Interview: The First Year in Accounting

This fall, I sat down with a few of Insero’s audit staff to discuss their experiences during their first year in accounting at the firm. Here is what they had to say:

Erin Heizyk: What about your first year at the firm was surprising or different from what you expected?

Erica Cratsley: I was surprised about the responsibilities that new staff are given. We are given the chance to interact directly with clients from day one as well as constantly take on more responsibility and ownership over the work we are doing.

Edwin Hoefler: I was surprised by the number of people and industries I was able to work with during my first year. I have gotten the opportunity to work for each manager and partner in our audit practice and have had direct interactions with them during the process.

Shannon Allen: I was surprised by how many happy hours and fun events the firm hosts outside of work. I think it’s awesome to get together with everyone and have fun together instead of relationships being strictly work only.

staff in a conference room ready to discuss their first year in accounting

Erin Heizyk: Are there any aspects of the job that took some time to get used to?

Shannon Allen: I had a general idea of what busy season would be like, but with no prior experience I’d say that’s something that took me a while to adjust to. Along with that, getting adjusted to working full-time was a something that took me a couple of months to get used to.

Erin Heizyk: Have you had support as you made the transition from student to full-time employee?

Shannon Allen: I’m pretty impressed with our mentor and advisor programs. It’s extremely helpful as a first year to have someone I can go to ask questions, discuss my schedule, and help manage stressors that come with being a first year and learning something completely new.

Marissa Budwey: The advisor program has been something that really impressed me at Insero too. I have had an ally that I could go to about anything from the moment I started. I had no idea how much I would like having someone that I can talk to about my schedule, career path overall, even the little questions that I was afraid to ask anyone else. They also give us feedback that is passed down, and it is comforting to talk to my advisor about my feedback opposed to someone I don’t interact with constantly.

Erin Heizyk: What stood out to you during your first year at the firm?

Shannon Allen: I’ve appreciated how helpful everyone I have worked with has been. It’s comforting knowing that questions are encouraged and there is no such thing as a stupid question. Along those lines, I am surprised and happy that there is an open door policy around here. I figured that work I performed would go up the chain of command and I wouldn’t really ever interact with managers and partners until I was at a certain level. However, I’ve worked with and received help from multiple managers and partners. There’s a big push for first years to be more open to talking to and working with management instead of feeling like we can only go to select people for help.

Erica Cratsley: Everyone has the opportunity to be involved with out-of-town clients that require some travel. The best part about this is how much we are encouraged to make the most out of personal time in new cities. For many of these jobs we work regular hours and then get to see the city at night. The Audit Department even has a Summer Picture Challenge, which shows how much Partners and Managers expect us to be making the most out of our travel opportunities.

Marissa Budwey: The people that we work with at all levels trust us but are great about on-the-job training. We aren’t expected to know everything walking in the door, we have great group training but I found I have learned most on the job with my peers and managers teaching me. They don’t just tell you how to complete a workpaper, they encourage you to understand the process, why the steps are being completed, and explain how each step fits into the big picture. I started at the firm as an Intern, and by the end of my internship, I was taking responsibility for entire employee benefit plan audit files, not just doing the mindless work I assumed I would be doing.

Adrian Black: One thing that I think stands out about Insero is how much the partner group shares with the firm. I had no idea how much information would be shared with us on through firmwide communication calls. We get regular updates on new clients, events that the firm is participating in, the goals that the partners have set and what is being done to reach those goals, and noteworthy updates from each department and major committee.

To learn more about what it’s like to work for Insero, benefits, and current openings, click here.

Employee Benefits Update October/November 2018

This issue’s topics include:

Why target date fund oversight matters

Money management giant Vanguard began tracking the popularity of funds with professionally managed allocations — primarily target date funds (TDFs) — in 2003. Over the years, the organization has reported a steady growth of their prevalence in defined contribution retirement plans. As of the end of 2017, 58% of participants invested in a TDF, and Vanguard projects that number will hit 77% by 2022. This article discusses the reasons behind the TDF explosion, and a short sidebar covers some tips from the Department of Labor.

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Investment option overload?

A cautionary tale from Yale University

When it comes to defined contribution plan investment options, giving participants an abundance of choices can backfire. Yale University recently dodged a bullet in this regard when it beat back — at least initially — a class action lawsuit accusing the institution of an ERISA breach. This article discusses why the case is instructive for plan sponsors.
Vellali et al v. Yale, Civil No. 3:16–cv–1345 (AWT), 03/30/2018

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Investing in HSAs for long-term retirement goals

Retirement plans are about saving for the cost of living in ― retirement. And typically one significant expense for retirees is medical bills. Actuaries at Fidelity Investments estimate that a typical 65-year-old couple retiring in 2018 will incur $280,000 in combined out-of-pocket health expenses during their retirement, excluding the cost of long-term care. This brief article discusses Health Savings Accounts, when employers can offer them to participants and why participants may be interested in them.

