The Department of Labor (DOL) requires retirement and welfare plans to file
annual reports on Form 5500 electronically beginning with the 2009 plan year. In
connection with the shift from paper to all-electronic filing, the DOL has
released a series of FAQs regarding the new program, dubbed EFAST2. A copy of
them and other program information may be accessed at
Highlighted Material Features of New EFAST2 Regime
- Effective Date: EFAST2 is effective for
plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2009, meaning that plans must now
file using the new filing system.
- Covered Plans: Almost all retirement plans (including Code
Section 403(b) plans) and welfare plans must file annual reports
- Plans that cover only the sole owner or partners in a partnership
and no other employees are exempt from the electronic filing
requirement. These plans should report on Form 5500-EZ or Form 5500-SF
(plans that do not hold employer stock).
- Delinquent / Amended Reports: Plan sponsors must also use the new
system for filing delinquent or amended reports.
- Delinquent or amended 2008 plan year filings may be made through the
EFAST2 system. However, plan sponsors may also continue to submit paper
or electronic filings via the original EFAST system until Oct. 15, 2010.
- Delinquent or amended Forms 5500 submitted through EFAST2 for plan
years prior to 2009 should be submitted using the current year Form
5500, schedules and instructions, with some exceptions.
- Plan sponsors should use the correct year schedules and
instructions for the following schedules:
- Schedule B, SB, MB (actuarial information); Schedule E (ESOP
information); Schedule P (annual return of fiduciary of employee
benefit trust); Schedule R (retirement plan information; and
Schedule T (qualified pension plan coverage information).
- For plan years 2009 and later, plan sponsors must amend annual
reports by checking the “amended return/report” box and resubmitting the
entire amended document, including all schedules and attachments.
- Filing Software: The DOL provides free filing software, called
IFILE. However, plan sponsors may also use approved third-party software or
engage third-party service providers to make filings that have been signed
by authorized persons.
- Large volume filers may wish to consider using third-party software,
as DOL software is designed for sponsors filing a relatively low number
of annual reports (2 – 3).
- Electronic Signatures: Plan sponsors must go to the DOL website
to obtain electronic signature credentials. Credentials are specific to each
company officer authorized to sign annual reports. Each potential electronic
signatory must obtain his or her own credentials.
- Electronic signatures in EFAST2 are different from the EFAST system,
and signers, authors, transmitters, and software developers will all
likely need to register for new electronic credentials.
- Third-party administrators may not obtain electronic signature
credentials on behalf of clients. Plan sponsors may not provide
third-party administrators with their electronic credentials.
- Third-party administrators who manage the Form 5500 filing
process may obtain their own signer credentials, and may attest they
are authorized signatories.
- In these cases, the third-party signatory must also attach a PDF
of the Form 5500 that has been manually signed and dated by the plan
administrator under penalty of perjury.
- Actuaries and accountants need not obtain electronic signature
credentials. However, their reports must be manually signed and attached
to the Form 5500 as a PDF.
- Submission of Annual Reports: Plan sponsors should be careful to
review their annual reports before submitting them via the EFAST2 system.
The IFILE system permits plan sponsors to “validate” filings before final
submission. The validation process will perform an initial check for errors.
- Any uncorrected errors will automatically be flagged on final
- Accountant Reports: Audit reports by independent qualified public
accountants must be documented on letterhead, signed and saved as a PDF
file. The PDF file should be electronically attached to the Form 5500. Once
attached, the PDF of the audit report will be transmitted to EFAST2 with the
rest of the annual report.
- Submissions without required audit reports will be marked as
incomplete, which could lead to additional review, rejection, and
potential civil penalties.
- Receipt of Annual Report: Once submitted, plan sponsors will
receive an “Acknowledgement ID” message that signifies EFAST2 received an
- The message does not necessarily mean EFAST2 received the actual
- Plan sponsors should check the filing status of their submissions
using the filing software or via the EFAST2 website. Any person may
check the status of a filing by calling the EFAST2 helpline at
- Extensions: Plan sponsors who file for an extension of time on
Form 5558 via the EFAST2 system no longer need to include the Form 5558 with
their Form 5500 submission. However, plan sponsors must keep a copy of the
Form 5558 with their plan records.
- Online Disclosure: Nearly all filings submitted through EFAST2,
including all schedules and attachments, will be available to the general
public through the DOL website at
www.efast.dol.gov. There are no registration requirements to view
- The EFAST2 website will generally display filings within one day of
Plan sponsors should begin now to prepare to make annual disclosures via
EFAST2 by familiarizing themselves with the new system, and by ensuring that all
appropriate members of their organizations obtain electronic signature
credentials. Plan sponsors utilizing third-party vendors to prepare and file
their annual reports should work with their vendors to set up processes to share
and review filings, decide who will file the Form 5500, and obtain additional
electronic signature authority as necessary.
For additional information or assistance with preparing Forms 5500 and using
the EFAST2 filing system, please contact the authors of this article or any
other member of the McGuireWoods