Instructions for Form 5500 - Introductory Material


EFAST2 Processing System

Under the computerized ERISA Filing Acceptance System (EFAST2), you must electronically file your 2009 Form 5500. Your Form 5500 entries will be initially screened electronically. For more information, see the instructions for Electronic Filing Requirement and the EFAST2 website at www.efast.dol.gov. You cannot file a paper Form 5500 by mail or other delivery service.

About the Form 5500

The Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan, including all required schedules and attachments (Form 5500 return/report), is used to report information concerning employee benefit plans and Direct Filing Entities (DFEs). Any administrator or sponsor of an employee benefit plan subject to ERISA must file information about each benefit plan every year (pursuant to Code section 6058 and ERISA sections 104 and 4065). Some plans participate in certain trusts, accounts, and other investment arrangements that file a Form 5500 annual return/report as DFEs. See Who Must File and When To File.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Labor (DOL), and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) have consolidated certain returns and report forms to reduce the filing burden for plan administrators and employers. Employers and administrators who comply with the instructions for the Form 5500 generally will satisfy the annual reporting requirements for the IRS and DOL.

Defined contribution and defined benefit pension plans may have to file additional information with the IRS including Form 5330, Return of Excise Taxes Related to Employee Benefit Plans, and Form 5310-A, Notice of Plan Merger or Consolidation, Spinoff, or Transfer of Plan Assets or Liabilities; Notice of Qualified Separate Lines of Business. See
www.irs.gov for more information.

Plans covered by the PBGC have special additional requirements, including premiums and reporting certain transactions directly with that agency. See PBGC's website (www.pbgc.gov/practitioners/) for information on premium payments and reporting and disclosure.

Each Form 5500 must accurately reflect the characteristics and operations of the plan or arrangement being reported. The requirements for completing the Form 5500 will vary according to the type of plan or arrangement. The section What To File summarizes what information must be reported for different types of plans and arrangements. The Quick Reference Chart of Form 5500, Schedules and Attachments, gives a brief guide to the annual return/report requirements of the 2009 Form 5500.

The Form 5500 must be filed electronically as noted above. See How To File – Electronic Filing Requirement instructions and the EFAST2 website at www.efast.dol.gov. Your Form 5500 entries will be initially screened electronically. Your entries must satisfy this screening for your filing to be received. Once received, your form may be subject to further detailed review, and your filing may be rejected based upon this further review.

ERISA and the Code provide for the assessment or imposition of penalties for not submitting the required information when due. See Penalties.

Annual reports filed under Title I of ERISA must be made available by plan administrators to plan participants and beneficiaries and by the DOL to the public pursuant to ERISA sections 104 and 106. Pursuant to Section 504 of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), this availability for defined benefit pension plans must include the posting of identification and basic plan information and actuarial information on any plan sponsor intranet website (or website maintained by the plan administrator on behalf of the plan sponsor) that is used for the purpose of communicating with employees and not the public. Section 504 also requires DOL to display such information on DOL's website within 90 days after the filing of the plan's annual return/report. To see 2009 Forms 5500, including actuarial information, see www.dol.gov/ebsa. See
www.dol.gov/ebsa/actuarialsearch.html for 2008 and short plan year 2009 actuarial information filed under the previous paper-based system.

Changes To Note

Electronic Filing Mandate.   For plan years commencing on or after January 1, 2009, you must file electronically using the EFAST2 processing system. Plan administrators and direct filing entities are reminded that they must maintain an original copy of the Form 5500 annual return/report, with all required signatures, as part of their records. Filers may use electronic media for record maintenance and retention, so long as they meet the applicable requirements.

Information on Participants With Deferred Vested Benefits Who Separated From the Service Covered by the Plan.   Filers required to submit information on participants with a deferred vested benefit, who separated from the service covered by the plan, must file an annual registration statement identifying those participants with the IRS. Filers cannot file this information on a Schedule SSA or any other schedule or attachment with their Form 5500 in EFAST2 because it contains protected social security information and all information filed with EFAST2 is subject to immediate publication on the Internet. Filings that include social security information are subject to rejection.