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New IRS preapproved plan regime takes effect

Last year, in Revenue Procedure 2017-41, the IRS announced a new regulatory regime for defined contribution plans. The regime was issued to encourage employers with individually designed plans to convert to the preapproved format. This article discusses what employers should know going forward to meet the October 1, 2018, deadline for prospective submitters of “preapproved” defined contribution plan documents.

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Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for October and November.

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As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our Employee Benefit Plan Services, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

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Employee Benefits Update August/September 2018

This issue’s topics include:

Charging plan expenses to participants correctly

Shaving a few basis points off plan participants’ annual returns on their retirement plan accounts can put a significant dent in their asset accumulations by the time they’re ready to retire. For that reason, the question of which plan expenses are charged to participants, and which must be borne by the plan sponsor, is a critical issue to resolve correctly. Improperly allocating expenses to participants could be a serious fiduciary breach. This article summarizes the difference between administrative and settlor functions and which can be charged as plan expenses.

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Keep your eye on the ball

Plan forfeitures must match plan document

It’s a routine matter for employees to forfeit retirement plan benefits. Even so, plan sponsors can’t afford to become blasé about it; ERISA demands more than an “easy come, easy go” attitude about the matter. This article reviews how plans can forfeit benefits and when benefits are forfeited. A short sidebar covers what plans can do with forfeited funds.

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New rules affect disability benefit claim denials in retirement plans

Retirement plans (or other ERISA-regulated benefits, including nonqualified “top hat” plans) containing a disability benefit are affected by the new DOL rules that took effect in April 2018. The new regulations, in the works since 2015, pertain to disability claims and the processes governing appeals of a denial of disability benefits. This article reminds sponsors of 401(k) plans and defined benefit pension plans with disability benefits that they have until the end of this year to amend their plans to reflect the new rules.

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Do you know what to do with an SOC report?

Service organization control (SOC) reports come in several varieties. They generally pertain to service organizations, like retirement plan recordkeepers or third party administrators (TPAs). The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) determines the scope of each SOC report. This short article reviews the types of SOCs and the reason for their use.

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Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for September.

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As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our Employee Benefit Plan Services, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

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Employee Benefits Update June/July 2018

This issue’s topics include:

Is your retirement plan successful?

Which criteria tell the real story
Do retirement plans do the job of preparing participants for retirement? And how do employers benchmark their plan’s performance? This article takes a closer look at what criteria to use when benchmarking a plan’s performance, and ways to communicate with participants and keep them on track toward retirement. A short sidebar summarizes a recent report on participants’ retirement readiness.

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Plan documents: Be proactive to defuse possible landmines

Sometimes overseeing a retirement plan might feel like navigating a minefield. With proper precautions, however, plan sponsors can get through safely. Case in point: Making sure plans operate consistently with their plan documents. This article discusses ERISA requirements and various applicable documents that can be considered plan documents.

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Stem plan leakage by upgrading your 401(k) loan rules and practices

“Plan leakage” refers to participants allowing their account balances to shrink, because of either loans or hardship withdrawals. Plan loans don’t always result in permanent leakage when they’re repaid, but they still can have adverse long-term consequences for participants. This article reviews how plan loans cause leakage, why plans allow loans, and how employers can help plug the leaks.

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Using targeted education to narrow the gender gap in retirement savings

In employment settings in which women save less for retirement than men, an aggressive educational program can help to narrow the gap. This short article highlights a recent study from the Center for Retirement Research that looked at an initiative in Wisconsin to close a retirement saving gender gap among state employees.

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Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for June and July.

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As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our Employee Benefit Plan Services, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

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Employee Benefits Update April/May 2018

This issue’s topics include:

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act gives ― and takes away

While early drafts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act proposed significant changes to qualified retirement plans, the version that passed has minimal impact on them. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) did make some notable adjustments to the tax treatment of other types of employee compensation and benefits, for both employers and employees. Here’s a closer look at how corporate compensation and family and medical leave tax incentives are affected. A short sidebar discusses the TCJA’s impact on employee achievement awards, moving expenses and transportation fringe benefits.

