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Signing Form 5500-SF


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9 replies to this topic

#1 DPSRich

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 01:52 PM

Can a Third Party Administrator who is neither an enrolled agent or holds a Power of Attorney, obtain a signed authorization from the client along with the signed 5500-SF and submit the form by obtaining author credentials? Would it help to obtain a Form 8821 also signed by the client? The I.R.S. does not recognize my rep# as an unenrolled preparer.

Your advice would be most helpful.

Thank you.

DPSRICH

#2 Tom Poje

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 01:51 PM

ft william provided a sample authorization form. no other comment indicating to the client implying that the person electronically signing was anything more than an idiot who was at least computer literate enough to obtain the DOL Pin number.
basically in the following format

Authorization to Electronically Sign and File 5500


I hereby authorize any employees of El Cheapo Plan Processing Services, Inc. ("Service Provider") to electronically sign and file 5500 forms on my behalf.

I further understand the following:

I must sign a paper copy of the completed 5500 Form.

An image of my signature will be included with the rest of the return/report posted by the Department of Labor on the internet for public disclosure.

I may revoke or change this authorization at any time by written notification to Service Provider.

bah. I must find a way to stop filing dead lines from coming


#3 SRP

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 01:20 PM

I am taking a side-trip to the 1st reply by Mr. Poje. My company is considering options in relation to how to make the 5500 filing process more manageable in future years. We are the recordkeeper/tpa on about 3,500 small to medium sized plans so the issue is related to the proper handling of a hiqh quantity of filings.

My understanding is that the 5500 is a filing "... on the trust ..." and not actually a filing on the plan itself. As recordkeeper (participant directed 401(k) plans - all filing Form 5500-SF) we essentially control of (or are at least the gatekeeper of) 100% of trust processing.

In relation to the actual signing of the Form 5500 - I believe it is a requirement of the "Plan Administrator" of the plan to sign and essentially that seems to be a fiduciary function in which the signer is certifying to the completeness and accuracy of the information on the filing.

(I can't believe that I am saying this ... but please remember I am pursuing options) ... I am becoming less concerned about actually signing the Form 5500 as the plan administrator. This is not signing on behalf of the plan sponsor or signing as the tpa with the image of the ER's actual signature attached to the filing. Rather - what if I actually signed using my credentials as manager of my tpa firm. What problems do you see this raising?

My thoughts:

1 - I am confident in the accuracy and completeness of the filing (since as recordkeeper I processed 100% of the activity within the trust);

2 - I am concerned about whether I have all of the information to accurately express timely deposits of EE contributions (but based upon the contributions processed - I can determine if the contributions are timely or late);

3 - I routinely ask my clients to confirm information such as EE data, fidelity bonding, ... so I believe I have accurate information regarding those items on the filing;

4 - I believe that the fiduciary liability is NOT an "all or nothing" concept and that, as a signer, I have fiduciary liability to the completeness and accuracy of the information on the Form 5500 filing - BUT I am not a named fiduciary nor am I a fiduciary over all other functions related to the plan;

5 - the instructions for the Form 5500-SF indicate that the filing must be signed by the "plan administrator" (no capitalization in the instructions but implied to be the named fiduciary plan administrator) - so if I sign the Form 5500 am I indicating that (in constrast to #4 above) I am the named fiduciary "Plan Administrator"?

What experiences do you have or have heard of where the tpa signed the Form 5500. In general, what problems and liabilities would this actually create? I am wondering if there is a way to contain any fiduciary liability to solely be the information reported on the Form 5500?

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Thank you.

#4 K2retire

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 06:20 PM

Our prototype Corbel document specifies that the Plan Administrator is the Plan Sponsor. What does yours say?

#5 mwyatt

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 12:23 AM

If your TPA firm is the named "Plan Administrator", then you can sign as the plan administrator. But are you really sure that you want to take on that responsibility? I'd think that through myself.


