Skip to page content
Employee Benefits Security Administration
Bookmark and Share

Frequently Asked Questions About EFAST

What is EFAST?
EFAST is a computerized processing system that is designed to simplify and expedite the receipt and processing of the Form 5500 and Form 5500-EZ by relying on computer scannable forms and electronic filing technologies. The Form 5500 and Form 5500-EZ are filed each year by more than one million pension and other employee benefit plans to satisfy annual reporting requirements under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code.


Why was EFAST developed?
The Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) created the EFAST system in conjunction with the development of computer scannable versions of the Form 5500 and Form 5500-EZ in order to streamline the forms and the methods by which they are filed and processed.


What are the computer scannable forms?
The Form 5500 and Form 5500-EZ are available in two computer scannable formats: machine print and hand print (the questions are the same; only the appearance is different).


How is the hand print format different from the machine print format?
The EFAST system accepts Machine Print forms, official government-produced Hand Print forms, and computer-generated Hand Print forms.

Filers completing the Form 5500 or 5500-EZ by hand or typewriter must use the official government-produced Hand Print forms. The EFAST system uses optical character recognition technology to scan the data entries in gray “drop out ink” boxes on these specially designed Hand Print forms. The boxes enable the computer to read the manual entries on the forms. The official government-produced Hand Print forms are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by calling: 1.800.TAX.FORM (1.800.829.3676).

Private sector vendors have developed computer software that may be used to complete either the Machine Print forms or computer-generated Hand Print forms.

  • Once printed out with approved software, the Machine Print forms include a 1D bar code and a 2D bar code that appear on every page of the filing. The 1D bar code includes basic identifying information, for example, it tells the computer which page of the form it is scanning. The 2D bar code encrypts the data printed on the page for easy computerized capture of the information submitted.

  • Computer-generated Hand Print forms are also completed using approved software, but print out with only a 1D bar code. Computer-generated Hand Print forms cannot be printed out blank, or with limited information, and then completed by pen or typewriter. EFAST uses optical character recognition technology to scan these forms but the computer-generated Hand Print forms do not print the gray “drop-out ink” boxes that tell the filer where to place data on the forms.

Check EFAST Software and Approved Vendors for updates regarding approved software.  Be sure to note whether the vendor’s software is approved to produce 2D (Machine Print) or 1D (computer-generated Hand Print) forms.

Machine Print forms can be filed by mail or electronically, but the Hand Print and computer-generated Hand Print forms can be filed only by mail.

Informational copies of the hand print forms and the machine print forms are available at Forms and Publications. These copies are on the EFAST Website for viewing purposes only and are not acceptable for filing.


Will filing some or all of the Form 5500 Series reports using a non-standard form cause my filing to be rejected?
Yes, in some instances. Even if the non-standard filing is not rejected, it may trigger edit test failures and cause EBSA to send the filer correspondence regarding incomplete or inconsistent data.

To ensure the integrity of public disclosure for participants, beneficiaries and others who examine and study the annual returns/reports, all forms and schedules must meet certain minimum standards. Accordingly, we want to encourage filers who do not want to use the official government produced versions of the hand-print forms to use approved software from one of the vendors listed on the EFAST Website. We are making the official forms widely available -- the Form 5500 and Form 5500-EZ are available from the IRS by calling 1.800.TAX.FORMS.


Can I file using a substitute Form 5500?
Paper forms must be obtained from the IRS or printed using software from an EFAST approved software developer. Filings using photocopies of approved forms or other substitute forms may be returned or cause correspondence requiring additional information.


Where do I obtain a copy of the software for the forms?
Software vendors that choose to participate are given the necessary specifications by EFAST to develop their own products and market approved software. Some approved software will include specifications that will allow you to file your Form 5500 or 5500-EZ electronically.

You can check the EFAST Website for a list of approved software developers.  EFAST continues to receive calls from potential software developers and is providing software specifications to those who request them.


Why use Form 5500/5500-EZ software for filing?
Filers using approved software will assist the government by reducing paper to be processed and eliminating the need for data entry. This reduces data entry errors, increases filing compliance, and should result in a savings of staff hours and money.

The software will also assist the filer. Most software should provide many error-checking functions that can help filers avoid common mistakes. This may prevent a filing from being rejected.


How do I file the machine print forms?
There are two options for filing:

  • Filing Electronically - Using EFAST approved computer software, you can submit your Form 5500 or 5500-EZ by modem transfer or file transfer protocol if you are an approved EFAST transmitter or you use an approved EFAST transmitter. You can also mail a computer diskette, CD-ROM or magnetic tape to the Lawrence, Kansas address listed below.  See EFAST A - User's Guide for Electronic/Magnetic Media Filing of Forms 5500/5500-EZ.

  • Filing on Paper - You can use EFAST approved computer software to print out the form on only one-side of standard 8˝ by 11 inch paper and file it by mail to the Lawrence, Kansas address listed below.


