Tips for Preventing Uncashed Retirement Checks

Managing uncashed retirement checks may be considered a nuisance by plan administrators. Nevertheless, the employer still has fiduciary responsibility when a former employee fails to cash their distribution. Search efforts to locate a missing plan participant consume time and money and may fail to locate the participant. Likewise, going through the process of turning over dormant accounts to the state can also consume time and resources.

Decrease the burden of uncashed checks by:

  • Discussing with terminating employees during the exit interview the options for their retirement plan. Employees may forget they have a company-sponsored retirement plan, or don’t know how to manage it.
  • Reminding departing employees that they can roll over their retirement assets into their new employer’s plan. Your plan’s service provider or the new employer can answer questions the former employee may have about the rollover process.
  • Letting employees with an account balance of $1,000 or less know they should expect to receive a check in the mail after a certain amount of time.
  • Having the employee verify their current address to where the check can be sent.

Remember, fiduciary responsibility and liability extends to terminated employees with assets in the plan. This responsibility includes delivery of all required distributions and all fiduciary prudence responsibilities. Stay in touch with this important group.

Beware of the IRS and DOL: Four Red Flags They Seek on Form 5500

The Form 5500 is an ERISA requirement for retirement plans to report and disclose operating procedures. Advisors use this to confirm that plans are managed according to ERISA standards. The form also allows individuals access to information, protecting the rights and benefits of the plan participants and beneficiaries covered under the plan.

Make sure you are compliant. Be aware of red flags that the IRS and DOL look for on Form 5500 filings:

  1. Not making participant deferral remittances “as soon as administratively possible” is considered a fiduciary breach and can make the plan subject to penalties and potentially disqualification. Delinquent remittances are considered to be loans of plan assets to the sponsoring company.
  2. An ERISA fidelity bond (not to be confused with fiduciary insurance) is a requirement. This bond protects participant assets from being mishandled, and every person who may handle plan assets or deferrals must be covered.
  3. Loans in default for participants not continuing loan repayments, or loans that are 90 days in arrears, are a fiduciary breach that can make the plan subject to penalties and disqualification.
  4. Corrective distributions, return of excess deferrals and excess contributions, along with any gains attributed must be distributed in a timely manner (typically two and a half months after the plan year ends). In some cases these fiduciary breaches can be self-corrected if done within the same plan year in which they occurred, and may be considered additional breaches if they extend beyond the current plan year.

This is a partial, non-exhaustive list of common Form 5500 red flags. If you’re concerned about ERISA compliance, contact your advisor sooner, rather than later.

For more background on the Form 5500, visit the Society for Human Resource Management online. See “Regulatory 5500: What is Form 5500, and where are instructions for completing it?”