Understanding Form 5500 for Defined Contribution Plans

If you have a defined contribution plan, this guide may help you file your Form 5500-EZ or 5500-SF.

Plan administrators for Keoghs, defined benefit plans, corporate pension and profit sharing plans, certain 403(b) plans, and 401(k) plans must generally file a Form 5500 each year. 

Every year by April 30, Fidelity mails and makes viewable online Annual Valuation Statements (AVS). These documents provide comprehensive information on your plan and can help you complete your respective Form 5500. It is important to complete your form carefully as the federal government may impose penalties for non-compliance with filing regulations. Consult your tax advisor, the IRS, or the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) of the DOL with any questions.

There are three types of Form 5500: Form 5500-EZ—for one-participant plans only; Form 5500-SF—for one-participant plans as well as for plans with fewer than 100 participants; and Form 5500—for plans with 100 or more participants.

All 5500 forms, with the exception of Form 5500-EZ, must be filed electronically using the DOL ERISA Filing Acceptance System (EFAST2). A DOL EFAST help line is available at 866-GO EFAST (866-463-3278).

One-participant plans
A one-participant plan covers a business owner with no employees. However, the plan can cover a business owner and his/her spouse, or a business partnership (where the partners and their spouses are the only participants).

If you have a one-participant plan, you have the option of filing either Form 5500-EZ or Form 5500-SF. If you decide to use Form 5500-EZ, it must be filed on paper with the IRS. You can either complete, print, and mail the form available online or obtain a blank paper copy from the IRS. The Form 5500-SF must be filed electronically using the EFAST2 system. For more information, visit www.dol.gov.

In some cases, one-participant plans may not be required to file any 5500 forms. Generally, if the total plan assets are $250,000 or less, you may not need to file. For more details on the various criteria that apply, please visit www.dol.gov.

Plans with fewer than 100 participants
Plans that are not one-participant plans and have fewer than 100 participants must file electronically using Form 5500-SF. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov or the EFAST2 web site.

Plans with 100 or more participants
Plans with at least 100 participants must file electronically using Form 5500. For more information on completing Form 5500, please visit www.dol.gov or consult your tax advisor.

For more information on which 5500 forms to use, please see our FAQ, Who should file Forms 5500-EZ, 5500-SF, or 5500 and which form should I file?

Illustrated explanation of your Annual Valuation Statement

Your Annual Valuation Statement (AVS) provides information which may help you to complete your respective Form 5500. Consult your tax advisor, the IRS, or the Department of Labor (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), with any questions.

Click on the number for a detailed explanation of that section.

Illustrated explanation of Form 5500-EZ

Form 5500-EZ—For single participant plans

Use the following information, together with IRS Instructions for Form 5500-EZ, to complete and file Form 5500-EZ. Administrators who choose to file Form 5500-EZ (PDF) must mail the paper copy to the IRS. It cannot be submitted electronically. They can either complete, print, and mail the form available online, or obtain a blank paper copy from the IRS. For more information, see the Instructions for Form 5500-EZ (PDF).

Click on the number for a detailed explanation of that section.

  • Who should file Forms 5500-EZ, 5500-SF, or 5500 and which form should I file?

    Form 5500-EZ—As in past years, one-participant plan administrators may continue to use the Form 5500-EZ to satisfy certain annual reporting and filing obligations. A one-participant plan is generally for a business owner (or an owner and his/her spouse, if they are the only participants) or for a business partnership (where the partners and/or their spouses are the only participants). Administrators must file this paper form with the IRS.

    You do not have to file a Form 5500-EZ (or Form 5500-SF) for a plan year (other than the final plan year), if you meet the conditions for filing Form 5500-EZ (or Form 5500-SF) and you have one or more one-participant plans that separately or together had total assets of $250,000 or less at the end of that plan year. Please visit www.dol.gov for details.

    Form 5500-SF—Most small business retirement plans with fewer than 100 participants may complete and file Form 5500-SF electronically. However, only one-participant plan administrators may choose to complete the paper Form 5500-EZ.

    Form 5500—Form 5500 must be completed by plans with 100 or more participants. It may only be completed and filed electronically. For more information on completing Form 5500, please visit www.dol.gov or consult your tax advisor.

