Like a teeth cleaning, plan audits are not popular but serve a useful purpose. And for many plans, they are unavoidable. But a plan audit need not be unpleasant, and there are steps that can be taken to prepare for one and make it a smoother experience.
In “Making Your Benefit Plan Audit Easier,” an entry in the blog of CPA and advisory services firm Schneider Downs, M. Michelle Milheim offers suggestions regarding what can be done to prepare for a plan audit and avoid making errors.
Milheim offers several suggestions regarding documents:
- Keep in mind that auditors will want to see documentation on anything they are testing.
- Process contributions, benefit payments, investment allocation changes and other such transactions after obtaining documentation from plan participants.
- Keep benefits and payroll files readily available until after a plan audit.
- Retain forms that indicate that employees who declined enrollment in a plan did so.
- Consider using interactive websites in order to reduce paper records and the margin for error.
Milheim suggests that streamlining procedures can be helpful in being ready for a plan audit. This, she says, can include:
- Simplify or automate processes.
- Offer auto-enrollment.
- Consider use of payroll software that will communicate with benefit plan software.
Set up codes in the payroll system that will automatically calculate employer contributions.
- Download payroll and contribution data and test data accuracy.
Review plan documents and their amendments periodically to make sure the plan is operating under their terms.