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Determination Letter Review Process

These procedures apply to Form 5300, Form 5310 and Form 5316 retirement plan determination letter applications received on or after February 1, 2015, starting with Cycle E2. Form 5307 applications will continue to be reviewed under Cycle D2 procedures until the second six-year remedial amendment cycle for pre-approved defined benefit plans.

We use multi-step procedures to reduce processing time and improve the quality of our review.

Step 1 – Procedural Completeness Review

We assign the application to a specialist to determine if the application is:

  1. on-cycle (under Revenue Procedure 2007-44), and
  2. procedurally complete

When is an application procedurally complete?

We’ll check for these items:

  • User fee: Is the submitted user fee payment sufficient (or Form 8717 exemption certification properly completed and submitted)?

  • Form version: Did the applicant use the current version of the Form 5300 series application?

  • Signature: Is the application form signed and dated by an authorized officer/representative of the plan sponsor?

  • Application questions: Are all questions completed on the application?

Save time with fax: If you include a fax number for the employer and the representative, we will fax requests for additional information needed to process your application. You can also respond to requests by fax. This reduces mailing delays and the possible forfeiture of your user fee.

  • List of amendments: Are all amendments listed on the application form?

  • Prior determination letter: Did the applicant attach a copy of plan’s determination letter from the prior remedial amendment cycle (RAC), if any?

  • Prior plan documents: If there is no prior RAC determination letter, did the applicant submit the following documents from the prior remedial amendment cycle?
    1. The plan document or adoption agreement (including any applicable opinion or advisory letters),
    2. The trust document,
    3. All amendments adopted or effective during the prior RAC, and
    4. All amendments adopted to comply with the prior RAC’s Cumulative List?

  • Current plan documents with Form 5300: Did the applicant submit the following documents for the current RAC with a Form 5300 application?
    1. The plan document or adoption agreement updated for the current RAC’s Cumulative List (including any applicable opinion or advisory letters),
    2. The trust document,
    3. All amendments adopted or effective during the current RAC, and
    4. All amendments adopted to comply with the current RAC’s Cumulative List?

  • Current plan documents with Form 5310: Did the applicant submit the following documents for the current RAC with a Form 5300 application? See Terminating a Retirement Plan.
    1. The most current plan document or adoption agreement (including any applicable opinion or advisory letters),
    2. The trust document,
    3. All amendments adopted or effective during the current RAC, and
    4. All amendments required to be adopted to reflect qualification requirements that apply as of the date of termination regardless of whether such requirements are included on the most recently published Cumulative List?

  • Procedural Requirements Checklist: Did the applicant include and complete the checklist, including all applicable attachments on the checklist? The checklist is part of the form (5300, 5307 or 5310) used to apply for the letter.

  • Attachments, schedules, statements- Did the applicant include and complete all attachments, schedules, statements, forms, etc. required by Form 5300 or Form 5310 and the form instructions?

  • Reference lists- Complete and submit reference lists for each of the five years of your plan’s RAC. The reference lists are optional tools to assist you in updating your plan.

Incomplete applications

If your application does not satisfy the procedural completeness review, you will receive a letter informing you that you have 30 calendar days to submit the listed missing items. See Incomplete applications, below, for details on responding to a request for missing items.

Step 2 – Technical Review

Once an application is determined to be Procedurally Complete, the specialist reviews the application under its applicable Cumulative List.

  • No issues - If there are no technical issues and the plan document fully complies with the Cumulative List, then the specialist will submit the case for closure and the issuance of the favorable determination letter.

  • More information needed - If the specialist discovers technical issues or needs more information, then that specialist will request additional information by a certain date to resolve any issues before submitting the case for closure and the issuance of the favorable determination letter.

  • Incomplete applications - see below for details on responding to a request for Information Needed and consequences of not responding.

Save time with fax: If you include a fax number for the employer and the representative, we will fax requests for additional information needed to process your application. You can also respond to requests by fax. This reduces mailing delays and the possible forfeiture of your user fee.

Quality review

Prior to closure and issuance of a favorable determination letter, some applications may be randomly selected for additional Quality Assurance Review.

Incomplete applications

If your application does not satisfy the procedural completeness review or our technical review reveals that additional information is needed, you will receive a letter informing you that you have until a stated response date to submit the listed missing items or information needed.

Responding to a request for Missing Items or Information Needed

To prevent your application from being closed, send us the requested information by the response due date listed in the letter you receive. To avoid processing delays, be sure you:

  • include a copy of the letter, the attached list of Missing Items or Information Needed, and the Applicant Identification Sheet (AIS), if enclosed
  • include all requested information
  • ensure your information is complete and correct

Consequences of not responding 

If you don’t send us all the requested information by the deadline:

  • your user fee will be forfeited,
  • we will consider your application as withdrawn by you,
  • your application will be closed,
  • your application materials will not be returned to you,
  • if we identify any possible qualification failures, the plan will be considered Under Examination and you will be prohibited from applying for certain correction methods pursuant to Revenue Procedure 2013-12, and
  • you might not be eligible to resubmit another on-cycle application until your plan’s next RAC submission period, as determined by the criteria in Revenue Procedure 2015-6, section 6.13(2).

Additional resources

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 19-Jun-2015