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Form 5500 for 2017 Plan Year Released



2017 Form 5500, Schedules, and Instructions

The DOL has released the 2017 Form 5500 series, including Form 5500-SF, Schedules, and Instructions. (As a reminder, these are advance information copies not for filing—with very limited exceptions, Form 5500 must be filed electronically.) Here are highlights of changes relating to welfare and 401(k) plan filings:

  • Plan Name Change. Line 4 of Form 5500 and Form 5500-SF, which asks filers to indicate whether certain key information has changed since the last filing, now asks about plan name changes, in addition to changes to the plan sponsor’s name or employer identification number (EIN).
  • IRS Questions Eliminated. Several years ago, questions relating to certain IRS requirements were added to Form 5500 and various schedules; since then, filers have been instructed that these lines were optional or should be skipped (see, for example, our Checkpoint article). These questions, addressing paid preparer information, trust information, and retirement plan compliance, have now been eliminated.
  • Required Minimum Distributions and Missing Individuals. A new note in the Instructions for the portions of Schedules H and I that require reporting of unpaid benefits specifies that filers do not need to report unpaid retirement plan required minimum distributions (RMDs) for participants or beneficiaries who cannot be located after reasonable efforts. The IRS recently issued audit guidelines outlining acceptable steps for attempting to locate missing individuals due RMDs (see our Checkpoint article).
  • Small Plan Filing Exemption. The Instructions’ description of the filing exemption for small unfunded, insured, or combination welfare plans now specifies that, to qualify for the exemption, the plan must not be subject to the Form M-1 filing requirements (generally, multiple employer welfare plans (MEWAs)). This rule has been in effect since 2013 (see our Checkpoint article) but was not previously stated in this portion of the instructions.

Other changes to the Instructions include updated penalty references reflecting the current maximum penalty for Form 5500 filing failures ($2,097 per day, set to increase again in January; see our Checkpoint article), and revisions to information about the electronic signature option for filings made by authorized service providers.

EBIA Comment: The IRS compliance questions have been the subject of some confusion over the years, so filers will likely welcome their elimination. While other changes are minimal this year, keep in mind that significant revisions to Form 5500 have been proposed (see our Checkpoint article)—although it is not clear whether those proposals will move forward under the current administration. For more information, see EBIA’s ERISA Compliance manual at Section XXII (“Annual Form 5500 Reporting to the DOL”), EBIA’s 401(k) Plans manual at Section XXXI (“Plan Administration: Annual Form 5500 Reports and SARs”), EBIA’s Cafeteria Plans manual at Section XXXIV (“Form 5500 and Other Reporting Requirements”), and EBIA’s Self-Insured Health Plans manual at Section XXIX.B (“Annual Form 5500 Reporting”).

Contributing Editors: EBIA Staff.

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