Form 5500 Instructions

Internal Revenue Service Form 5500 instructions can be done by business filers, but most forms are filled out with the assistance of a registered tax preparer. The official name for Form 5500 is the "Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan." Form 5500 must be completed by employers participating in benefit plans. Under the federal law Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, also known as ERISA, businesses and companies are required to complete the document. The Internal Revenue Code Sections 6407(e) and 6057 (b) give the exact details concerning the legal requirements.

If you operate a business or company with a pension or welfare benefit plan, you'll need a few things to complete your form, including;

  • Form 5500
  • Calculator
  • Employer retirement information
  • Accountant or tax preparer, recommended, but optional
  • Personal tax information, including your companies tax identification numbers and work retirement identification
  • Copies of other appropriate forms listed in the pension schedules section. This varies with the employer.
  • Paper copy of Form 5500
  1. Make a paper copy of Form 5500. It's old school, but it works. 
  2. Complete a rough draft form. Use a pencil and paper to complete a rough draft of Form 5500.
  3. Complete Part I. The first section of Form 5500 requires reporting for the previous calendar year. You'll need to check a number of boxes to identify the types of plans your company offers. 
  4. Complete Part II. This form section requires you to type in the name of your plan and the employer's name and address. You'll need to put in your three digit plan pin number, effective date of the plan and your employer identification number. You'll also need a telephone number and the business code you normally use for your regular business taxes. 
  5. Complete plan administrator's identification. You'll need the name and address here. 
  6. Complete questions about your plan. This is where you input all the details about your plan. You'll need to contact your plan administrator if you don't have this information. The details include the number of active participants, how many people from your company receive benefits currently, as well as how many workers are counting on your company to provide benefits in the future when they retire. 
  7. Finish the plan funding arrangement section. Check any of the boxes that apply to your plan. If you're uncertain, contact your plan administrator. 
  8. File the form electronically. Use your completed form to transfer information to the online forms. If you don't have internet access to file Form 5500, you need to locate a service. The IRS accepts Form 5500 only through online submissions. 
  9. Sign your form. Use the electronic system to sign. 
  10. Attach the required schedules. Depending on your pension plan, you could need up to ten separate attachments for this part of the filing. The electronic submission system accepts electronic copies of your schedules. 
  11. Print a copy of your electronic submission. Keep this record for your business files. 


If you're a small business, you may get by with Form 5500-SF, short for short form. This form is used for companies with less than 100 people in the retirement system. 



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