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Green Tax Reform Binder with information on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

Cash balance plans growing at a double-digit clip

The hybrid pension design known as the cash balance plan is on a roll. An analysis of the most recent IRS Form 5500 filings available reveals a 17% jump in the number of cash balance plans in 2015, while 401(k) plan formation growth was a meager 3%. This article examines which businesses may be interested in this type of plan.

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Interpretation or statutory violation?

Why it matters when deciding remedies
Do ERISA plan participants who believe a plan has treated them unjustly have to exhaust their administrative remedies before filing an action in court? Last year, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals joined all but two other circuits in finding that plan participants don’t have to do so. This article examines the split between the circuits and the Sixth Circuit’s conclusion.
Hitchcock, et al. v. Cumberland Univ., et al., No. 16-5942 (6th Cir. 2017).

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DOL increases scrutiny of defined benefit plans

Defined benefit plan sponsors might be facing tighter scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Last year the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration ramped up pension audit operations in its Philadelphia office, and later decided to do so elsewhere, the agency announced at an ERISA Advisory Council meeting. This short article highlights what the DOL is focusing on in their audits.

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Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for April and May.

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As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our Employee Benefit Plan Services, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

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Employee Benefits Update February/March 2018

This issue’s topics include:

Identity theft threat puts plan participants and sponsors at risk

News of commercial database hackings involving millions of people’s personal information seems commonplace. While many of these stories focus on bank and credit card accounts, many plan sponsors and participants don’t realize that 401(k) plan assets may be at risk — which can be a problem not only for participants, but sponsors as well. While no sponsor wants to see participants sustain financial hits, this article covers when, depending on how a cybertheft unfolds, sponsors could be left holding the bag. A sidebar offers tips for avoiding being a victim of fraud.

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Fiduciary rule’s tortured path to implementation

What this means for plan sponsors
Controversy, complicated legal wrangling and legislative maneuvering have been swirling around the Department of Labor’s “fiduciary rule” governing financial advice given to retirement plan participants. Delays, modifications, phased effective dates, and the involvement of the Securities and Exchange Commission have left confusion and headaches in their wake. This article briefly reviews what plan sponsors need to know.

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Tax cut law a mixed bag for retirement plan sponsors

Despite early indications that Congress was prepared to do much more, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that was passed in December largely left retirement plans unscathed, save for changes pertaining to plan loans and IRA conversions. This article reviews areas that are affected, as well as what could be ahead.

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2017 vs. 2018 retirement plan limits

This chart contains updated retirement plan limits for 2018.

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Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for February through April.

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As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our service offerings, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

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Employee Benefits Update: Year End 2017

This issue’s topics include:

Deciding what to do with orphaned 401(k) plan accounts

Sponsors of qualified retirement plans with orphan accounts need to consider whether such accounts are a problem. This article examines the state of orphan accounts and why the way plans charge administrative fees can help determine whether it’s beneficial to keep them in the plan. A short sidebar discusses the plan sponsor’s fiduciary duty to all plan participants, whether they’re active employees, former employees who have moved on to other jobs, retirees or beneficiaries.

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How high can you go?

Participants willing to accept higher default deferral rates

It’s generally accepted that a 3% deferral rate won’t get many employees where they need to be financially as they approach retirement. Most employees will need a figure closer to 10%, yet 3% has traditionally been the most common default deferral rate used by plans that auto-enroll participants. This article highlights why this is changing.

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Reimbursement road map for sponsor services

When retirement plan sponsors perform administrative services on behalf of the plan, they can be reimbursed by the plan for those services. This brief article examines why meticulous expense documentation is essential and reviews a recent case on the subject.

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Why adding a Roth 401(k) option could boost employee savings

A decade after they first became available, Roth 401(k) plans are now offered by many employers. Employees are also getting on board — particularly the younger ones — even without fully understanding how they work. This article looks at the pluses and minuses of Roth 401(k)s compared to traditional 401(k)s and Roth IRAs and reviews some data that highlights how employees are reacting to the Roth 401(k) option.

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Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key year-end tax reporting deadlines.

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As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our service offerings, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

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Employee Benefits Update: October/November 2017

This issue’s topics include:

Staging a comeback

Stable value funds are back in the spotlight

It’s been awhile since stable value funds reigned as a top investment choice for 401(k) plan participants. Very low prevailing interest rates and a booming stock market have diminished their status. Although no one is predicting they’ll unseat target date funds as the top investment election for retirement investors, stable value funds have staged a bit of a comeback recently. This article explores just what’s behind the renewed interest.

