Plan Sponsors: How to File Form 5500

What Is Form 5500?

Form 5500 communicates important information about an employer’s benefit plans to the IRS and the Department of Labor each year. It ensures compliance with federal regulations that were put in place in order to protect employees and their beneficiaries.

Who Files Form 5500?

This form is filed by the sponsor of a plan or other arrangement that is subject to ERISA (the Employee Retirement Information Security Act of 1974), including:

  • Profit sharing plans
  • 401(k) plans
  • Money purchase plans
  • Stock bonus plans

There are other plans that also need to file Form 5500, including welfare benefit plans that provide medical, dental and life insurance, as well as severance pay.

Where to File Form 5500

The Form 5500 is made easier by the fact that it is filed electronically using the EFAST2 system.

How to File Form 5500

The biggest key to filling out Form 5500 is to be thorough and ensure that absolutely all required fields are filled in before submission.

Form 5500 consists of a main form and a variety of schedules and attachments that accompany it. The form displays both the characteristics of each the plan you offer as well as how it operates.

To start, you’ll complete the main part of the form – two pages of standard information about your plan:

  • Name and effective date
  • Sponsor and administrator information
  • Number of participants at the end of the year
  • Source of plan funding
  • Plan benefits

You’ll also be asked to outline which schedules you’ve attached to your form and a variety of specific attributes of the plan.

Because a variety of different filers need to submit a 5500, you’ll need to evaluate which schedules are necessary for you, resulting in different lengths of supplementary information.

Form 5500 also requests big-picture information about your organization, including the insurance you carry and your financial situation (usually described in an Accountant’s Report) and a breakdown of financial transactions.

Double-checking the form and working with a knowledgeable retirement plan professional can help avoid errors in your Form 5500.

Form 5500 FAQs

Where Can You Find Form 5500?

  • Go to the Form 5500 Corner on the IRS website for a link to the form and instructions. The Form 5500 Corner also contains important information and updates regarding the Form.
  • To find and review your plan’s current 5500 form, check with your plan’s investment provider or ask the Third-Party Administrator (TPA) who operates the plans that your organization offers.
  • You can find past Form 5500 filings as far back as 2010 using the search engine at the Department of Labor website for 5500 and 5500-SF.

How to File Form 5500

Rather than through physical forms, the 5500 form is filed through an electronic system known as EFAST2.

When Is Form 5500 Due?

The filing deadline is last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends (July 31 for a calendar-year plan).

There are extensions available but Form 5558 for extensions must be submitted on time.

Are there penalties for not filing Form 5500?

Yes — both the IRS and the DOL charge major late fees for not filing this form, and it is unlikely that you’ll be notified promptly because of a missed form. There are allowances for those who realize before they are notified and voluntarily file their missing form 5500, but those fees are still substantial: $750 for small 401(k)s and $2000 for large ones.

Understand your filing requirements and get the help you need long before the deadline to make sure you remain in compliance, avoid expensive audits, and avoid thousands of dollars of late fees.

The Retirement Advantage: Here to Help

As one of the leading TPA’s for retirement plans and other benefits, we at The Retirement Advantage are experts on Form 5500. Click here to watch a short tutorial and learn more!


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