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ERISA: What you need to know

What is ERISA? The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was enacted to ensure that employees receive the pension and other benefits promised by their employers. ERISA also incorporates and is tied to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) provisions designed to encourage employers to provide retirement and other benefits to their employees. Most provisions of ERISA and the IRC are intended to ensure that tax-favored pension plans do not favor the highest-paid employees over rank-and-file employees. ERISA has a complex series of rules that cover pension, profit-sharing, stock bonus, and most “welfare benefit plans,” such as health and life insurance. ERISA has created a single federal standard for employee benefits, and it supersedes almost all state laws that affect employee benefit plans. An employer's responsibilities under ERISA vary depending on the type of plan involved.
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Compliance with ERISA and related laws is extremely complex. To make matters worse, Congress amends ERISA and other benefit-related laws and the courts issue new decisions interpreting these laws nearly every year. Therefore, an attorney or other professional benefit advisor should be consulted before implementing any benefit plan or plan amendment.
An employer's responsibilities under ERISA vary depending on the type of plan involved. Pension plans, for example, are subject to all rules, including reporting and disclosure, financial management of benefit plan assets, administration of benefit plans, and participation, vesting, and funding requirements. Welfare plans (such as health insurance) need only worry about reporting and disclosure rules and financial management ...

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