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QPS specializes in plan design, administration

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by Clarissa A. French

SBJ Staff

If those fun-loving folks from the IRS decide to audit your retirement plan, you may need more than an accountant or financial adviser in your corner.

You may need a specialist.

That is the role of Qualified Pension Services Inc., according to QPS President Faith G. Irmen. QPS is a third-party administration firm focused exclusively on the design and administration of retirement plans.

Irmen and Vice President Susan L. Worley combined forces and more than 12 years of experience in the pension field to form QPS in February 1998. QPS moved into new offices at 240 E. Primrose in April.

The firm grew out of FGI Pension Services Inc., which Irmen started on her own in February 1997. Both Irmen and and Worley previously worked in third-party administration firms and relocated back to the Springfield area where they grew up. Irmen went into the legal field, and Worley the accounting field.

According to Irmen and Worley, the chances of a company's retirement plan being audited just went up.

The IRS has recently hired 200 new auditors who are focusing exclusively on retirement plans, Worley said. And that may be bad news for some employers.

"They don't know they're in trouble until the IRS comes in and audits the plan," Worley said. And when an audit does turn up problems, the resulting fines and penalties are paid not by the CPA, financial planner or pension administrator, but by the employer, she said.

"A lot of people think, 'Let's set up a retirement plan,' and call their investment person," Worley said, but many financial professionals do not have the specialized knowledge required to administer a plan so it meets IRS standards.

That's why financial advisers and CPAs are among QPS' top referral sources, along with area banks, trust companies and insurance firms, Irmen said.

At the base of QPS' business philosophy is the belief that everyone deserves a retirement plan and virtually any business, no matter how small, can have one, customized to its particular needs.

"You don't have to go with a cookie-cutter plan," Irmen said. Or with limited options, Worley said, adding that customized plans through QPS can offer a wide range of choices.

Retirement plan design, administration and documentation requires specialized knowledge. The regulations and requirements are vast, and changes are continual, Irmen and Worley said. They keep up through continuing education, industry publications and updates via CD-ROM.

Keeping up with the fast-changing industry isn't easy or cheap, but it is good business, the two agreed.

The complexity, expense and time required for plan administration has caused many banks to eliminate it from their services, opening up a niche ideally suited to QPS, Irmen said.

The company's clients include medical, dental and legal practices, corporations and businesses of all descriptions, including such firms as Ridewell Corp., Wilcox Truck Lines Inc., Hall, Ansley Rogers & Condry PC and Tri-Lakes Medical & Surgical Eye Center, of Branson.

Besides its plan administration services, QPS provides education to human resources managers and others who inform employees about plan benefits and options, but Irmen and Worley also make themselves available to their clients' employees.

"We'll talk to employees (directly) taking that burden off the employer," Irmen said. "Because our emphasis is on personal service, we want our clients to know that we will call them back when they have questions."

Because of that emphasis on personal service, "We don't want to grow too fast," she added.

Staffing will grow as the business grows to ensure the service is there, Worley said. Currently the staff comprises Irmen, Worley and Office Manager Judy Magruder.

QPS' services include free consultation. The firm offers custom plan design and the use of QPS' regional prototype plan; annual review of plan provisions; reconciliation of plan assets and allocation of contributions, plan earnings, distributions and forfeitures; preparation of plan financial statements, participant statements and required disclosures, and required annual IRS forms; compliance testing; calculation of employer contributions; employee meetings to ensure employees understand and appreciate the benefits of the plan; on-site training of personnel to handle pension-related matters; and the QPS quarterly newsletter, focused on educating the public on pension-related subjects.

The firm also provides clients with plan enrollment forms, beneficiary designations and distribution forms as needed.

PHOTO CAPTION:

QPS Office Manager Judy Magruder, President Faith Irmen and Vice President Susan Worley focus on personal service in the field of qualified retirement plan design and administration.[[In-content Ad]]

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