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Onboarding basics & FAQs
Guideline’s 401(k) handbook for plan sponsors
Guideline’s 401(k) handbook for plan sponsors
Updated over a week ago

Congratulations! Your plan is now ready to start here at Guideline. This guide provides comprehensive information about your new Guideline 401(k) and any tasks that may still need to be completed.

How to navigate your Guideline dashboard

Now that your setup tasks have been completed, you should have full access to your Guideline sponsor dashboard. Here’s what you can expect to see when you log in:

Timeline: On the main page of your Guideline administrator dashboard, you will see a “Plan Timeline and Important Dates” section. This timeline will show you the following:

  • The date you signed the plan documents

  • The dates eligible employees will be invited to the plan via email

  • The date the plan begins and when employees will be automatically enrolled into the plan

  • The date of your first payroll with contributions

  • The date the contributions will be invested into the individual employees’ chosen portfolios

Roster tab: The Roster tab at the top right of your dashboard will show you all the participant information for your plan including the following:

  • Name

  • Eligibility status

  • Status of the email invitation

  • Account number

  • Investment portfolio

  • Balance

  • Vested match amount (if applicable)

  • Vested profit sharing/nonelective amount (if applicable)

  • Compensation type

You can also add owners and manually send email invitations to participants on the Roster page, as well.

Activity tab: The Activity tab is located at the top of your dashboard and shows all events that happen in your plan as well as the tasks history for your plan.

Reports tab: The Reports tab can be found at the top of your dashboard and is where you can find all reports regarding your 401(k) plan, including:

  • Contribution Report

  • Annual Reports

  • Deferral Rates Report

  • Participant Balance Report

  • Plan Roster Report

  • Participant Loan Report

  • Invoice History

Help Center: At the top of your dashboard, you will find a link to our Help Center, which is a robust library of helpful resources, FAQs, and important information. You can navigate to a specific section or type keywords into the search bar to pull up relevant articles. The Help Center is also available to your employees and offers key information about retirement basics, getting started with their Guideline accounts, and other essential information.

Top right corner drop down menu under your company’s name:

Payroll: This is where you will find your current payroll information, including your payroll provider, last payroll run, and payroll schedule. Here, you can change your payroll provider if needed. To change your payroll provider, please click on the “Change provider” button. Once on that page, please follow the instructions to change your payroll provider.

Resource Library: The Resource Library is where you can find resources and documents pertaining to your plan. It is broken down into two sections:

  • Help Resources: Here you will find another link to our Help Center as well as a Video Library, which offers helpful videos you can share with your employees.

  • Your Documents: This section holds all of the documents that pertain to your plan. This includes the adoption agreement, the basic plan document, service agreements, forms and templates, conversion documents (if applicable), any notice and disclosures, etc. Additionally, the Shared Files section is where you can upload important documents that you wish to share with our support teams.

Compliance: The Compliance section shows your nondiscrimination testing information. This includes a compliance test summary, showing if you are passing or failing the IRS-required compliance tests. It will also display a testing warning or show if something needs your attention to be fixed or updated. Additionally, within this section, you can find a compliance data summary to make sure we have all the company and employee information we need. Click here to learn more about 401(k) compliance testing.

Settings: This section shares the general information for your plan, such as how your plan is set up here at Guideline, your pre-existing plan if you have one, your pricing details, as well as your payroll provider. The settings area will also be where you can add or manage collaborators for your plan, update company information, manage your payment methods and see your login information for your Benefit Trust Company account.

First contributions

First contributions will occur for the first pay date following the plan start date. For example, if your plan has a 15th and end-of-month pay date schedule, and the plan start date is June 21, your first pay date with contributions will be at the end of the month. Be sure to process this payroll at least 1 day after your plan start date. This will ensure first contributions are captured correctly.


Why did my contributions not occur?
This is more than likely because you processed payroll before your plan start date. Send us an email and let us know your contributions were not processed and attach a payroll journal. We can work with you to correct the missed contributions.

How do I know when my first pay date with contributions will occur?
Your first payroll with contributions is listed in your plan timeline in your dashboard under “First Payday with Contributions.” We calculated this by finding your first pay date after the plan start date. Your plan start date is also listed in the plan timeline under “Automatic Enrollment.”

Do I need to process payroll differently for our first contributions?
Check out this article in our Help Center to find out more.

