Agencies Propose Amendments to Employee Benefit Plan Reporting

By Sally P. Schreiber, J.D.

In an effort to improve employee benefit plan reporting and modernize the financial information filed regarding such plans, the IRS, along with the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, issued proposed regulations on Monday that would make significant changes to the requirements for filing Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan, and Form 5500-SF, Short Form Annual Return/Report of Small Employee Benefit Plan (RIN 1210-AB63).

In addition to modernizing plan financial information, the new rules are intended to update fee and expense information on plan service providers with a focus on harmonizing annual reporting requirements with the DOL’s final disclosure requirements to improve the government’s ability to use the data filed on Form 5500; and improve compliance under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code through selected new questions about plan operations, service provider relationships, and the financial management of the plan.

After reviewing the existing reporting requirements, the DOL has decided that all group health plans should be subject to some form of annual reporting. Therefore, under the proposed regulations, all group health plans (including those that currently do not have a Form 5500 filing requirement) would have to file Form 5500 and its new Schedule J, Group Health Plan Information.

These revisions, which would affect employee pension and welfare benefit plans, plan sponsors, administrators, and service providers to plans subject to annual reporting requirements under ERISA and the Code, would apply for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2019.

As the agencies explain in the preamble to the regulations, the information contained in these employee benefit plan reporting forms are the principal source of data for operations, funding, and investments of approximately 806,000 pension and welfare benefit plans, which cover roughly 143 million workers, retirees, and dependents and have an estimated $8.7 trillion in assets.

The last time these forms were revised was 2007. This time they are being amended in coordination with ERISA’s new version for electronic filing of these forms, which is being revised under a new contract with a private-sector provider. The effective date for the new regulations is designed to coordinate with the new ERISA electronic filing contract.

Also, when the DOL implemented the current e-filing system for Form 5500, certain information had to be removed from Form 5500—specifically, Schedules E, ESOP Annual Information; P, Annual Return of Fiduciary of Employee Benefit Trust; SSA, Single-Employer Defined Benefit Actuarial Information; and T, Qualified Pension Plan Coverage Information. With the new electronic filing contract, the IRS anticipates being able to add some or all of these schedules back to Form 5500.

The agencies request comments on the proposals by Oct. 4.

Sally P. Schreiber ( is a Tax Adviser senior editor. 

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