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PSCA Makes Recommendations for Missing Participant Guidance


Hattie Greenan

The Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA), a part of the American Retirement Association (ARA), has submitted written recommendations for guidance on missing participants to several agencies including the Department of Labor (DOL), the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS). PSCA provided this guidance in response to recent Department of Labor enforcement activity as well as a Government Accountability Office (GAO) request. Additionally, PSCA has signed on to a letter to the DOL regarding this issue sent by a group of concerned trade organizations.   

In April 2017 PSCA first requested additional guidance from the IRS and DOL regarding various Internal Revenue Code (Code) and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) compliance issues that arise when there is a missing or nonresponsive participant and proposed a sample safe harbor plan. Since this request, there have been numerous reports of aggressive DOL enforcement activity – and sometimes inconsistent positions taken by DOL auditors – regarding how plan sponsors are handling missing participants. PSCA heard concerns from its plan sponsor members that they have been or may be subjected to enforcement actions even though the DOL and IRS have not issued comprehensive guidance on missing participants that provide a clear roadmap for compliance. 

In response to this recent enforcement activity and GAO’s January 2018 report recognizing that guidance is critical in addressing the missing participant issue, PSCA responded again in writing, reiterating the benefits of the sample safe harbor plan originally proposed in the April 2017 correspondence. The sample plan provides plan sponsors with ten clear steps to locate missing participants for certain plans while continuing to meet their fiduciary obligations and preserve their plan qualification. In encouraging the IRS and DOL to jointly issue guidance and adopt such a plan, plan sponsors, particularly small plan sponsors, would no longer have the necessity to attempt to harmonize inconsistent guidance issued by separate agencies. Additionally, although PSCA recognizes that the IRS’ lack of sufficient staffing and resources impacts the feasibility of elements key to the success of the proposed safe harbor plan, such as the letter forwarding service, PSCA believes that the program can be reinstated in a manner that meets the needs of both the IRS and plan sponsors.

As the agencies work to develop guidance, PSCA remains committed to assisting the responsible agencies and the plan sponsor community in navigating these complex and highly important issues. A link to the most recent letter sent to the DOL, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and IRS can be found here

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The Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA) is a diverse, collaborative community of employee benefit plan sponsors, working together on behalf of millions of employees to solve real problems, create positive change, and expand on the success of America’s voluntary, employer-sponsored retirement system. With members representing employers of all sizes, PSCA offers a forum for comprehensive dialogue. By sharing our collective knowledge and experience as plan sponsors, PSCA also serves as a resource to policymakers, the media, and other stakeholders as part of its commitment to improving retirement security for millions of Americans. For more information, visit