Penalty Relief Pilot for Small Retirement Plans

IRS will begin a one-year pilot program in June to help small businesses with retirement plans that owe penalties for not filing reporting documents. By filing current and prior year forms during this pilot program, they can avoid penalties.

The IRS is reaching out to certain small businesses that maintain retirement plans and may have been unaware that they had a filing requirement. The IRS projects that this program will bring a significant number of small business owners into compliance with the reporting requirements.

Plan administrators and sponsors who do not file an annual Form 5500 series return can face stiff penalties — up to $15,000 per return. Those who have already been assessed a penalty for late filings are not eligible for this program. This program is open only to retirement plans generally maintained by certain small businesses, such as those in an owner-spouse arrangement or eligible partnership.

Multiple late retirement plan returns may be included in a single submission. If a retirement plan has delinquent returns for more than one plan year, penalty relief may be available for all of these returns. Similarly, delinquent returns for more than one plan may be included in a single penalty relief request. No filing fee will be charged during the pilot program.

Revenue Procedure 2014-32.

This revenue procedure establishes a temporary one-year pilot program providing administrative relief to plan administrators and plan sponsors of certain retirement plans from the penalties otherwise applicable under §§ 6652(e) and 6692 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) for a failure to timely comply with the annual reporting requirements imposed under §§ 6047(e), 6058, and 6059 of the Code. The administrative relief provided under this revenue procedure applies only to plan administrators (as defined in § 414(g) of the Code) and plan sponsors of retirement plans that are subject to the reporting requirements of §§ 6047(e), 6058, and 6059 of the Code, but that are not subject to the reporting requirements of Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). This revenue procedure also requests comments as to whether a permanent relief program should be established and, if so, how fees should be determined.

Both the Code and Title I of ERISA impose reporting requirements with respect to certain retirement plans. To minimize the filing burden on plan sponsors and plan administrators of employee benefit plans, the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) and the Department of Labor (the “DOL”) (as well as the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation) have consolidated various annual reporting requirements in the Form 5500 Series Annual Return/Report. The Form 5500 Series includes: the Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan; the Form 5500-SF, Short Form Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan; and the Form 5500-EZ, Annual Return of One-Participant (Owners and Their Spouses) Retirement Plan.
Plan sponsors and plan administrators who fail to file timely Form 5500 series annual returns/reports for their retirement plans may be subject to civil penalties under the Code (or under both Title I of ERISA and the Code). In particular, the Service may assess penalties under §§ 6652(e) and 6692 of the Code for the failure to satisfy the requirements for annual returns. Section 6652(e) generally provides, in part, that in the case of any failure to timely file a return or statement required under § 6058 (annual return of employee benefit plans) or § 6047(e) (returns and reports for employee stock ownership plans), the late filer shall pay, upon notice and demand, a penalty of $25 for each day the failure continues, up to $15,000 per return or statement. Section 6692 generally provides that, in the case of any failure to timely file a report required by § 6059 (actuarial report for employee benefit plans), the late filer shall pay a penalty of $1,000 for each failure. No penalty is imposed under these sections if it is shown that such failure to timely file is due to reasonable cause.

In 1995, the DOL established the Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance (“DFVC”) program to reduce ERISA late-filing penalties on filers of delinquent annual reports. In Notice 2002-23, 2002-1 C.B. 742, the Service determined that it would not impose the penalties under §§ 6652(c)(1), (d), (e) and 6692 (to the extent applicable) on a person who is eligible for, and satisfies the requirements of, the DFVC program with respect to the filing of a Form 5500. The relief under Notice 2002-23 was available only to filers who are required to file under both Title I of ERISA and the Code. Notice 2002-23 has been superseded by Notice 2014-35, which will appear in 2014-23 I.R.B. As under Notice 2002-23, the penalty relief provided by Notice 2014-35 does not apply to a delinquent filing of a Form 5500-EZ for retirement plans that do not cover any common law employees (such as a plan under which a business owner and the owner’s spouse are the only participants). See 29 C.F.R. 2510.3-3(b) and (c).
Certain retirement plans that are not subject to Title I of ERISA are exempt from some of the annual reporting requirements if they satisfy certain criteria specified by statute or by the Service in published guidance. For example, for years beginning after 2006, section 1103 of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (Pub. L. No. 109-280, 120 Stat. 780, 1057) provides that “one-participant plans” with assets of $250,000 or less at the end of the plan year are not required to file a Form 5500 series return/report. (The Service has determined that such plans must, however, file an annual return/report when the plan is terminated and all assets have been distributed.)

Penalty Relief

The relief applies to filers who are eligible to participate under Section 4 of this revenue procedure and who satisfy the requirements of Section 5 of this revenue procedure by no later than June 2, 2015. However, in lieu of the relief provided under this revenue procedure, filers may continue to file for the relief currently available for a failure to timely file that is due to reasonable cause.