Forms Required by ERISA

There are a great many forms that must be completed for each ERISA plan. If you're lucky, your administrator (agent/insurance company/retirement plan administrator) will take care of these for you. Make sure you're both clear on who's going to do what. Don't leave getting these forms completed to chance!

IRS forms. Historically, welfare plans didn't have to file annual IRS forms as did retirement plans. But, beginning in 1977, welfare plans have had to file an annual report with the IRS (Form 5500-C/R for employers with fewer than 100 participants or Form 5500EZ for employers with one employee).

Generally, though, all of the other forms required by the IRS for retirement plans don't have to be filed by welfare plans. There are certain rare instances where other forms might have to be filed with the IRS, but those situations are so unlikely to occur that they aren't worth going into here. In the unlikely event that you fall into one of those categories, your administrator should let you know.

Department of Labor forms. There are many forms that welfare plans must file with the U.S. Department of Labor. Fortunately, small welfare plans are exempt from most of them. Any welfare plan with fewer than 100 participants (1) whose benefits are fully insured or (2) whose benefits are paid from the employer's general assets are exempt from ERISA's reporting and disclosure rules.

As a small employer, the only form that your administrator will have to file with the Department of Labor is a financial statement that sets out the plan's financial condition. Small employer plans can fulfill that obligation by filing with the Department of Labor a Form 5500-C/R (or Form 5500EZ, if that applies) with attachments.

It's important that you make sure at the outset which tasks the insurance agent/company will handle and what, if anything, you need to do. In the unlikely event that you end up being designated the plan administrator, you should contact an attorney to help you comply with ERISA's complex requirements.