Caron Bletzer News

DOL Cybersecurity Guidance Issued: Security Tips

Cybersecurity threats are becoming more frequent and more sophisticated. In our everyday lives, we are seeing, hearing, or experiencing these threats across many platforms. Threats to retirement plans are no exception. To help participants address the risk and potential cybersecurity threats to their retirement plan accounts, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (“EBSA”), released guidance for plan participants to help address these threats called “Online Security Tips”.  Sharing this guidance with your plan participants can help them reduce the risk of these threats to their retirement plan accounts. If you have any questions regarding this information, please contact our offices to discuss this further!

Link to the EBSA publication: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ebsa/key-topics/retirement-benefits/cybersecurity/online-security-tips.pdf

DOL Cybersecurity Guidance Issued: Best Practices

As retirement plans change to operate less in a paper environment and more in an electronic environment, this changes the risks for fiduciaries and plan management to consider. With this change to a more online presence of sensitive participant data, fiduciaries and plan management must consider controls to safeguard the retirement plan and the personally identifiable information. This month we will highlight the second publication produced by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (“EBSA”), “Cybersecurity Program Best Practices”. As fiduciaries of retirement plans, there are many responsibilities that must be managed and addressed, including cybersecurity. This publication will help fiduciaries navigate their responsibility related to cybersecurity and provide some best practices to mitigate the risk of cybersecurity threats. Below is a link to the guidance issued by EBSA. Come back next month for the third series regarding the recently issued cybersecurity guidance!

Link to the EBSA publication: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ebsa/key-topics/retirement-benefits/cybersecurity/best-practices.pdf

DOL Cybersecurity Guidance Issued: Hiring a Service Provider

Cybersecurity is continuing to be a growing focus in many industries. With this continued focus, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (“EBSA”) released initial guidance to assist parties-in-interest to retirement plans to help safeguard the retirement plans from potential cybersecurity threats. EBSA produced 3 different publications related to this guidance, with the first topic being “Tips for Hiring a Service Provider”. Service providers can be the custodian, trustee, recordkeeper, etc. of the Plan and can play a major role in administering a retirement plan. Selecting a service provider that has a robust cybersecurity program will be important for plan fiduciaries to review and monitor. Below is a link to the guidance issued by EBSA. Come back next month for the second series regarding the recently issued cybersecurity guidance!

Link to the EBSA publication: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ebsa/key-topics/retirement-benefits/cybersecurity/tips-for-hiring-a-service-provider-with-strong-security-practices.pdf

Changes to the Accountant’s Opinion Section of the Form 5500, Schedule H:

There were updates to the Form 5500 Schedule H, for the 2020 plan year with the anticipation of the implementation of SAS 136, including updates to the Accountant’s opinion section. There has not been guidance issued related to how to complete this section for firms not early adopting SAS 136. However, during the 2021 AICPA Employee Benefit Plan conference, the Chief Accountant of the Department of Labor, Michael Auerbach, noted that for limited scope audits, the DOL prefers filers complete this section by checking the “unmodified” opinion under Part III question 3a and checking box “(1) DOL Regulation 2520.103-8” under question 3b.

SAS 136 – Steps to Determine if an ERISA Section 103(a)(3)(c) Audit is Permissible

During the Summer of 2019, the AICPA issued a new standard that is effective for periods ending on or after December 15, 2021. Within this standard, are changes to audit requirements, engagement acceptance procedures,  and communications related to findings.  Management responsibilities are also more explicitly defined and include, but are not limited to maintaining plan documents, following plan terms, and determining if an ERISA Section 103(a)(3)(c) audit (previously known as a limited scope audit) is permissible. Plan management will need to determine if the information is appropriately certified under 29 CFR 2520.103-8 and 29 CFR 2520.103-5. 

 

The EBPAQC has released a tool that plan management can utilize to help determine if an ERISA Section 103(a)(3)(c) audit is allowable for your plan: https://future.aicpa.org/resources/download/plan-management-erisa-section-103-a-3-c-audit-evaluation-tool

Accounting Pronouncement: ASU No. 2018-13

During 2018, FASB issued accounting standard update 2018-13 that is effective for plan years beginning after December 15, 2019, with early adoption permitted. This update relates to fair value measurement and its purpose is to help improve the footnote disclosures for the users of the financial statements. The changes prescribed in this update most likely to impact retirement plan financial statements include:

  • Disclosure of the adoption of the accounting pronouncement, if applicable
  • Elimination of the Level 3 rollforward for nonpublic entities
    1. In place of the Level 3 rollforward, disclosure is required related to the purchases, issuances, and transfers in and out of Level 3 investments.

