From the Hotline: Timeline for Retaining Employee Benefit Records

Question: How long should an employer retain employee benefit records?

Answer: As it relates to record retention for plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), such as a retirement or health welfare plan, any documentation the employer anticipates might be beneficial to support anything related to benefit filings or to help determine benefits due to employees should be kept for at least six years, or for the length of other employee document retention timelines, if longer.

ERISA § 107 requires that employers subject to filing certain information (such as Form 5500) maintain records pertaining to agency filings or participant or beneficiary disclosures. These records must be retained and kept available for examination for at least six years after the filing date (or six years from any extended filing date) for purposes of verification, explanation, clarification, or checking for accuracy and completeness of the information in the filing. ERISA § 209 also includes recordkeeping requirements but does not provide a specific timeframe for retention, stating instead that an employer should “maintain benefit records with respect to each of [its] employees sufficient to determine the benefits due or which may become due to such employees.”