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What Retirement Plans Must Report


Sponsors of retirement plans are generally required by law to report information to the IRS, the Department of Labor and even the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. Your plan type, business size and circumstances will affect your disclosure.

The plain-vanilla basic reporting and disclosure requirements for retirement plans under the Internal Revenue Code and the provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) are administered by the IRS.

Among the annual reports that the IRS wants filed are:

  • Form 5500, which provides information on the plan's qualification and financial condition, as well as the operation of the plan. If you're running a calendar-year plan, you'll need to file this by July 31.
    • There's a short form version — Form 5500-SF — intended for small employee benefit plans but also used for larger employers with a bare-bones plan. It's a simplified annual reporting form for businesses with fewer than 100 participants.
    • Form 5500-EZ is used for one-participant retirement plans for owners and their spouses.
  • Form 1099-R is necessary for distributions of $10 or more from pensions, annuities, retirement plans or profit-sharing plans. You'll have to send the information to the individual receiving the distribution — the payee —by Jan. 31 and to the IRS by Feb. 28 if on paper or March 31 if filed electronically.
  • Form 5558 is used if you need to apply for an extension of time in filing certain employee plan returns.
  • Form 5498 is for IRA contribution information and needs to be reported for each person that you are maintaining an IRA for, including SEP or SIMPLE IRAs.

In addition to your responsibilities regarding the IRS, there are reporting and disclosures to consider for the Department of Labor as well. Basic disclosure requirements include:

  • A summary plan description. This is the primary vehicle for informing participants and beneficiaries about their plan and how it operates.
  • The Summary Annual Report. This is a narrative summary of Form 5500 for the IRS.
  • Plan documents. Plan administrators must furnish copies of required documents and have them available for examination if requested.
  • Plan service provider disclosures.
  • Annual financial and actuarial information reporting. Certain plans must submit key information to the PBGC no later than 105 days after the close of your information year.

This is just a summary of a complex process — there are many other provisions and exceptions, and rules change over time. Be sure to work with qualified financial professionals to make sure you are in compliance.

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