How to File Form 5500-EZ Online [Tips + IRS Pitfalls]

Many questions revolve around Form 5500, especially how and when you need to file it. For starters, you need to know what Form 5500 is. The form is an Annual Report of an Employee’s Benefit Plan.

You have to file the form with the DOL (Department of Labor) to record annual information regarding an employee benefit plan. You must file Form 5500 annually if subject to The Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

The question arises about whose job it is to file Form 5500. Well, ERISA mandates that employers have to file the form. They need to do this for any welfare or healthcare plans that benefit employees.

The Process for Filing Form 5500

Most employers are unsure about the process for filing Form 5500. Employers have to sign and file Form 5500 in an electronic format. They can do this through either an authorized provider of EFAST 2 filing software or the Department of Labor’s FILE system.

The instructions on Form 5500 call for the ERISA Plan Administrator to hold a copy. The copy must include all additional documentation, like attachments and schedules, and every signature mandatory on a Form 5500 filing. The authorities will preserve this as a record of the employee benefit plan.

According to ERISA Section 104, the administrator must make copies of the plan available if beneficiaries, the Department of Labor, or participants request it.

Whatever entries you make on Form 5500 should be in the correct format. Otherwise, the EFAST 2 software will reject it.

For instance, if an entry on the form asks to enter a certain amount, it must be done in numbers rather than a word because the EFAST 2 system will reject it. This rule applies to all entries; a Form 5500 isn’t processed until it meets all the required format standards.

Be Careful When Filling and Submitting Form 5500

Be careful when you are filling out the form. You can eliminate the risk of error by checking each requirement carefully. Also, make sure you don’t miss any sections. Answer ‘Yes or No questions in the correct format. Furthermore, enter the valid employer identification number while filling out the form.

Once you finish filling out your report, check it for errors before submitting it with your signature. You can do this through filing software or an online system. After carefully reviewing all the required fields, you can go through the process for electronic signature, after which it’s time to submit it.

Upon completing electronic report submission, the EFAST 2 system will notify you immediately that the report was received and if it’s ready for processing. If you don’t receive a notification from the EFAST 2 system, you’ll need to take specific measures to rectify the problem. Otherwise, there’s a chance that you’ll be considered a non-filer who is subject to IRS and DOL penalties.

Once the EFAST 2 system receives your report, it should provide you with a filing status in less than half an hour. For this reason, you should remember to check back with the system to see the filing status and if the system received the report. If you make any errors while entering required fields, the filing status notification will list them.

In that case, check your form thoroughly to ensure the system doesn’t pick up any errors. You’ll get the filing status of ‘Filing_Recieved.’ To avoid having to pay penalties by the IRS and DOL, simply check your completed report for errors before submitting it, and check your processing status after submitting it.

When to File

Simply knowing the process of filing a Form 5500 isn’t enough. You have to file the form within the deadline and not at any time of the year. On whichever day your plan year ends, submit Form 5500 before the first day of the eighth month that follows. You’ll have to file it by the 30th or 31st of the seventh month.

If you can’t file Form 5500 by the original deadline, you can file for a two-and-a-half-month extension. For this, you’ll need to submit Form 5558 before or on the day of the actual deadline.

Form 5500 is a common topic of discussion among business owners and employers in the U.S. This form is an annual report on employee welfare plans such as benefits and pensions. However, there are far too many types of plans and several participants for all employers to file under a single form. This reason is why the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, released the 5500-SF and 5500-EZ forms for unique situations.

Form 5500-EZ is the most recent. Employers file it for one-participant plans. These plans only register the business owner and their spouse, or foreign pension plans outside the territory of the United States, for non-resident aliens.

