Form 5500 FAQ
Updated over a week ago

This guide shares answers to all your Form 5500 questions.

General filing

Can I file my own Form 5500 or hire someone to file?

Yes, you may file your own 5500. However, as a Guideline plan sponsor, this service is provided at no additional cost.

I received a letter from the IRS that I did not file my Form 5500. Can you please assist with this?

Guideline files the Form 5500 for the years that the plan has been in service with us. If your plan was with a different provider last year, we cannot file the Form 5500 for that year because we were not the record keeper at that time. Therefore, we do not have the necessary information to complete the filing.

If the plan was with Guideline for the year that the IRS notice references, please upload a copy of the IRS notice to your Shared Folder for us to review and kindly follow up with us by email at so that we can review.

I had a different sponsor name/EIN in a previous year, which plan information will you use?

The Form 5500 reflects the most recent plan information, even if it went into effect outside the filing year. For example, if your EIN changed this year, we will reflect that updated plan information on the prior year’s filing.

I haven't made my profit sharing contribution yet for the year. Should we wait to file Form 5500 until this is added?

Guideline files on a cash basis. This means that we will only report funds that settled in the plan year. Any profit sharing contribution made this year, will be added to the following year’s Form 5500.

How do I read my Form 5500-SF?

You can find a full breakdown of how to read Form 5500-SF here.

Why are my 402g refunds not reported in this year's Form 5500?

402(g) refunds are reported on the Form 5500 in the year they are distributed because we report on a cash basis.

Understanding Form 5500 values and lines

Why do the values in the Form 5500 not match what’s showing in my Report section of the dashboard?

Guideline prepares the Form 5500 on the cash basis. This means we don't report the funds on the Form 5500 until the cash has settled into the account.

In contrast, the reporting in your dashboard reflects contributions and balances based on contribution dates, not settled dates. The values that are most likely impacted are the final contributions to the plan for this year and the year before. For example, the last payroll of a year may be missing from the beginning of the year balance as it did not settle until the second or third day of the next year.

Why do the values in line 8a differ from the Contribution Report from my dashboard?

Guideline prepares the Form 5500 on a cash basis, while the Contribution Report is based on an accrual basis. This means that we report funds on the date they settle in the account, not on the payroll date.

Typically, the last payroll run of the year is not reflected in the current year's Form 5500, and instead will appear on the Form 5500 for the following year.

Why is the participant count different on Form 5500 than from what I have?

A participant includes any eligible employees who may or may not be actively contributing to the plan as well as terminated or deceased employees with a balance.

The total number of participants includes:

  • Employees eligible to participate and enrolled in the plan;

  • Employees eligible to participate, but not enrolled in the plan; and

  • Previous employees who are deceased or terminated employment but still have a remaining vested balance in the plan

What is included in line 8b?

This is the net sum of all dividends, gains/losses (realized and unrealized), interest, and loan interest in the plan year.

Why are 8b values negative?

This is the net total Interest, unrealized & realized gains & losses, and dividends. The negative value reflects a downturn in the market.

Where can I confirm the values in line 8d and 8e?

Your BTC Trust report (which can be found in Account Documents in the Resource Library) may show the closest values. This information is found in the Schedule of Payments to Participants. However please keep in mind that Guideline works off of the settled dates while BTC goes off of the date the transaction was initiated, so there may be slight differences in the values.

What is line 10a?

Line 10a will be marked yes if at any time during the current plan year employee deferrals and/or loan payments were not deposited within seven business days after the pay date.

This may also be marked yes if the plan had late deposits from a previous plan year that have not been fully corrected or were corrected in the current plan year.

The total of all late deposits will be listed in the amount column.

If you were with Guideline for the entire plan year, you do not need to take any action. Guideline corrects late deposits and files Form 5330 to report and pay applicable excise taxes that occurred while the plan was with Guideline.

