As a plan sponsor, you know that you have significant reporting and disclosure responsibilities under the pension law (ERISA). Additionally, ERISA requires plan sponsors to retain broad categories of records related to meeting those responsibilities. To do so, a plan sponsor should understand the applicable rules and put in place a record retention policy governing how it periodically reviews, updates, preserves, and discards documents related to plan administration.
ERISA Section 107 requires that any person required by ERISA to file any report (such as Form 5500) must maintain, generally, for a period of “not less than six years” after the document is filed, a copy of such report. Also required is retention of all records supporting information detailed in a plan’s Form 5500 and other reports and disclosures.
Supporting documents on this list include any records a government auditor might need to confirm the accuracy and completeness of any information in the original report or disclosure. These include, but are not limited to, service provider information, corporate income tax returns (for reconciling deductions), and the plan’s nondiscrimination and coverage test results.
Records that need to be kept for an indefinite period include those necessary to determine benefits and eligibility for plan participation. By necessity, such records would include any related to dates of service, eligibility, vesting, contributions, and more. These records must be maintained for as long as the possibility exists — whether through request or litigation — that they might be relevant to determine any benefits due (or which may become due) to employees and beneficiaries. In some cases, former employees may wait many years — possibly until retirement — to inquire about benefits.
Specific Information To Keep
Records that should be retained include:
As long as the retention system meets ERISA requirements, records for the most part can be kept electronically. Generally, the retention process must:
Generally, paper records can be disposed of any time after being transferred to a compliant electronic record system. However, the retention of an original paper record is required if the electronic record would not constitute a duplicate or substitute record under the terms of the plan and applicable federal or state law.
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