What is the Form 5500 series (Form 5500/SF/EZ) filing requirements for my plan?
The Form 5500 Series is documentation designed to satisfy the annual reporting requirements under Title I and Title IV of The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code. By completing and filing the correct version of Form 5500, organizations provide the government with key details about their plan’s financial condition, investments, and operations. The objective is to ensure that employee contributions and investments remain protected.
Generally, any business that sponsors a retirement plan must file a Form 5500 each year that the plan holds assets.
The three variations of the form are as follows:
IRS Form 5500 applies to private sector businesses providing plans to 100 or more participants. It must be filed electronically using the DOL ERISA Filing Acceptance System (EFAST2).
This shortened version of Form 5500 form applies to companies that sponsor plans with fewer than 100 participants. It, too, must be filed electronically using the EFAST2 system.
One-participant plans that cover a business owner and a spouse, but no other employees, may require Form 5500-EZ. If the total plan assets are $250,000 or less, filing is not necessary. Those who do have to file Form 5500-EZ can now do so electronically.
When is the 5500 due?
The Form 5500 filings are due the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends, or typically July 31 for a calendar-year plan (or the following business day if July 31 falls on a weekend).
If you know the Form 5500 series filing will not be filed in a timely matter, an one-time automatic extension for filing Form 5500 (Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan) may be obtained by filing Form 5558 (Application for Extension of Time to File Certain Employee Plan Returns) on or before the regular Form 5500 due date, which is seven months after the end of the plan year. Filing Form 5558 will extend the due date to 2-1/2 months beyond the regular deadline. For example, a calendar-year plan’s filing deadline is July 31; with the extension, it is October 15. A copy of the completed and filed Form 5558 should be retained in your plan records.
Does a 5500 need to be filed for a terminated plan?
Yes, terminated plans with assets are still required to file a Form 5500 series annually, including the year in which final assets have been distributed from the plan. Documenting terminated plans is part of compliance during annual reporting.
Note: the due date for the final Form 5500 is the last day of the seventh month after the later of the date the plan was terminated or the date the trust was liquidated.
How much are 5500 late filing penalties?
Late filers of Form 5500 can be penalized twice — both from the IRS and the DOL. The IRS penalties for a late filing without notice or a qualified extension are $250 per day, up to a maximum of $150,000. If that weren't enough, the DOL civil penalties are up to $2,400 (increasing to $2,586 for late 2023 filings) per day with no maximum.
How is the 5500 filed and what is EFAST2?
The DOL requires that all Form 5500 series filings be filed electronically using its EFAST2 program.
The ERISA Filing Acceptance System II (EFAST2) is a web-based system that was designed to process the Form 5500 filings submitted over the Internet starting in 2010. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 requires DOL to electronically disclose basic information contained in those filings on its website. EFAST2 receives and displays Forms 5500 Series Annual Returns/Reports. You can use the DOL search engine to identify Form 5500 and 5500-SF filings received by EFAST2.
EFAST2 electronic user credentials must be obtained to submit Form 5500 filings. Our office has these credentials, and we can electronically e-file the 5500 on your behalf at no cost. When Form 5500 is ready for submission, we will provide you with a Filing Authorization Form and a copy of the completed Form 5500. You will need to print both forms, manually sign and date as indicated, then scan both forms and return a copy (of both forms) to us by email. It should be noted, the DOL does not accept PDF stamps or electronic signatures on these forms. The signatures on these forms must be “manual wet” signatures. A wet signature is a term to describe the process of physically signing (with your own hand) a document with a pen and ink.
Finally, the original signed and dated Filing Authorization Form and Form 5500 should be kept at your office with the plan records.
How can I get a copy of a previously filed IRS Form 5500 series for my retirement Plan?
First, check with the third-party administrator (TPA). Otherwise, you can obtain IRS Form 5500 for a prior plan year at the DOL website (www.efast.dol.gov/5500search/). The DOL search engine identifies Form 5500 and 5500-SF filings received by EFAST2. However, effective March 23, 2023, only the latest filing for a plan year will be provided in the Form 5500 Series Search results. If you need help with the process, contact support or your senior plan consultant.