Please note that if there was a period of time your plan was not at Guideline during the current plan year, and you notified us of late deposits, we would have assisted you with getting those corrected. For more information on the late payroll deposits you can find a report in your resource library with the pay dates affecting this value for the plan year.

Can I get the late payrolls for line 10a?

You can find a report in your resource library with the pay dates affecting this value for the year.

What is the bond in line 10c and why is it so high? We have our own fidelity bond for the plan that is a different amount.

This is the value of the fidelity bond that Guideline holds for all of our plans and covers the plan for potential losses caused by fraud/dishonesty by Guideline. This number does not need verification from you. The reason why the value is so high is because the bond covers all Guideline plans as a whole, not on an individual level.

If your plan itself (as opposed to the plan sponsor or administrator) is a named insured under a fidelity bond from an approved surety covering plan officials and that protects the plan from losses due to fraud or dishonesty, please let us know the amount of coverage and we can add this information to the Form 5500.

​Changes or amendments

My address, company name, or phone number is wrong, can I request a new filing?

Company name, address, and phone number changes do not require an amendment filing. However, please update your information in your Guideline dashboard so our records are up to date. The new information will be reflected on the next Form 5500 filed for your plan.

What can I do if my EIN has changed or is incorrect on my form?

If your EIN has changed or is not correct, please notify us as at, as an amended filing will be required. We will complete the amendment after the filing deadline of October 15.

What if I see something unexpected in my Form 5500?

Please review the "Understanding Form 5500 values and lines" section of this FAQ to confirm there is not a specified reason for the discrepancy you are seeing in your form. If you believe there is still an error in your Form 5500, please notify us as at

​Dates, extensions, and tasks

Is there a penalty for a Form 5558 extension?

No, there is no penalty for filing the extension for the form 5500.

Why is my plan effective date January 1 instead of my plan’s actual start date?

A portion of Guideline plans have a legal effective date as of the first of the plan year, even if the plan started later in the year. This will depend on the plan’s design. In general, if the plan has matching contributions or no per pay period employer nonelective contributions, Guideline uses a 1/1 effective date so that the maximum matching contribution and profit sharing can be based on compensation for the full calendar year. Plans with nonelective contributions made per pay period most often have mid-year start dates to help prevent the plan from needing to make up contributions at the end of the year for compensation earned before the plan started.

I received a 5500 signature task last year. Why didn’t I receive one this year?

Your plan may have changed to include Guideline as a 3(16) fiduciary since last year.

If Guideline is your 3(16) fiduciary, we can sign Form 5500 on your behalf. Therefore, you will not receive a signature request task. While you may still see a task to review the Form 5500 before we file it, if you take no action, Guideline can still sign and file the Form 5500 as the plan administrator.

However, if Guideline is not the plan's 3(16) fiduciary, a signature task will be sent to the plan’s trustee. The Form 5500 will not be filed until the trustee signs the filing.

What is the pre-Guideline activity task?

The pre-Guideline task is asking for information about three different areas: the prior plan admin, your prior plan assets, and any losses incurred with the prior provider.

Your prior provider should be able to guide you in obtaining this information. Please note, this information captures activity between January 1 and your plan start date with Guideline:

  1. Prior plan admin

    • Total plan assets used to pay plan service providers

    • Total plan assets used to pay insurance service providers

    • Total plan assets used to pay other expenses

    • The number of participants who were terminated before reaching 100% vesting

  2. Prior plan assets

    • Were all invested assets considered eligible assets?

    • Was your plan involved in a merger/spinoff, and were there asset transfers that occurred from that?

  3. Prior plan errors

    • Any loss to the plan caused by fraud or dishonesty

    • Any non-exempt transactions that occurred

    • The amount of participant contributions or loan payments that failed to transmit within seven business days after being withheld from the participant's paycheck

    • The amount of benefits, such as a required minimum distributions (RMDs), that the plan failed to pay when due

Did this answer your question?