Compliance Checklist for Your Retirement Plan

To assist you in maintaining your plan’s compliance, the ABA Retirement Funds Program (“the Program”) has prepared this checklist as a tool for your self-audit process, categorized for convenience.*

*This information pertains to plan sponsors who have adopted the Program’s Basic Plan Document. If your plan is on another provider’s master prototype or is individually designed, you may need to refer to your other service provider for assistance.

Regulatory Compliance

A. Plan Document

B. Summary Plan Description and Participant Notices/Disclosures

C. Participant Deferral Elections


Tax Forms and Regulatory Filings

A. Form 5500**

B. Form 1099-R

C. Form 945


Operational Compliance

Having your plan documentation and supporting materials in order is just one aspect of sponsoring a retirement plan. You must also operate your plan in accordance with your documentation in order to maintain the plan’s tax-deferred status.

Although this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the topics you will want to focus on:

A. Participation/Determining Eligibility

B. Timely Deposit Rules

C. Contribution Limits and Deadlines

D. Vesting

E. Forfeitures

F. Loans

G. Hardship Withdrawals

H. Compliance Testing

I. Required Minimum Distributions


Fiduciary Responsibilities

FIDUCIARY RESPONSIBILITIES Many of the actions needed to operate a 401(k) plan involve fiduciary decisions. This fact is true whether you hire someone to manage the plan for you or do some or all of the plan management yourself. Controlling the assets of the plan or using discretion in administering and managing the plan makes you and the entity you hire plan fiduciaries to the extent of that discretion or control. Hiring someone to perform fiduciary functions is itself a fiduciary act. Thus, fiduciary status is based on the functions performed for the plan, not a title.

Some decisions with respect to a plan are business decisions, rather than fiduciary decisions. For instance, the decisions to establish a plan, to include certain features in a plan, to make certain amendments to a plan, and to terminate a plan are business decisions. When making these decisions, you are acting on behalf of your business, not the plan, and therefore, you would not be a fiduciary. However, when you take steps to implement these decisions, you (or those you hire) are acting on behalf of the plan and thus, in making decisions, may be acting as fiduciaries.

Those persons or entities that are fiduciaries are in a position of trust with respect to the participants and beneficiaries in the plan. The fiduciary’s responsibilities include:

  • Acting solely in the interest of the participants and their beneficiaries;
  • Acting for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to workers participating in the plan and their beneficiaries, and defraying reasonable expenses of the plan;
  • Carrying out duties with the care, skill, prudence, and diligence of a prudent person familiar with such matters;
  • Following the plan documents; and Diversifying plan investments.***

How the Program helps you: Through a unique design, the Program provides employers with the most comprehensive protection from fiduciary liability under ERISA. Other providers of retirement plan platforms may claim that their platforms are the best at limiting liability under ERISA because the providers of these platforms make available fiduciaries under Section 3(21) of ERISA or investment managers as defined in Section 3(38) of ERISA. Because of the way the Program is structured, these additional fiduciaries are not necessary to protect employers from fiduciary liability under ERISA. For more information, see the Program’s fiduciary flyer, found here.

***Source: U.S. Department of Labor, “401(k) Plans for Small Businesses,” http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/publications/401kplans.html.

While there are other considerations in ensuring compliance for your plan, we hope you have found this summary helpful in your ongoing administration. Please don’t hesitate to call our Plan Administrator Line at 800.752.6313 or email us at contactus@abaretirement.com with any questions.