The Employee Benefits Security Administration says it’s making an effort to help 403(b) plan administrators understand new compliance requirements.

EBSA announced this week it will send out a letter to administrators of approximately 16,000 403(b) plans subject to ERISA, reminding them that their 2009 Form 5500 annual reporting requirements have changed. EBSA says the letters will also direct administrators to resources for help in understanding and complying with the new requirements.

Like administrators of 401(k) plans, 403(b) plan administrators now must file basic financial and other compliance information annually with the government on a Form 5500 or Form 5500-SF (a simplified report that many small 403(b) plans can use). Large plans (generally those with 100 or more participants) must include a report of an independent qualified public accountant with their Form 5500. All Form 5500s beginning with the 2009 plan year must be filed electronically using the department’s new EFAST2 system.

A survey released at the beginning of February revealed nearly half of plan sponsors are having trouble understanding new regulations for 403(b) plans.

According to EBSA, the department’s outreach letter points out that EBSA has also issued specific legal guidance and has several publications that are designed to explain the new annual reporting and electronic filing rules. For example, a new Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) 2010-01 released today was developed to answer many frequently asked questions from the 403(b) community on the new Form 5500 reporting requirements. The department also published a brochure entitled Getting Ready for Changes in Filing Your Plan’s Annual Return/Report Form 5500.

All of these materials are available on a newly created EBSA Web site that focuses on Code 403(b) plan issues. The letter also directs administrators to a toll-free Form 5500 help desk that is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) at 866.463.3278.