11.3.10 Employee Plans Information

Manual Transmittal

November 12, 2019

Purpose

(1) This transmits the revised Internal Revenue Manual 11.3.10, Disclosure of Official Information - Employee Plans Information.

Material Changes

(1) Editorial changes have been made to update IRM/statute/organizational references and terms. Web and citation references were added/updated throughout to make the text easier to research in electronic media.

(2) Revised the title of IRM 11.3.10.1 to Program Scope and Objectives, to properly reflect the information communicated in this subsection. Included important information to conform to the new internal and management control standards under the following titles:

  1. IRM 11.3.10.1.1, Background - Added information about the background of policies pertaining to Employee Plans. Information from prior subsection 11.3.10.1 was incorporated into this subsection.

  2. IRM 11.3.10.1.2, Authority - Added legal authorities pertaining to the Employee Plans process.

  3. IRM 11.3.10.1.3, Responsibilities - This IRM applies to all IRS personnel and contractors who provide records under the provisions of IRM 11.3 Disclosure of Official Information.

  4. IRM 11.3.10.1.4, Terms/Definitions/Acronyms - Compiled a list of frequently used terms, definitions and acronyms pertaining to the Employee Plans process. Information from prior subsection 11.3.10.3, Explanation of Terms was incorporated into this subsection.

  5. IRM 11.3.10.1.5, Related Resources - Added related resources applicable to the Employee Plans process.

All other subsequent sections renumbered accordingly.

(3) Updated title of IRM 11.3.10.2 to Authority for Inspection of Material Relating to Pension and Other Plans. Moved (10) to (1) and moved (9) to (2) for ease of reading. Subsequent paragraphs renumbered accordingly. Added relevant Treasury Regulation citation to (3). Updated (6) to add relevant IRM reference for additional information and removed Note containing outdated references. Deleted (10) as that information is reflected elsewhere.

(4) Deleted IRM 11.3.10.3 as that information is incorporated elsewhere. Subsequent sections renumbered accordingly.

(5) Updated the title of IRM 11.3.10.3 to Documents That May Be Inspected per IRC §6104(a)(1)(B) and 26 CFR 301.6104(a). Updated language in (1) to remove reference to withholding compensation information and added relevant IRM link. Updated (3) to identify location of documents that are open to inspection. Deleted (4) through (9) to limit this IRM to information within the scope of Disclosure.

(6) Updated the title of IRM 11.3.4 to Withholding Certain Information per §§6104(a)(1)(C) and (D). Deleted (4) to limit this IRM to information within the scope of Disclosure.

(7) Deleted (2), (6) and (7) of IRM 11.3.10.5 to limit this IRM to information within the scope of Disclosure.

(8) Updated the title of IRM 11.3.10.6 to Inspection of Documents.

(9) In order to limit this IRM to information within the scope of Disclosure, deleted IRM 11.3.10.6.1, Contents of Written Request; IRM 11.3.10.6.2, Where to Send Requests; IRM 11.3.10.6.3, Coordinating Inspection of Requested Documents; and IRM 11.3.10.7, Responsibility for Processing Requests. Subsequent sections renumbered accordingly.

(10) Updated the title of IRM 11.3.10.7 to Inspection of Annual Information Returns. Updated (3) to add relevant IRM reference. Deleted (4) and (5) to limit this IRM to within the scope of Disclosure. Removed language in (6) not within the scope of Disclosure.

(11) Deleted IRM 11.3.10.8, Employee Plan Master File to limit this IRM to within the scope of Disclosure. Subsequent sections renumbered accordingly.

(12) Added (4) to IRM 11.3.10.8 to identify safeguard requirements.

(13) Added language from (3) to (2) in IRM 11.3.10.9 for ease of reading. Updated (5) to add relevant IRM sections.

(14) Deleted Exhibit 11.3.10-1 to limit this IRM to information within the scope of Disclosure

Effect on Other Documents

This material supersedes IRM 11.3.10, Disclosure of Official Information, Employee Plans Information, dated June 18, 2015

Audience

All Operating Divisions and Functions.

Effective Date

(11-12-2019)

Related Resources

The Disclosure and Privacy Virtual Library can be found at: https://portal.ds.irsnet.gov/sites/vl003/pages/home.aspx?bookshelf=disclosure



Phyllis T Grimes
Director,
Governmental Liaison, Disclosure and Safeguards

Program Scope and Objectives

  1. Purpose: Internal Revenue Code (IRC) §6104(a)(1)(B) requires that certain employee plans documents maintained by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), be open to inspection at such times and in such places as the Secretary of Treasury may prescribe.