What do I need to do to become an EFAST electronic filer, an EFAST transmitter (authorized transmitters of forms via modem or file transfer protocol), or an EFAST software developer?
Each of these involves the filing of a Form EFAST-1 application. All electronic filers must obtain an electronic signature. To file via modem, EFAST transmitter authorization is also required. See below for further information.

  • An EFAST electronic signature (PIN) is obtained by submitting a completed Form EFAST-1 application. This form must be signed by the individual who signs the Form 5500 or Form 5500-EZ. An individual who signs a Form 5500 for more than one plan needs only one PIN.

  • An EFAST Transmitter is any company, trade, business, or other person that transmits Forms 5500 and/or 5500-EZ for filing via modem in compliance with EFAST electronic filing procedures. The application for EFAST Transmitter must be signed by an authorized representative of the company, trade, business, or other person submitting the application.

  • An EFAST Software Developer is a company, trade, business, or other person that creates, programs, or otherwise modifies computer software to be used to complete Forms 5500 and/or Forms 5500-EZ in compliance with EFAST specifications. The application for EFAST software developer must be signed by an authorized representative of the company, trade, business, or other person submitting the application.

A copy of the Form EFAST-1 can be viewed and downloaded on this Website. Downloaded copies of the Form EFAST-1 can be completed by using a computer or by hand and mailed to EBSA at the following address:

Employee Benefits Security Administration
P.O. Box 7047
Lawrence Kansas 66044-7047

You may also send it by private delivery service to:

Employee Benefits Security Administration
Attn: EFAST-1
3833 Greenway Drive
Lawrence, Kansas 66046-5502


Where do I file the Form 5500 and Form 5500-EZ?
File the Form 5500, with any required schedules, statements, and attachments, to the following addresses:

By Mail Using Paper:

Employee Benefits Security Administration
P.O. Box 7043
Lawrence, Kansas 66044-7043

By Mail Using Floppy Disc, CD ROM or Tape:

Employee Benefits Security Administration
P.O. Box 7041
Lawrence, Kansas 66044-7041

By Private Delivery Service:

Employee Benefits Security Administration/NCS
Attn: EFAST
3833 Greenway Drive
Lawrence, Kansas 66046-5502

File the Form 5500-EZ, with any required schedules, statements, and attachments, to the following addresses:

By Mail Using Paper:

Employee Benefits Security Administration
P.O. Box 7042
Lawrence, Kansas 66044-7042

By Mail Using Floppy Disc, CD ROM or Tape:

Employee Benefits Security Administration
P.O. Box 7041
Lawrence, Kansas 66044-7041

By Private Delivery Service:

Employee Benefits Security Administration/NCS
Attn: EFAST
3833 Greenway Drive
Lawrence, Kansas 66046-5502

As of July 1, 2001, all Forms 5500 (including 1998 and prior year Forms 5500, 5500-C/R, and 5500-EZ) must be filed either electronically or at the EFAST addresses specified above.


Can filers request an extension of time to file their Form 5500/Form 5500-EZ?
Filers may request an extension by filing Form 5558 with the IRS. Approved copies of the Form 5558 will not be returned to the filer. However, a copy of the extension request that was filed must be attached to your filing.

Under certain conditions, filers may also be eligible for extensions relating to an extension of time to file their federal income tax return, Presidentially-declared disasters, or service or support of Armed Forces of the United States in a combat zone. See the Form 5500 instructions for further information on these extensions.


Will EFAST perform edit checks on the Form 5500 or Form 5500-EZ?
Yes. All Form 5500 and Form 5500-EZ filings are subject to preliminary computerized edit checks that check for things such as completeness, accuracy, timeliness, internal consistency, missing schedules or attachments, and failure to answer mandatory questions.


What happens when a filing fails one or more edit checks?
When errors are identified, a filer may receive a deficiency letter from EBSA regarding the error and requesting that corrections be made. A filer's refusal to resolve filing errors can result in the rejection of their filing and exposure to assessment of civil and other penalties.


Should I include any payments I owe with my filing?
Do not send any payment with the Form 5500 or Form 5500-EZ submitted to EFAST. Payments due should be made directly to the appropriate government agency, in accordance with any applicable rules or procedures.


Is there telephone assistance available for Form 5500 and Form 5500-EZ filers?
The toll-free EFAST Help Line telephone number, 1.866.463.3278 provides assistance in the following areas:

  • Inquiries regarding correspondence received from EBSA about EFAST processing of Form 5500 or 5500-EZ filing;

  • General inquiries regarding the filing of the Form 5500 or 5500-EZ;

  • Problems or questions about electronic filing; and

  • Confirming EFAST's receipt of submitted forms.

Customer service representatives are available at this toll free number Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Eastern Time except for federal holidays. Answers to frequently asked questions as well as a voice mail service are available at this number 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Calls left in the voice mail system will be returned the next business day.

EFAST Help Line, 1.866.463.3278