An arm of the U.S. Department of Labor has come out with a new batch of advice aimed at the nonprofit employers that offer 403(b) retirement plans and the advisors that serve them.

The advice, given in Field Assistance Bulletin 2010-01, applies to the 403(b) plans at schools and other nonprofit employers that are subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Many 403(b) plans are hungry for advice, because the government has imposed new reporting requirements on the plans.

All 403(b) plans subject to ERISA must file either a Form 5500 or the simplified Form 5500-SF for the 2009 plan year.

All 2009 Form 5500 filers must submit the forms electronically.

Each plan with 100 or more participants must include a report from an independent qualified public accountant with its Form 5500.

The U.S. Department of Labor has sent the administrators of about 16,000 403(b) ERISA plans letters reminding them about the new reporting requirements, according to officials at the Employee Benefits Security Administration, a part of the Labor Department.

EBSA officials also have drafted the field assistance bulletin.

The bulletin provides answers to 18 403(b) plan questions.

Officials write, for example, that a 403(b) “safe harbor” plan can make optional features, such as participant loans, available, as long as the 403(b) provider is responsible for any discretionary determinations.

But officials warn that the employer would leave the safe harbor if it hired an independent “third party) administrator to make discretionary decisions.