What is a Fidelity Bond?
401(k) plan sponsors are required to purchase a fidelity bond to protect the plan against ...What is a Fidelity Bond? 401(k) plan sponsors are required to purchase a fidelity bond to protect the plan against fraudulent or dishonest acts. Here are answers to common questions. What is a fidelity bond? A fidelity bond is a type of insurance required for those responsible for the day-to-day administration and handling of “funds or other property” of an ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) benefit plan such as a 401(k). The purpose of the bond is to protect the plan from losses due to acts of fraud or dishonesty including theft, embezzlement, larceny, forgery, misappropriation, wrongful abstraction, wrongful conversion and willful misapplication. What are “Funds Or Other Property”? “Funds or other property” refers to 401(k) plan assets. In addition to publicly-traded stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds, all employee and employer contributions are considered “funds,” whether they come in the form of cash, check or property. Who must be covered by a fidelity bond? Under ERISA, it is illegal to receive, disburse, or exercise custody or control of plan funds or property without having a fidelity bond in place. Therefore, anyone who handles or manages 401(k) funds must be covered by a fidelity bond. This includes anyone who has: Physical contact with cash, checks, or similar property Authority to secure physical possession of cash, checks, or similar property through access to a safe deposit box, bank accounts, etc. Authority to transfer plan funds either to oneself or a third party Authority to disburse funds Authority to sign or endorse checks Supervisory or decision-making authority over plan funds This requirement is not just limited to plan managers and plan sponsor employees. Third party service providers that have access to the plan’s funds or exercise decision-making authority over the funds may also require bonding. This includes investment advisors and third-party administrators (TPAs). How much coverage is required? ERISA requires each person handling the plan to be covered for at least 10% of the amount of funds they handle. The coverage can’t be less than $1,000 or more than $500,000, (unless the plan includes employer securities, in which case the maximum amount can be $1,000,000). The exception to the 10% rule applies to ‘non-qualifying plan assets” that may represent more than 5% of the plan’s total assets. Qualifying assets include items held by a financial institution such as a bank, insurance company, mutual funds, etc. Non-qualifying assets are those not held by any financial institution including tangibles such as artwork, collectibles, non-participant loans, property, real estate and limited partnerships. Fidelity bonds have a minimum term of one year. Longer-term bonds will typically include an inflation provision so the value of the bond will increase automatically. The bond amount should be reviewed and updated as the plan assets increase or decrease. Where can I obtain a fidelity bond? The bond must be issued by an underwriter from an insurance company that is listed on the Department of Treasury’s Listings of Approved Sureties. These are companies that have been certified by the Treasury Department. Fidelity bond application During the application process, some plan information may be required. Common items the application will ask is the plan name, address, IRS plan number (ex. 001), and trustee information. Most of the items asked can be found under the administrative information section (usually second to last page) within the Summary Plan Description (SPD). What happens if I don’t cover my plan with a Fidelity Bond? The existence and amount of the plan’s fidelity bond must be reported on your plan’s annual Form 5500 filing. Not having a bond, or not having sufficient coverage based on plan assets, may trigger a Department of Labor audit and may risk the plan’s tax-qualified status. Additionally, the plan fiduciaries may be held personally liable for any losses that may occur from fraudulent or dishonest acts.
Everything You Need to Know about Form 5500
If you’d like to get a general idea of what it takes to file a Form 5500 for a 401(k) plan, ...Everything You Need to Know about Form 5500 If you’d like to get a general idea of what it takes to file a Form 5500 for a 401(k) plan, here are the top five things you need to know. As you can imagine, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) like to keep tabs on employee benefit plans to make sure everything is running smoothly and there are no signs of impropriety. One of the ways they do that is with Form 5500. You may be wondering: What is Form 5500? Well, Form 5500—otherwise known as the Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan—discloses details about the financial condition, investments, and operations of the plan. Not only for retirement plans, Form 5500 must be filed by the employer or plan administrator of any pension or welfare benefit plan covered by ERISA, including 401(k) plans, pension plans, medical plans, dental plans, and life insurance plans, among others. If you’re a Betterment client, you don’t need to worry about many of these Form 5500 details because we do the heavy lifting for you. But if you’d like to get a general idea of what it takes to file a Form 5500 for a 401(k) plan, here are the top five things you need to know. 1. There are three different versions of Form 5500—each with its own unique requirements. Betterment drafts a signature-ready Form 5500 on your behalf. But if you were to do it yourself, you would select from one of the following form types based on your plan type: Form 5500-EZ – If you have a one-participant 401(k) plan —also known as a “solo 401(k) plan”—that only covers you (and your spouse if applicable), you can file this form. Have a solo 401(k) plan with less than $250,000 in plan assets as of the last day of the plan year? No need to file a Form 5500-EZ (or any Form 5500 at all). Lucky you! Form 5500-SF– If you have a small 401(k) plan—which is generally defined as a plan that covers fewer than 100 participants on the first day of the plan year—you can file a simplified version of the Form 5500 if it also meets the