The American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries is asking the Department of Labor to streamline the reporting requirements imposed on retirement plans by issuing new guidance.

Officials of ASPPA, Philadelphia, are also suggesting to DOL officials that they enlist professionals to review and suggest changes to existing auditing guidelines so that housekeeping costs related to retirement plans can be reduced.

The ASPPA views were proposed by Craig P. Hoffman, ASPPA general counsel and director of regulatory affairs, in a comment letter solicited by the agency in response to President Obama’s call for changes in regulations aimed at reducing reporting costs.

Hoffman asked that the DOL issue regulatory guidance to allow 403(b) contracts issued before 2009 to be excluded from the Form 5500 financial statements, as required by field assistance bulletins issued in 2009 and 2010.

Hoffman recommends in his comment that the DOL appoint a committee of experts to review and suggest modifications to the audit guidelines for 403(b) plans.

Regarding the 403(b) plans, recent guidance requires for the first time to include an independent audit as part of the plan’s 2009 plan year annual return in the form 5500.

“Unfortunately, numerous sponsors of 403(b) arrangements have had significant difficulties in filing compliant form 5500s for the 2009 plan year,” Hoffman said.

He said that both ASPPA and the National Tax Sheltered Accounts Association had previously raised concerns about the problem in a letter sent to the DOL.

“The current relief offered under Field Assistance Bulletins (“FABs”) 2009-02 and 2010-01 is not providing the benefits anticipated because the auditing community has generally not accepted the information on which the 2009 plan year starting account balances were established,” Hoffman said in his comment letter.

“Auditors have indicated that they are constrained by ERISA requirements, and that the current relief is insufficient,” he said.

Hoffman also suggests in his comment letter that DOL rules relating to the electronic transmission of ERISA notices be changed to adopt an “opt-out” approach, where the default would be electronic delivery. Participants who would prefer to receive their disclosures in paper form could elect to do so without charge, Hoffman suggested.

He also proposed in his comment letter that DOL allow for a self-correction option under VFCP for the late deposit of employee 401(k) contributions if the “online calculator” is used to determine lost earnings and certain other requirements are met.