Government Shutdown No Free Pass for Plan Sponsors

October 1, 2013 ( – Many regulator functions will halt during the federal government shutdown, but plan sponsors shouldn’t snooze.

“Don’t assume you’re getting a pass,” David N. Levine, an attorney with Groom Law Group in Washington, D.C, told PLANSPONSOR. Levine noted that the shutdown will not last forever; plan sponsors can still make submissions and electronic systems are still running. Plan sponsors should still respect official deadlines, such as for plan funding and Form 5500 filings, he said.

A notice on the Internal Revenue Service’s website indicates there will be a halt on audits, but Levine warned that when the shutdown is over, they will pick up where they left off. The IRS reported only 20 staff members who are excepted from the furlough. “This staff will ensure statute protection and processing of remittances, as needed,” the agency said.

The determination letter, private letter ruling, and voluntary correction programs are halted. Levine said if plan sponsors or providers want to submit a private letter ruling, they can send one in, but it will probably sit until the shutdown is over.

The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) posted a notice on its website saying, “If you are covered by an employer sponsored group health plan and need assistance with an urgent medical situation which poses an imminent threat to human life or who have knowledge of criminal activity that may result in the loss of your retirement, disability or health benefits you should call 202-693-8630. If your situation is not an emergency, please call back when the government re-opens.”

The EBSA also noted that its website is not being updated during the shutdown and in the event the website experiences an outage, work will not be performed to restore the site.