Document Retention for 401(k) Plans

As a 401(k) plan administrator, retention of records can become an overwhelming burden with the volume of documents to retain.

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Sections 107 and 209 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA), contain certain requirements relating to the maintenance of records for reporting and disclosure purposes and for determining the benefits to which participants and beneficiaries are or may become entitled. 

According to the requirements, the following documents should never be discarded:

  • Executed documents (plan document, amendments, Summary Plan Descriptions, Summary of Material Modifications, Form 5330s, Resolutions, plan loan documents)
  • Minutes documenting investment and expense due diligence and investment policies
  • Documentation of eligibility for participants including date of birth, date of hire and date of termination
  • Loan/Hardship/Distribution documentation

The following records should be available for examination for a period of not less than six years after the filing date of the documents based on the information they contain, or six years after the date the documents would have been filed.

  • Annual filing reports (Form 5500, support, audit, testing, Summary Annual Reports)
  • Compliance Testing Results
  • Salary deferral agreements
  • ERISA Fidelity Bond, Fiduciary Insurance Coverage
  • Communications with employees such as enrollment materials and presentations, participant notices, copies of communication of events
  • Participant records – retain during employment and participation and continue at least six years after benefits are paid to participant or beneficiaries

Plan administrators should review plan records on an annual basis and purge as needed to keep the retention of documents current. This will reduce the volume of documents that are no longer required to be kept. The current documents should be kept in an accessible location, for example, scanned into a secure location on the plan sponsor network where backups also occur.

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Forensic