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What is the ERISA Form 5500?

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 EFAST2 Filing.

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 are adjusted annually for inflation. For 2019 penalty amounts, see U.S. DOL EBSA Fact Sheet.

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.


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