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Employee Benefit Services

What You Need to Know, ERISA Record Retention Requirements


At a Glance

Main Takeaway

As a plan administrator, you must meet all Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) record retention requirements to ensure your plans are compliant. Understanding these requirements helps you report to regulatory agencies and avoid costly litigation.

 Next Step

Discover what you need to know about ERISA record retention requirements and how proper benefit plan administration can help you maintain ERISA compliance.

Helpful ERISA Questions and Answers for Plan Administrators

The following are common questions regarding ERISA record retention and compliance. This information can aid you in identifying and understanding Department of Labor (DOL) ERISA record retention requirements, as outlined in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.


Who is Responsible for ERISA Record Retention?

Ultimately, the Plan Administrator is responsible for meeting all ERISA record retention requirements. Many Plan Administrators outsource responsibilities to third-party administrators to alleviate the stress of day-to-day operations. However, the Plan Administrator will be held legally liable for all actions regarding the plan.

The DOL requires records for all benefits accrued by participants, such as employee census data and payroll, so you must ensure compliance as the Plan Administrator. You can hire an employee benefit plan services company like Windes to help you maintain compliance and offer advice on preventing lawsuits as a plan fiduciary.


What Are ERISA’s Legal Requirements?

Section 107 of ERISA states that administrators must keep plan records for at least six years after filing ERISA returns or reports. ERISA also requires Plan Administrators to keep these documents in an easily accessible format. All documents that support your employee benefits plan disclosures and annual reporting must also be retained.


What Documents Do Plan Administrators Need to Retain?

Plan Administrators must keep several plan-related records to meet ERISA requirements. You can retain these records in paper or electronic format as long as you can access them whenever necessary. The following is a non-inclusive list of records to maintain per ERISA:

  • Plan documents and amendments signed and dated by the plan sponsor
  • Copies from partnerships or corporate consents
  • Most recent IRS determination letter
  • Proof of the plan’s fidelity bond
  • All employee communications, for example, the Summary Plan Description
  • Financial reports, such as balance sheets and expense and income statements, including supporting documents (bank, brokerage statements, appraisals, etc.)
  • Certified audit reports
  • Form 5500 copies
  • Payroll records
  • Vesting and benefits calculation documents
  • Documents regarding the plan’s withdrawals, distributions, and loans
  • The company’s tax returns


What Record Retention Tips Should Plan Administrators Follow?

Most professional employee benefits plan advisors suggest keeping records for more than six years, whether electronic or paper. Depending on their needs, the DOL or IRS can ask for records from any period, so it’s a best practice to create a readily accessible document trail to provide the correct records.

Working with a firm like Windes that offers employee benefit plan services can ensure you understand which records to keep and how to implement a system to retain your records.


Stay Compliant with ERISA Records Retention

Windes offers employee benefit plan services to comply with all facets of ERISA requirements. Our EBS professionals provide extensive consulting on qualified plan issues, including comprehensive compliance reviews of existing plans.

  • Windes can assist employers in analyzing existing plan features, determining the cost of plan termination, and preparing for audits.
  • Windes is also experienced in using the many governmental programs available to address plan, operational, or design defects or missed filings.

Please contact Therese Cheevers at or 844.494.6337 for questions or more information.


Therese Cheevers
Therese Cheevers, APA, ERPA

Partner – Chair, Employee Benefit Services
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