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Filing Requirements

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires the plan administrator of certain ERISA plans to file an "annual report" with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) containing specific plan information.  The Form 5500 and related schedules satisfy that requirement.  Typically, plans must submit the Form 5500 and related schedules by the last day of the seventh calendar month after the end of the plan year. For calendar year plans, this means the Form 5500 is due by July 31, 2018, unless an extension has been filed.

For welfare benefit plans, Form 5500 reports must be filed for both fully insured and self-insured plans.  Welfare benefit plans include, but are not limited to, health plans, dental plans, vision plans, disability plans, life insurance plans, accidental death and dismemberment plans and certain employee assistance programs. Small welfare plans that are unfunded or insured are exempt. To qualify for the small plan exemption, the plan must have fewer than 100 covered participants at the beginning of the plan year.

ERISA places responsibility for filing Form 5500 on the plan administrator.  Contracting with a third party to prepare the Form 5500 does not relieve the plan administrator of its responsibilities or applicable liabilities.

Electronic Filing

The DOL requires that all Form 5500s for the Plan Year 2009 and later must be filed electronically through EFAST2. This includes any prior year delinquent or amended reports.  EFAST2 is an all-electronic system designed by the DOL, IRS, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to simplify and expedite the submission, receipt and processing of the Form 5500 and Form 5500-SF.

Penalties for Noncompliance

The DOL has the authority under ERISA to assess penalties of up to $2,140 per day for each day an administrator fails or refuses to file a complete Form 5500.  The penalties may be waived if the noncompliance was due to reasonable cause.  In addition, ERISA provides for criminal penalties for willful violations of its reporting requirements.

Reduced Penalties- if your welfare plan is late in filing, or your plan never filed a 5500 form because you were not aware that your plan had to do so, the DOL's correction program, the Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program is available to file late forms with reduced penalties.  However, this program cannot be used once the DOL finds the employer's error through an audit or investigation.

Summary Annual Report (SAR)

A summary of the Form 5500 information must be furnished automatically to participants each year that an annual Form 5500 is filed (except for totally unfunded plans, regardless of size).  The SAR must be prepared and delivered to participants and beneficiaries who receive SPDs.  The plan administrator generally must provide the SAR within nine months of the close of the plan year.  If an extension of the time to file the Form 5500 is obtained, the plan administrator must furnish the SAR within two months after the close of the extension period. 


Links and Resources

*The DOL's Reporting and Disclosure Guide foe Employee Benefit Plans

*The EBSA's Form 5500 Series Website (includes links to forms and instructions.)

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