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No Internet? It Could Cost You

paper-internet1.jpgIt seems unlikely that a business would be well-established enough to offer its employees a pension plan or 401(k), yet not be modernized enough to use e-mail or even be connected to the internet. But if you're out there, the Department of Labor is looking for you.

In an attempt to make itself mostly paperless, the DOL is now requiring that yearly pension plan and 401(k) forms be submitted electronically. Businesses that fail to comply could face a $15,000 fine, and as of yet, there are no exceptions to the new policy.

The government's heart seems to be in the right place here in terms of saving money and protecting the environment. But a surprisingly high number of small businesses still don't use e-mail or even have access to the internet. It certainly has the potential to create an unnecessary burden for business owners, but some, including New-York based pension administrator Brett Goldstein, worry that it will also discourage them from establishing retirement plans or even discontinue the ones they already have.

"It's one thing to allow companies to electronically file, but to mandate that everyone must file electronically without any exceptions is unconstitutional," Goldstein says. "To assume that every business in America has access to the internet and knows how to use it--or wants to--is ridiculous."

On top of everything else, the DOL has also refused to allow any of the necessary forms to be filed on behalf of businesses by actuaries or other third parties, which puts administrators like Goldstein in the position of having to turn clients away. It feels like a niche issue at the moment, but it could be the tip of the iceberg in terms of those left behind by the seemingly inevitable march toward a paperless world.

We've touched on businesses that operate without websites. But completely isolated from the information age? Can it be done? Are you already doing it? We'd love to hear from you.

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