The Employee Benefits Security Administration, part of the Labor Department, is seeking comment on its plans to update guidance on the independence of accountants who audit employee benefit plans.

The existing guidance, Interpretative Bulletin 75-9, was published more than 30 years ago, according to the administration. Since then the accounting profession has seen a number of changes in audit services, industry consolidations, and revisions in general accountant independence standards by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the American Institute of CPAs.

Section 103(a)(3)(A) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act generally requires employee benefit plans to retain an independent qualified public accountant to examine the financial statements of the plan and render an opinion as to whether the financial statements and schedules submitted with a plan's annual report are presented fairly in conformance with generally accepted accounting principles.

Plans subject to the annual audit requirement must include the accountant's report and opinion as part of the plan's Form 5500 annual report.

The solicitation for information, printed in the Sept. 11 edition of the Federal Register, is meant to help the department in determining whether the interpretive bulletin provides adequate guidance or whether the guidelines should be updated. The department released 15 specific questions, but is also seeking comment on other issues that should be considered.

Written comments are due by Dec. 11.


The entire notice is available at http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20061800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2006/pdf/E6-14913.pdf.

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