IRS PROBES 401(K) COMPLIANCE

Washington, D.C. - The Internal Revenue Service has begun mailing out questionnaires to 401(k) plan sponsors to assess compliance with retirement plan regulations. The agency is contacting a random sample of 1,200 401(k) plan sponsors that filed a Form 5500 for the 2007 plan year. Plan sponsors who receive a letter will complete the questionnaire by accessing a special Web site.

The information gathered from the questionnaire will ultimately result in a report published by the IRS describing the responses and identifying those areas where additional education, guidance and outreach is needed, and how the IRS can focus its enforcement efforts to address or avoid non-compliance related to 401(k) plans.

The IRS emphasized that the questionnaire is a compliance check, and not an audit or investigation. However, failure to complete the questionnaire will result in further enforcement action.

A POSITIVE OUTLOOK FOR THE ANNUITY INDUSTRY

Washington, D.C. - According to a study from the Insured Retirement Institute in partnership with Cerulli Associates, though some challenges remain, opportunities for growth in the annuity industry ranked 4.1 on a scale of five points.

Also, according to the report, a hot topic within the variable annuity industry is the development of simplified products; nearly two thirds of insurers surveyed indicated that they either offer simplified annuities, or plan to do so in the coming 12 to 18 months.

The financial strength rating and living benefits rank top in importance of factors in broker-dealer selection of a VA provider, with both earning a 4.6 on a five-point scale. Living benefits and the financial strength rating are also highly valued by advisors when selecting a VA provider, with 72 percent considering living benefits and 80 percent of those polled looking at ratings.

Survey participants represented executives from a range of insurance companies, variable annuity asset management firms, and broker-dealers.

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