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Are you going to file Form 5500 on time?

Play it safe and avoid penalties

Missing filing deadlines for Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan, for retirement and health and welfare plans can be extremely costly. The best way to avoid trouble is to ensure that meeting filing deadlines never falls between the cracks. This article summarizes the penalties for delinquent filing of Form 5500 and whether plan sponsors can use the DOL’s Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program.

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Target date fund labels can obscure their investment strategy

The proliferation of target date fund (TDF) varieties can bewilder many plan sponsors. One survey found that, while 65% of plan sponsors consider investment performance the most important selection criterion when choosing a TDF, 54% aren’t confident about how to benchmark the TDFs against others in the marketplace. This article examines how to compare competing TDFs by segmenting them into logical categories.

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GAO report: Some plan designs may reduce retirement savings

Retirement plan sponsors have ways to limit their outlays for very young employees, and those that move to other employers soon after coming on board. The General Accountability Office (GAO) recently analyzed those plan design opportunities, and is sounding alarm bells. This short article highlights the GAO’s concerns that these options can reduce employees’ ultimate retirement savings potential.

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Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for October and November.

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As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our service offerings, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

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Employee Benefits Update: August/September 2017

This issue’s topics include:

Voluntary Correction Program

How to correct 401(k) plan loan “failures”

“To err is human; to forgive is divine,” as the familiar saying goes. But the IRS will forgive errors involving 401(k) plan loans only when retirement plans use the Voluntary Correction Program (VCP). One of the biggest areas that trip up plan sponsors is plan loans. This article summarizes the three primary “failures” involving plan loans that require an IRS remedy: loan defaults, loans exceeding prescribed loan limits, and loan terms that exceed repayment limits. A brief sidebar reviews the accounting implications of loan defaults.

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Making age a factor in choosing QDIA options

Target date funds (TDFs), the most popular 401(k) qualified default investment alternative, were designed to meet the investment needs of typical plan participants, no matter what their age. The theory is that employees can essentially “set it and forget it,” as TDF portfolios are automatically adjusted from aggressive to more conservative as employees approach and proceed through retirement. That theory, however, has been challenged by research pointing to participants’ failure to use TDFs as intended. This article examines why this is, and what employee benefit plans can do about it.

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Active vs. passive investment funds: Should you let participants decide?

According to a report from Casey Quirk by Deloitte and McLagan, 72% of money invested into funds went into passive funds in 2015. While some may see this as a strong case for passive investing, the issue for plan sponsors isn’t clear-cut. This article summarizes recent data on the trend and whether passive or active funds are right for participants.

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Consider your options with nonvested participant forfeitures

Employee benefit plans provide a combination of vested and nonvested assets. When employees leave a company before their matching 401(k) contributions have vested, they forfeit those amounts. This brief article reviews the options available to plan sponsors when dealing with these assets.

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Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for September.

Read More

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our service offerings, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

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Employee Benefits Update: June/July 2017

This issue’s topics include:

Is a safe harbor plan the right move?

This alternate approach can save headaches, but at a price
Many qualified retirement plan sponsors worry each year about whether their highly compensated employees will have “excess” salary deferrals returned to them because the plan failed the actual deferral percentage / actual contribution percentage (ADP/ACP) discrimination tests. Most small plan sponsors take advantage of “safe harbor” rules that, nearly always, eliminate the need to worry about passing these tests. This article looks at the pros and cons of this approach.

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Avoid litigation with attention to common red flags

Any size retirement plan can run into serious trouble when sponsors aren’t careful. With some planning, though, a qualified retirement plan doesn’t have to be the target of ERISA litigation. This article reviews some of the most common red flags leading to litigation and reminds plan sponsors of the importance of regularly reviewing fees and expenses.

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Employees who are approaching retirement age may be unaware of their required minimum distribution (RMD) obligations, which begin at age 70½ for both individual

Helping soon-to-be retirees understand RMD rules

IRAs and 401(k)s. This article summarizes what they need to know for financial and tax-planning purposes.

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IRS simplifies process for avoiding rollover penalties

The IRS has made it a lot easier for retirement plan participants (and IRA owners) to avoid penalties when they botch a rollover. This brief article discusses new IRS Revenue Procedure 2016-47, which allows participants to “self-certify” valid reasons to the receiving financial institution.

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Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for April and May.

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As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our service offerings, please feel free to contact me directly.

Want to learn more?

Join our Employee Benefit Plan Resources group on LinkedIn for more frequent updates on recent developments and best practices and discuss related topics with your peers.

Join the Group

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