The IRS requires that retirement plan sponsors file a Form 5500 by the end of the seventh month following the close of the previous plan year. Thus, if a plan is operating on a calendar year, the form would be due on July 31. However, in 2021, July 31 is a Saturday; when that date falls on a weekend, the form is due on the next business day. Plan sponsors also have the option of extending the deadline for 2½ months to October 15 (for calendar year end plans) by filing a Form 5558 Application for Extension of Time to File. A little background surrounding this required form is helpful to most plan sponsors.

Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) (the federal law that governs retirement and welfare plans [(e.g., health, life and disability plans)], the Department of Labor (DOL), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) all impose an annual report requirement on employee benefit plans. However, substantial overlap exists between the responsibility and jurisdiction with respect to the different types of plans. For example, most retirement plans are subject to both a DOL and IRS annual report filing requirement. The IRS, DOL and PBGC have consolidated their annual report into a single form – Form 5500. Therefore, if a plan is subject to annual reporting from more than one of the government agencies, it can satisfy the annual reporting requirements by filing a single Form 5500 with the DOL. The DOL then makes the information available to the other government agencies. The Form 5500 provides the government with its principal source of information to: (1) regulate retirement and welfare plans, and (2) identify plans for audits and investigations. The government uses the information from the Form 5500 not only for regulation purposes, but it also uses the information to establish and modify government tax, economic and social policy.

The DOL has the primary responsibility for processing the Form 5500. The DOL provides a Form 5500 with nine schedules. The schedules the plan sponsor includes with its filing depend on the type of plan and the plan features. The DOL utilizes electronic procedures for filing a Form 5500. Generally, all plans must file electronically (EFAST2). Under EFAST2, a preparer either will use a private software program or the DOL’s web-based system to prepare the Form 5500 and schedules. Greenleaf Trust uses a software program for our preparation of Form 5500 and schedules.

For companies with fewer than 100 employees, 5500-SF (Short Form) is available. For those with 100 or more employees the standard Form 5500 is required with multiple schedules and needs to have an independent audit conducted. The main portion of the form reports the overall financial assets in the plan at the start of the year and breaks down the allocation by investment type (mutual funds, etc.), the movement of assets throughout the plan year (contributions, distributions, earnings, etc.) and the assets at the end of the plan year. In addition, large plans have to submit additional schedules that are specific to identifying service providers (e.g. independent auditors, recordkeepers) and fees paid to each of these service providers.

While the plan sponsor is ultimately responsible for signing and filing Form 5500, in most cases, the recordkeeping analysts in our Retirement Plan Division at Greenleaf Trust are responsible to prepare the form and schedules for our clients. We have the knowledge and experience to ensure that the form is completed accurately and timely for our clients and are happy to provide this valuable service. Please contact any one of our Retirement Plan Division team members if there are further questions regarding this filing requirement.