  2. Audience: These procedures apply to all IRS employees and contractors.

  3. Policy Owner: The Disclosure office, under Governmental Liaison, Disclosure and Safeguards (GLDS) is responsible for oversight of Disclosure policy.

  4. Program Owner: The GLDS office, under Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure (PGLD), is the program office responsible for oversight of the Servicewide Disclosure policy.

  5. Primary Stakeholders: The following office has the responsibility for Employee Plans:

    • Tax Exempt and Government Entities (TE/GE), Employee Plans

Background

  1. Consistent with statutory disclosure requirements, the IRS tries to keep the public informed about its operations.

  2. When a request for information is received, the requested material is made available to the extent that disclosure is not prohibited by statute and tax administration is not impaired by releasing the requested data.

  3. IRC §6104 requires the IRS to make certain information from applications and returns filed by exempt organizations and employee plans be available for inspection. IRM 11.3.9 discusses exempt organizations. This IRM discusses employee plans.

  4. TE/GE has formal access procedures in place to comply with the statute. Disclosure is not the primary point of contact for these types of requests.

Authority

  1. The following items govern the authority pertaining to the inspection/release of employee plans:

    • 26 USC §6104

    • 26 CFR §301.6104

    • 26 USC §6103

    • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 5 USC §552

    • 26 USC §401(a)

    • 26 USC §403(a)

    • 26 USC §408(a) and (b)

    • 26 USC §501(a)

    • 26 USC §6058

Responsibilities

  1. This Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) is used by all IRS employees and contractors to help comply with the disclosure provisions of IRC §6104 pertaining to Employee Plans.

Terms/Definitions/Acronyms

  1. The following is a list of the Terms and Definitions that are used in this IRM section:

    Term Definition
    Application for a Determination Letter Includes the documents that the applicant files with respect to the qualification of a pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan under IRC §401(a) or IRC §403(a), and individual retirement accounts and annuities under IRC §408(a), IRC §408(b), and IRC §408(c). This includes only applications for determination letters filed with the IRS after September 2, 1974.
    Authorized Representative The representative of a plan participant designated by the plan participant in a written authorization to inspect material described in IRC §6104(a)(1)(B). The written authorization should specify that the representative is authorized to inspect the material.
    Disclosure The making known to any person in any manner whatever a return or return information. See IRC 6103(b)(8) for the statutory definition.
    Inspection The terms “inspected” and “inspection” mean any review of a return or return information. See IRC §6103(b)(7) for the statutory definition.
    Participant Any employee or former employee of an employer or any member or former member of an employee organization, who is or may become eligible to receive a benefit of any type from an employee benefit plan that covers employees of such employer or members of such organization, or whose beneficiaries may be eligible to receive any such benefit. See 29 USC §1002(7).

    Note:

    The availability of material for inspection to a plan participant pursuant to this definition does not constitute a determination by the IRS that such person is a plan participant for any purpose other than the disclosure of documents.

    Plan Participant Includes, but is not limited to:
    1. A current plan participant.

    2. Former employees, such as certain retired and terminated employees who have a non-forfeitable right to benefits under the plan.

    3. A beneficiary of a deceased former employee who is receiving benefits or entitled to receive future benefits under the plan.

    4. An administrator, executor, trustee, or trustee of the estate of a deceased participant.

    Supporting Document Any statement or document submitted in support of an application for a determination letter that is not specifically required by the application form or the IRS.
  2. The following is a list of the Acronyms that are used in this IRM section:

    Acronym Definition
    CAS Customer Account Services
    CFR Code of Federal Regulations
    DOL Department of Labor
    ERISA Employee Retirement Income Security Act
    FOIA Freedom of Information Act
    GLDS Governmental Liaison, Disclosure and Safeguards
    IRC Internal Revenue Code
    IRM Internal Revenue Manual
    IRS Internal Revenue Service
    PBGC Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
    PGLD Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure
    TE/GE Tax Exempt/Government Entities
    USC United States Code

