ERISA legal requirements can rise up to bite an unsuspecting CPA at any time. In June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that CPAs and other service providers may face exposure under ERISA for various transactions with employee benefit plans, even though, in many cases, their actions seem innocuous. A transaction that appears to benefit a plan may, for example, be prohibited under ERISA.
CPAs provide a variety of professional services to pension and other employee benefit plans—auditing the plans, advising clients on applicable tax rules and even providing investment advice. In some cases, CPAs administer the plans for smaller clients, collecting contributions, choosing how to invest plan assets, processing participant distribution requests and making all required IRS filings. Providing such services requires a CPA to be familiar with the often complex requirements of ERISA.
An AICPA article outlines the potential liability exposure of CPAs and other professionals who provide services to ERISA plans, and discusses ways to reduce it.