Homework and Deadlines Matter: New IRS Pre-Audit Compliance Program for Retirement Plans

Retirement plan sponsors should be aware of a new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) pilot program, which permits plan sponsors to conduct a pre-examination “check-up” of retirement plan administration before the IRS begins a plan examination. As part of the program, the IRS will send a letter notifying a plan sponsor that its retirement plan has been selected for an upcoming examination and give the plan sponsor 90 days to identify and voluntarily correct any compliance issues that may be self-corrected. Failure to respond by the 90-day deadline will result in an examination. Retirement plan sponsors who receive a pre-examination notice should immediately begin working with their lawyers and other advisors to determine the best way to respond to the IRS notice.

PRE-EXAMINATION PILOT PROGRAM

The IRS pre-examination compliance pilot program gives plan sponsors a chance to correct certain errors before an examination begins. If a plan sponsor identifies errors, then the plan sponsor may be able to self-correct using the procedures set forth in the IRS Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS) program, and the plan sponsor may notify the IRS of its corrective actions. If mistakes are not eligible for self-correction, the plan sponsor may request a closing agreement. With a closing agreement under the pilot program, the IRS will apply the Voluntary Correction Program (VCP) fee structure to determine the sanctions amount rather than the Audit CAP Program fees, which are unpredictable and typically higher. The IRS will review the plan sponsor’s corrective actions and determine whether it agrees that the plan sponsor appropriately corrected the mistakes. The IRS will then determine whether to issue a closing letter or to conduct a limited or full scope audit. The pilot program begins in June 2022.

It’s not clear what factors the IRS will consider when determining whether to conduct a limited or full scope audit following a plan sponsor’s response. However, it stands to reason that a plan sponsor’s efforts at good faith compliance with the correction requirements may serve to limit the scope because typically the IRS wishes to promote self-correction efforts. It’s also not clear whether the 90-day pre-examination period will apply to all retirement plan audits or only to those randomly selected to be part of the pilot program.

NEXT STEPS FOR PLAN SPONSORS

Plan sponsors who receive a pre-examination notice should immediately begin working with their lawyers and other advisors to determine the best ways to respond to the IRS notice. If you receive an initial letter or have questions about the IRS compliance and correction programs, please contact your McDermott lawyer or the authors listed below.

Marchan Clark
Marchan Clark focuses her practice on employee benefits and executive compensation matters. Marchan is a tax advisor for multinational clients in the life sciences, biotechnology and communications industries that specialize in domestic and cross border transactions including tax-free reorganizations, IP relocations, supply chain design, debt-equity funding of corporate and partnership structures, planning for CFCs, subpart F inclusions and exceptions, GILTI inclusions and high tax exclusions, BEAT, FDII, and 163(j). Read Marchan Clark's full bio.


Jeffrey Holdvogt
Jeffrey (Jeff) M. Holdvogt advises clients regarding a wide range of employee benefits matters. He focuses primarily on the design and administration of complex pension, defined contribution and executive deferred compensation arrangements. Jeff counsels privately and publicly held corporations on ongoing day-to-day retirement and executive compensation issues, as well as employee benefits design and transition matters arising from corporate mergers, acquisitions and divestitures. Read Jeff Holdvogt's full bio.


Diane Morgenthaler
Diane M. Morgenthaler focuses her practice on employee benefits and executive compensation. She represents clients in matters before the US Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Diane serves as employee benefit counsel to Fortune 500 corporations and other global corporations, and represents both public and private clients. She regularly designs and implements a variety of employee benefit plans and programs. Diane has extensive experience in employee benefit issues involved in acquisitions, reorganizations and divestitures and in the design of employee benefits plans following such transactions. She also advises clients in matters involving multi-employer withdrawal liability, fiduciary liability and benefit claims. Read Diane Morgenthaler's full bio.

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