Another factor that sets Form 5500-EZ apart from the rest, especially 5500-SF, is that employers have to complete it and submit it to the IRS. This is a viable option for business owners who aren’t very tech-savvy. However, there are some other tips that one should remember while filing. These tips will reduce the risks of penalties:

  • Employers can use the form, which is available online, on the IRS website. They can download the form and then complete it on their computer before printing it out. After getting a print, they can sign it and then mail it to the IRS.
  • If it’s convenient for the employer, they can obtain an official paper copy of the form from the IRS. Employers need to complete it by hand, and the filer should be careful to use only blue or black ink. If they prefer, filers can choose to fill out their form using a typewriter. They should also ensure that they write correct information within each field. After filling out the form, filers should sign and date it before mailing it.
  • Filers filing Form 5500-EZ for the first time should remember not to use stationary such as felt tip pens or other writing instruments to fill out the form. This is because they can cause the ink to seep through the paper and appear on another side. Documents mailed on only one side of the paper should not have any markings on the other side.
  • You can complete it using a pdf or by hand. However, be careful when mailing it, as the paper should not stick to anything. Moreover, abstain from using any sticky adhesives. It should also be free of creases, marks, stains, and wrinkles that make words illegible.
  • Employers filing Form 5500-EZ should not submit extra information other than the form. This includes notes, as well as markings like arrows.
  • An employer or business owner can choose to file their one-participant plan with the IRS using Form 5500-SF. This form is the Annual Return or Report of a Small Employee Benefit Plan. However, employers must file Form 5500-SF electronically with the EFAST 2 system. This is unlike the 5500-EZ, which they can file after completing it manually on paper.
  • An employer must file an annual report for any one-participant plan unless it fulfills exception criteria. (You are not required to file Form 5500-EZ if the plan’s total assets, and those of every other plan maintained by the employer, are less than $250,000)
  • Entries on the Form 500-EZ should not exceed the space of lines given. If your entry takes up too much space, but it is necessary to add the information, you can abbreviate it.
  • Employers have to file Form 5500-EZ by the last day of the 7th month that follows the beginning of the plan year.
  • Filers can also leverage specific private delivery services set up by the Internal Revenue Service. This is if you want to meet the timely filing and laying rule for timely mailing.
  • Employers file Form 5500-E for foreign and one-participant plans that are not subject to the regulations of section and code 104(a), which is under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act from 1874.
  • Foreign business owners can file Form 5500-EZ if they are domestic employers. They can also file this form as a foreign employer as long as they generate income in the U.S.

These are some of the critical factors that business owners and employers all across the country should keep in mind when filing the year’s annual report for each welfare and benefits plan they offer to their employees.

Annual Reporting

Form 5500 Reporting

The IRS jointly developed form 5500-series, the Department of Labor and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation meant for the employee benefit plans for annual reporting requirements under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) as well as the Internal Revenue Code (IRC).  

Plan administrators the employers must generally file Form 5500 by the end of the 7th month after their plan year ends unless they apply for an extension. A Solo 401k broker will generate and file Form 5500 for the participant as part of the annual maintenance services. 

In case of a short plan, meaning that the plan is terminated and assets paid out prior to the plan year-end, employers must also file the appropriate Form 5500-series return by the last day of the 7th month following the close of the short plan year. Form 5500 is a 2-page form with customized schedules to be used by both small and large employers. Form 5500-EZ is filed by Solo 401k plan participants when required.


ERISA Section 502(C)(2) gives the Secretary of Labor powers to impose civil penalties up to $1,100 daily on plan administrators who fail to file or refuse to file Form 5500 accurately or timely. DOL can impose higher penalties, but we will list the standard penalties for DOL and IRS.

Late Filings

    IRS penalty – $25 per day to a maximum of $15,000

    DOL penalty – $50 per day with no limit


    IRS penalty – $25 per day to a maximum of $15,000

    DOL penalty – $300 per day to a maximum of $30,000

Plan administrators can face other penalties for incomplete filings unless they submit a reasonable cause for failing to file the complete and accurate annual report and the IRS approves it.

