Better Management of Private Pension Plan Data Can Reduce Costs and Improve ERISA Administration

Gao ID: HRD-82-12 October 19, 1981

The Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) are responsible for administering and enforcing the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Private pension plans are required to report substantial information to these agencies under the act. GAO investigated the ERISA information management activities of Labor, IRS, and PBGC to determine the adequacy and effectiveness of: (1) the agencies' efforts to make sure that pension plans file ERISA annual reports, annual premium filings, and summary plan descriptions; and (2) IRS efforts to ensure that annual reports filed by plans are complete.

Information required to be reported annually by private pension plans is not being effectively, efficiently, or economically managed. Although the agencies believe that almost all of the required annual report information is critical for them to administer the act, GAO found that some plans may not be filing reports and that many of the reports filed are incomplete. In 1979, both Labor and IRS attempted to ensure that the plans filed reports. These efforts wasted labor and resources and irritated plan administrators. The agencies did not use all the information on reports filed nor did they establish controls to ensure that data they used were accurate. When information was missing from reports filed, IRS did not take adequate action to obtain the missing data and accepted reports with critical information items missing. GAO found no evidence that IRS plans to take more forceful action to obtain information missing from filed reports. PBGC has not made certain that insured plans pay required premiums every year, or at all, and does not use ERISA annual report information for collecting unpaid premiums; thus, millions of dollars in premiums may have been lost. The extent to which planned improvements can be implemented is questionable because of the restricted ability of PBGC to overcome unreliable data with limited resources. Both IRS and PBGC are paying for improving and maintaining the accuracy of data for the same plans on two separate files, and there is an additional cost for their reconciliation. Filing plan summaries with Labor is costly and unnecessary.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Joseph F. Delfico Team: General Accounting Office: Human Resources Division Phone: (202) 512-7215

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