ERISA Record Retention Requirements

Published December 6, 2019

  • Articles

The Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) requires that plan sponsors retain important plan documentation.  ERISA requires maintaining retirement plan records for a variety of reasons.  A solid record retention policy helps you to manage your plan more efficiently, whether it be to respond to employee requests or changes, deal with audits or keep things compliant.

Under section 107 of ERISA, anyone responsible for filing plan reports must “maintain records to provide sufficient detail to verify, explain, clarify, and check for accuracy and completeness” for a period of six years after the filing date. In addition, under Section 209 of ERISA, employers should maintain employee records “sufficient to determine the benefits due or which may become due to such employees” indefinitely.  So, when in doubt, keep it!  Keep a written records retention policy, and always consult an ERISA specialist prior to destroying any plan records.

Audits require a ton of documentation to prove the plan has been responsibly managed and kept in compliance.  If your plan is required to have an audit, having the below list of documents available will help this process run smoother:

Fiduciary Plan Documents

  • Original (signed) plan document
  • Adoption agreement
  • Plan amendments
  • IRS determination letter
  • ERISA fidelity bond
  • Investment policy statement
  • Trust records/Investment statements

Contracts & Agreements

  • Plan services agreements
  • Annuity contracts and collective bargaining agreements
  • Plan sponsor fee disclosure

Participant Notices

  • Summary plan description
  • Summary annual reports
  • Blackout notices
  • QDIA notices
  • Participant fee disclosures
  • Participant introduction packets
  • Proof that the notices were sent


  • Form 5500
  • Audited Financial Statements

Participant-Level Benefit Determinations

  • Employee demographic information
  • Employee offer letters/proof of compensation
  • Census data
  • Payroll records
  • Participant account statements detailing contributions, earnings, loans, withdrawals, etc.
  • Participant election forms including:

Distribution forms (with spousal consent waivers, if applicable)

Loan documents

Deferral amount and allocation election forms

Beneficiary terms

Many of these documents above can be accessed using a plan sponsor portal from your provider’s website.  If you are using a third-party administrator’s plan document, you may or may not have online access to these documents.  If this is the case, make sure you request copies.   These documents can be maintained electronically, however, the original of any documents with notary seals must be kept.  Make sure these documents are easily accessible, storage is secure and backed up regularly.

Maintaining these comprehensive records as noted above, is one of the best things you can do to make administration of your plan easier and more effective.  It will also ensure the audit process is less stressful and your plan remains compliant with ERISA record retention requirements.

If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding ERISA Record Retention please contact MCM Senior Manager Ashely Frey via email ( or phone (502.882.4316).