FSCO Annual Information Returns - there is a better way
As we know, FSCO is charged with regulatory responsibilities relating to pension plans in Ontario. They are also "charged" with charging for costs associated with these services - the most recent posted budget amount for 2007-2008 reflects billings in excess of 13 million for their services. As plan sponsors and plan administrators, you are familiar with this through the yearly ritual of completing Annual Information Returns and associated filing fees which are now called "assessments" (a name far more appealing than a filing fee). While plan administrators used to have the option of printing their own AIR and completing it with the calculated filing fees, this process moved to a more cumbersome process of an assessment paid separately from the filing of the AIR (which must be the FSCO original form). In the best interests of going "green" - FSCO also specifically required that the assessment nor the PBGF fee be submitted with the AIR. Further, the PBGF certificate must not be submitted with the pension assessment.
Alas, a better process has evolved. Well - almost. Effective March 10th FSCO is launching an electronic option for filing single or multiple AIRs for a plan sponsor. Unfortunately, this will have to be submitted to FSCO in a predetermined XML file. XML stands for extensible markup language with is not a familiar code for most administrators. One would have hoped for a fillable PDF of excel format to make this burden more pleasant. FSCO has sent a letter to plan sponsors introducing this new service with links to the FSCO site to walk (perhaps wade is more appropriate) through the process.
Fortunately, the FSCO website details of how to complete the new electronic filing option also reveals that yet another electronic filing option is soon to be released. This option will be for plan sponsors who wish to file a small number of AIRs for their sponsored programs - in the words of FSCO this would be for sponsors with only 1-5 separately registered Ontario pension plans.
Fortunately the new electronic filing process is optional - you can elect to continue using the paper process. Fortunately, there is a new electronic option on the horizon and perhaps this will be easier for plan sponsors. Unfortunately, the cost of developing both will likely be included in the future costs for assessments. Perhaps there is a iPhone app for AIR completion....
Our recommendation is to not get too caught up in the new electronic filing process - it is not a real time saver or money saver at this stage but we are confident that this will improve with time.