Automatic enrollment

Guideline plans include an automatic contribution feature. With this feature, eligible employees are automatically enrolled in their employer-sponsored Guideline 401(k) plan if they don’t either self-enroll or opt-out by their auto-enrollment date. The default contribution rate is set in the plan document and is always a pre-tax traditional 401(k) contribution.

Employees are free to opt out or modify their contribution rate at any time.

Here are some helpful links to explore this beneficial feature:


Can changes be made to the automatic enrollment feature?
All Guideline plans are set up with an automatic enrollment feature, and this feature cannot be removed from your plan design. You can, however, modify your plan’s default contribution rate, although there are specific timing requirements. Depending on the type of automatic enrollment your plan has, the lowest default contribution rate you can elect is 1% or 3% and the maximum is 15%. Reminding employees to self-enroll or opt out of the plan is encouraged if you are concerned about employees getting auto-enrolled. Their plan invitations also mention this and provide the date they must take action by.

If it comes up…

Why do we need dismissed participant information?

This is an attempt to get accurate information for auditing purposes, but is not always necessary for those with no account balance. If you do not have the information being asked for within the “Provide missing information for dismissed employees” task, you can click into each individual task and select “No,” letting us know that you do not have the requested information and the task will be removed. If the dismissed employee was employed while the 401(k) plan was active, we will require their employment information. Please note, if we do not have dismissed participant information, you may be required to contact individuals with account balances directly to communicate required plan information or changes and provide any required notices.

Why are my dismissed employees syncing to Guideline and appearing eligible?

To be “dismissed” in Guideline, individuals need to be marked as terminated and have a termination date listed in your payroll account. Once this information is updated in your payroll, allow 24 hours for the systems to sync and you will notice these individuals will be updated to the dismissed status.

Why is my activity feed inaccurate?

The Activity Feed that appears in your dashboard is static and does not update with changes you make (for example, marking someone dismissed, etc.), so the data might not reflect corrections or adjustments made to your plan. We recommend that you look at the Roster tab for the most up-to-date information. Note that you can sort by “Status of employee” here as well to gauge who is eligible, ineligible, or dismissed.

Can you explain the billing process?

Check out this article in our Help Center to find out more.

What pricing tier is my plan in?
You can view your plan’s pricing on your monthly billing emails or in your Guideline Services Agreement under the Fee Schedule section. This document can be found by clicking on the dropdown in the top-right corner, selecting Resource Library, then going to Your Plan Information.

Conversion process from prior provider to Guideline

This section is only applicable for plans converting to Guideline from another 401(k) provider. If you are starting a new 401(k) here at Guideline, please skip this section.

While we get your plan ready here at Guideline, we can start the transfer process to get the assets from your prior provider transferred to your Guideline account.

The asset transfer process from your prior provider can take up to 90 days to complete, but the timing can vary depending on your prior provider’s conversion process. Please click here to be taken to a conversion process document going over the step-by-step instructions to complete the transfer of assets. Please reach out to your Onboarding Specialist at any time if you need assistance.

After you have completed the onboarding process

Congratulations! You have completed the onboarding process for your plan here at Guideline. Please see below for other helpful information for your plan moving forward.

Guideline timelines

  • Compensation collection task (Q4-Q1)

  • Pre-Guideline Activity Task *conversion plans only

  • Profit share (Q1-Q2) *optional

  • Compliance corrections (Q2) *not all plans will have a compliance correction task

  • True ups (Q3) * conversion plans if applicable, and those who have contributions from owner’s draws done in the previous year

  • Form 5500 (Q2-Q3)

(*Estimates and subject to change)

Compensation collection task

At the beginning of each calendar year, we send out a task for sponsors to report owner and employee compensation for the plan year. The task is labeled “Provide your [prior year] employee compensation and owners’ self-employment income amounts.” It is sent out to all plans except integrated plans where all eligible participants are W-2 employees.

In the compensation task, you will need to review employee ownership, report self-employed owner’s income, and submit employee compensation for the previous year.

Profit sharing

If you are in our Flex or Enterprise tier pricing, you will be able to make a profit sharing contribution starting in Q1 of the following year for the prior year. For example, a plan that has a pro-rata (comp to comp) profit sharing feature for 2022 will be able to process the profit sharing contribution in Q1 of 2023 and this will apply for the 2022 plan year.

