Filers who have to file at least 250 returns with the IRS during the calendar year generally must file Form 5500-series returns and Form 8955-SSA electronically (see T.D. 9695, final Regulations issued under IRC Sections 6057, 6058 and 6059).
If you don’t file electronically when required to do so, you’ll be considered to not have filed the return, and you may incur appropriate penalties.
Effective date for mandatory electronic filing
- Form 8955-SSA, Annual Registration Statement Identifying Separated Participants with Deferred Vested Benefits, must be filed electronically for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2014, but only for returns with a filing date on or after July 31, 2015 (not including extensions).
- Form 5500 series returns must be filed electronically for plan years that begin on or after
January 1, 2015,but only for returns with a filing deadline (not including extensions) after December 31, 2015.
Electronic filing systems
Use EFAST2 (ERISA Filing Acceptance System) to electronically file:
- Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan, and
- Form 5500-SF, Short Form Annual Return/Report of Small Employee Benefit Plan.
Use FIRE (Filing Information Returns Electronically) to electronically file Form 8955-SSA.
Electronic filing isn’t available for Form 5500-EZ, Annual Return of One-Participant (Owners and their Spouses) Retirement Plan. However, Form 5500-EZ filers required to file their returns electronically under the final regulations, who would otherwise file a paper Form 5500-EZ, must instead file
- Schedule SB, Single-Employer Defined Benefit Plan Actuarial Information, or
- Schedule MB, Multiemployer Defined Benefit Plan and Certain Money Purchase Plan Actuarial Information.
When determining the 250-return threshold, aggregate all returns, including information returns. For example, include the following returns:
- Forms W-2 and 1099-R; and
- income, employment and excise tax returns.
Late filers who want relief under the following programs must file paper returns and meet other program requirements:
- Penalty Relief Program for Form 5500-EZ Late Filers
- IRS Penalty Relief for DOL DFVC Filers of Late Annual Reports
Hardship waivers of the electronic filing requirement
In exceptional cases, the IRS may grant waivers of the electronic filing requirement for Forms 8955-SSA and 5500-EZ. The IRS does not grant electronic filing waivers for Forms 5500 and 5500-SF because taxpayers are already required to file these forms electronically through EFAST2 under a Department of Labor rule.
The IRS will generally grant a waiver if the filer can demonstrate that undue economic hardship would occur by complying with the electronic filing requirement, including a demonstration of any incremental costs the filer would incur in filing electronically rather than using a paper form.
- A separate written request is needed for each plan.
- The waiver request is due on or before the form’s due date (including any extensions), but filers are encouraged to submit at least 45 days before the due date to allow processing and to give the filer time to file electronically if the IRS denies the request.
See Revenue Procedure 2015-47 for details on requesting the hardship waiver.