Other provisions include:

  • Removal of certain disclosures including: the amount and reasons for transfers between Level 1 and Level 2 of the fair value hierarchy; the policy for timing of transfers between levels; the valuation process for Level 3 fair value measurements and for nonpublic entities, the changes in unrealized gains and losses for recurring Level 3 investments held at year end.
  • Modifications to disclosures include those related to investments in certain entities that calculate net asset value with respect to the timing of liquidation of an investee’s assets and clarification of timing of any measurement uncertainty disclosure.
  • Addition of certain disclosures for public entities including changes in unrealized gains and losses included in other comprehensive income for recurring Level 3 fair value measurements, and more flexibility related to disclosure of range and weighted average of significant unobservable inputs used to develop Level 3 fair value measurements.

If interested in discussing this standard update and the impact on your plan’s financial statements, please call (603) 658-8000 and you will be connected with a team member.

Importance of Plan Oversight

Being a plan sponsor comes with a responsibility to fulfill certain fiduciary responsibilities when administering their retirement plan(s). Although some of these may be outsourced through a 3(16), 3(21) or 3(38) relationship with a service provider, this does not fully free the plan sponsor from meeting their fiduciary responsibilities. When services are outsourced, the plan sponsor should establish procedures to monitor the work of their service providers and review the fees paid from the plan for reasonableness. In addition, plan sponsors should form an oversight committee that meets on a regular basis to review and discuss their retirement plan(s). These discussions should be documented in the form of meeting minutes that are maintained in the company records. Maintaining proper consistent oversight is important in meeting the plan sponsor’s fiduciary responsibilities. 

 

For more information regarding plan oversight, please visit the following:

New Partial Plan Termination Relief Provided by Congress

Many companies faced turbulent times during 2020 due to the unexpected impact on their businesses from COVID-19. As a result, many companies were forced to temporarily or permanently layoff or furlough employees during the year. Typically, plan sponsors would assess the facts and circumstances of significant turnover to determine if a partial plan termination has occurred for their retirement plan. However, Congress has recently provided temporary partial plan termination relief to Plan Sponsors. The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 was signed into law on December 27, 2020. Included below is a snipit from this recent ruling:

A plan shall not be treated as having a partial termination (within the meaning of 411(d)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986) during any plan year which includes the period beginning on March 13, 2020, and ending on March 31, 2021, if the number of active participants covered by the plan on March 31, 2021 is at least 80 percent of the number of active participants covered by the plan on March 13, 2020.”

Plan sponsors should consider their employee turnover during the 2020 plan year, as well as the recent relief ruling to determine the impact, if any, to their retirement plan(s).

For more information regarding Partial Plan Terminations:

How to Prepare for a Retirement Plan Audit

Whether your retirement plan has previously been audited or this is the first year your plan is requiring an audit, there are some helpful items your team can pull together prior to the plan audit:

  • Were there any changes to the Plan or the Company during the year that should be communicated to your independent auditor, such as a payroll conversion or custodian transfer? Were there any issues your team ran into during the year, such as a code in payroll was not properly setup to have deferrals withheld on? Communicating these items to your independent auditor at the start of the audit will help with planning the audit.
  • Review your permanent file to ensure you have copies of all of the executed and appropriate plan documents on file.
  • Prepare the year end census file that includes all employees, their demographic information, and compensation and contributions for the year. Typically this file is also used for compliance testing purposes.
  • Internally discuss the timing of the audit. If there are times during the year that are better for your team than others, this will be beneficial to be communicate to your independent auditor to help establish the timeline for the audit.

If your retirement plan has not been previously audited and you would like to discuss the audit process further with our team, we would be happy to have a phone call with you! Please feel free to contact our office at (603) 658-8000 to be connected to a team member.

Caron & Bletzer Community Initiatives

This year, the Caron & Bletzer team took to our community to help spread a bit of holiday cheer to local families. Our enthusiastic team collected food and monetary donations to contribute to the Kingston, NH food bank. In addition, we donated Market Basket gift cards to local families so they could enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together. Lastly, we played Santa Clause and bought gifts for local children as part of the Kingston Giving Tree program. Many of us are working remotely from all over NH and MA, but we still are part of the Kingston community in spirit!