Employee Benefit Document List

June 16, 2011, 4:21 PM

Employers are required to establish written documents setting forth certain terms relating to their employee benefit plans. Failure to maintain the proper documents in updated form can lead to penalties or other enforcement actions by the IRS, Department of Labor, or other regulatory agencies.

While some of these documents are obvious, others have a tendency to slip through the cracks. We recommend that employers periodically review this list to make sure they can locate updated versions of the following:

Qualified Retirement Plans (including 401(k) plans)

  • Plan Document: Either a prototype plan (adoption agreement plus basic plan document) or an individually designed plan. The document will need to be amended approximately every five years in order to reflect changes made by recent legislation.
  • Summary Plan Description: Summary of the terms of the plan, written in language that is easy to understand. Must be distributed to participants and must be updated to reflect material changes whenever the plan is amended.
  • IRS Determination Letter / Opinion Letter: Every plan should be submitted to the IRS for approval, and an updated determination letter should be kept on file. (Note that prototype plans are covered by an IRS opinion letter that accompanies the plan document; employers who adopt a prototype plan do not need to request a separate IRS determination letter but should make sure to keep the plans opinion letter on file.)
  • Investment Policy (optional but recommended): This document outlines the procedures to be followed by plan fiduciaries when managing plan assets or when evaluating investment options made available under the plans.
  • Fiduciary Delegations (optional but recommended): In order to protect officers and directors against liability under ERISA, we recommend that employers adopt board resolutions delegating fiduciary duties concerning oversight of the plans to one or more committees. Committee charters setting forth the specific responsibilities of each committee should also be established and approved by the Board.
Health and Welfare Plans
  • Plan Document / Summary Plan Description: Most employers satisfy the plan document requirement by issuing a summary plan description outlining the terms of the companys health and welfare benefit offerings.
  • Cafeteria Plan: Employers who offer benefits on a pre-tax basis must maintain a written cafeteria plan document that satisfies the requirements of section 125 of the tax code. This document will also contain the terms applicable to flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts (if offered).
  • HIPAA Manual: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires employers who sponsor health plans to maintain a written set of policies and procedures governing the handling of protected health information. This document should include procedures relating to HIPAAs privacy regulations as well as the more recent set of HIPAA regulations governing security of electronic health records.
Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans (SERPs, deferred bonus plans, etc.)
  • Plan Document: Every executive compensation arrangement that provides for deferral of compensation must be described in a written document that satisfies the requirements of section 409A of the tax code. The document may take the form of an employment agreement or a separate plan document. --Shad C. Fagerland