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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find submitted Form 5500 filings to confirm they were successful and to view going forward?

The Department of Labor created an easy to use website where you just need to enter the plan sponsor name or EIN to locate all 5500 filings submitted for that sponsor. Note that this site was created to post 2009 plan year filings and future filings. If you submitted any prior year filings, they will not appear on this site. Here is the link: Form 5500/5500-SF Filing Search

To obtain prior to the 2009 plan year filings (without attachments) you can register on this site: FreeERISA.

A confirmation will be sent back to you shortly after you register. You can locate Form 5500 filings for the past few years (e.g. 2008, 2007) on this site, however, the auditor’s report and other attachments will not be shown.

How do I enter special characters such as asterisk into the Plan Name, Sponsor Name, Administrator Name and/or DFE Name fields?

Only certain special characters are allowed to be entered under EFAST2.

For example, the Plan Name and the Plan Transfer Name fields allow only unaccented letters, numbers, hashes, hyphens, slashes, commas, periods, parentheses, ampersands, apostrophes and single spaces. Leading spaces, trailing spaces, adjacent spaces and other characters are currently invalid for these fields.

Additionally, the Sponsor/DFE Name, the Administrator Name, the Insurance Carrier Name, and Contributing Employer Name fields contain similar restrictions on valid characters. The only allowable characters for these fields are letters, numbers, commas, periods, hyphens, slashes, ampersands, apostrophes, percents, or single spaces. All other characters are currently invalid for these fields.

For Plan Year 2011 returns, the list of allowable special characters for names will expand to include asterisks, parenthesis, and @ symbols. In the interim, you must omit special characters that cause a field to be deemed invalid in order to submit your Return.

I only received one file from my IQPA containing both the signed Accountant’s Opinion and the supporting Financial Statements. Do I need to separate this file into the AO Attachment and the Financial Statements Attachment?

The EFAST2 system checks that certain attachments required by the Form 5500 Instructions are included in a filing. Attachments must be included using the proper “tag” for the attachment. Ideally each required attachment should be its own file and attached to your electronic filing with the proper “tag.” If you do not include a required attachment or use an incorrect “tag,” you may get an error or warning message from the EFAST2 system that you did not include a required attachment. The Section 5.10 of the IFILE Users Guide provides a map of attachments with the “tag” used by EFAST2.

If your IQPA report contains both the signed Accountant’s Opinion and the supporting audit report and financial statements, you do not need to separate the document. You may upload the entire IQPA report into the “AO” Attachment “tag” as a single PDF file.

However, if your Return requires the submission of a Schedule of Assets or a Schedule of Reportable Transactions, you must upload these documents separately into the appropriate attachment “tag.” If you must file both schedules but do not have separate files, you may wish to either:

  1. Upload the same combined file into each of the required attachment type tags. You need to be careful doing this though because if your completed Form 5500 is very large (contains upwards of 100 pages of attachments in total), you will likely have difficulty transmitting the filing to EFAST2 due to the total size of the file.
  2. Create a separate page with a brief statement that the required Schedule of Assets and/or Schedule of Reportable Transactions is included in the Accountant’s audit report attachment, and upload that document where you would otherwise upload the Schedule of Assets and/or Schedule of Reportable Transactions, using the appropriate tag(s) for those attachment(s).

I only received one file from my actuary. Do I need to separate this file into the various attachments needed for the Schedule MB or SB?

If your Return requires the submission of the following attachments, you must upload these documents separately into the appropriate attachment “tag” otherwise EFAST2 may generate an error message which you would see when you check the accuracy or status of the filing.