Related Resources

  1. The following table lists other sources of guidance on Employee Plans:

    Resource Title Guidance
    IRM 4.72.18 Employee Plans Technical Guidelines, Nonbank Trustee Investigation Procedures Provides guidance to determine whether an approved nonbank trustee or custodian complies with the regulations
    IRM 7.11.4 IRC §401(a) Pre-Approved Plans Program Provides guidance to employees who process and review opinion letter applications from Pre-Approved Providers
    IRM 11.3.2 Disclosure to Persons with a Material Interest Provides guidance when other return and return information that cannot be disclosed pursuant to IRC §6104 can be disclosed
    IRM 11.3.3 Disclosure to Designees and Practitioners Provides guidance when other return and return information that cannot be disclosed pursuant to IRC §6104 can be disclosed
    IRM 11.3.4 Congressional Inquiries Provides guidance when Members of Congress can have access to tax information under IRC §6103(c) and §6103(f)
    IRM 11.3.21 Investigative Disclosure Provides guidance when IRS employees are authorized by IRC §6103(k)(6) to disclose return and return information to extent necessary to gather data relating to their tax administration duties.
    IRM 11.3.22 Disclosure to Federal Officers and Employees for Tax Administration Purposes Provides guidance where tax administration involves nontax disclosures
    IRM 11.3.29.6 Disclosures to the Department of Labor (DOL) and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) for Administration of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) per IRC §6103(l)(2) Provides guidance on disclosures to DOL and PBGC pursuant to the provisions of IRC §6103(l)(2)
    IRM 21.3.8 Taxpayer Contacts - Tax Exempt/Government Entities (TE/GE) Customer Account Services (CAS) Telephone Operations Provides guidance for TE/GE telephone assistors

Authority for Inspection of Material Relating to Pension and Other Plans

  1. Title 26 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §301.6104 sets forth the IRS’ interpretation of the provisions and procedures for making Title 26 U.S. Code (USC) §6104 information available for inspection.

  2. The Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC §552, IRC §6104(a)(1)(B), and IRC §6104(b) all make certain documents available for inspection. This overlap presents no direct statutory conflict since the disclosure of information or documents as required by IRC §6104 preempts the disclosure requirements of the FOIA.

  3. IRC §6104(a)(1)(B) and 26 CFR §301.6104(a)-2 require that the following employee plans documents be open to inspection at such times and in such places as the Secretary of Treasury may prescribe if maintained by the IRS but only with respect to plans having more than 25 participants:

    1. Any application filed with respect to the qualification of a pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan under IRC §401(a), or IRC §403(a), an individual retirement account or annuity described in IRC §408(a), or an individual retirement annuity described in IRC §408(b).

    2. Any application filed with respect to the exemption from tax under IRC §501(a) of an organization forming part of a plan or account referred to above.

    3. Any application filed with respect to a request for approval of a master, prototype, or other such plan or account.

    4. Any papers submitted in support of the applications referred to above.

    5. Any letter or other document issued by the IRS and dealing with the qualification referred to above or the exemption from tax referred to above.

      Note:

      Only plan participants, the plan sponsor, or their authorized representatives are authorized to inspect plans of 25 or fewer participants.

  4. Effective January 1, 1979, prohibited transaction functions with certain exceptions have been transferred to the Department of Labor (DOL) pursuant to the President’s Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Reorganization Plan No. 4, approved by Congress on October 13, 1978.

  5. Generally, the Reorganization Plan gives the DOL the authority for fiduciary responsibility over prohibited transaction matters while giving the IRS authority to administer the minimum participation, vesting, and funding standards. Inquiries on Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan, return requirements and on return processing should be addressed to:


    U.S. Department of Labor
    Office of the Chief Accountant
    Suite 400
    200 Constitution Avenue, NW
    Washington, D.C. 20210

  6. Inquiries on applications and IRS determinations should be referred to TE/GE Customer Accounts Services. The toll-free telephone number is: 1-877-829-5500. For additional information see IRM 21.3.8 , Tax Exempt/Government Entity (TE/GE) Customer Account Services (CAS) Telephone Operations.

  7. IRC §6104(a)(2) authorizes the IRS to disclose any application referred to in IRC §6104(a)(1)(B), and any other papers developed by the IRS that relate to such application, to Congressional committees in accordance with IRC §6103(f).

  8. To the extent that the requested information is not otherwise available for inspection under IRC §6104, the requirements of IRC §6103(f) must be complied with prior to release of information. For further instructions, see IRM 11.3.4, Congressional Inquiries.

  9. IRC §6104(b) requires IRS personnel to make available for inspection the information that is required to be furnished to the IRS by IRC §6058 (annual information returns containing information with respect to the qualification, financial condition, and operations of pension, annuity, stock bonus, or profit-sharing plans), together with the names and addresses of such organizations and trusts.

