Have you received an email from the Department of Labor recently? If not, you may. The Department has recently begun a program to identify whether employee “welfare benefit plans” (typically, group health plans) have filed a Form 5500 Annual Return/Report as required by Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). This program includes emails to thousands of plan sponsors.

Generally, a Form 5500 Annual Report must be filed by all employee welfare benefit plans with 100 or more participants. However, no filing is required for those plans with fewer than 100 participants that are either fully insured or self-insured (that is, where the benefits are paid directly out of the sponsor’s assets).

The Department’s Office of the Chief Accountant (OCA), the office charged with monitoring whether employee benefit plans comply with the annual reporting requirements ofERISA, has recently commenced a program to identify whether certain employee health or welfare benefit plans have filed a Form 5500.

To identify which welfare plans may have failed to file this required Form, the OCA has begun sending to Plan Administrators a “Request for Clarification.” These requests are being sent to Plan Administrators who have filed a Form 5500 for an employee retirement plan, and they request that the Plan Administrator tell the OCA whether a filing has been completed for the employer’s welfare benefit plans. The goal of the request is to educate Plan Administrators who are not aware of the Form 5500 requirements for welfare plans and to afford them the opportunity to participate in the Department of Labor’s Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (DFVCP).

The DFVCP allows plans which have failed to file a Form 5500 by the deadline (generally the last day of the seventh month after the close of the plan year) to file the Form, provide required information and pay a reduced penalty. Under the DFVCP, the fee for a delinquent filing is $10 per day for each day a filing is late; however, this amount is capped at a total of $2,000 for a single filing for a large plan (generally defined as greater than 100 participants), and $750 for small plans that are subject to the filing requirement. The reduction in fees can be significant for plans which have failed to file multiple Forms 5500 as the fee is capped ($4,000 for a large welfare benefit plan and $1,500 for small plans), regardless of the number of Forms filed under the program.

Whether or not you have received the Department’s email, it is a good idea to review your company’s compliance with the Form 5500 requirements.