Removal of Schedules E and SSA.   In connection with the move to the electronic filing system, the Schedule E and Schedule SSA have been removed from the Form 5500.

Limited Financial Reporting Exemption for Code Section 403(b) Plans Eliminated.   Code section 403(b) plans that are subject to Title I of ERISA for plan years commencing on or after January 1, 2009, are now subject to the annual reporting rules that apply to other ERISA-covered pension plans. Small Code section 403(b) plans may be eligible to file the Form 5500-SF (Short Form Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan). See instructions to the Form 5500-SF.

  For more information about annual return/report filings for Code section 403(b) plans covered by Title I of ERISA, see Field Assistance Bulletin 2009-02, available on the DOL website at www.dol.gov/ebsa.

Application for Extension of Time To File Certain Employee Plan Returns.    Filers are no longer required to attach a copy of IRS Form 5558, Application for Extension of Time To File Certain Employee Plan Returns, to their Form 5500 filing or an explanation of a special extension. Filers now merely check the box on the Form 5500, and if applicable, enter a description of the special extension. Plans must keep a copy of the Form 5558 filed with the IRS with their records.

Form 5500.   
  • The optional, preparer information (former line 5) has been removed.

  • Multiemployer plans are now required to provide information about the number of employers contributing to the plan on a new line 7.

  • A one-participant plan may not file an annual return on Form 5500 for 2009. Every one-participant plan that is required to file an annual return for 2009 must instead file Form 5500-EZ, Annual Return of One-Participant (Owners and Their Spouses) Retirement Plan, or, if eligible, Form 5500-SF, Short Form Annual Return/Report of Small Employee Benefit Plan. A “one-participant plan” for this purpose is: (1) a pension benefit plan that covers only an individual or an individual and his or her spouse who wholly own a trade or business, whether incorporated or unincorporated; or (2) a pension benefit plan for a partnership that covers only the partners or the partners and the partners' spouses. See the Instructions for Form 5500-EZ and the Instructions for Form 5500-SF. Thus, a “one-participant plan” can cover more than one participant. On the other hand, merely covering only one participant does not make you eligible to file as a “one-participant plan” unless you are one of the type of plans described above.

  • A pension benefit plan maintained outside the United States primarily for the benefit of persons substantially all of whom are nonresident aliens is not subject to Title I of ERISA and may not file an annual return on Form 5500 for 2009. Every such plan that is required to file an annual return under the Code for 2009 must instead file Form 5500-EZ. See the Instructions for Form 5500-EZ.

  • New “plan characteristics codes” have been added to the instructions for line 8 for defined contribution plans that use “automatic enrollment” and “default investment” features.

  • Plan characteristic code 3E, previously used to identify prototype pension plans, has been removed from the List of Plan Characteristics Codes for Form 5500 for 2009. Code 3D will be used to identify all pre-approved pension plans, including master, prototype, and volume submitter plans, for 2009.

  • Feature codes for certain types of plans that are not subject to Title I of ERISA have been eliminated because they will not be filing the Form 5500 with EFAST2.

Schedule A.   
  • Fee and commission information formerly reported on line 2 is now clarified and broken out on lines 2 and 3.

  • A new Part IV has been added for plan administrators to be able to report insurance companies that fail or refuse to provide any information necessary to complete Schedule A.

  • A reminder has been added to the Schedule A instructions to advise plan administrators that they should notify the insurer that the plan administrator intends to identify the insurer on the Schedule A as not having provided the information needed.

Schedule C.   
  • Schedule C has been revised to require expanded reporting of receipt by service providers of indirect compensation.

  • The “top 40” reporting scheme has been eliminated. You must now report all service providers who receive $5,000 or more in direct or indirect compensation.

