IRS Establishes Pilot Penalty Relief Program for Late Form 5500 - EZ Filings

That's the collective sigh of relief by those business owners who, for whatever reason, haven’t filed Form 5500-EZ for their retirement plans.

It's a big deal especially for those business owners with so-called Solo-K plans.

401(k) plans were introduced in 1978, but it took a tax change starting in 2002 to allow business owners to contribute substantially more that they would with IRAs, SIMPLEs, and SEPs.

Those new rules applied to both incorporated and unincorporated businesses. Any business that employs only the owner and his or her spouse is a candidate-including C corporations, S corporations, single member LLCs, partnerships and sole proprietorships.

Now practically every major financial service company, e.g., insurance companies, brokerage firms, and mutual funds, offers a low cost Solo 401(k) plan. So far so good.

There’s a flashing yellow compliance light. A Solo-K like a regular 401(k) plan must meet certain ERISA and Internal Revenue Code requirements. And one of those requirements is the obligation to file Form 5500-EZ if plan assets exceed $250,000 even if the business owner (and spouse) are the only participants.

Sometimes that requirement gets lost in translation, and a self-employed or small business owner whose plan exceeds that threshold doesn’t file the return. It may be because he or she missed the filing after being exempt for several years before the $250,000 threshold was crossed, or just didn’t get or read the memo.

Form 5500-EZ is due no later than 7 months after the end of the plan year unless extended 2 ½ months. If not filed timely – or at all – the IRS can assess substantial penalties, i.e., $25 per day, up to $15,000 per return.

Relief, however, is available to those plans covering more than just business owners. These plans can take advantage of the Department of Labor's Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance (DFVC) program. Penalties are capped at $750 for one delinquent Form 5500 and $1,500 for more than one year, however many years are involved. Many employers take advantage of the DFVC program.

Until recently, business owners were out of luck since they were not eligible for the DFVC. But on May 9, 2014, the IRS published Rev. Proc. 2014-32 establishing a temporary one-year Pilot Program providing administrative relief from the imposition of penalties for failure to timely file Form 5500-EZ and similar filers.

If you’re a business owner who hasn’t filed your retirement plan’s Form 5500-EZ, the meter is ticking. The relief provided under this revenue procedure becomes effective June 2, 2014 and will remain in effect until June 2, 2015.

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