  • Schedule of Funding Standard Account Bases
  • Summary of Plan Provisions
  • Statement of Actuarial Assumptions/Methods
  • Balances Subject to Binding Agreement with PBGC
  • Description of Weighted Average Retirement Age
  • Alternative 17-Year Funding Schedule for Airlines
  • Information on Use of Substitute Mortality Tables
  • Change in Actuarial Assumptions
  • Schedule of Active Participant Data
  • Change in Method
  • Schedule of Amortization Bases
  • Additional Information for Plans in At-Risk Status
  • Illustration Supporting Actuarial Certification of Status
  • Actuarial Certification of Status
  • Summary of Funding Improvement Plan
  • Summary of Rehabilitation Plan
  • Reorganization Status Explanation
  • Reorganization Status Worksheet
  • Justification for Change in Actuarial Assumptions
  • Schedule MB/SB in PDF format
  • Schedule MB and Schedule SB Statement by Enrolled Actuary

If you do not have software capable of splitting the file apart or cannot get separate files from your actuary, you may create separate documents with a brief statement that the required attachment is included in the Actuary Statement file, and upload the document where you would otherwise upload the required attachment using the correct tag for that attachment.

Will the EFAST2 system still receive my filing if I do not attach the IQPA report with my Form 5500 annual return/report when it is required?

The EFAST2 system will receive your filing, but submitting the annual return/report without the required IQPA report is an incomplete filing, and the incomplete filing may be subject to further review, correspondence, rejection, and assessment of civil penalties. Also, if you do not submit the required IQPA report, you must still correctly answer the IQPA questions on Schedule H, line 3. This means you must leave lines 3a and 3b blank because the IQPA report is not attached and must also leave line 3d blank because the reason the IQPA reports is not attached (i.e., was not completed on time) is not a reason listed in any of the available check boxes. You should still complete line 3c if you can identify the plan’s IQPA. Please note that failing to include the required IQPA report and leaving parts of line 3 blank, however, will result in the system status indicating that there is an error with your filing because, as noted above, submitting your annual return/report without a required IQPA report is an incomplete filing, and the incomplete filing may be subject to further review, correspondence, rejection, and assessment of civil penalties. Thus, if you find it necessary to file a Form 5500 without the required IQPA report, you must correct that error as soon as possible.

If I am filing for an extension of time based on a request for an extension submitted on Form 5558 with the Internal Revenue Service, do I need to attach a copy of the Form 5558 to my Form 5500 or Form 5500-SF?

No – You do not need to attach a copy of the Form 5558 that was filed with the Internal Revenue Service to the annual return/report in EFAST2. You must, however, keep a copy of the Form 5558 that was filed with the Internal Revenue Service with the plan’s records.

On the Form 5500, for what purpose can I check the “Special extension” box?

You must only use the “Special Extension” box for extensions announced by the IRS, DOL, and PBGC such as presidentially-declared disasters or for service in, or in support of, the Armed Forces of the United States in a combat zone. (See the Form 5500 instructions for “Other Extensions Of Time To File” and Part I, Line C.)

Can I encrypt or password-protect the PDF files?

No. A PDF that has been encrypted or password protected to restrict editing, printing, or viewing cannot be included as an attachment in your filing. If you attempt to include such an attachment in your filing, EFAST2 will remove that PDF from your filing and you may receive an error indicating an attachment is missing.

If you are concerned about the authenticity or security of a PDF file, you can sign or certify the PDF with a digital ID. A PDF that has been signed/certified with a digital ID can be included as an attachment in your filing and successfully transmitted to EFAST2.

How do I turn an attachment into a PDF file?

Using software that will create a PDF file from another software application’s data file often provides the best quality PDF and small file size. There are many software options for creating PDFs by “saving as” a PDF file or “printing” to a PDF file rather than a printer. When you are creating a PDF file using such software, you often must have the application that created the original file installed on your computer. You can also create a PDF file by using other free and paid software programs that you may already be using on your personal computer, regardless of your operating system.

In order to avoid being erroneously identified as failing to file a required attachment, attachments must be right-side-up in the resulting PDF file. Filers who include attachments with sideways or upside-down pages may be targeted for missing attachments because the DOL compliance tools will not recognize that the required information was attached.

