click here] for a copy of the Federal Register notice along with a draft (as of 5-24-2010) of the new form and its instructions.
In a separate article to be posted soon, I’ll comment on the instructions; however, line 8 of the new form warrants special discussion.
Line 8: Did the plan administrator provide an individual statement to each participant required to receive a statement?
__ Yes __ No
The requirement isn’t new. In fact, the statute and regulation have been around since the late 70s! What is new is that it appears the IRS is going to start enforcing the rule, which has a $50 per participant price-tag for failures to comply.
The Code. IRC §6057(e), effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 1975 and amended for plan years beginning after December 31, 1984 by adding the final sentence, reads:
(e) INDIVIDUAL STATEMENT TO PARTICIPANT. Each plan administrator required to file a registration statement under subsection (a) shall, before the expiration of the time prescribed for the filing of such registration statement, also furnish to each participant described in subsection (a)(2)(C) an individual statement setting forth the information with respect to such participant required to be contained in such registration statement. Such statement shall also include a notice to the participant of any benefits which are forfeitable if the participant dies before a certain date.
The Regulation. The regulation at §301.6057-1(e), which was finalized in 1978, reads:
(e) Individual statement to participant. The plan administrator of an employee retirement benefit plan defined in paragraph (a)(3) of this section must provide each participant with respect to whom information is required to be filed on Schedule SSA a statement describing the deferred vested retirement benefit to which the participant is entitled. The description provided the participant must include the information filed with respect to the participant on the Schedule SSA. The statement is to be delivered to the participant or forwarded to the participant’s last known address no later than the date on which any Schedule SSA reporting information with respect to the participant is required to be filed (including any extension of time for filing granted pursuant to section 6081).
Instructions Proposed for Form 8955-SSA
As previously noted, line 8 of the new form asks the plan sponsor and plan administrator to verify whether or not such statement has been provided. The SSA form itself requires reporting of the participant’s social security number, name (first, middle initial, last), type of annuity and payment frequency, along with the amount of the periodic defined benefit payment or value of the participant’s account as of the date of termination.
Fortunately, the proposed instructions, on page 2, under Prior Year Statement says that filers need only respond to line 8 with regard to reporting for 2009 and later plan years. And the 2009 filing of SSA data is currently delayed until at least August 1, 2011 for 2009 plan years.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that any current participant statement provides such information.
What To Do?
It’s probably reasonable to assume that IRS will begin enforcing this disclosure rule and imposing penalties when failures occur. That means service providers need to pull together a game plan for complying with the notice requirements.
The regulation is silent about what constitutes an acceptable disclosure. For example, is it necessary to tell the participant they were reported using Code A or can the statement simply explain they are being added to the SSA’s records for this deferred benefit? How much explanation about what SSA does with this information has to be provided to the participant?
The nature of disclosures to participants has changed considerably since these regulations were issued in the 70s, including the presentation of social security numbers in correspondence. Watch for more discussion of this issue in the benefits community in the coming weeks and months. More information will be posted here as it becomes available.