Special Action Items for October

October 13, 2011

Authored by: benefitsbclp

This is a brief reminder on common time-sensitive matters. We distribute these by email every month. If you would like to be added to the list, please comment below or email one of us. If you have questions, please call one of us. Thanks very much.


Only a few days left to comply with these deadlines:

  • October 15, 2011 is the last day that a calendar-year plan can be corrected by amendment and in operation to address failure of the minimum coverage requirements of Code Section 410(b) and the general nondiscrimination requirements of Code Section 401(a)(4) in 2010. Has your plan received these tests from the plan’s recordkeeper?
  • 2011 third-quarter contributions to defined benefit plans must be made by October 15, 2011.
  • Calendar-year defined benefit plans with 100 or more participants are required to submit online premium filings to the PBGC by October 17, 2011. Special rules apply for new plans and plans with changed plan years. Click here for instructions.
  • For calendar-year plans that filed for an extension through Form 5558 by August 1, 2011, the 2010 Form 5500 must be filed by October 17, 2011.
  • The due date for the Form 5500 of a direct filing entity, such as a master trust, is 9? months after the end of the DFE’s fiscal year. For a direct filing entity with a calendar fiscal year, the filing deadline for the 2010 Form 5500 is October 17, 2011.

Other upcoming filing deadlines:

Form 8955-SSA, which replaces the prior Form SSA, is generally due at the same time as Form 5500. However, the IRS has extended the due date for Form 8955-SSA for the 2009 and 2010 plan years to January 17, 2012 or the generally applicable due date for 2010, whichever is later. No further extensions will be available for the January 17, 2012 deadline.

Most ERISA plans must furnish participants and beneficiaries with a Summary Annual Report, generally 9 months after the end of a plan year. For calendar year plans, the general deadline for the 2010 year was September 30, 2011. If a plan has an extended due date for its Form 5500, the deadline for the Summary Annual Report is 2 months after the extended due date. Click here for the Department of Labor’s fill-in-the-blank report. Defined benefit plans required to provide annual funding notices do not have to furnish Summary Annual Reports.


A safe harbor 401(k) plan must provide an annual notice of the safe harbor rules to all eligible employees, whether or not they elect to participate, before the beginning of each plan year. Calendar-year plans may send these notices from now until December 1.

Before the beginning of each plan year (generally no less than 30 days before the first day of the new plan year), 401(k) and 403(b) plans that have automatic contribution arrangements must provide participants with an annual notice that explains the default investments and the right to opt out of contributions. Calendar-year plans may send the notice now for the 2012 plan year. Click here for the IRS sample notice. If a plan has a Qualified Default Investment Alternative (“QDIA”), its annual QDIA notice can be sent at the same time.

Qualified plans have been the target of substantial legislative and regulatory changes over the past 5 years. An updated summary plan description (“SPD”) must be distributed every 10 years or, if amendments are made in the interim, every 5 years. Is your qualified plan SPD up to date with these distribution requirements?


For plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2011, a group health plan cannot have a maximum annual limit on essential health benefits that is less than $1,250,000. This applies to both “grandfathered” and “non-grandfathered” plans. If your plan imposed a limit in 2011, the plan may need to be amended to increase the limit to $1,250,000.

For many employers with calendar-year welfare plans, fall marks the beginning of open enrollment season. Open enrollment provides a convenient opportunity to send updated Summary Plan Descriptions and required annual notices to group health plan participants. For a checklist, see our Client Alert, “Check it Out and Check it Off.”

Employer group health plans that are not grandfathered under the 2010 health reform law must satisfy new disclosure requirements in their internal claims and appeal process. The first day of the first plan year beginning on or after July 1, 2011 is the compliance date for four of the new requirements: claim identification information, the reasons for any adverse determination, internal appeals and external review processes, and the name and contact information for the State health consumer assistance program or ombudsman, if available. The compliance date for other new requirements has been extended to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2012, the prior 24-hour turn-around for urgent care claims has been eliminated for all plans and other requirements have been revised for all plans. Click here for more information.