Do actuaries or accountants need to register for EFAST2 electronic filing signer credentials?

No. EFAST2 does not require EFAST2-issued electronic signature credentials for anything other than for filing and submitting the Form 5500 and Form 5500-SF.

However, the Schedule MB and Schedule SB, if required, must be completed, printed, and signed by the actuary. An electronic image of the signed Schedule MB or Schedule SB with the actuary’s signature must be attached to the annual return/report. The plan’s actuary is permitted to sign the Schedule MB/SB on page one using the actuary’s signature or by inserting the actuary’s typed name in the signature line followed by the actuary’s handwritten initials.

What can I do if I missed the Form 5500 due date and did not file a Form 5558 extension?

Sorry to hear you missed the due date; but there is still good news for you. The Department of Labor (DOL) has a great program for Plan Sponsors to come forward regarding their late filings called the Delinquent Filers Voluntaty Compliance Program (DFVCP). This program has been in effect many years but since its inception, the DOL has reduced the related fees even more. So whether you missed the filing’s original due date and did not submit an extension, or missed the extended due date, this program is the recommended way to go!

What are the DFVC Program’s Fees?

—Per filing” cap – maximum penalty for a single late annual report – $750 for a small and $2,000 for a large plan. —
—“Per plan” cap – limits the penalty to:  $1,500 for a small plan; and  $4,000 for a large plan.
“Per Day Fee” – The program has a $10 per day fee up to the number of days it adds up to the $750 or $2000. The number of days late must be counted starting with the plan’s original due date, not the extended due date, for filings that were extended.

What about IRS late fees?

The —IRS and PBGC  have agreed to provide certain penalty relief for delinquent Form 5500s filed for Title I plans where the conditions of the DFVCP have been satisfied.

Note – the DFVC Program does not apply to Form 5500-EZ filers since only the IRS can assess penalties on Form 5500-EZ. The IRS will consider a “reasonable cause” statement which explains why the return is late.

What other requirements does the DFVC Program have?

You most likely cannot use the DFVC Program if the DOL notifies you before you submit your filing(s) using this program. However, depending on the circumstances, you could contact them to see if they will make an exception.

The address where DFVC program remittances are submitted has been changed to:

DFVC DOL, PO Box 71361, Philadelphia, PA 19176-1361.

There is no overnight delivery address. Note that submissions to the DFVCP also can be done electronically. To do so, follow the DFVCP penalty calculator instructions for online payment.

Submissions made to the old address will be returned unopened to the filer.

Here are two links with more detailed information about the DFVC Program:

Overview – http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/0302fact_sheet.html

FAQ’s –  http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq_dfvc.html

When is the Form 5500 due?

The Form 5500 due date is the last day of the 7th month following the last day of the plan year. For example, the due date for a plan that has a calendar plan year (January 1 – December 31) is due on July 31. If the due date falls on a weekend, then it is moved to the next weekday. For example, in 2011, July 31st falls on a Sunday so the due date becomes August 1, 2011.

The Form 5500 due date can be extended 2 – 1/2 months if a Form 5558 is completed and submitted to the IRS on or before the Form 5500 original due date. For a calendar plan year, the July 31st due date can be extended to October 15th. Also, a Form 7004 – Corporate Tax Extension can be used to extend a Form 5500 filing 1 –  1/2 months if the plan year and corporate fiscal year are the same. So a calendar plan year filing can be extended with Form 7004 to September 15th.

See table below for more due date examples:

Plan Year-End           Due Date w/o Ext.         Due Date w/Form 5558 Ext.

March 31                               October 31                               January 15

June 30                                  January 31                               April 15

September 30                        April 30                                     July 15

December 31                         July 31                                      October 15

Health & Welfare Plans

When is a welfare plan Form 5500 filing required to be filed?

