The Internal Revenue Service is expanding an outreach effort to ensure that public schools throughout the United States are complying with the universal availability requirement for retirement annuities they may offer.Some schools and school districts may be overlooking offering employees the opportunity to participate in these retirement plans. To assess the level of compliance, the IRS's Employee Plans Compliance Unit has started sending questionnaires to public school districts in all 50 states under the 403(b) Universal Availability project. A 403(b) plan is a retirement plan for certain employees of public schools, employees of certain tax-exempt organizations, and certain ministers. "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. "But we believe most of it was due to a lack of understanding about what the law requires, not a deliberate failure to comply." "We know from our pilot project and from talking to representatives from schools and districts across the country that most of the problems stem from either misunderstanding the law or from confusion because of differing rules in various states," said Grant. "The project will give schools the chance to identify problems with their plans and to correct them on their own."
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