SPARK Releases New Version of 403(b) Census Best Practices

May 31, 2012 ( - The SPARK Institute has released a new version of its best practices for sharing remittance and census data for 403(b) and related retirement plans.

“We developed this new version in response to member recommendations that its use not be limited to multivendor 403(b) plans, and requests for additional data elements to meet new regulatory requirements and service offerings,” Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel, noted.  “A working group from our 403(b) Plans Task Force spent over a year developing the new version, which incorporates more than 20 substantive changes, including the addition of new data fields, a list of contribution source codes, and clarification of several other issues.”               

The updated best practices will help employers and vendors communicate plan remittance and census data by defining file layouts for 403(b) and other retirement plans.  It can be used by all 403(b) plans, as well as 401(k), 401(a) and 457(b) plans.  The best practices are available to anyone at no charge, including non-SPARK Institute members, and can be downloaded from  

In order to facilitate an effective transition to version two of the best practices, it will not become effective until February 1, 2013.  “We are publishing this document now to provide all affected parties with eight months to prepare for the change.  However, the Best Practices may be implemented prior to the effective date if agreed upon by both the sending and receiving parties,” Goldbrum said.    

The prior version will be considered obsolete as of February 1, 2013.