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2017 plan year reporting forms have higher penalties and other changes
Advance copies of 2017 plan year Form 5500 and instructions reflect an increase in the maximum civil penalty amount assessable under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), among other changes.
Form 5500 and required schedules and attachments are used to report the financial conditions, investments and operations of employee benefit plans, including retirement and savings plans (such as defined benefit pension plans, defined contribution 401(k)-type plans, profit-sharing and stock bonus plans) and health and welfare plans (such as medical, dental, life insurance and disability benefit plans).
The U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) released the
advance informational copies of the 2017 Form 5500 and
related instructions at the end of November 2017. For smaller filers, advance short form (SF) copies of
2017 Form 5500-Short Form (SF) and
2017 Instructions for Form 5500–SF also were released, along with
supplemental materials including schedules and attachments.
"Be aware that the advance copies of the 2017 Form 5500 are for informational purposes only and cannot be used to file a 2017 Form 5500 annual return/report," said Danielle Capilla, senior vice president of compliance and operations at United Benefit Advisors (UBA), a network of independent employee benefits advisory organizations.
Official electronic versions will be available on the federal government's
EFAST website in early 2018. Filers should monitor the EFAST website in January for availability of the official electronic versions, Capilla advised.
Form 5500 annual return/report filing
is due the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends, with an optional two-and-a-half-month extension. For plans that follow a calendar year, Form 5500 for the prior year is due on July 31, with an extension available to Oct. 15.
Filings are made using EFAST-approved software or directly through the EFAST website.
Any administrator or sponsor of an employee benefit plan subject to ERISA must file information about each benefit plan every year. A small plan (generally one with fewer than 100 participants at the beginning of the plan year) may be eligible to file Form 5500-SF instead of Form 5500.
Some retirement plans and many welfare benefit plans with fewer than 100 participants are exempt from filing an annual return/report under certain conditions, as detailed in the section of the forms' instructions "Plans Exempt from Filing."
[SHRM members-only HR Q&As:
What is Form 5500, and where are instructions for completing it?]
The instructions for plan year 2017 reporting highlight several modifications to the forms and schedules:
Among other changes for 2017 filings:
Consultants, agents, CPAs and law offices often assist in preparing the 5500 filing but "it is important to note, however, that the sole responsibility for the filing falls on the employer," advised Gary B. Kushner, president and CEO of Kushner & Co., a benefits advisory based in Portage, Mich.
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