    Other filing details:

    Employer Identification Number: To file a Form 5500-EZ with the IRS or a Form 5500-SF with the Department of Labor (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) you will need an Employer (Tax) Identification Number (EIN). If you do not have an EIN you may:

    Once you have an EIN, please complete and return the Fidelity Retirement Plan Information Form and Instructions (PDF).

  • Where should I file Forms 5500?

    Forms 5500 and 5500-SF must be filed electronically with the EBSA, not the IRS or Fidelity, see the respective instructions for details. A DOL/EBSA EFAST help line is available at 866-GO EFAST (866-463-3278).

    Form 5500-EZ must be filed, on paper, with the IRS using the following mailing address: Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Ogden, UT 84201-0020. You may want to mail your 5500 filing by certified or overnight mail for proof of mailing. Refer to the IRS list of approved certified or overnight mail providers in the instructions.

  • What is the deadline for filing?
    Forms 5500 must generally be filed by the last day of the seventh month following the end of the plan year, unless an extension has been granted. For calendar–year plans, the deadline is July 31.
  • How can I obtain an extension for filing?
    To obtain a two-and-one-half-month extension, eligible filers may file Form 5558 with the IRS before the due date of their Form 5500. Plans eligible to file Form 5500-EZ are automatically granted an extension for filing Form 5500-EZ until the extended due date of the employer’s federal income tax return, provided certain conditions are met. Please refer to the IRS Instructions for Form 5500-EZ (PDF) for details.
  • If I have more than one qualified retirement plan, do I need to file a Form 5500 for each plan?
    Yes, unless you are eligible to file Form 5500-EZ and the combined assets of all plans were $250,000 or less at the end of the plan year. If, however, you have more than $250,000 in plan assets, a separate Form 5500-SF or Form 5500-EZ should be filed for each plan.
  • What are my basic responsibilities as plan administrator?

    As you prepare your Form 5500 tax filing, it’s a good time for an annual checkup of your administrative responsibilities and retirement plan needs. Our retirement representatives are available to answer your questions at 800-544-5373.

    General plan administrator responsibilities:

    • Within 120 days of adopting or amending a plan, give each participant a Summary Plan Description. Retain copies of the plan documents and any plan amendments.
    • Enroll eligible employees
      • Monitor plan eligibility requirements to know when your employees are eligible to participate
      • If you have employees participating in your plan, the employer is generally required to be bonded. You should speak with your tax advisor or legal counsel to determine your bonding requirement. Employees who become eligible to participate must be provided a Summary Plan Description within 90 days.
      • Reminder: A Self-Employed 401(k) plan is available to self-employed individuals or business owners with no employees other than a spouse. If you have or are planning to hire any other employees who may meet the eligibility requirements, you must contact a retirement representative to discuss alternative plan options
    • File IRS/DOL 5500 series forms (if required)
    • Distribute Summary Annual Report: Distribute to participants and any beneficiaries receiving benefits within nine months of the close of the plan year. For a sample report, call a Fidelity retirement representative.
    • Contribute to the plan: Calculate and allocate contributions by the contribution deadline(s).
    • Review distribution requests: As needed, review distribution requests, including spousal consent requirements, and instruct Fidelity accordingly.

    The list of plan sponsor responsibilities is not intended to be complete, but is offered as a guide. As always, you are strongly encouraged to discuss and review your plan administrator responsibilities and/or any changes to your retirement plan with your tax and legal advisor.

    Forms to update your plan information with Fidelity

    If you need to update certain information regarding your plan, start with one of these forms:

    • Fidelity Retirement Plan Information Form and Instructions (PDF) Employers use this form to provide to Fidelity plan information including the Employer (Tax) Identification Number, plan administrator information, and participant information.
    • Fidelity Retirement Plan Beneficiary Designation Form (PDF) Participants can use this form to update their beneficiary information, or go online at Fidelity.com. Simply log on, click on the Customer Service link at the top of the page, then Account Maintenance, and finally click on Beneficiaries, and follow the instructions. The Fidelity Retirement plan does not provide for beneficiary information for Inherited Plan accounts.
  • What should I do if I need IRS 5500 forms?

    You can find the Form 5500-EZ on the IRS website or you may request a blank copy by contacting the IRS at 800-TAX-FORM. Forms 5500-SF and 5500 are available and must be completed on the DOL EFAST2 website.