  • The instructions have been modified to make it clear that those plans that would not have to complete the Schedule H because they meet the conditions of the limited exemption under 29 CFR 2520.104-44 or Technical Release 92-01, are also not required to complete and file a Schedule C to report information on service provider compensation.

Schedule H.   
  • Line 2b(2)(C) has been added for reporting dividends on registered investment company (mutual fund) shares.

  • The instructions for line 4g have been modified to make clear that insurance investment contracts for which the plan received valuation information at least annually and mutual fund shares are not reportable on line 4g.

Schedules H and I.   
  • A new standardized schedule is now provided for reporting delinquent participant contributions on line 4a. The instructions for line 4a now permit inclusion of delinquent forwarding of participant loan repayments on line 4a, provided that filers that choose to include such participant loan repayments on line 4a use the same supplemental schedule and IQPA disclosure requirements for the loan repayments as for delinquent transmittals of participant contributions.

  • Line 4l has been added to report whether the plan failed to provide any benefit when due under the plan.

  • Lines 4m and 4n have been added for plan administrators to report whether there has been a blackout (temporary suspension, limitation, or restriction lasting more than three consecutive business days of any ability of participants or beneficiaries to direct or diversify assets credited to their accounts, to obtain loans from the plan, or to obtain plan distributions). If there was a blackout, plan administrators will have to state if participants either were provided the required notice of this suspension period or one of the exceptions to providing the blackout notice applies.

Schedule I.   Line 2 has been revised to have plans separately report expenses for administrative service providers (salaries, fees, and commissions) and other expenses.

Schedule MB.   For those sponsors of a multiemployer plan who elected under section 204 of the Worker, Retiree, and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 (WRERA), for the plan year beginning during the period January 1, 2009, to September 30, 2009, to treat the plan as being in the same status (i.e., endangered, seriously endangered, critical, or not endangered or critical) as for the preceding plan year, regardless of the plan's status as certified by the plan actuary, the status code entered on line 4a must be based on the actuarial certification of the plan's status, without regard to the WRERA election. The notification of an election to use the previous year's status will be provided in an attachment to the Schedule R.

Schedule R.   
  • A new Part IV has been added for reporting certain employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) information formerly reported on Schedule E.

  • Some additional information for defined benefit plans that was provided in an attachment to the 2008 Schedule R (Form 5500) is now reported in Parts V and VI of the Schedule R. The instructions for Part V relating to required attachments for multiemployer defined benefit plans have been modified to take into account elections under sections 204 and 205 of WRERA.

Schedule SB.   A number of changes have been made to the instructions to Schedule SB to reflect recent guidance, changes made by WRERA, and information that was not applicable in the first year that PPA funding rules were effective. See the instructions to Schedule SB for more information.

How To Get Assistance

If you need help completing this form or have related questions, call the EFAST2 Help Line at 1-866-GO-EFAST (1-866-463-3278) (toll-free). The EFAST2 Help Line is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, Eastern Time.

You can access the EFAST2 website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at www.efast.dol.gov to:

  • File the Form 5500-SF or 5500, and any needed schedules or attachments.

  • Check on the status of a filing you submitted.

  • View filings posted by EFAST2.

  • Register for electronic credentials to sign or submit filings.

  • View forms and related instructions.

  • Get information regarding EFAST2, including approved software vendors.

  • See answers to frequently asked questions about the Form 5500-SF, the Form 5500 and its schedules, and EFAST2.

  • Access the main EBSA and DOL websites for news, regulations, and publications.


You can access the IRS website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at www.irs.gov to:

  • View forms, instructions, and publications.

  • See answers to frequently asked tax questions.

  • Search publications on-line by topic or keyword.

  • Send comments or request help by e-mail.

  • Sign up to receive local and national tax news by e-mail.

You can order related forms and IRS publications by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). You can order EBSA publications by calling 1-866-444-EBSA (3272).


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