Documents That May Be Inspected per IRC §6104(a)(1)(B) and 26 CFR 301.6104(a)-2

  1. Generally, material open to inspection under IRC §6104(a)(1)(B) and 26 CFR 301.6104(a)-2 includes the application for a determination letter filed after September 2, 1974 (if the plan has 26 or more participants), supporting documents, and letters or documents issued by the IRS after that date. See IRM 11.3.10.4, Withholding Certain Information per §§6104(a)(1)(C) and (D) for limitations on right of inspection..

  2. Documents relating to plans with 25 or fewer participants are available only to plan participants, the plan sponsor, or their authorized representatives.

  3. Letters or documents issued by the IRS that are open to inspection under IRC §6104(a)(1)(B)(iv), and are housed with employee plans in Cincinnati, include, but are not limited to the following:

    1. Determination letters relating to the qualification of a plan, account, or annuity.

    2. Technical advice memoranda relating to the issuance of such determination letters.

    3. Technical advice memoranda relating to the continuing qualification of a plan, account, or annuity previously determined to be qualified or relating to the qualification of a plan, account, or annuity for which no determination letter has been issued.

    4. Letters or documents revoking or modifying any prior favorable determination letter or denying the qualification of a plan, account, or annuity for which no determination letter has been issued.

    5. Determination letters relating to the exemption from tax of a trust or a custodial account described in IRC §401(f).

    6. Opinion letters or advisory letters relating to the acceptability of the form of any master, prototype, or volume submitter letter issued under the pre-approved program.

Withholding Certain Information per §§6104(a)(1)(C) and (D)

  1. Certain names and compensation shall not be open to inspection.

  2. IRC §6104(a)(1)(C) provides that the IRS must withhold from inspection (including inspection by a plan participant or his/her authorized representative) information contained in any application/document or other documents filed by the applicant or issued by the IRS in which the compensation (including deferred compensation) of an individual can be ascertained.

  3. IRC §6104(a)(1)(D) provides that, upon the request of the organization submitting any supporting papers described in IRC §6104(a)(1)(B), the IRS shall withhold from inspection any information that it determines relates to any trade secret, patent, process, style of work, or apparatus if the disclosure of such information would adversely affect the organization.

  4. IRC §6104(a)(1)(D) also provides that the IRS shall withhold from inspection any information contained in supporting papers that the IRS determines would adversely affect the national defense.

Inspection by Plan Participants

  1. In the case of a pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan (or an individual retirement arrangement) referred to in IRC §6104(a)(1)(B) with 25 or fewer participants, the application for a determination letter filed after September 2, 1974, supporting documents, and letters or documents issued by the IRS after that date may only be inspected by a plan participant or his/her authorized representative.

  2. When a plan with 25 or fewer plan participants files an application or annual return that shows that the number of participants has increased to 26 or more, all prior applications, or supporting documents, and other documents received or issued by the IRS after September 2, 1974 will be open to inspection regardless of the number of plan participants indicated on any prior application.

  3. When a plan with 26 or more plan participants files an application that shows that the number of participants has decreased to 25 or fewer, supporting documents relating to such application, and any other documents received or issued by the IRS after the date of receipt of that application may only be inspected by a plan participant or his/her authorized representative.

    Note:

    Materials that were previously open to inspection will remain open to inspection.

  4. The application for a determination letter and supporting documents will be open to inspection by a plan participant or his/her authorized representative whether or not the application is withdrawn by the applicant and whether or not the IRS determines that the plan is qualified.

  5. The application for termination of a plan, Form 5310, and the determination letter issued by the IRS is available for inspection by a plan participant or his/her authorized representative.

Inspection of Documents

  1. Any material open to inspection under IRC §6104(a)(1)(B) will be available for inspection only upon written request to the IRS.

  2. The DOL may establish their own requirements for public access.

  3. Individuals may be advised that many Forms 5500 submitted to the DOL are available on the website at the following: https://www.freeerisa.benefitspro.com.

Inspection of Annual Information Returns

  1. The information required to be furnished by IRC §6058, together with the names and addresses of such organizations and trusts shall be made available for inspection as the Secretary of Treasury may prescribe.

  2. Returns in this category include:

    • Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan

    • Form 5500-C/R, Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan (with fewer than 100 participants)

      Note:

      Form 5500-C/R and Form 5500 were combined as a new Form 5500 starting in 1999.

    • Form 5500-EZ, Annual Return of A One-Participant (Owners/Partners and Their Spouses) Retirement Plan or A Foreign Plan

    • Form 5500 Schedule A, Insurance Information

    • Form 5500 Schedule B, Actuarial Information

      Reminder:

      Schedule B filed with Form 5500-EZ is not available for inspection beginning with return year 1993.

