Retirement Plan Document Retention

ERISA regulations state that plan and participant documents, records, reports, and information must be retained for a period of six years after the filing date or, in some cases, retained in perpetuity. Here is a basic list of items, organized into two categories, that retirement plan fiduciaries must retain for the specified periods.

Keep these records in perpetuity:

Executed plan documents such as the original plan document, adoption agreement, amendments, restatements, and summary plan description.
Documentation related to investment or retirement plan committee meetings like the investment policy statement, meeting notes or minutes, quarterly or annual financial reports, and internal electronic or written communications that discuss the decision-making process.
Forms used to process distributions, loans, qualified domestic relations orders, and hardship distributions, including backup documentation.

Keep these records for at least six years:

  • Annual tax filing forms like the IRS Form 5500 and the summary annual report, and, if re-quired, audited financial statements.
  • Annual nondiscrimination testing results.
  • Participant records and forms pertaining to salary deferral elections and plan enrollment.
  • Fidelity bond coverage and any fiduciary insurance coverage.
  • Participant communications.

Electronic storage considerations:

If your office is paperless, the use of technology to store documents is allowable under ERISA. If your plan’s recordkeeper, third-party administrator, or plan advisor offers virtual fiduciary vaults, you can use this option to maintain records electronically in compliance with ERISA’s document storage mandate. Another benefit of electronic storage: if your plan is audited by the IRS or the Department of Labor, providing complete, accurate documents, reports, and records upon request will be simple.

To sum up, retirement plan fiduciaries should focus on two key principles to stay compliant with ERISA record retention rules: organization and preparedness. Having an efficient system for retaining retirement plan documents is paramount!