QUESTION: We are required to file Form 5500 for several of our company’s employee benefit plans, and we are not sure that we will be able to file all of them on time. What do we need to do to get an extension?
ANSWER: An extension for filing Form 5500 (Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan) is obtained by filing Form 5558 (Application for Extension of Time to File Certain Employee Plan Returns) on or before the regular Form 5500 due date, which is seven months after the end of the plan year. Filing Form 5558 will extend the due date to 2-1/2 months beyond the regular deadline. (Legislation enacted in July 2015 would have lengthened the maximum Form 5500 extension period to 3-1/2 months for filings for plan years beginning after 2015, but that provision was repealed before it ever took effect, so the maximum permitted extension period remains at 2-1/2 months.) For example, a calendar-year plan’s filing deadline is July 31; with the extension, it is October 15.
Although Form 5500 must be filed electronically with the DOL (with limited exceptions for certain retirement plans), Form 5558 is filed in paper form with the IRS. A separate Form 5558 should be filed for each Form 5500 for which an extension is desired. So long as Form 5558 is filed on or before the Form 5500’s regular due date, the extension is automatic—that is, it does not require IRS or DOL approval. A copy of the completed and filed Form 5558 must be retained with the filer’s records; it is not attached to the Form 5500 filing.
Form 5558 is not the only mechanism for extending the due date for filing Form 5500. As described in our Question of the Week, the due date is automatically extended to the extended due date for the employer’s federal income tax return if certain conditions are satisfied. The Form 5558 cannot be used to further extend that automatic extension—the Form 5558 extension is only measured from the regular Form 5500 due date. And, from time to time, the DOL extends the Form 5500 filing deadline due to natural disasters or other events that may hinder timely filing. Typically, the DOL’s announcement specifies the length of the special extension, identifies eligible filers, and provides instructions on how to note the special extension on Form 5500.
For more information, see EBIA’s ERISA Compliance manual at Section XXII.F.2 (“Form 5500 Is Normally Due Seven Months After End of Plan Year”); EBIA’s 401(k) Plans manual at Sections XXXI.B (“Basic Form 5500 Rules: Who, When, What, and How”) and XXXI.M.3 (“Form 5558 (Application for Extension of Time to File Certain Employee Plan Returns)”); and EBIA’s Self-Insured Health Plans manual at Section XXIX.B (“Annual Form 5500 Reporting”). You may also be interested in EBIA’s Form 5500 Workbook for Health & Welfare Plans (2015 Plan Years), which provides line-by-line explanations of Form 5500 and the Schedules and attachments relevant for health and welfare plans, and in our recorded webinar “Form 5500 for Health and Welfare Plans: Preparation and Filing” (recorded on 04/28/16).
Contributing Editors: EBIA Staff.