  • Am I required to file if the plan was terminated?
    Yes. If you terminated your plan, a final Form 5500 is due after all assets under the plan have been distributed, even if you were never required to file before.
  • What are the date and opinion notification numbers of the latest plan opinion letters?

    March 31, 2014, is the date of the latest IRS opinion letters for the Fidelity Retirement Plan.

    Plan Type Opinion notification number
    A stand alone profit sharing plan J293786a
    A self-employed 401(k) J293788a
    A money purchase plan J293787a
  • Do I report my plan’s assets on a cash basis or an accrual basis?
    Either method is acceptable, but you should be consistent from year to year. Your Annual Valuation Statement reports your plan’s assets on a cash basis rather than an accrual basis. Please consult your tax advisor for guidance.
  • Do I report a deceased participant’s plan assets on IRS/DOL Form 5500?
    A deceased participant's assets must be reported as an asset of the plan until those assets are distributed from the plan to a beneficiary.
  • If I was required to file previously because the total of my plan assets was over $250,000, must I continue to file?
    For other than the final plan year, if you meet the conditions for filing Form 5500-EZ or Form 5500-SF, and you have one or more one-participant plans that had total assets of $250,000 or less at the end of that plan year, you no longer need to file. Please refer to the IRS Instructions for Form 5500-EZ (PDF) for more information.
  • What other Forms and Schedules might I need to file for my retirement plan?

    Please consult the Form 5500-EZ and Form 5500-SF Instructions for more details. Other forms may include:

    • Form 8955-SSA, Annual Registration Statement Identifying Separated Participants With Deferred Vested Benefits (formerly Schedule SSA (Form 5500). Note: Do not file with Form 5500–SF. File the statement separately with the IRS.
    • Schedule SB for single employer defined benefit plans
    • Schedule MB for multiemployer defined benefit plans or for certain money purchase plans amortizing a funding waiver
  • What other tax resources are available online?

    There are a number of resources available online at Fidelity.com and other websites.

    • Update beneficiary information: Participants may generally update their beneficiary informationLog In Required online at Fidelity.com. Alternatively, they may complete this Beneficiary Designation Form (PDF). The Fidelity Retirement Plan does not provide for beneficiary information for Inherited Plan accounts.
    • Annual Valuation Statement online: As a plan administrator you may view your Annual Valuation Statement online.
    • Form 5500 Information: Visit the Employee Benefits Security Administration hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor for or Form 5500 Information.
    • Tax Information: Fidelity's Tax Center at Fidelity.com provides access to tax planning tools, information about recent tax laws, and potential tax-savings strategies.
    • IRA Center: Fidelity's IRA Center features tools, checklists, and articles to help with retirement planning.
    • Small Business Overview: The Small Business Overview page helps you review your options and manage your plan.
  • What steps should I take to transfer our retirement plan to Fidelity from another trustee?
    • Contact your tax advisor to determine if it is necessary to file a Form 5310-A prior to making the transfer.
    • Transfer your retirement plan accounts online (a form is also available at the same site).
    • Fidelity will send a letter of acceptance to your current trustee and notify you when we have received your funds.
    • Please check with your current trustee to see if they require additional instructions from you.
  • What should I do if I missed filing last year?

Additional Information

Note to employers:

If you provided Fidelity with your employer (tax) identification number (EIN), then you’ll receive a comprehensive Annual Valuation Statement. This statement will provide information on each participant’s individual account as well as details on the overall group plan. If you did not provide Fidelity with your EIN, you may still be able to obtain this information by contacting your participants directly.

You can use the Plan Information Form (PDF) to provide us with your plan information, including your EIN.

An annual checkup for your retirement plan

Preparing your Form 5500 is also a good time to do a checkup of your administrative responsibilities and retirement plan needs. For general tips, see our FAQ, What are my basic responsibilities as plan administrator? Our retirement representatives are also available to answer your questions at 800-544-5373.

Other online resources

For detailed Form 5500 information, visit efast.dol.gov for help from the Employee Benefits Security Administration. To view your Fidelity Annual Valuation Statement online, go to your Statements/ReportsLog In Required page. For other resources, see the FAQ, What other tax resources are available online?