Employers sponsoring ERISA health and welfare benefit plans for employees should take note of the upcoming Form 5500 filing deadline on July 31, 2023 for calendar year plans.
Read on for more information about the Form 5500 requirements and upcoming filing deadline.
Form 5500 Background
Employers sponsoring ERISA-governed group health and welfare plans with at least 100 plan participants enrolled at the beginning of the plan year are required to file a Form 5500. These forms are filed annually with the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Form 5500 requirements also apply to ERISA-governed qualified retirement plans. However, for the purpose of this article, we will focus on Form 5500 requirements for ERISA group health and welfare plans.
Form 5500 contains information about the type of plan and plan features, plan funding, the number of participants, service providers, and compensation for service providers, among other items. Form 5500 must be filed electronically using the DOL’s EFAST2 filing system.
Note that church and governmental plans are exempt from Form 5500 filing requirements.
The following ERISA-governed group health and welfare plans* are typically included in a Form 5500:
- Medical Plans
- Dental Plans
- Vision Plans
- Health Care Flexible Spending Account (HC FSA)
- Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA)
- Group Term Life Insurance
- Long-Term Disability (LTD) Plans
- Group Legal Plans
- U.S.-based Expatriate Health Plans
- Business Travel Accident (BTA) Plans
- Long-Term Care (LTC) Plans
*This non-exhaustive list is for informational purposes only and may include other ERISA-governed health and welfare plans not captured above.
Form 5500 Filing Deadline
Form 5500 is due seven months after the last day of the plan year, which typically turns out to be July 31 each year for ERISA calendar year plans.
Form 5500 for 2022 calendar year plans must be filed by July 31, 2023.
Employers may file an extension through IRS Form 5558 that provides an automatic 2 ½ month filing extension, typically resulting in an October 15 filing deadline for ERISA calendar year plans.
For 2022 calendar year plans, the extended Form 5500 deadline is October 16, 2023 since October 15, 2023 falls on a Sunday.
Small Plan Exception
ERISA health and welfare plans with under 100 plan participants enrolled on the first day of the plan year are not required to file a Form 5500. To determine the number of plan participants for filing purposes, employers must count only enrolled employees, enrolled former employees who are COBRA-qualified beneficiaries, as well as enrolled retirees. Spouses and dependents enrolled in the plan are not counted for participant count threshold purposes. Moreover, the plan participant count threshold includes any ERISA plan benefit, even if there are fewer than 100 plan participants enrolled in the health plan.
Note that the small plan exception from filing a Form 5500 does not apply to plans funded by a trust or to MEWAs (Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements).
Generally, employers will “wrap” several health & welfare plans together for Form 5500 filing purposes. In these situations, each plan “wrapped” together will be considered a single plan, subject to the applicable “wrap” document and incorporating by reference all applicable carrier booklets, benefit summaries, policies, and summary plan descriptions. Only one Form 5500 is filed for a “wrap” plan, typically with the single plan number of 501.
If there is no “wrap” document in place, a Form 5500 must be filed for each plan with at least 100 plan participants enrolled at the beginning of the plan year.
Summary Annual Report (SAR)
The Summary Annual Report (SAR) is a general summary of a plan’s Form 5500, and must be distributed to plan participants on an annual basis. Click here for the model DOL SAR form.
SARs typically include information on the plan funding arrangement, applicable insurance carrier information including total premiums paid, applicable plan expenses, and a financial statement of the plan funded by a trust, when applicable. Unfunded plans, such as HC FSAs and HRAs, are generally exempt from SAR requirements, even when Form 5500 is required.
SARs must be distributed to all plan participants (including COBRA-qualified beneficiaries) within nine months of the end of the plan year, which typically is September 30 each year for ERISA calendar year plans. Electronic distribution of SARs is permissible under the same ERISA electronic delivery safe harbor rules as Summary Plan Description (SPD) distribution.
SARs must be distributed by October 2, 2023 for 2022 calendar years since September 30, 2023 falls on a Saturday.
If the Form 5500 deadline is extended through IRS Form 5558, the SAR distribution deadline is extended 2 ½ months, typically resulting in a December 15 distribution deadline.
Plans that are exempt from the Form 5500 filing requirements (such as small plans detailed above) are also exempt from the SAR distribution requirement.
Failure to File Form 5500
For employers that fail to file Form 5500, potential penalties can be steep (up to $2,586 per day imposed by the DOL). The DOL provides a voluntary correction program for employers to become compliant with their Form 5500 filing obligations, which is particularly helpful before a governmental audit is initiated. This program is called the Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (DFVCP). Since the DOL has taken the position that there is no statute of limitations for filing the Form 5500, all missed filings must be included in the DFVCP for compliance purposes.
Risk Strategies supports employers with all aspects of their Form 5500 filing and SAR distribution requirements. Contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 ERISA electronic distribution safe harbor is generally permissible for employees with work-related computer access that is integral to work duties pursuant to DOL Reg. §2520.104b-1(c).