Regulatory: 5500: What is Form 5500, and where are instructions for completing it?

Jul 14, 2017
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The Form 5500 Series is part of Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s (ERISA) reporting and disclosure framework inte​nded to ensure that employee benefits plans are operated and managed in accordance with prescribed standards. In addition, it ensures that participants and beneficiaries, as well as regulators, are provided or have access to sufficient information to protect the rights and benefits of participants and beneficiaries under the covered employee benefits plans. All qualified retirement plans, 403(b) plans subject to ERISA, and health and welfare plans covering more than 100 participants are subject to filing the Form 5500, and it must be done electronically. See FAQs: EFAST2 Electronic Filing System.

The Annual Return/Report 5500 Series Forms and Instructions to be used by employee benefits plans consist of one form, plus four schedules for pensions and six schedules for financials. Form 5500 and its accompanying schedules must be filed with the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) on or before the last day of the seventh month following the close of the plan year. This is generally July 31 for calendar-year plans.

Penalties for noncompliance are stiff and can include the following:

  • A fine of up to $2,063 a day (adjusted annually) for each day a plan administrator fails or refuses to file a complete and accurate report.
  • A fine of $25 a day (up to $15,000) for not filing returns for certain plans of deferred compensation, trusts and annuities, and bond purchase plans by the due date(s).
  • A fine of $1,000 for not filing an actuarial statement (Schedule MB or SB) required by the applicable instructions.
  • A fine of $100,000, imprisonment up to 10 years or both for willfully violating any provision of ERISA.
  • A fine of $10,000, five years’ imprisonment or both for making any false statement or representation of fact or for knowingly concealing or not disclosing any fact required by ERISA.
There is a delinquent filer voluntary compliance program designed to encourage voluntary compliance with the annual reporting requirements. The program gives delinquent plan administrators a way to avoid potentially higher civil penalty assessments by satisfying the program’s requirements and voluntarily paying a reduced penalty amount.

In addition, EBSA offers FAQs on EFAST electronic filing.
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