The US Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) announced new outreach and compliance assistance efforts for 403(b) pension plans subject to Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The official word is that the initiatives are part of the agency's ongoing compliance assistance program to help employers, plan officials and service providers.

Like administrators of 401(k) plans, 403(b) plan administrators now must file basic financial and other compliance information annually with the government on a Form 5500 or Form 5500-SF (a simplified report that many small 403(b) plans can use). Large plans (generally those with 100 or more participants) must include a report of an independent qualified public accountant with their Form 5500. All Form 5500s beginning with the 2009 plan year must be filed electronically using the department's new EFAST2 system.

Field Assistance Bulletin 2010-01, Annual Reporting and ERISA Coverage for 403(b) Plans, is available here. It provides a variety of questions and answers associated with reporting and coverage. Additional guidance, including links to Field Assistance Bulletin 2007-02 (ERISA Coverage Of IRC § 403(b) Tax-Sheltered Annuity Programs) and Bulletin 2009-02 (Form 5500 Reporting by IRC § 403(b) Plans Covered by Title I of ERISA) is available here. Finally, administrators should make sure to review a publication titled "Getting Ready for Changes In Filing Your Plan's Annual Return/Report Form 5500" that is available here.