following requirements: It satisfies the independent audit waiver requirements established by the DOL. It is 100% invested in eligible plan assets—such as mutual funds and variable annuities—with determinable fair values. It doesn’t hold employer securities. Form 5500– If you have a large 401(k) plan—which is generally defined as a plan that covers more than 100 participants—or a small 401(k) plan that doesn’t meet the Form 5500-EZ or Form 5500-SF filing requirements, you must file a long-form Form 5500. Unlike Form 5500-EZ and Form 5500-SF, Form 5500 is not a single-form return. Instead, you must file the form along with specific schedules and attachments, including: Schedule A -- Insurance information Schedule C -- Service provider information Schedule D -- Participating plan information Schedule G -- Financial transaction schedules Schedule H or I -- Financial information (Schedule I for small plan) Schedule R -- Retirement plan information Independent Audit Report Certain forms or attachments may not be required for your plan. Is your plan on the cusp of being a small (or large) plan? If your plan has between 80 and 120 participants on the first day of the plan year, you can benefit from the 80-120 Rule. The rule states that you can file the Form 5500 in the same category (i.e., small or large plan) as the prior year’s return. That’s good news, because it makes it possible for large retirement plans with between 100 and 120 participants to classify themselves as “small plans” and avoid the time and expense of completing the independent audit report. 2. You must file the Form 5500 by a certain due date (or file for an extension). You must file your plan’s Form 5500 by the last business day of the seventh month following the end of the plan year. For example, if your plan year ends on December 31, you should file your Form 5500 by July 31 of the following year to avoid late fees and penalties. If you’re a Betterment client, you’ll receive your signature-ready Form 5500 with ample time to submit it. Plus, we’ll communicate with you frequently to help you meet the filing deadline. But if you need a little extra time, Betterment can file for an extension on your behalf using Form 5558—but you have to do it by the original deadline for the Form 5500. The extension affords you another two and a half months to file your form. (Using the prior example, that would give you until October 15 to get your form in order.) What if you happen to miss the Form 5500 filing deadline? If you miss the filing deadline, you’ll be subject to penalties from both the IRS and the DOL: The IRS penalty for late filing is $250 per day, up to a maximum of $150,000. The DOL penalty for late filing can run up to $2,259 per day, with no maximum. There are also additional penalties for plan sponsors that willfully decline to file. That said, through the DOL’s Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (DFVCP), plan sponsors can avoid higher civil penalty assessments by satisfying the program’s requirements. Under this special program, the maximum penalty for a single late Form 5500 is $750 for small 401(k) plans and $2,000 for large 401(k) plans. The DFVCP also includes a “per plan” cap, which limits the penalty to $1,500 for small plans and $4,000 for large plans regardless of the number of late Form 5500s filed at the same time. 3. The Form 5500 filing process is done electronically in most cases. For your ease and convenience, Form 5500 and Form 5500-SF must be filed electronically using the DOL’s EFAST2 processing system (there are a few exceptions). EFAST2 is accessible through the agency’s website or via vendors that integrate with the system. To ensure you can file your Form 5500 quickly, accurately, and securely, Betterment facilitates the filing for you. Whether you file electronically or via hard copy, remember to keep a signed copy of your Form 5500 and all of its schedules on file. Once you file Form 5500, your work isn’t quite done. You must also provide your employees with a Summary Annual Report (SAR), which describes the value of your plan’s assets, any administrative costs, and other details from your Form 5500 return. The SAR is due to participants within nine months after the end of the plan year. (If you file an extension for your Form 5500, the SAR deadline also extends to December 15.) For example, if your plan year ends on December 31 and you submitted your Form 5500 by July 31, you would need to deliver the SAR to your plan participants by September 30. While you can provide it as a hard copy or digitally, you’ll need participants’ prior consent to send it digitally. In addition, participants may request a copy of the plan’s full Form 5500 return at any time. As a public document, it’s accessible to anyone via the DOL website. 4. It’s easy to make mistakes on the Form 5500 (but we aim to help you avoid them). As with any bureaucratic form, mistakes are common and may cause issues for your plan or your organization. Mistakes may include: Errors of omission such as forgetting to indicate the number of plan participants Errors of timing such as indicating a plan has been terminated because a resolution has been filed, yet there are still assets in the plan Errors of accuracy involving plan characteristic codes and reconciling financial information Errors of misinterpretation or lack of information such as whether there have been any accidental excess contributions above the federal limits or failure to report any missed contributions or late deposits Want to avoid making errors on your Form 5500? Betterment prepares the form on your behalf, so all you need to do is review, sign, and submit—it’s as simple as that. 5. Betterment drafts a signature-ready Form 5500 for you, including related schedules When it comes to Form 5500, Betterment does nearly all the work for you. Specifically, we: Prepare a signature-ready Form 5500 that has all the necessary information and related schedules Remind you of the submission deadline so you file it on time Guide you on how to file the Form 5500 (it only takes a few clicks) and make sure it’s accepted by the DOL Provide you with an SAR that’s ready for you to distribute to your participants Ready to learn more about how Betterment can help you with your Form 5500 (and so much more)? Let’s talk.
