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5500 Reporting Tips and Tricks Takeaways

Friday, June 9, 2023
5500 Reporting Tips and Tricks Takeaways

Assurex recently hosted a webinar discussing important factors in filing a 5500 for ERISA health and welfare plans. A 5500 contains the necessary information regarding an employer’s health plan and all that it entails. It is then sent electronically to the Department of Labor, which checks to ensure everything is in order and that documentation is in place.

We’ve highlighted some key takeaways from the webinar regarding who must file a Form 5500, how 5500s are filed, and when they are due. For more information on filing a 5500, visit the IRS’s Form 5500 Corner.

Do You Have to File?

All employers who offer a health and welfare plan subject to ERISA must file a 5500. There are a couple of exceptions to the rule:

  • Government employers
  • Church employers

There are also small plan exceptions, which depend on the number of participants in a plan.

Small Plan Exceptions

A plan with less than 100 participants on the first day of the plan year does not have to file a 5500 unless the plan is funded. Participants include current employees, former employees enrolled in the plan, and former employees who are eligible to elect COBRA but have not. Dependents on the plan do not count as participants.

Employers should not rely on Schedule A data to determine how many participants are on their plan. Schedule A reports on the number of participants on the last day of the year.

Plans That Must File

As mentioned, filing is only required for health and welfare plans subject to ERISA. Below are a few common ERISA plans as well as non-ERISA plans.

ERISA Plans Non-ERISA Plans
Medical, Dental, Vision Dependent Care FSAs
Health Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
Rx Plans Paid Time Off
Life Insurance Workers’ Compensation


Plans that satisfy the voluntary plan safe harbor do not have to file a 5500. A voluntary plan is one in which participation is voluntary. The employer does not contribute to the plan; their sole function is to allow the insurer to publicize the program.

Determining How Many Plans to File

Each ERISA plan with more than 100 participants must file a separate 5500. The default rule is that each benefit with its own policy is a separate plan, except for benefits of the same type. In this case, the employer can choose a wrap plan.

A wrap plan bundles separate benefits into a single plan. For example, medical, dental, and life insurance can be wrapped in a single plan containing three documents. If an employer does not choose a wrap plan, they must file a separate 5500 for each benefit plan; in this instance, they would have to file three (medical, dental, and life). The wrap plan year determines the due date for the 5500.

When 5500s Are Due

5500s are due on the last day of the 7th month after the plan year’s end. The plan year starts on the plan renewal date and ends 12 months later unless the plan doc lists a different plan year. Plan years can be less than 12 months but cannot be longer than 12 months.

Electronic Filing

The only way to file a 5500 is online; there is no paper option. 5500s can be e-filed using approved third-party software, such as EFAST2 or the government’s free online IFILE system. The vendor can prepare and schedule the form for submission, but the employer must electronically sign the form.

Completing a 5500

A Form 5500 consists of a main body and up to six schedules. Each fully insured plan must have a Schedule A attached. Self-funded plans typically do not have any schedules. Most insurance companies automatically issue a Schedule A for benefit plans with over 100 participants. It is important to note that Schedule A lists the participant count as of the last day of the plan year.

If the insurance company does not automatically furnish a Schedule A, it is the employer’s responsibility to request one. Should the carrier fail to provide a Schedule A attachment, the employer must still complete the Schedule A to the best of their ability and indicate that the carrier failed to provide the required information. Employers using a wrap plan must attach a Schedule A if the plan has more than 100 participants.

Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program

Employers who file their 5500(s) late can use the DFVC program to file. A benefit to using the DFVC to file late or missing 5500s is the employer pays reduced late penalties. Employers should know that if they have multiple late or missing 5500s, they are not supposed to wrap them before completing the DFVC.


Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.