DOL Addresses Compliance With MEP Form 5500 Filing Accuracy

The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has issued Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) 2019-01, which affirms earlier guidance on multiple employer plan (MEP) reporting on Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan, and provides temporary penalty relief for certain reporting failures.

In response to provisions in the Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act, the EBSA issued an interim final rule in 2014 that added new reporting requirements for MEPs. In their annual filing, such plans were to report the following information on an attachment to the Form 5500 (or Form 5500-SF for small employer benefit plans).

  • A list of each employer participating in the MEP
  • A good faith estimate of each participating employer’s percentage of the plan’s overall contributions (employee and employer) made during the reporting year
  • The name, employer identification number (EIN), and plan number for the MEP as found on the Form 5500

Following the issuance of the 2014 guidance, the EBSA observed a number of failures “to include a complete and accurate list of employers” with their Form 5500 or Form 5500-SF.

EBSA identified several common failures in 35 percent of the 286 plans that were included in an enforcement effort earlier in 2019. The following were among the failures.

  • Employer names were not complete (e.g., abbreviated or initials-only).
  • EINs were truncated to include only the last four digits of the EIN.
  • The Form 5500 attachment noted that the EBSA-required data was “available upon request.”
  • A PEO was incorrectly listed as the only participating employer.

Rather than initiating civil enforcement action against MEPs guilty of such failures, the EBSA is granting transition relief in FAB 2019-01 “to plan administrators of MEPs who voluntarily comply…and commence filing complete and accurate participating employer information…for the 2018 and following plan years…”

Form 5500 Filing Deadline Extension for MEPs

Because the 2018 Form 5500/5500-SF filing deadline for calendar year plans is imminent—July 31, 2019—the EBSA is granting such MEPs a filing extension of up to 2½ months. EBSA also noted the following.

  • Plans should check the “special extension” box under Part I, Line D of the 2018 Form 5500/5500-SF, and enter “FAB 2019-01” as the description for the extension.
  • Filers may instead choose to File Form 5558 with the IRS to obtain the general 2½ month extension, but if so, this must be done by July 31, 2019, for calendar year plans.
  • Plans that have already filed their 2018 plan year Form 5500/5500-SF must file an amended return by October 15, 2019, to obtain the relief provided by FAB 2019-91.

The EBSA reserves the right in individual cases to request prior-year filing data.