What is a 401(k) Plan Audit?
If an audit of your 401(k) plan is required, Betterment can help you understand what to expect ...What is a 401(k) Plan Audit? If an audit of your 401(k) plan is required, Betterment can help you understand what to expect and how to prepare. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) requires that certain 401(k) plans be audited annually by a qualified independent public accountant subject. The primary purpose of the audit is to ensure that the 401(k) plan is operating in accordance with Department of Labor (DOL) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules and regulations as well as operating consistent with the plan document, and that the plan sponsor is fulfilling their fiduciary duty. A 401(k) plan audit can be fairly broad in scope and usually includes a review of all of the transactions that took place throughout the plan year such as payroll uploads, distributions, corrective actions, and any earnings that were allocated to accounts. It will also include a review of administrative procedures and identify potential areas of concern or opportunities for improvement. When does a 401(k) Plan need an audit? Whether or not your plan requires an audit is determined by the number of participants in your plan at the beginning of the plan year. In this case, participants include not just those employees actively contributing to the plan but also those who were eligible but not participating as well as any terminated participants with a balance. Generally speaking, ERISA requires an audit for any plan that had 100 or more participants (so-called “large plans”) at the beginning of the plan year. However, as shown in the table below, there are exceptions to this general rule, captured in the “80-120 Participant Rule,” to address plans that may have fluctuating participant counts close to that 100 cut-off. Participant Count at Beginning of Plan Year Filing Status on Previous Year’s Form 5500 80-120 Participant Rule 100-120 participants Small Plan Considered a Small Plan (no audit required) until plan has more than 120 participants 80-100 participants Large Plan Considered a Large Plan (audit optional) until plan has fewer than 80 participants It is therefore important to review the plan’s eligible participant count before engaging an auditor, especially if the participant count fluctuates between 80 and 120. If your plan falls under the large plan filer category, engaging a qualified independent auditor as soon as possible after plan year end is advisable. How do I prepare for a 401(k) plan audit? To get started, an auditor will request all plan-related documents, which will likely include: Executed plan document or an executed adoption agreement Any amendments to the plan document Current IRS determination letter (these are attached in the plan document we provide for plan sponsors to execute) Current and historical summary plan description and summaries of material modifications Copy of the plan’s fidelity bond insurance Copy of the most recent compliance test performed Service agreements In general, these documents should be easily accessible and current. That’s why it’s important for plan sponsors to safely keep all applicable plan-related documents, especially if there are changes made. In addition, the auditor will need financial reports of your plan. As part of its 3(16) fiduciary support services, Betterment provides a full audit package which includes: Participant contribution report Plan activity report Payroll records Schedule of plan assets Distributions and/or loans report Fees report Reports regarding investment allocation of plan assets Copies of prior Form 5500 (available on eFAST within the DOL website) Trustee certification/agreement It’s also possible that the auditor may request copies of the committee or board minutes that document considerations and decisions about the plan, including choosing service providers and monitoring plan expenses. What will happen during a 401(k) plan audit? Once the auditor receives all the necessary documents, they will review the plan to gain a solid understanding of the plan’s operations, internal controls and plan activity. The auditor will pick a sample of employees for distributions, loans or rollovers (activity of assets moving out or in of plan) and will request documentation that support such activity. For example, this may include loan applications, distribution paperwork and the image of the check or proof of funds being delivered to the participant. Once the assessments of the samples and financials are complete, the auditor will draft something called an “accountant’s opinion.” The plan sponsor should carefully review this document, which outlines any control deficiencies found during the audit. The auditor will also provide a final financial statement that must be attached to the plan’s Form 5500 before filing with the DOL. Important Deadlines for 401(k) Plan Audits Annual audits should be completed before the Form 5500 filing deadline. Form 5500s are required to be filed by the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends. For example, if your plan year ends on December 31, your Form 5500 is due on July 31 of the following year. However, you may file an extension with the DOL using Form 5558 to get an additional 2 ½ months to file, pushing the due date to October 15 for calendar year plans. It’s important to meet the required deadline to avoid any DOL penalties. Ready to learn more about how Betterment can help you with plan audits (and so much more)? Let’s talk.