      Note:

      Schedule B was replaced by Schedule SB for Single Employer Plans and by Schedule MB for Multiple Employer and Certain Money Purchase Plans for 2008 filings.

    • Form 5500 Schedule C, Service Provider Information

    • Form 5500 Schedule D, DFE (Direct Filing Entity)/Participating Plan Information

    • Form 5500 Schedule G,Financial Transaction Schedules

    • Form 5500, Schedule H, Financial Information

    • Form 5500, Schedule I, Financial Information-Small Plan

    • Form 5500, Schedule P, Annual Return of Fiduciary of Employee Benefit Trust

      Note:

      The requirement to file Schedule P was eliminated by Announcement 2007-63 for 2005 Form 5500-EZ filers and 2006 for all other Form 5500 filers.

    • Form 5500, Schedule R, Retirement Plan Information

      Note:

      Schedule E was replaced 1/1/2009 with a new part IV on Schedule R

    • Form 5500, Schedule T, Qualified Pension Plan Coverage Information

  3. Pursuant to agreement between the IRS and the DOL, inspection of all categories of Form 5500 (except Form 5500-EZ, Schedule B that is not open for inspection) is handled by the DOL. See IRM 21.3.8.3.4.1.4 , Tax Exempt/Government Entity (TE/GE) Customer Account Services (CAS) Telephone Operations.

    Note:

    The DOL does not receive copies of Form 5500-EZ.

  4. Forms 5500 filed with respect to employee welfare benefit plans are not governed by IRC §6104. These reports are required by section 104(a)(1) of Title I of ERISA and are open to inspection under section 106 of Title I.

Disclosure of Returns and Return Information to the Department of Labor and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

  1. In accordance with IRC §6103(l)(2) and 26 CFR §301.6104(l)(2)-1, the IRS may disclose certain returns and return information to the DOL or the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) for purposes of the administration of Titles I or IV of ERISA.

  2. Returns and return information may also be disclosed to these agencies for the purpose of conducting research and studies authorized by ERISA. Instructions regarding such disclosures are described in IRM 11.3.29.6, Disclosures to the Department of Labor (DOL) and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) for Administration of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) per IRC §6103(l)(2).

  3. Nothing in this text shall be construed to deny officers and employees of the DOL or the PBGC the right to inspect return information available for inspection under IRC §6104.

  4. Disclosures under IRC §6103(l)(2) will require disclosure accounting under IRC §6103(p)(3). Such disclosures are also subject to the safeguarding requirements of IRC §6103(p)(4).

Information Not Governed by IRC §6104

  1. Pursuant to IRC §6103(a), any information that the IRS gathers, receives, or develops regarding an employer plan or trust is confidential and may not be disclosed except as authorized by the Internal Revenue Code.

  2. Any information obtained or developed by the IRS during its examination of a pension plan’s and/or trust’s tax-exempt status is not available for inspection under IRC §6104. This information would include such documents as work papers, correspondence, reports, and informants’ letters.

  3. If these documents contain information that should have been filed with the IRS and would have been made available for inspection if filed, then those specific portions of the documents may be disclosed.

  4. In connection with official duties, it may become necessary for IRS personnel to contact an officer of the employer plan and/or trust, their employees, or other third parties. These officers, employees, or third parties may also contact IRS personnel. The disclosure of information in these situations will generally be governed by IRC §6103(c), IRC §6103(e), IRC §6103(h)(4), or IRC §6103(k)(6).(For additional information on each code section see IRM 11.3.3 , Disclosure to Designees and Practitioners; IRM 11.3.2 , Disclosure to Persons with a Material Interest; IRM 11.3.22 , Disclosure to Federal Officers and Employees for Tax Administration Purposes; IRM 11.3.21 , Investigative Disclosure.)

  5. With the exception of information available for inspection under IRC §6104(a)(1)(B) and IRC §6104(b), the disclosure of tax information concerning employee plans may be governed by other provisions of the IRC (e.g., IRC §6103).

  6. The discussions in other sections of IRM 11.3, Disclosure of Official Information, concerning the disclosure of returns and return information, also apply to the treatment of employee plans when outside of the purview of IRC §6104(a)(1)(B) and IRC §6104(b). Consult the Table of Contents of IRM 11.3, Disclosure of Official Information, for a description of the coverage of those sections.