Form 1099 – R Reporting

Form 1099: R is filed with the IRS anytime a participant or beneficiary in a plan takes a distribution. Administrators must send a copy of Form 1099 – R to both IRS and the distribution receiver by February 28 for IRS and January 31 for the distribution recipient. To transmit Form 1099 – R, administrators must file IRS Form 1096, Annual Summary, and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns.

Distribution Requirements

1. Beneficiary Distributions – An administrator must file a report to IRS whenever a distribution is made to a beneficiary using Form 1099 – R. The distribution is reported using a beneficiary’s name and Social Security number. Each beneficiary has an individual Form 1099 – R for reporting. 

2. Roth 401k Designated Account Distributions – A separate Form 1099 – R is used to report a designated 401k Roth account distribution. Specific instructions on coding specified Roth account distributions are given on Form 1099 – R.

3. Required Minimum Distributions – IRS provides that an individual should start taking QRP distributions annually once they attain the age of 70and a half. Failure to do so attracts a penalty tax on the accumulated excess.

Yes, filing form 5500 can seem extremely difficult to many people, and rightly so. There are a lot of important information and details involved that, if entered incorrectly, can waste a lot of your time. Therefore it is quintessential that everyone knows how to file form 5500. Once you follow the guidelines mentioned below, you will realize that it is not as tricky as you think.

Mostly everyone is familiar with the fact that people are penalized for non-compliance if they do not fill out and file the form correctly. The truth is that the filing requirements are actually pretty complex, and people can quickly get confused and make mistakes. We will discuss multiple queries in brief detail to ensure that you can file form 5500 with the greatest ease and without any errors.

Who Should Be Familiar With Form 5500?

Every employer who sponsors employee benefit plans of all sorts should be familiar with the filing requirements of form 5500. In fact, they are required by law.

    Every employer and administrator of a welfare plan or pension must file form 5500. The only exception for these employers and administrators is if their plan is exempted from the filing requirements of DOL

    Each employer who sponsors a deferred compensation, funded plan, or pension must file form 5500. Being exempt from the filing requirements of the IRS would be the only exemption.

The consequences of not being able to comply with the requirements of the form can be a stiff penalty. Therefore, it would make sense to familiarize yourself with Form 5500 and file it on time without mistakes.

What Am I Supposed To File

The instructions present in the form 5500 determine the schedule and form that are required to be filed. Many attributes come into play regarding what you have to file. The size and type of plan should be taken into consideration.

Three duties form 5500 performs. First of all, it is used for pension plans after filing to the IRS. Secondly, it is filed to the DOL for pension plans. Finally, it is filed to ERISA for receiving welfare and benefit plans. Depending on your plan, it is possible that it could be subject to all of the three filing requirements.

It is not uncommon for employers to get confused with the filing requirements. The amount of forms an employer has to file solely depends on how many employees’ plans are provided. This might sound simple to you, but it isn’t. It ultimately depends on how the employee’s plan documents are written. An employee having vision, dental and medical benefits might have one, two, and three plans.

When Are The Files Due?

Every employer should make sure that they file form 5500 before every plan year. The only exemption is that the plain is exempt from the filing requirements. The last day of the seventh month that follows the conclusion of the plan year is when the files are due. So, if your plan year ends on January 31, the files will be due on July 31.

However, you can obtain an extension, but make sure that you do not do it at the last moment. It would be advisable to decide on getting an extension at least a few weeks prior. People seeking an extension receive two or two and a half months.

Benefits of Complying

First of all, you will not be facing the harsh penalties that are imposed for non-compliance, that in and of itself would be considered a benefit. Once you file the form, adverse action is taken by the government against the form. All in all, the truth is there aren’t any significant benefits. However, it is infinitely better than facing penalties or, even worse, going to prison.

Important Tip

The employees should thoroughly review every employee benefit program to ensure that they are accurate and that there aren’t any loopholes present that might cause problems. It would be advisable to seek advice if you encounter missing filings or aren’t submitted on time. Make sure that your obligations are clear.


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