Updated: Jul 31, 2020
An Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent (ERPA) is an individual who is qualified to practice before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in matters pertaining to retirement plans. This designation was awarded by the IRS to practitioners who had demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of the laws and regulations of the Internal Revenue Code Sections related to retirement plans. The ERPA designation was earned by the completion of written examinations administered by the IRS or as the result of employment with the IRS in which one obtained technical experience relating to retirement plan matters. Although the IRS no longer offers this designation to new applicants, it does recognize those who earned this designation when the tests were available.
Although this classification allows retirement plan professionals to act in a critical capacity by representing their clients before the IRS, the scope of their representation is limited. As stated in Treasury Department Circular 230, an ERPA may represent his/her client before the IRS with respect to the following: audits, Form 5500 matters and issues, tax levies, Form 5300, 5307 and 5310 determination letter requests, and voluntary compliance filings.
There are many designations held by retirement plan professionals, and it may seem like one acronym is as good as the next, but we want you to consider three reasons why you should work with a firm that has an ERPA on staff.
1. Extensive Knowledge and Education
To obtain the ERPA designation, practitioners had to pass comprehensive tests that demonstrated their extensive understanding of how IRS regulations and procedures affect retirement plans. Education does not stop there. ERPAs are required to expand their education by earning 24 hours of Continuing Education credits each year. These credits ensure that the agent remains current on any legislative updates and can explain these changes to their clients.
2. Quality of Service Issued by the Treasury Department, the Circular 230 mandates that ERPAs adhere to the highest ethical standards of retirement plan practice. Failure to adhere to these industry-leading standards can result in monetary sanctions and an inability to practice. Thus, ERPAs have a vested interest in ensuring that your plan is administered correctly and that he/she is honest in his/her business practices. This standard of conduct is a step above the requirements of the other retirement plan designations recognized in the industry.
3. Audit Assistance Should your plan ever be selected for audit by the IRS, you want to have experts in your corner. An ERPA may work as a liaison between your company and the IRS agent to represent your interests and to relay all relevant information about your plan. Prior to the audit, the ERPA will review information from the IRS and provide the IRS with all requested information. The ERPA would also be available to answer questions on the day of the audit. Working with an ERPA guarantees that you would have representation in the event of an audit and may also simplify the audit processes since the ERPA already does their due diligence to ensure that year-end work complies with IRS guidelines. Many Third Party Administration Firms (TPAs) do not have an Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent on staff which means they may not be able to represent their clients before the IRS in the event of an audit, making it more valuable to work with a firm who can offer the services of an ERPA. If your retirement plan is audited by the IRS, and your TPA can not represent you, you would not only incur the expense of hiring an outside representative, but you would have to rely on an individual who is not personally familiar with your plan and the work which was completed.
Whether representing you before the IRS or servicing your retirement plan’s daily needs, an ERPA will always work in your best interest and keep your retirement plan qualified. If you have any questions about the role of an Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent or finding one to administer your retirement plan, we want to be a resource for you. Let us know how we can help.