WASHINGTON BUREAU — The American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries says federal agencies could ease burdens on retirement plan administrators by taking a more uniform approach to regulating plans’ electronic communications with participants.

Officials at ASPPA, Arlington, Va., have included that suggestion in a comment letter they sent to the U.S. Treasury Department.

In February, President Obama asked the department and other federal agencies to seek comments on ways the agencies can reduce regulatory burdens on U.S. businesses.

ASPPA officials acknowledge the importance of high-quality plan communications in a comment letter about ideas for streamlining pension administration rules.

“Providing information to participants that is clear, readable and meets their needs helps participants understand their plans and make decisions in connection with them,” ASPPA officials say in their letter. “Plans could maximize their efforts in communicating with participants if they were subject to only one set of regulations. We urge the Treasury Department to coordinate with the Department of Labor to create a unified approach for electronic disclosures for retirement plans.”

ASPPA officials also have recommended that the Treasury Department expand regulations dealing with retirement plan administration to permit mid-year exchanges to a safe harbor 401(k) plan as long as long as the shift would not significantly affect a participant’s deferral decision.

ASPPA officials conclude by noting that the current plan amendment process is “incredibly complicated.” They are proposing that interim amendments should only be required once every 3 years.

The current plan amendment process uses rules provide amendment deadlines that vary based upon the type of amendment and a plan’s fiscal year, ASPPA officials say.

The complicated deadline system leads to mistakes being made by well-meaning plan sponsors, officials say.

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