Employee Plans Learn, Educate, Self-Correct, Enforce Project - Invalid Business Codes


We examined a small sample of qualified plans where the Form 5500 series return reflected an outdated 4-digit Standard Industrial Classification business code instead of the revised 6-digit North American Industry Classification System business code.

Project Results:

The two most common issues were:

  • not timely amending the plans to comply with current law (over 20% of plans reviewed), or
  • not having adequate fidelity bonding (over 20% of the plans reviewed).

Plans must timely adopt interim and discretionary amendments, as well as amend for changes in law and regulatory guidance. Failure to timely amend the plan affects the qualified status of the plan.

ERISA section 412 generally requires plans with more than one participant to have a fidelity bond in the amount of:

  • 10% of the trust:
    • minimum bonding = $1,000
    • maximum bonding = $500,000

Other issues disclosed during the project included:

  • allowing employees to participate earlier than provided by the plan terms.
  • not allocating employer contributions according to the plan definition of compensation.
  • improperly determined years of service, resulting in an incorrect vested percentage and incorrect distributions to terminated participants.
  • not making required minimum distributions to participants who had attained age 70 ½.
  • not making the required contribution in a money purchase plan.
  • not making employer contributions to the plan by the due date for filing the business’ tax return.
  • not depositing salary deferrals by the earliest date they can reasonably be segregated from the employer's general assets.


Our LESE projects involve examinations that are small and quick with returns selected using judgment sampling. This project was based on the theory that a plan administrator that used an invalid 4-digit business code (that was replaced with a 6-digit code in 1998) on a return may indicate other administrative problems.

Avoiding the Error:

Ensure that you amend your plan timely for all statutory and regulatory requirements.

Failure to timely amend your plan can cause the plan to become non-qualified, resulting in adverse tax consequences to the plan sponsor, the trust and the participants/beneficiaries.

If an operational review of your plan discloses qualification failures, the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS) offers a way to correct most plan errors.

Ensure that plan fiduciaries and other persons handling pension funds are covered by the appropriate amount of bonding as required by Title I of ERISA Section 412.