A DOL audit can be triggered for a variety of reasons. Some audits can be avoided through careful administrative efforts; other audits are initiated through no fault of your own.
Common triggers for a DOL audit include these preventable causes:
- Participant complaints. If any of your plans’ participants complain to the DOL about potential ERISA violations, your plan will likely be subjected to an audit. For example, according to a DOL audit summary, 775 new investigations in 2013 resulted from participant complaints.
- Incomplete or inconsistent information. The DOL is more likely to investigate a plan that has incomplete answers on the plan’s Form 5500, or if information you report is inconsistent from year to year.
Another reason your plan might be selected for a DOL audit is due to the DOL’s national enforcement priorities or projects, which focus investigative resources on certain issues. According to the DOL, the following are areas of heightened importance for audits:
- Major case enforcement. EBSA is focusing on major cases in order to best protect areas that have the greatest impact on plan assets and participants’ benefits.
- Employee contributions initiative. EBSA is focusing on delinquent employee contributions in order to help protect employee contributions to their 401(k), health care and other plans.
In addition to these priorities, the DOL also has several national enforcement projects that receive investigative emphasis:
- Contributory Plans Criminal Project
- Fiduciary Service Provider Compensation Project
- Health Benefits Security Project
- Rapid ERISA Action Team
- Employee Stock Ownership Plans
- Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program
DOL audits can be triggered by negligence or mistakes on your part, or because your plan falls within one of the areas in which the DOL is focusing its investigative efforts.
Regardless of why you are selected for an audit, you need to be prepared. Contact us for the information you need to avoid DOL triggers, as well as tools to help you prepare for and navigate an audit.
Additional resources from the Department of Labor:
An interactive health benefits advisor for employers, which helps to highlight areas of compliance that could be an issue.
A thorough Compliance Assistance Guide that reviews compliance with several major federal laws pertaining to health benefits.