General Instructions

Purpose of Form

File Form 5300 to request a DL from the IRS for the qualification of a defined benefit (DB) or a defined contribution (DC) plan and the exempt status of any related trust.

Who May File

This form may be filed by any:

  • Employer, including a sole proprietor, partnership, plan sponsor, or a plan administrator that has adopted an individually designed plan to request a DL on:

    1. Initial qualification of a plan; or

    2. Qualification of an entire plan as amended.

  • Employer, plan sponsor, or plan administrator, requesting a DL for compliance with the applicable requirements of a foreign situs trust for the taxability of beneficiaries (section 402(c)) and deductions for employer contributions (section 404(a)(4)).

File Form 5307 instead of Form 5300, if this is a VS plan that has made limited modifications to an approved specimen plan (that does not create an individually designed plan).


Adopters of Master and Prototype (M&P) plans may not use Form 5307.

In certain circumstances as noted in instructions to lines 3a(2), 3g and 6i, an application for a DL for a VS or M&P plan must be filed on Form 5300 and the plan will be reviewed on the basis of the Cumulative List (CL) that was considered in issuing the opinion or advisory letter for the plan. For all other pre-approved plan submissions on Form 5300, follow the applicable procedures for individually designed plan submissions, except as specifically noted in these instructions.


If no changes have been made by an adopting employer other than to select among options in the adoption agreement or make other permitted changes as specified in section 19.03 of Rev. Proc. 2011-49, 2011-44 I.R.B. 608 available at (and if the special requests described under lines 3(a)(2), 3g and 6i do not apply) an adopting employer can rely on a favorable opinion or advisory letter for the plan and a DL is not required for reliance.

Type of Plan

A DC plan is a plan that provides an individual account for each participant and for benefits based only on:

  1. The amount contributed to the participant's account, and

  2. Any income, expenses, gains and losses, and any forfeiture of accounts of other participants that may be allocated to the participant's account.

A DB plan is any plan that is not a DC plan.

Termination of Plan.   If the plan is terminated, file Form 5310, Application for Determination For Terminating Plan.

  If benefit accruals or contributions have ceased, the plan and trust will not be considered terminated until an official action to terminate has occurred.


A DB plan cannot be amended to become a DC plan. If a sponsor of a DB plan attempts to amend the plan to become a DC plan, or if the merger of a DB plan with a DC plan results solely in a DC plan, the DB plan is considered terminated.

Where To File

File Form 5300 at the address indicated below:

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

Requests shipped by express mail or a delivery service should be sent to:

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

Private delivery services.   In addition to the United States mail, you can use certain private delivery services designated by the IRS to meet the “timely mailing as timely filing/paying” rule for tax returns and payments. The list of designated private delivery services includes only the following:
  • DHL Express (DHL): DHL Same Day Service.

  • Federal Express (FedEx): FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2Day, FedEx International Priority, FedEx International First.

  • United Parcel Service (UPS): UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS Worldwide Express Plus, and UPS Worldwide Express.

    For the IRS mailing address to use if you are using a private delivery service, go to and enter “private delivery service” in the search box.

    The private delivery service can tell you how to get written proof of the mailing date.

How To Complete the Application

The application must be complete and signed by the employer, plan administrator, or authorized representative.


Stamped signatures are not acceptable.

Incomplete applications may be returned to the applicant. It is important that an appropriate response be entered for each line item (unless instructed otherwise). When completing the application:

  • N/A (not applicable) is accepted as a response only if an N/A block is provided.

  • If a number is requested, a number must be entered.

  • If an item provides a choice of boxes to mark, mark only one box unless instructed otherwise.

  • If an item provides a box to mark, written responses are not acceptable.

  • The IRS may require additional information.

  • The application has formatted fields that will limit the number of characters entered per field.

  • All data input should be entered in Courier 10 point font.

  • Alpha characters should be entered in capital letters.

  • Enter spaces between any words. Spaces do count as characters.

  • All date fields are entered as an eight-digit field (MM/DD/YYYY).

  • Any attachment should refer to the form and the line item.

What To File

All applications (including applications for pre-approved plans, except as otherwise noted) must contain an original signature and be accompanied by the following:


Payments for sanction fees, compliance fees, etc. should be submitted on separate checks.


If the plan is a pre-approved (M&P or VS) plan, do not submit any interim or other amendments to the plan that were adopted by the M&P sponsor or VS practitioner on behalf of the employer and considered by the Service in issuing an opinion or advisory letter for the plan.

  1. A completed Form 5300.

  2. A Form 8717, User Fee for Employee Plan Determination Letter Request, and, if applicable, a check for the appropriate user fee. Submit a separate check for each application. Make checks payable to the “United States Treasury.

  3. Form 8905, Certification of Intent To Adopt a Pre-Approved Plan, if applicable as determined under Part III of Rev. Proc. 2007-44.

  4. A copy of the plan (all instruments that make up the plan in the case of initial qualification and a copy of the restated plan and trust, in the case of an amended plan where a DL is requested on the plan after initial qualification). A plan must be restated except for certain requests related to pre-approved plans. See lines 3a(2), 3g, and 6i.

  5. A copy of the latest DL if the plan has received one. If not available, explain why and include a copy of the prior plan or adoption agreement (including the opinion letter or advisory letter, if applicable).

  6. Submit copies of all signed and dated interim and other plan amendments since the last restatement. If the plan does not have a DL for the preceding remedial amendment cycle (RAC), the plan sponsor must include with this application filing, copies of interim and discretionary amendments adopted for the preceding cycle. However, do not list these amendments in the table in line 3m.

  7. A copy of any compliance statement(s) or closing agreement(s) regarding this plan issued during the current RAC.

  8. When requesting a DL on the entire plan as amended after initial qualification, attach a statement explaining how any amendments made since the last DL affect this or any other plan of the employer.

  9. In the case of a pre-approved plan not requesting a special ruling under lines 3a(2), 3g, and 6i, attach an explanation why Form 5300 is being filed. In this case, the plan will be reviewed on the basis of the CL in effect when the application is filed (the “current list”). The application must include all interim amendments to the plan for qualification changes and guidance on the current list (as well as all discretionary amendments adopted by the date of the application) that were not considered in the current opinion or advisory letter for the plan, regardless of whether those amendments were adopted by the sponsor of the pre-approved plan document on the employer’s behalf.

  10. If this is a special ruling request for a DL for an adopting employer of a pre-approved plan as described under lines 3a(2), 3g, and 6i, include a copy of the opinion or advisory letter and except in the case of a VS plan that does not authorize the practitioner to amend the plan on behalf of adopting employers do not include any interim amendments. The plan will be reviewed on the basis of the CL that was considered in issuing the opinion and advisory letter for the plan and the plan need not be restated.

For an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), attach Form 5309, Application for Determination of Employee Stock Ownership Plan.


Do not use staples (except to attach the check to the Form 8717), paper clips, binders, or sticky notes. Do not punch holes in the documents.


See the Procedural Requirements Checklist to ensure that the application package is complete before submitting it.

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