form 5500 reporting

Form 5500


What is a 5500 Form?

Form 5500, is the most important form in your retirement plan package. Form 5500 is additional reporting that many employers or plan sponsors don’t realize they’re required to file with the government. It sheds light on the operations of a retirement plan, so it’s critical for sponsors to prepare everything in a timely and thorough manner. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that their plans are operated and managed in accordance with certain prescribed standards. These standards include fiduciary responsibility, which means they have to act in the best interest of the participants. They also have to provide adequate funding to cover all benefits earned by plan participants and make sure there is no discrimination against any participant on the basis of race, color, religion or sex.

Who is Required to File a 5500 Form? 

Businesses are required to file Form 5500 with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) when they sponsor a pension or retirement fund. The form reports on the financial health of various employers that offer pension plans to their employees. ERISA requires employers with 100 or more participants to report certain information to the DOL annually on 5500.

ERISA 5500 Forms

The 5500 Series is part of ERISA’s overall reporting and disclosure framework, which is intended to assure that employee benefit plans are operated and managed in accordance with certain prescribed standards and 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 employee benefit plans.  

  • Form 5500 –  is part of ERISA’s overall reporting and disclosure framework, which is intended to assure that employee retirement plans are operated in the interests of participants and beneficiaries, in accordance with the law, and with appropriate regard for the impact on federal income tax receipts.

  • 5500SF – Short Form Annual Return/Report of Small Employee Benefit Plan, is a simplified annual reporting form for small retirement plans that have fewer than 100 participants and less than 100 account balances at the end of the plan year.

  • Form 5500EZ – is a simplified version. If you have less than 100 participants who are covered by an automatic enrollment retirement plan or an automatic contribution arrangement established under Internal Revenue Code section 401(k), then you may file Form 5500EZ.

What is ERISA?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, or ERISA, is a federal law governing employee benefit plans. ERISA is concerned with the security of the funds that are contributed to these plans and how they are invested. It also prescribes standards for plan administration and prohibits certain transactions between the employer and plan participants. ERISA provides two sets of rules to regulate retirement plans: one set that applies to pension plans, and another set that applies to welfare benefit plans (e.g., health insurance). The rules governing pension plans are found in Title I of ERISA; those governing welfare benefit plans are found in Titles II-IV.

5500 Form Late Filing Penalty

Late filers of Form 5500 can be penalized twice — both by the IRS and the DOL.

IRS Penalties

The IRS penalties for a late filing without notice or a qualified extension are $250 per day, up to a maximum of $150,000.

DOL Penalties

  • DOL Late Filings Without Extension  –  $50.00/day for each plan/ per year with no cap.  
  • Failure to File  –  $300/day up to 30,000/year and the DOL has the ability to impose a $2,400/day penalty with no maximum.

ERISA, DOL, and IRS regulations make compliance complicated for any business. We ensure you meet all requirements and deadlines while saving you stress, time, and money.

Summary Annual Report (SAR)

Due September 30, 2022 (for calendar year plans)

  • Requirements
    Employers who are required to file a Form 5500 for their sponsored health plan must distribute a Summary Annual Report (“SAR”) to plan participants within the later of nine months after the end of the plan year or two months after filing of Form 5500 if a filing extension was granted. A SAR stands for Summary of Annual Report. It must be provided to each plan participant including COBRA participants and terminated employees who were covered under the plan, during the applicable plan year.
  • Delivery
    The SAR can be distributed by hand delivery, U.S. mail, or electronic delivery.

Electronic delivery must meet the following Department of Labor rules:

  • Employers can electronically deliver the SAR to employees with “regular access” to electronic media at work if they accompany the SAR with a notice that briefly describes the document, how it can be accessed and a statement that employees have the right to request a paper copy and an explanation of the procedure for updating the employee’s email address.
  • Employers cannot electronically deliver the SAR to individuals without regular access to electronic media at work unless the individual affirmatively consents to electronic distribution beforehand. Before obtaining consent, the employer must provide a statement of the types of documents that will be sent electronically, the individual’s right to withdraw consent and the procedure for doing so, the procedure for updating the individual’s email address, the individual’s right to obtain a paper copy, and a description of the necessary hardware and software requirements to access the SAR. Some employers include this consent in their off-boarding paperwork so that they can send terminated employees certain documents, including the SAR, electronically.

