The Importance of Census Data

Each year when we receive completed census and questionnaire information, b&co prepares an Annual Review for the Plan, which includes the required compliance testing; and certain required government filings, which may include the Form 5500 and Form 8955-SSA.

The annual census data collection part of this process is a big pain for many of our clients.  If that describes you, you are not alone!  So, what’s the big deal with the census and why do we have so many follow-up questions about it?

In short, the census drives your Plan’s year-end administration, compliance, and reporting process.  Without it, we cannot calculate annual contributions, nor can we determine who is eligible for those year-end contributions.  We cannot perform annual compliance testing, nor can we complete the Form 5500.  Likewise, if we receive incomplete or incorrect data, all of the work we do will be in vain.  Once we receive your annual data, we “scrub” it to do our best to ensure it is complete and accurate – hence our questions.

We understand that building your census might be an arduous task.  We may be able to help!  We can work with your payroll company to develop a report that you can run each year to pull down the necessary information.  With certain payroll providers, we can be authorized to access your data in order to create a report with the census data we need for your specific Plan.  Some payroll companies are easier to work with than others.  We have our favorites and can help you find a new provider if your current vendor makes things difficult.

It may also be that your payroll company has more to offer than you think.  Often, they can provide a payroll bridge to your Plan’s recordkeeper / platform. The bridge allows information to flow directly from payroll to the recordkeeper on a payroll period basis.  By providing full census data on a payroll period basis (whether it be via payroll bridge or manual file upload), you can unlock many tools and resources available through your recordkeeper.  With full census data each payroll (dates of birth, hire, termination; address; compensation; hours worked; employee and employer contributions, etc.), you may be able to leverage efficiencies with the recordkeeper you did not know were available. These may include:  eligibility determination, vesting update, notice delivery (often for a nominal fee), accurate statement delivery, streamlined online loan and distribution processing, and more.

We know this is a busy time of year and the census data request is just another task on your long “to do” list.  We thank you for taking the time to provide us with complete and accurate data and we invite you to let us know if you’d like to discuss how we can help make the process simpler.

Please contact b&co if you have any questions related to your plan administration.

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