The Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. are proposing revisions to Form 5500 filings that would include updated requirements for how service provider fees to 401(k) and defined benefit plans are reported.
“The 5500 is in serious need of updates to continue to keep pace with changing conditions in the employee benefit plan and financial market sectors,” said Phyllis Borzi, assistant secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration, in a statement.
The proposed revisions would expand the data currently collected on 681,000 pension plans. Updating how service provider fees are reported on Schedule C of Form 5500 would harmonize with DOL’s requirements on how providers report fees to plan fiduciaries, according to the agency.
Among the proposals is a requirement for all group health plans to file an annual Form 5500. Group plans with fewer than 100 enrollees are exempt from doing so under existing regulations.
A joint release from the agencies said the expanded data would not only assist regulators and policymakers, but that private-sector researchers and stakeholders would also benefit, as the forms are open to public inspection.
Eric Ryles, managing director of Judy Diamond Associates, a provider of lead-generation and analytics tools for the financial services and insurance industries, agrees with that reasoning, particularly as the proposal relates to group health plans.
“There is a huge gap in the kind of information we can get for group health plans, with only plans with 100 or more participants currently filing,” said Ryles in an email (JDA is owned by ALM Media, the parent company of BenefitsPro.)
Requiring health plans of all sizes to submit a Form 5500 “will lead to better competitive intelligence among the insurance community, which will allow them to compete more effectively with each other, and should ultimately result in a pricing advantage for the consumer,” added Ryles.
Beyond updating fee disclosures, and requiring all sponsors of group health plans file with DOL, the proposal’s primary objective is to improve the reporting transparency of benefit plan investments, according to a fact sheet published on DOL’s website.
The proposed updates seek to improve reporting on alternative investments, investments through collective investment vehicles, and other “hard-to-value” assets, according to the fact sheet.
DOL is hoping to enact the revisions beginning with the plan year 2019 Form 5500 reports.
The proposal will be published in the Federal Register on July 21, which will mark the beginning of a 75-day comment period.
“The agencies encourage all stakeholders to submit comments on the proposals, including any suggestions on how the agencies can better achieve the goal of transforming the Form 5500 into a 21st Century information collection tool while minimizing administrative burdens with respect to the operation of plans,” according to a press release from the regulators.