Lifecycle of the Form 5500

“How old is this data?”

That’s the first question on everyone’s mind…and for good reason. We’re in an age of instant information and immediate updates in 280 characters or less. So brace yourself, Form 5500 data is old. To put into perspective what is normal, as of Q1 2019 the latest and most complete 5500 data is the 2017 filing year. The majority of the 2018 filing year disclosures will be filed to the Department of Labor starting July 2019 and likely finish by January 2020.

That long timeframe is the result of an unusual deadline system. At least, as an individual, it seems strange! While the Form 5500 looks like a tax document, there’s no April 15 for sponsors (i.e., employers or unions who file a 5500). Instead, deadlines are dependent on when your plan year ends. After that end date, there are seven months until you need to file. That’s the key reason why this data is aged.

For most plans, they run from January 1 through December 31 each year. That puts their first deadline on July 31 of the following year. These sponsors can also take an automatic extension of 10 weeks that pushes their deadline to October 15. Judy Diamond Associates (aka JDA) notes that most Form 5500s are filed around these dates. Just by how the system is designed, Form 5500 data is six months to nearly a year old by the time it’s released to the public. And that’s just the plans that run on a calendar year!

JDA tries to combat this in two important ways. Firstly, we’re continually working to provide you with the most recent contact names for sponsors with 100+ participants. Form 5500s don’t ask for those names, that’s something we add to help offset the age. Secondly, by limiting search results to the most recent filing within the past two filing years. For you 2019 users, if you’ve ever browsed through your results and noticed a couple of 2016s sprinkled among the 2017 filings, that’s likely because the sponsor has an uncommon plan year.

Best Practices Tip:

Want to stay on top of every update as it happens? Use the Advanced Search filter, “Plan Recently Updated.” Add this to your favorite filters, save the search, and run each month.

Need to limit your list to a specific filing year? You can change our default filter of the most recent filing, within the past two years, to any year. JDA data goes back to the 2007 year if time travel is your thing!

About Author:
Eric Ryles
Eric is the Vice President of Customer Solutions for the intelligence division at ALM Media. In that role, he works with the nation’s leading finance, insurance, legal and consulting firms to ensure that ALM develops products consistent with the complex needs of these highly regulated industries. Additionally, Eric oversees the training and customer care programs to onboard and educate new clients about the full capabilities of ALM’s tools, helping them to get the most out of their subscriptions.