Skip to content
Alight named by Fortune as one of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ in 2024

Filing Form 5500 – 5 things you need to know


Do you offer an employer-sponsored health or retirement benefit plan? Then you need to file a Form 5500.

What is a Form 5500?

Form 5500, the Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan, is used to file an employee benefit plan’s annual information return with the Department of Labor.  There are a few exceptions, but If your plan is subject to ERISA, you should be filing Form 5500 every year.  

Don’t forget about the Summary Annual Report and Form 8955-SSA.

If you are required to file Form 5500, you’ll also need to prepare and distribute a Summary Annual Report (SAR), which summarizes your plan’s financial status and the information found in your Form 5500. Your SAR should summarize administrative expenses, benefits paid and plan assets.

If your plan has participants who have separated from service with a deferred vested benefit (generally for Defined Contribution and Defined Benefit Plans), you’re also required to file Form 8955-SSA.

How and when you file isn’t the same for each form.

Form 5500 is filed using the EFAST2 system and is due the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends. For calendar-year plans, that’s July 31.

The Summary Annual Report is distributed by the plan administrator and is due nine months after the end of the plan or, if you received an extension on your Form 5500, two months after the extended due date.

Form 8955-SSA is filed using the FIRE system and is due on the last day of the seventh month following the end of the plan year, unless an extension is obtained. You can file Form 5558 via the mail for an extension (up to 2 ½ months).

The fines for missing your filing deadline are hefty.

The maximum penalties for failing to file Form 5500 can add up – up to $2,140 per day to the Department of Labor, and $25 per day (up to a maximum of $15,000) to the IRS.

Form 8955-SSA has its own penalty of $1 per day for each participant for whom the plan fails to file (up to $5,000 for any plan year).

Already missed your filing deadline? The Delinquent Filer Voluntary Correction program can help.

The Delinquent Filer Voluntary Correction program (DFVC) allows plan administrators to pay reduced penalties for voluntarily filing prior to receiving an official failure to file notice from the Department of Labor. When submitting your Form 5500, be sure to check the DFVC program box to participate and use the online calculator to determine your reduced penalty. 

Related reads

Improving the open enrollment process – podcast overview

A recent Alight on Wellbeing podcast brought together seasoned benefit experts to shed light on what employers and employees alike should be considering as the open enrollment season approaches.

How are emergency funds different from savings accounts – and why does everyone need one?

If you have money in your savings account, that’s great, but make sure you have enough set aside for an emergency.

401k auto portability: help for America’s under-saved workers

While the challenges of 401(k) auto portability are clear and the data is compelling, real change requires practitioners to act.