Is the Form 5500 Filing Deadline Extended Because of COVID-19?

Question: Our company sponsors several employee benefit plans (including retirement, health and welfare) that are required to file Form 5500 under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). We've heard that, because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, an extension has been granted for Form 5500 filings. But we've also heard that the extension isn't applicable to many types of plans. Can you help us sort out whether our plans can take advantage of this extension?

Answer: A limited extension for filing Form 5500 has been granted in connection with the COVID-19 crisis, but it doesn't extend the deadline for 2019 calendar year plans. Under guidance issued in April 2020, Form 5500 filings that would otherwise be due on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020, are now due July 15, 2020. The relief, which applies under both the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA, is automatic — no extension form, letter or other request needs to be filed.

Identifying the Plan Year

The extension's application to each of your plans depends on the plan year. The extension automatically applies to Form 5500 filings for plan years that ended in September, October or November 2019 because the regular due dates for these filings would be, respectively:

These filings are now due July 15, 2020. An extension beyond July 15, 2020, is still available, using Form 5558, but the 2½ month extension period will be measured from the regular due date rather than July 15.

For example, for plan years ending October 31, 2019, Form 5558 could be used to extend the due date to August 17, 2020 (because August 15 falls on a Saturday), which is 2½ months after the regular June 1 due date. Ordinarily, Form 5558 must be filed by the regular due date but, because of the automatic extension, filing Form 5558 by July 15, 2020, would appear to be acceptable.

The COVID-19 automatic extension also applies to Form 5500 deadlines that fall within the relief window opened by a previously filed extension request. For instance, for a plan year that ended June 30, 2019, the regular Form 5500 due date was January 30, 2020, and the extended due date obtained by timely filing Form 5558 was April 15, 2020. That due date is automatically extended to July 15, 2020. No further extension is available by filing another Form 5558.

Obtaining Assistance

In closing, we would reiterate that the due date for 2019 Form 5500 filings for calendar year plans is July 31, 2020 — outside the relief window. Accordingly, the automatic extension doesn't apply to calendar-year plan filings. Those plans may obtain a regular extension by timely filing Form 5558. Contact your tax advisor for further and specific assistance.

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