#6 Marge

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 10:21 AM

Our company files approximately 3,000 Form 5500 filings for our clients each year. Next year, our client services area would like us to send the "Filing Authorization" to all of our clients to give them the option to have our office sign the filings on their behalf. Our client services area believes this will benefit our clients in that e-signing the filings can be a frustrating process.

When I listened to the DOL's last EFAST2 webinar in June, they clearly indicated that this authorization was originally set up to help out small companies that don't have access to the internet. Our company's original intent with the authorization was to only use it on an emergency basis. However, now our client services area wants us to offer it to our entire client base. I did let them know that many clients may not take too keenly to having their signatures appear out on the internet on the DOL website.

Does anyone have an idea of the % of companies going the "Filing Authorization"route? Any thoughts? Is it recommended?

Edited by Marge, 24 August 2010 - 12:09 PM.


#7 Monica Barnard

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 12:08 PM

When I listened to the DOL's last EFAST2 webinar in June, they clearly indicated that this authorization was originally set up to help out small companies that don't have access to the internet. Our company's original intent with the authorization was to only use it on an emergency basis. However, now our client services area wants us to offer it to our entire client base. I did let them know that many clients may not take to keenly to having their signatures appear out on the internet on the DOL website.

Does anyone have an idea of the % of companies going the "Filing Authorization"route? Any thoughts? Is it recommended?


I discussed this issue with several of my clients when this option was first brought to my attention. The most outspoken said that they were more comfortable with having their signature posted on the Web site than the PIN route. They felt it would be easier for someone to hack with the PIN than it would be to forge the signature. So, most of my clients are using the Filing Authorization. I give all clients both options, and very few have chosen to fool with getting the PIN from DOL.

#8 Marge

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 02:21 PM

It's interesting that plan administrators aren't having issues with their original signatures showing on the DOL internet website. I guess it's up to individual clients to determine which method they would prefer to use.

For larger companies it may be a challenge to track which clients are going with signing their filing with a PIN and which will be using the "Filing Authorization" and then have to get the signed pages back. We started this year requesting that our clients register for DOL credentials and sign their own filings. So far, 65% of our 3,000 plans are showing as "Filing Received" at the DOL. We realize that we will have to use the "Filing Authorization" on an emergency basis, but we are hoping that after this 1st year, that clients will be more comfortable with the electronic filing process. So we don't necessarily want to jump on the "Filing Authorization" method too quickly. But, we are putting feelers out on which way the rest of the industry is leaning.

#9 Bird

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Posted 27 August 2010 - 07:49 AM

But, we are putting feelers out on which way the rest of the industry is leaning.


We're a very tiny shop with small clients, so I don't know what this is worth, but when the return is ready, we send them a letter with two options - 1) sign and return the (enclosed) 5500 and the (enclosed) authorization, and we'll file it for you, or 2) e-mail us and we'll give you detailed instructions on how to get your filing credentials and file the return.

We're obviously steering them to the first option, and probably 90% or maybe 95% are doing that. With all the hand-holding we do, this is no big deal in terms of extra work, and in many ways we prefer the ability to control the flow and get instant feedback on a successful filing. The few who want to handle the filing themselves are mostly competent, but the idea of turning some of our less-able clients loose on that gives me a chill. (I'm probably repeating myself, but I'm dumbfounded at how some people get out their driveways in the morning without running over their or their neighbors' mailboxes, let alone make money hand over fist as they do.)

#10 Marge

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Posted 27 August 2010 - 12:12 PM

Too funny! :lol: I guess time will tell how most companies will lean as far as having their clients obtain signing credentials to e-sign their filings, or also offering the "Filing Authorization" route. Our preference would be to have clients e-sign their own filings, but it has definitely been a process getting them to obtain electronic signing credentials and then to go out to our Form 5500 website to e-sign their filings. Our client services area wants to send out the "Filing Authorization" form every year to give our clients the option. In the admin area, we are hesitant to do this in that it would be difficult to track. But, we may get forced into doing this depending on how everything shakes out at the end of this year. Our level of incoming phone calls have increased substantially since we began our EFAST2 process.