For companies that provide benefit plans to employees, spring means annual audit season is around the corner. Though it’s not something most plan administrators look forward to, the audit can go much more smoothly when several tasks are completed ahead of time. The rules and regulations surrounding employee benefit plan (EBP) audits may change, but what remains constant is how preparation, organization and communication can positively impact the audit experience.
Preparation pays off
As a plan administrator, you are responsible for coordinating data and ensuring timely completion of the EBP audit. So why not get a head start by performing a check-up on your plans prior to the start of the audit? Review for compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and make sure it is operating according to the plan document. Be sure to reconcile transactions and activity on a regular basis, at least quarterly. Conducting these routine tasks prior to an audit gives you an idea of what to expect going into the process, and gives you time to correct any mistakes before fieldwork starts.
Organization equals efficiency
Before the fieldwork starts, your auditor will provide you with a request list. It is critical to review this list in a timely fashion so you can compile the requested information in the desired format to meet the auditor’s timeline. For maximum organization, however, administrators should be in constant contact with service providers who hold the plan information and records. Getting data as early and as often as possible is key to prevent delays, require less from your staff during the audit and use the auditor’s time most efficiently.
Communication increases clarity
As with most projects, identifying roles and streamlining communication bode well for a stress-free audit. Designate one staff person to serve as the point of contact for your company and the auditor. Ideally, this person should be someone heavily involved with administering the benefit plans. Having one person communicate and receive information will cut down on miscommunication and redundancies. Before the audit begins, it is extremely helpful to update your auditor about any changes to the plan document or any operational or compliance issues encountered within the last year. Flagging these issues early in the audit process lets your audit team incorporate them into their work and evaluate the impact on the outcome.
At RKL, our employee benefit plan auditors remain in contact with clients throughout the year as part of our effort to help them meet their compliance and fiduciary responsibilities. To learn more about how we can help your company with its EBP audit, contact your RKL advisor or one of our local offices.
Contributed by Wendy M. Lakatosh, CPA, Partner in RKL’s Audit Services Group. Throughout her more than 19 years of experience in public accounting and auditing, Wendy has gained significant experience serving employee benefit plan clients. She has served a variety of clients from small, private, middle-market entities to large, multi-location companies across many industries.