The IRS announcement said its Employee Plans Compliance Unit (EPCU) has started sending questionnaires to public school districts in all states under the 403(b) Universal Availability project. In June 2006 the EPCU sent questionnaires to public schools and districts in New Jersey, Missouri and Washington.
The EPCU has now begun contacting school districts in Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia. School districts in the remaining states will be contacted through 2008, the announcement said.
“Our pilot project in three states showed fairly widespread noncompliance by schools with the universal availability requirement for 403(b) plans,” said Joseph Grant, Director of the IRS Employee Plans division, in the announcement. “But we believe most of it was due to a lack of understanding about what the law requires, not a deliberate failure to comply.”
The IRS said typical noncompliance involves excluding participation by certain classes of employees, such as substitute teachers, janitors, cafeteria workers and nurses. The law requires that all public school employees normally expected to work 20 hours per week must be offered the opportunity to participate in a 403(b) plan if the school or district sponsors one.
The IRS will analyze responses to the questionnaires and if a problem is found school officials should use one of the solutions outlined by the IRS in a follow-up letter. The IRS said it will not impose a sanction on schools or districts for which a problem is found.
More about the project can be found at http://www.irs.gov/ep .