Pointing out that "details available on request" is the wrong way for multiple-employer plan officials to fill out their Form 5500s, the Department of Labor is giving them another chance to get it right.
The department issued a field assistance bulletin offering "temporary penalty relief" so the MEPs can redo their paperwork and avoid running afoul of ERISA requirements. Field assistance bulletins are guidance documents from the department.
The bulletin issued July 24 noted that a review of multiple-employer plans' Form 5500s filed in 2016 found that 35% made mistakes — they were "non-compliant" — as 185 plans filed correctly and 101 plans didn't.
Among the other errors were forms that replaced employer names with abbreviated names or initials and forms that provided client numbers or inadequate descriptions such as "Client 1," said the bulletin.
Acknowledging "the possibility that some plan fiduciaries may have misunderstood the annual reporting requirement," the field assistance bulletin said the department would give MEPs a second chance " before the department proceeds with further civil penalty enforcement actions in this area."
The department will give "transition relief for MEPs that have failed to file a complete and accurate list of participating employers with their Form 5500 for the 2017 plan year and before," the bulletin said.
Because July 31 is the form submission deadline for plans operating on a calendar year, the department is granting "a special filing extension" of up to 2.5 months, the bulletin said.