Current Thinking

Form 5500 in 2021: What We Know Now

In a world turned upside down by COVID-19, it can be difficult for retirement plan fiduciaries to make sure that they are following the rules – especially since a number of them have been altered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Labor (DOL) and other entities as a means of helping plan sponsors and participants navigate the pandemic.

One in particular relates to Form 5500, developed jointly by the DOL, IRS and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), designed to ensure that employee benefit plans can satisfy the annual reporting requirements under Title I and Title IV of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and under the Internal Revenue Code.

Form 5500 includes information about a plan’s qualification, its financial condition, investments, and operations. It must be submitted annually – usually the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends (which is July 31 for a calendar-year plan).

None of this should come as news to a plan administrator – and if it does, address the situation immediately – but for those who have completed Form 5500 and signed it, what should they do next?

Remember that, while a limited extension for filing Form 5500 was established due to the pandemic, it did not extend the deadline for 2019 plans; there was, however, an extension for plan sponsors who filed Form 5558 – to October 15, 2020, which of course has passed.

Keeping in mind that there are modifications to Form 5500 nearly every year – and that further changes to retirement plan rules overall are a very real possibility as we head into 2021 with the pandemic still in effect – we must assume, for the present, that the important dates for 2020 will remain in place next year. Therefore:

  • April 30: The deadline for sponsors of single and multi-employer defined benefit pension plans to send their annual funding notice to participants, beneficiaries and any labor organizations representing participants. Small plans covering fewer than 100 participants must provide the notice by the IRS filing due date of its Form 5500.
  • July 31: The IRS’s aforementioned Form 5500 due date for plans that end on December 31. This is also the deadline to file Form 5558 for those requesting an extension to October 15, 2021.
  • September 15: Form 5500 due to the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) from plans eligible for an automatic extension linked to a corporate tax extension.
  • September 30: Summary annual reports due to participants from plans that end December 31, 2020 – nine months after that date, or two months after filing Form 5500.
  • October 15: IRS deadline for filing Form 5500 after having filed Form 5558 requesting an extension.
  • November 15: Summary annual reports due to participants if the Form 5500 deadline was extended because of a corporate tax filing extension.
  • December 15: Summary annual reports due to participants if the Form 5500 deadline was extended because of filing Form 5558.

It behooves plan administrators to circle the relevant 2021 dates on their calendars now, in order to prepare for what seems likely to be another topsy-turvy year. If and when those dates change, we will be sure to post updates.

And if they do not change … don’t say you weren’t warned.

About the Author

Richard Rausser

Richard W. Rausser has over 25 years of experience in the retirement benefits industry. He is Senior Vice President of Client Services at Pentegra Retirement Services, a leading provider of retirement plan, fiduciary outsourcing and institutional investment services to organizations nationwide. Rausser oversees the consulting, marketing and communications, non-qualified plan and BOLI business development and  actuarial service practice groups at Pentegra. He is a frequent speaker on retirement benefit topics; a Certified Pension Consultant (CPC); a Qualified Pension Administrator (QPA); a Qualified 401(k) Administrator (QKA); and a member of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA). He holds an M.B.A. in Finance from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a B.A. in Economics and Business Administration from Ursinus College.