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Retirement Plans FAQs regarding the Determination Letter Process

These frequently asked questions and answers provide general information and should not be cited as any type of legal authority. They provide the user with information responsive to general inquiries. Because these answers do not apply to every situation, yours may require additional research.

What form should I file to request a determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service?


  • Form 5300, Application for Determination for Employee Benefit Plan & (instructions) if you are a sponsor of an individually designed plan, including a collectively bargained plan that formerly filed a Form 5303.

    Sponsors of individually designed plans submit applications for determination letters once every five years, under a staggered system of 5-year cycles. Not all individually designed plans have the same cycle, so make sure your plan is submitted within the appropriate 5-year cycle.

  • Form 5307, Application for Determination for Adopters of Master or Prototype or Volume Submitter Plans (instructions) if you are an employer that adopts a:
    • defined benefit master & prototype plan that has been approved by the IRS, or
    • volume submitter plan that has been approved by the IRS.

  • Form 5310, Application for Determination for Terminating Plan (instructions) if you are the sponsor of any type of plan that is terminating, except multi-employer plans covered by Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation insurance.

Form 5300, 5307 & 5310 filers must also submit:

  • Form 8717, User Fee for Employee Plan Determination, Opinion, Advisory Letter Request, and
  • the appropriate user fee payment.

See Apply for a Determination Letter - Individually Designed Retirement Plans. Revenue Procedure 2014-6 is the guidance containing procedures for issuing determination letters.

What form should I file in order to request an opinion letter for an M&P plan or an advisory letter for a VS plan?

See the submission procedures for opinion and advisory letters for pre-approved plans.

What form do I file to notify the IRS of a plan merger, consolidation, spin-off, transfer of assets or QSLOB?

You must file Form 5310-A, Notice of Plan Merger or Consolidation, Spin-off, or Transfer of Plan Assets or Liabilities; Notice of Qualified Separate Lines of Business (instructions). See the instructions for Form 5310-A for a detailed description of the terms involved (for example, spin-off and merger).

Send your completed Form 5310-A to:

Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 12192
Covington, KY 41012-0192

NOTE: A determination letter will not be issued for this type of form.

Where do I file my application or request for a letter?

Applications for individual determination letters should be sent to:

Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 12192
Covington, KY 41012-0192

The address used for express mail or delivery services should be sent to:

Internal Revenue Service
201 West Rivercenter Blvd.
Attn: Extracting, Stop 312
Covington, KY 41011

Applications for master & prototype and volume submitter specimen plans:

Form 5306 - Opinion Letters for prototype or employer sponsored IRAs should be sent to:

Internal Revenue Service,
Attn: EP Opinion Letters
P.O. Box 27063,
McPherson Station, Washington, DC 20038.

Forms 4461, 4461-A, or 4461-B requesting:

  • opinion letters for master & prototype mass submitters should be sent to:
Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 2508
Cincinnati, OH 45201
Attn: Pre-Approved Plans Coordinator
Room 5106
  • Advisory Letters, including applications filed by volume submitter mass submitters:
Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 2508
Cincinnati, OH 45201
Attn: Pre-Approved Plans Coordinator
Room 5106

Applications shipped by express mail or delivery services should be sent to:

Internal Revenue Service
550 Main Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Attn: Pre-Approved Plans Coordinator
Room 5106

How do I get assistance?

What items should I consider before filing to prevent delays in the processing of my application?

To insure a complete submission, please use the procedural requirements checklist on the last page of Forms 5300, 5307 and 5310. Also, see Tips for Expediting the Determination, Opinion and Advisory Letter Process.

What happens to my application once it is received?

Once IRS  receives an application at the Processing Center in Covington, Kentucky, we process the user fee payment and establish the application on our inventory control system. Then we forward the application to the Federal Office Building in Cincinnati where an Employee Plans specialist reviews the file to determine whether:

  • the application is on-cycle
  • the correct user fee is paid in full
  • the required forms are properly completed, signed, and dated
  • the plan document and amendment(s) are included
  • any previously submitted application related to the plan is still open

If the plan sponsor submits all required items and information and we determine the plan is qualified without further development, we accept the application.

If the application is missing minor information, we’ll assign the application to a specialist to secure the missing information (commonly referred to as Accelerated Processing). If we can’t approve the application as filed or by securing minor items, we may return it to the applicant or representative. We place off-cycle applications (as defined in Revenue Procedure 2007-44) in suspense and process them after we process all on-cycle applications. EP specialists will FAX, telephone or write the plan sponsor and/or Power of Attorney for additional information or plan amendments as needed.

NOTE: We randomly select some applications to review before they are closed as part of our internal quality review process. This process ensures that we treat issues consistently and maintains quality in our review and case development processes.

