Employee Benefits Compliance, Large Employers

Plan Sponsors of ERISA Health Plans See New Model Summary Annual Reports from Department of Labor for Form 5500 Filers

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has released Summary Annual Report (SAR) model forms for plan years beginning in 2023 and later. The SAR is a narrative summary of the information in Form 5500 and must be provided annually by administrators of ERISA plans subject to the Form 5500 annual reporting requirements. Plan sponsors of ERISA group health plans and retirement plans are required to, in laypersons’ terms, tell the government and the plan participants what the status of the plan fiscally. To ensure there is no fraud, the DOL monitors the funding status and plan administration of ERISA plans. Want to know what an ERISA plan is? See here for the Leavitt Group guidance on ERISA plans. The Form 5500 is mandated for ERISA plans over 100 enrolled employees (not counting dependents) and the SAR goes along with the Form 5500 as its summary report. Hence, the name, Summary Annual Report.

Model Forms

From time-to-time, the DOL updates its model notices, forms and templates. Recently, the SAR was updated. The latest model forms can be found on the DOL’s Reporting and Filing webpage under the “General Reporting and Filing Compliance Assistance” tab. There are two models for plan years beginning in 2023 and later:

  1. Form for SAR relating to pension plans for plan years beginning in 2023 and later; and
  2. Form for SAR relating to welfare plans for plan years beginning in 2023 and later.

Forms for plan years beginning in 2022 and earlier are also available. No substantive changes were made to the 2023 forms.

Providing the SAR

The SAR requirement only applies to plans that must file Form 5500. If a plan is exempt from the Form 5500 requirement, it is also exempt from the SAR requirement.

  • Employers with large fully insured welfare plans (100 or more participants) must provide participants with a SAR each year.
  • Large unfunded welfare plans (100 or more covered participants) are exempt from the requirement to provide a SAR, even though they are subject to the Form 5500 requirement.
  • Employers with self-insured, unfunded plans are not subject to the SAR requirement, regardless of plan size.

Distribution Methods

SARs may be distributed by any method that is permissible for summary plan descriptions. These methods include:

  • Hand delivery to employees at their worksite;
  • First class mail; or
  • Electronic delivery (if certain requirements are satisfied; see link for previous Leavitt Group article on compliance with ERISA electronic delivery rules).

Rules for Electronic Delivery

DOL regulations include a safe harbor for employers to use electronic media to distribute the SAR to (1) employees with work-related computer access; and (2) other plan participants and beneficiaries who consent to receive disclosures electronically. In addition, to satisfy the safe harbor, employers must notify plan participants each time the disclosure is provided electronically, and they must take steps to ensure that the electronic delivery results in actual receipt.

SAR Deadline

The SAR must be provided annually, within nine months of the close of the plan year and two months after filing the Form 5500, where applicable.

Sept. 30—Deadline for employers with calendar year plans to provide the SAR to plan participants.

Dec. 15—Employers may receive a Form 5500 filing extension of 2.5 months by filing IRS Form 5558. If the Form 5500 deadline is extended, the plan administrator must provide the SAR within two months of the close of the extension period. For calendar year plans, this extended deadline is Dec. 15.


Employee Benefits Security Administration Form 5500 Series Compliance Webpage

Department of Labor Efast Form 5500 Search

Internal Revenue Service Form 5500 Corner (Form 5500 & Instructions)

Fact Sheet 2023 Changes Form 5500

Source: Zywave, republished with permission; some content by Leavitt Group