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News Release

Agencies Grant Transition-Year Extension Of Deadline For Filing 1999 Form 5500 Series Returns/Reports By Employee Benefit Plans

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (PWBA) announced that PWBA, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) are granting a two and one-half month extension of the deadline for filing 1999 Form 5500 Series returns/reports (Form 5500 Series) under the new ERISA Filing Acceptance System (EFAST).

“We want to allow filers more time to make a smooth transition to the new computer scannable formats for the Form 5500 Series and the EFAST computerized form processing system,” said Alan Lebowitz, deputy assistant secretary for program operations at PWBA.

Currently, filers can get an automatic two and one-half month extension of time to file their Form 5500 Series by filing IRS Form 5558 (Application for Extension of Time to File Certain Employee Plan Returns). In response to several recent filer requests, the agencies agreed to grant transition-year relief from the requirement to file an IRS Form 5558 to obtain that extension. Specifically, the three agencies have agreed that for filers whose 1999 Form 5500 Series would be due on or before July 31, 2000, the deadline for filing will be extended to Oct. 16, 2000, without filers having to file a Form 5558.

The agencies emphasized that this automatic transition extension cannot be extended further by filing a Form 5558. Also, filers whose normal due date is after July 31, 2000, and who are otherwise eligible to use the Form 5558, must still timely file the Form 5558 to secure a two and one-half month extension.

Service providers, plan sponsors, banks, insurance companies and others who are required to provide to plan administrators information necessary for filing the Form 5500 Series should continue to cooperate to ensure that plans meet their filing obligations given this two and one-half month extension.

The agencies do not intend to impose late filing penalties for the 1999 Form 5500 Series in cases where, in spite of a good faith effort to meet deadlines, filings are delayed because of transition-year difficulties. Rather, legitimate transition-year difficulties will be considered in granting “reasonable cause” abatements of penalties for delinquent 1999 Form 5500 Series filings.

Earlier, the agencies announced transition-year relief for filers who do not use official versions of the 1999 Form 5500 Series. The agencies strongly encourage filers who can use the official forms to do so because using “nonstandard” forms will reduce the speed and accuracy of the new EFAST system. However, to help filers make the transition during the first processing year of the EFAST system, the agencies announced that they would not reject any 1999 Form 5500 Series solely because it was submitted in whole or in part on an unofficial computer generated version of the “hand-print” form.

To ensure the integrity of public disclosure for participants, beneficiaries and others who use the Form 5500 Series, nonstandard “hand-print” forms must still meet certain minimum standards with the content identical and overall appearance equivalent in readability to the official forms. For example, nonstandard “hand-print” forms must meet the following criteria:

  • The form should be the same size as the approved “hand-print” form (8-1/2 x 11 inches is acceptable) and use of either 20 pound paper or 24 pound translucent paper is preferable.
  • The layout of each page should be the same as the layout on the approved “hand-print” form (registration/corner marks and a reproduction of the bar code on the bottom of each page are encouraged).
  • There should be no additions or deletions of words, and no misspellings or abbreviations (other than exact duplication of abbreviations on the approved forms).
  • The font-size (preferably OCR-A font), spacing, and boxes on the form should be substantially the same as those used on the approved “hand-print” form.
  • Data entries must be within the confines of the green drop-out boxes printed on the approved “hand-print” form.

Also, the agencies will accept “machine-print” versions of the 1999 Form 5500 Series even if some line item entries are made by hand, and will also accept 1999 Form 5500 Series that include a mix of “hand-print” and “machine-print” schedules.

Because of the importance of the Form 5500 Series data, the agencies may correspond with filers to ensure that the database accurately reflects the information filed.

The agencies have extensive outreach activities under way to help filers meet their annual reporting obligations. PWBA has a help desk and expects to make a toll free telephone number available soon for individuals either needing assistance in responding to correspondence from the EFAST system or having general questions about EFAST. In the interim, these inquiries should be directed to 202-219-8770. PWBA also launched a new EFAST website,, to provide filers with information about filing requirements, electronic filing options, software availability, upcoming seminars, new publications and frequently asked questions and answers.

The IRS also has a toll-free number (1-877-829-5500) to call for help in completing the Internal Revenue Code-related questions on the Form 5500 and Form 5500-EZ.

U.S. Department of Labor news releases are accessible on the Internet. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the Central Office for Assistive Services and Technology. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call 202.693.7773 or TTY 202.693.7775.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Employee Benefits Security Administration
March 22, 2000
Release Number