Spectrum Resource Center

Advice, Articles, Events, Insights, News, Newsletters, Opinions, Press Releases, Updates, and More from Spectrum.


Understanding Financial Statement Audits

Understanding Financial Statement Audits

While we hope you have never had to experience it, you're no doubt familiar with the idea of an audit of your personal or corporate tax return. But you may not be familiar with an audit of your qualified retirement plan. There are two broad categories of retirement plan audits. Today, we'll focus quickly on two groups of plans that the Department of Labor requires to have financial statement audits by an independent qualified public accountant, or CPA.

These audits are based on a plan's participant count or if the plan holds non-qualifying assets. The IRS or DOL also audit employee benefit plans based on questions about their operational compliance, but we'll cover that topic in another chat.

The financial statement audit is triggered by either participant count or non-qualifying assets. In the case of participant count, the general rule is a participant count of 100 or more as of the beginning of the year will trigger an audit. But, here's how it actually works: If the participant count is over 120 an audit is automatically required. If it's between 80 and 120, then the plan must engage an auditor if it did so in the prior year. We can help you navigate the 80/120 rule based on your annual IRS Form 5500 filing information.

For purposes of the 100 participant rule, a participant is defined as any employee who is eligible to participate in the plan, AND any former employee who still has assets in the plan. In order to be considered an eligible participant, an individual does not have to contribute or receive employer contributions or otherwise have any activity in the plan in order to be included in the beginning of the year count. That's important because it can include former employees if they still have an account balance. This reality, plus the annual plan cost of carrying former employees, might encourage you to force out former employees with small balances.

The Department of Labor also requires small plans who have less than 95% of their assets in qualifying assets to obtain an audit, unless those assets are adequately covered by an ERISA fidelity bond.

A qualifying plan asset is generally one that is easily transacted on a public exchange, like the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ or that can be typically purchased from a bank or life insurance company or other regulated entity. Non-qualifying plan assets are investments in things like real estate, coin collections, fine art, a private business or other assets whose value is not easily determined.

If your plan does have more than 5% of its net assets invested in non-qualifying investments, you can avoid an automatic financial statement audit by purchasing an ERISA fidelity bond to cover the value of these assets.

Remember, the audits we're describing here are financial statement audits performed by CPAs, not employee benefit plan audits conducted by the DOL or IRS. In any case, it's always wise to establish and maintain a prudent, professional, documented process to manage your retirement plan - and to follow it.

If you have questions about financial statement plan audits or want to learn more about how these rules affect the operation of your plan, please give us a call. We're here to help.

blog comments powered by Disqus


401k loan participant loan investing margin professional plan design practice defined benefit pension fees dol retirement readiness documents compliance spectrum open golf pano cancer event tournament philanthropy fiduciary rule tax cuts press release bi cloud technology azure plan intelligence docusign microsoft myretirement limits irs retirement plan contribution asset allocation investments newsletter cybersecurity plan termination merger acquisition gender retirement gap lifetime income investment returns women men erisa defined contribution financial wellness employees financial stress plan faq participant questions payroll finwell plan education fis impact award technology innovation education entreprenuers business accumulation startup wealth ira charity millennials 40th anniversary celebration soc-1 automation recordkeeping case study portal fiduciary tax deduction enrollment escalation video automatic qdia qualified default investment alternative roth participant outcomes uncashed checks distributions debt credit saving cash balance cbpp safe harbor nondiscrimination adp acp top-heavy plan sponsor 3(16) hardship withdrawal forfeiture forfeit vested vesting owner audit bond bundled unbundled psoy plan sponsor of the year abg mfa consulting employer connect reports student loans db/dc providers services guide erisawrap welfare benefit plan fundraiser document cancer reserach retirement confidence wrap spd wrap document plan document welfare benefits employee benefits healthcare wrap unvested vested account balance spectrumopen spd wrapspd spectrumplatform market volatility participant behavior socially responsible esg plan participation secureact SECURE legislation secureact2019 secureactof2019 secure act secure act of 2019 qaca participation restate restatement erisa bond fidelity bond bonding goals plan amendment election 2020 coronavirus covid-19 business continuity cares act cares covid19 relief retirement plan relief the cares act workforce demographics older employees covid the secure act engagement SECURE 2.0 Act Retirement Plan Legislation 401(k)

ERISA Workplace Retirement Plan Limits

The federal government annually publishes updated qualified retirement plan limits, which impact the contributions, benefit accruals, and compliance of ERISA covered qualified retirement plans. The below tables summarize the most significant changes in recent history.


Keep up on our evolving products, services, solutions, and technology through our Newsletters.

About Our Firm

Spectrum is a B2B consulting firm, which enables American Workers to plan and save towards a dignified financial future by designing, administering, and operating the ranges of retirement and financial plans for U.S. employers.

Get in touch

  • Address: 6402 19th Street, Tacoma, WA 98466, USA

  • Phone: +1 (253) 565-2100

  • Email: Contact Us Form