ERISA: A Timeline
for Compliance
When you offer retirement and health
benefits to your employees, you need to
make sure you’re providing the right
documents to stay in compliance with
the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).
ERISA requires that you provide several
types of documents to the Department of
Labor (DOL) and plan participants.
Noncompliance can result in fines, so
make sure you’re providing the right
documents at the right times.
Here’s a quick overview of the
documents you need to stay in
compliance:
Plan Document
The plan document contains a
description of the terms and conditions
for the operation and administration of
the plan. It must be provided within 30
days of a written request.
Summary Plan Description (SPD)
The SPD contains plan information,
including the benefits, rights and
obligations of the covered participant. It
should be written in a style and format
that can be easily understood by the
average plan participant. The SPD
should be provided within 90 days of the
participant being covered by the plan or
the beneficiary receiving benefits, or
within 30 days of a written request.
Summary of Material Modification
(SMM)
The SMM describes material changes to
a plan and any changes in the
information required in the SPD. An
updated SPD satisfies the SMM
requirement. The SMM or updated SPD
must be distributed to participants and
pension plan beneficiaries no later than
210 days after the end of the plan year in
which the changes were made, or within
30 days of a written request.
Form 5500
The Form 5500 satisfies various annual
reporting obligations that plan
administrators must meet under ERISA
and the Internal Revenue Code. Form
5500 may be filed electronically on the
DOL website. This form is generally due
by the last day of the seventh calendar
month after the plan year ends, or within
30 days of a written request.
ERISA: A Timeline for Compliance
details. Some plans are exempt from this
requirement.
Summary Annual Report (SAR)
This report is a narrative report of the
Form 5500 and includes a statement of
the participant’s right to receive the
annual report. Plans that are exempt
from annual 5500 filing, as well as large
and unfunded health plans, may be
exempt from the SAR requirement. The
SAR must be provided to participants
and pension plan beneficiaries no later
than 210 days after the plan year ends
or two months after the Form 5500 due
date.
ERISA: A Timeline for Compliance

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