Please note that Enterprise tier plans that have a new comparability profit sharing feature must also have a safe harbor non-elective contribution feature at a 3% minimum contribution rate. Profit sharing contributions must be made prior to your business’ tax filing deadline in order to be deductible for the plan year it is applicable for. Guideline will publish a Profit Sharing task on your Guideline administrator dashboard in Q1 after receiving your compensation data. Requests will be processed through November, based on your filing deadline (extension dates in parentheses):

  • Partnership, LLC partnership, and S-corporation - March 15 (Sept 15)

  • C-corporation & Sole proprietor - April 15 (October 15)

  • Tax-exempt organization - May 15 (November 15)

Keep in mind: If your plan is a safe harbor plan, generally you will satisfy the Top Heavy requirements if the safe harbor contribution is the only employer contribution made for the plan year. If you make a profit sharing contribution in addition to your safe harbor contribution, the top-heavy test will apply, and you may be required to make additional top-heavy minimum contributions if the plan is top-heavy.

What you will need to initiate a profit sharing contribution:

  • Your employee compensation task needs to be completed

  • The total tax-deductible profit sharing contribution amount

  • The bank account, and what day you want the amount to be withdrawn

To learn more about profit sharing formulas, see here or schedule a call with our team to discuss your options.

Compliance testing and compliance correction task

Depending on when your plan started with Guideline and if the plan fails nondiscrimination compliance testing at the end of the year will determine if a correction task will be released in the Guideline Administrator dashboard in Q2.

To review the status of your annual non-discrimination testing, login to the Guideline administrator dashboard, click the company name in the upper right corner, and navigate to Compliance. The dashboard is updated daily and provides projections on how the plan will likely do at the end of the year.

It is important to note here that new plans that fail the Top Heavy testing in their first year will generally fail for their second year as well. We suggest contacting a Client Relationship Manager to discuss your options if your plan falls into this category.

Suggested reading:

*Note for safe harbor plans that make a profit sharing contribution: the profit sharing and safe harbor contribution will count toward the top-heavy minimum contribution if the plan fails the top-heavy test but the plan could still owe additional contributions to correct the failure.

Schedule a call with our team to discuss compliance testing or safe harbor.


Please note that an annual true-up is not a service that Guideline offers other than when it is required for conversion plans. You will not be able to add a true-up provision to your Guideline plan.

However, plans that have an entity type of sole proprietorship, LLC, or Partnership LLC with owners that have self-employment income and also contributed from owner’s draws throughout the year will have an applicable matching contribution“trued-up” in the following

Guideline will send an email to notify the plan before processing any applicable true-ups.

Form 5500

When is the Form 5500 due?
Form 5500 filings will be completed annually by the July 31 deadline, except when there’s an extension, in which case they will be completed by the October 15 deadline. All plans will receive an email notification when the Form 5500 is filed.

Does Guideline handle Form 5500 filings?
Guideline’s services include preparation and electronic filing of the Form 5500 at no added cost as long as contributions were made to your Guideline plan prior to the end of the filing year and required information is provided to Guideline in a timely manner. For example, if you started with Guideline this year, Guideline will not prepare or file last year’s Form 5500. If you transferred your plan to Guideline earlier this year, and need to file your Form 5500 for the previous plan year, you should work with your prior administrator to file your report.

If we are preparing your Form 5500, we will do so by the extended deadline. Please note that only the plan administrator can sign the Form 5500 (which is Guideline for all non-self-service plans). If Guideline is not the plan administrator (applicable to self-service plans), the plan trustee must review and sign the Form 5500. In some cases, even if Guideline is the plan administrator, we may send you a copy of the Form 5500 prior to filing for review. You can learn more about the filing deadline here.

What is needed from me?
In most cases, Guideline will have the information about your plan needed to prepare and file the Form 5500. However, you are responsible for providing additional information requested by Guideline that is needed for the preparation.

If your current plan is transferring to Guideline, all assets must be transferred by May 1 of the following year in order for Guideline to file the Form 5500 for the applicable plan year (e.g. for 2023 Form 5500 filings, Guideline must have all plan assets by May 1, 2024).

If you transferred your plan to Guideline in the middle of the reporting year, you will need to maintain accurate and complete plan records to provide to Guideline for Form 5500 preparation.

You may also be asked to review and certify the accuracy of the Form 5500 information prior to filing. Check out our Form 5500 FAQ for additional details.

Everything in this article is meant to support you through your journey here at Guideline.

However, if you have questions or need help in any way, feel free to check out our full sponsor or participant Help Center or contact our sponsor support team. Thank you, and happy saving! 🌟

The information provided herein is general in nature and is for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for specific tax, legal and/or financial advice that considers all relevant facts and circumstances. You are advised to consult a qualified financial adviser or tax professional before relying on the information provided herein.

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