Employers who sponsor a group welfare plan generally must file Form 5500 and corresponding SAR if:

  • The plan is fully insured and had 100 or more participants on the first day of the plan year. (Dependents are not considered “participants” for this purpose unless they are covered because of a qualified medical child support order.)
  • The plan is self-funded and uses a trust regardless of how many participants there are.
  • The plan is self-funded and relies on the Section 125 plan exemption if it had 100 or more participants on the first day of the plan year.

Exemptions to Form 5500 and SAR filing:

  • Church plans that are defined under ERISA Section 3 (33).
  • Governmental plans, including tribal governmental plans.
  • Top-hat plans that are unfunded or not insured and only benefit a select group of management or highly compensated employees.
    small insured or unfunded welfare plans (A welfare plan with fewer than 100 participants at the beginning of the plan year is not required to file an annual report if the plan is fully insured, entirely unfunded, or a combination of both.) 
  • A plan is considered unfunded if the employer pays for it entirely from its general funds. 
  • A plan with a trust is considered funded. If the employer pays the cost of the plan from general assets, then it is considered unfunded and essentially there is no trust. If the employer pays the cost of the plan from a specific account (in which plan participant contributions are segregated from general assets), then the plan is considered funded.

5500 Reporting Services

We will file on your behalf and provide you with a comprehensive report listing all the required information needed. We will file Form 5500 for you to make sure they remain compliant with the IRS regulations. Let us help you compile all the necessary forms so you can complete this process as efficiently as possible.⁣ ⁣

We Do the Work for You

We help collect all needed information and file with the IRS, making the reporting process easier for you.

EFAST2 Submission

We submit the reports electronically through the IRS EFAST2 System.

Compliance Ready

Our analysts ensure you meet all compliance targets and all reporting requirements are met.

SAR Options Available

Optional SAR completion.

5500 Analyst

You have an assigned 5500 analyst giving you a direct point of contact to ask any questions along the way. Call to receive a free consultation with a 5500 analyst by clicking.

The HR Service Team realizes the challenges involved with preparing and filing 5500 reports. Don’t take the risk of filling out forms incorrectly. Allow the team of qualified professionals to make the process streamlined and simple.

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Form 5500 FAQ

The M-1 tax form is an annual report that must be filed by Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements (MEWAs). This tax form is used primarily to report the custodial and financial information of the MEWA and information showing compliance with ERISA.

  • The M-1 tax form is required to be filed by March 15 of every calendar year. In addition to its annual filing, a MEWA must also file an M-1 form when any of the following registration events occur: Note: AMEWA may be required to file an M-1 multiple times in a calendar year.
  • 30 days before beginning initial operation. The MEWA first begins operating about the employees of two or more employers 30 days after beginning operating in an additional state. The MEWA begins knowingly operating in any additional state after an initial operation has occurred.
  • 30 days after a merger. The MEWA merges with another MEWA 30 days after a 50% Increase in Covered Employees.
  • The number of employees receiving coverage for medical care under the MEWA is at least 50 percent greater than the number of such employees on the last day of the previous calendar year 30 days after a material change. If any custodial or financial information changes during the plan year.
  • AMEWA must also file a Tax Form 5500 Unless exempt from filing an M-1 (very rare) MEWA must also file a 5500-tax form every year regardless of plan size or the type of funding


The 5500 Tax form is due 7 months after the end of each plan year.


Plans eligible to file 5500-EZ are automatically granted an extension for filing 5500-EZ until the extended due date of the employer’s federal income tax return, provided certain conditions are met. Please refer to the IRS Instructions for Form 5500-EZ (PDF) for details.

Generally, the DFVCP Penalty is capped at $1,500 for most small plans, $4,000 for large plans, and $750 for small 501(c)(3) plans. The US Department of Labor has a DFVCP Penalty Calculator available to determine your penalty.

Generally, no. If you only have a cafeteria plan, you are not required to file Form 5500 or Schedule F. However, if you have a welfare benefit plan, you may be required under Department of Labor regulations to file a return for that plan.


The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), along with the IRS and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), released advance copies of the 2021 Form 5500 and Related Instructions. For smaller filers, advance copies of the 2021 Form 5500-SF (short form) and Related Instructions also were made available, along with Supplemental Materials that include schedules and Attachments.

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