The American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA) is asking the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to think about the red tape it is about to wrap around the support staffers who help prepare Form 5500 data.

ASPPA, Arlington, Va., has included the plea in a comment letter it has sent regarding IRS efforts to change Circular 230, a document that sets out the rules for practicing before the IRS.

One section requires tax return preparers to register, in an effort to improve preparers’ level of training and ethics.

ASPPA supports the idea of registering the preparers who file individual tax returns, such as Form 1040 returns, and the preparers who have real discretion over the filing of the Form 5500 returns that employee benefit plans file, according to ASPPA General Counsel Craig Hoffman.

But ASPPA believes applying the registration requirement to the many support staffers who simply help benefits administration firms and other vendors enter Form 5500 data, Hoffman says.

Imposing an overly broad registration requirement would drive up Form 5500 administration costs and hurt plan members, Hoffman says.

The IRS should solve the problem by having one and only one person register as the paid “tax return preparer” for Form 5500 returns. That person should be primarily responsible for the substantive accuracy of the form; but only if the reported information actually affects a substantial portion of an actual tax return (or claim for refund) filed by the plan sponsor, Hoffman says.

The IRS should say which Form 5500 schedules and entries affect the actual tax return, rather than simply providing interesting benefits data, and have only oversight over those schedules and entries subject the preparer to registration, Hoffman says.

-ab