All welfare benefit plans covered by ERISA are required to file a Form 5500 except when a plan covers fewer than 100 participants and is unfunded (not partially or fully funded by a 501c(9)/VEBA trust), fully insured, or a combination of insured and unfunded.

Which health and welfare benefits should be reported on a Form 5500 filing?

Typical ERISA benefits include medical, dental, vision. life insurance, long-term disability, temporary disability, severance pay, and business travel accident.  There is also an “Other” category, which is commonly used to report accidental death & dismemberment, long-term care, Code Section 125, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). It is recommended to include a footnote at the bottom of page 2 of Form 5500 to define the benefits that are included as “Other.”

Who should be counted as a participant on a health and welfare plan filing?

For health and welfare plans, participant counts should include those that actually benefitted from at least one of the benefits reported on the Form 5500. For example, someone that enrolled in the medical plan should be counted, however, someone eligible for medical benefits but did not enroll, would not be counted. This is different from participant counts on a pension plan – where those “Eligible” or receiving credited service are counted.

Before counting the number of participants, the benefits to be reported under each ERISA plan need to be determined. For example, you can establish one ERISA plan filing that includes all ERISA benefits or you could establish more than one, and define the benefits of each plan. Benefits that flow through a 501c(9) trust are recommended to be part of a separate Form 5500 filing, so the annual audit (if required) includes only those benefits that flow through the trust, to reduce auditing costs.

Is a Schedule C required to be completed and submitted for a health and welfare filing?

A Schedule C is not required as part of a health and welfare plan filing that meets the conditions of the limited annual reporting exemption under 29 CFR 2520.104-44 or Technical Release 92-01 are not required to file a Schedule C. In general, these regulations provide relief for certain welfare plans from various reporting and disclosure requirements of Part 1 of Title I of ERISA, including, in the case of plans with fewer than 100 participants, the requirement to file an annual report and, in the case of a plan with 100 or more participants, the requirement to engage an independent qualified public accountant.

For a health and welfare filing that is funded by insurance and/or general assets of the plan sponsor, what is reported for the self-insured benefits?

If the health and welfare plan filing meets the conditions of the limited annual reporting exemption under 29 CFR 2520.104-44 or Technical Release 92-01, then the self-insured benefits are just reported as a benefit of that ERISA plan filing by using the appropriate benefit code(s) on line 8b of the Form 5500. 

Form 5500-EZ

What is the status of the 2010 plan year Form 5500-EZ?

The IRS posted a draft of the 2010 plan year Form 5500-EZ on March 8. 2011 and requested comments, however, the corresponding instructions were not released. The draft form appears virtually the same as the 2009 version, but without the instructions, it is hard to know the exact changes.

Can I file my 2010 data on the 2009 Form 5500-EZ?

No – the IRS is advising to wait for the 2010 form to be released due to changes that will be detailed in the instructions.

When is the 2010 5500-EZ form expected to be released?

Final release is expected late April 2011. Last year, the 2009 Form 5500-EZ was released on May 10, 2010, so we expect similar timing this year. Contact us at info@form5500prep.com and we will notify you at the time of release and expected timing of completing your filing shortly thereafter.

Who can file a Form 5500-EZ?

The 5500-EZ was designed for one-participant plans, which are generally a business owner (or an owner and spouse) if they are the only participants. This form can also apply to a plan for a business partnership where the plan only covers the partners and/or their spouses. A plan that covers one participant who is not a business owner cannot complete a Form 5500-EZ and must complete a Form 5500-SF or Form 5500.

What is the asset threshold for the Form 5500-EZ filing requirement?

A Form 5500-EZ must be filed for plans that have assets that exceed $250,000 at the end of the plan year. This threshold was increased for plan years after 2006 (effective 1/1/2007) from the previous $100,000 threshold.

Is the Form 5500-EZ required to be filed electronically like the Form 5500 and 5500-SF?

No. The Form 5500-EZ must still be filed on paper. Also, it is filed with the IRS, not the EBSA.