The deadline to file Form 5500 – Annual Report of Employee Benefit Plan is July 31, 2016. The Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation jointly developed the Form 5500-series returns for employee benefit plans to satisfy annual reporting requirements under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code.

Which Plans Are Required to File a Form 5500?

Under Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974, any welfare benefit plan sponsor with 100 or more participants (as of the beginning of the plan year) is required to file an annual Form 5500.  Sponsors with fewer than 100 participants are not required to file an annual Form 5500 unless the plan’s benefits are funded through as trust.  Welfare benefit plans are plans that provide benefits such as medical, dental, life, vision, disability, accident, severance pay, apprenticeship and training, and certain employee assistance programs. Some welfare plans may be exempt from filing based on legal structure of the plan sponsor, for example, a governmental or church plan under ERISA section 3(33).

Plan Schedules

In addition to the Form 5500, plan sponsors may need to file certain schedules depending on the funding and insurance contracts of the plan. If the plan includes an insurance contract, the plan sponsor will generally receive information from the insurance company for the completion of Schedule A, Insurance Information, which reports commissions, fees, and premiums received by the insurance providers. Sponsors with self-insured plans may receive information from service providers to complete Schedule C, Service Provider Information, which reports direct and indirect fees received by the service providers.

How to file

Electronic filing Through the Department of Labor: Form 5500 series.

When to File

Form 5500 and any related schedules are due seven months following the end of the plan year, which is the contract year unless a plan document specifies a different plan year end.  If a plan sponsor cannot meet this filing deadline, an automatic extension of two and a half months is available by completing Form 5558, Application for Extension of Time to File Certain Employee Plan Returns.

Failure to File – Penalties

There can be significant penalties for failing to file a Form 5500.  Plan sponsors can be assessed penalties of up to $1,100 for each plan and for each day they fail or refuse to file a complete report subject to certain maximum penalty amounts.  However, there is substantial relief available.   If a plan sponsor is delinquent with its filings, the Department of Labor Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance (DFVC) Program permits the plan sponsor to pay substantially reduced penalties (maximum of $4,000 per plan regardless of number of years the filing is delinquent) for voluntarily complying with their Department of Labor annual reporting obligations.

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