The IRS does not issue determination letters until at least 60 days after receipt of the application to allow interested parties adequate amount of time to submit comments.

Is it important to retain copies of applications, demonstrations, & related information that were submitted to IRS?

Yes, it is very important to retain copies of all of the following information submitted to the IRS:

  • Application(s)
  • Form(s)
  • Demonstration(s)
  • Cover letter
  • Other correspondence
  • Other information and plan data

This information must be retained to preserve reliance on a determination letter to the extent that it applies to an optional determination request.

If a determination of operational compliance with the coverage and/or nondiscrimination requirements is requested, such determination is based on the information in the written plan document, the application and relevant demonstrations, and other supporting data submitted by the employer. Therefore, the employer/plan sponsor must retain copies of this information, or it will lose reliance on the letter with regard to the issues for which the information was provided.

See Publication 794, Favorable Determination Letter, for a more detailed discussion of the significance of a favorable determination letter.

How do I obtain a copy of my prior determination letter?

You must request copies of an original or a corrected determination letter in writing by mail or fax. We do not accept telephone or email requests at this time. Please do not submit a copy of your original EP determination letter application with your request.

How do I request a copy of a previously issued letter?
Please provide the:

  • Name of the plan sponsor
  • Plan sponsor's EIN
  • Plan number
  • Plan name
  • Year the letter was issued (not required, but helpful)
  • Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative, if applicable
  • Fax number to which the reprinted letter should be sent (if you want the copy mailed, please send your name and address)

How do I request a corrected letter?
Include the following:

  • Copy of the letter that needs correction
  • Your fax number (if no fax number is given, we will mail the letter to the address on record)
  • Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative, if applicable
  • Your phone number
  • Detailed explanation of the error in the original determination letter (include copies of any amendments in question)
  • If the original determination letter references a proposed amendment and you are requesting a correction to the letter that is:
    • unrelated to the proposed amendment - the plan sponsor must sign the proposed amendment within 91 days of the original determination letter date, or
    • related to the proposed amendment -  the IRS will extend the 91-day deadline for executing the amendment only if it determined that the IRS issued the letter with an error directly related to the proposed amendment.

Where do I send the request?
Fax written requests to (855) 204-6184 or mail the request by:

Regular Postal Delivery:

Internal Revenue Service
EP Determinations
Attn: Customer Service Manager
P.O. Box 2508
Cincinnati, OH 45202

Express and Overnight Delivery:

Internal Revenue Service
Room 4-024
550 Main Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Attn: Manager, EP Correspondence

When should I expect the copy or corrected letter?
Generally, we will respond to your request for:

  • a copy of a letter in approximately 3 weeks
  • a corrected letter in 45 days

Additional Resource:

Check the Status of Your Letter

If I electronically sign my plan adoption agreement, do I need to submit any additional information with the application?

Revenue Procedure 2011-49, section 5.11 requires an adopting employer of a master & prototype plan to sign the adoption agreement when the plan is adopted or restated and when adoption agreement elections are made or changed by the employer. This requirement may be satisfied by an electronic signature that reliably authenticates and verifies the employer’s adoption of the adoption agreement, or restatement, amendment or modification thereof.

During the review of a determination letter application for a plan, the IRS checks whether the plan and amendments have been timely adopted. If an adopting employer of a master & prototype plan has electronically signed the adoption agreement, the employer should include information that will allow the IRS to determine that the plan or amendment was timely adopted with the determination letter application for the plan. For example, if the employer electronically signed the adoption agreement through a system maintained by the master & prototype sponsor, the employer may include with the determination letter application a statement from the master & prototype sponsor that the employer electronically signed the adoption agreement through a system that reliably authenticates and verifies the employer’s adoption of the adoption agreement. The statement must also indicate the date on which the employer electronically signed the adoption agreement. The master & prototype sponsor's statement attesting to the employer's electronic signature would have to be signed by the master & prototype sponsor (the IRS will accept a facsimile signature on the statement).

As an alternative, the employer could submit dated correspondence from the master & prototype sponsor acknowledging receipt of the employer’s electronically signed adoption agreement. Other types of information may also be acceptable. Failure to include sufficient information with the determination letter application to allow the IRS to determine when the plan or amendment was adopted application may lead to requests for additional information from the IRS and delays in processing the application.

Does the IRS require me to submit a highlighted copy of the plan document changes with a determination submission?

No. Although redlining a plan document is encouraged, the IRS will not require submission of a redlined or highlighted copy.

Will the IRS review amendments or restatements adopted after a Determination Letter application was filed?

Generally, the IRS will not review any amendments for post-cycle law changes as part of the pending submission. However, the IRS may in its discretion accept and review amendments not as a result of a change in the law (for example, changes to the name of the plan). The sponsor should retain post-cycle amendments for later submissions.

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 02-Jul-2014