With the start of 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has converted to a total electronic system for online filing of Forms 5500 and the new 5500-Short Form. The all-electronic EFAST2 system lets benefit plan administrators submit and access filings online at www.efast.dol.gov.
Form 5500, Form 5500-SF and any required attachments are filed each year by more than 1 million retirement and other employee benefit plans to satisfy annual reporting requirements under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code. DOL, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) created the EFAST system to streamline the filing and processing of these forms.
“Now that the EFAST2 system is operational, the federal government and public will for the first time have real time, online access to financial information about private-sector employee benefit plans,” said Phyllis C. Borzi, assistant secretary of the DOL's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) in a statement.
The revised EFAST web site has been updated to provide filers with a variety of tools and guidance, including the 2009 and 2010 Form 5500 and new Form 5500-SF schedules and instructions, frequently asked questions, user guides and a tutorial. Filers and preparers can register for an account, complete the required forms and schedules online in multiple sessions, print a copy for their records and submit it at no cost.
Filers may use EFAST2-approved software to complete and submit their filings. EFAST2-approved software is expected to be easier to use and provide more value-added features than an earlier government web application. A list of EFAST2-approved software is available on the web site above.
Filers must submit the 2009 and 2010 annual return/report forms and schedules electronically through EFAST2. Prior year delinquent and amended Form 5500 filings now must be filed electronically, although timely 2008 plan year filings may be filed through the original EFAST on paper until Oct. 15, 2010, or electronically through June 30, 2010.
According to David Wray, president of the Profit Sharing/401k Council of America (PSCA), plan sponsors should be prepared for both content changes in Form 5500 and the new filing procedure—and recognize that more sponsor involvement will be required.
"From early tests it appears that the new filing system will work and that sponsors will be able to rely on their recordkeepers and TPAs [third-party administers] to submit the report using the new approach," Wray noted in a recent blog post. "Nevertheless, as both the content and filing changes will result in processes very different from the past, it is important than sponsors contact their recordkeepers and TPAs soon to discuss the Form 5500 filing process with them."
A video on electronic filing is available on the EBSA web site. In addition, EBSA provides assistance with the EFAST2 system and Forms 5500 and 5500-SF toll-free at 1-866-463-3278.
Important changes regarding filing for 2009 and 2010 Forms 5500 and 5500-SF include:
• Mandatory electronic filing.
• Introduction of the new, two-page Form 5500-SF for eligible small plan filers.
• Expanded disclosure on Schedule C of indirect service provider compensation.
• Expanded reporting by Code section 403(b) plans.
• Removal of IRS Schedules E and SSA. Information on participants with deferred vested benefits who separated from the service covered by the plan now must be filed directly with the IRS.
Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Be Prepared for the New Form 5500: More Sponsor Involvement Will Be Required, Profit Sharing/401k Council of America, January 2010
SHRM Online Benefits Discipline