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Recordkeeping for Employee Benefit Purposes: Federal

Author: Jayne Zanglein, Western Carolina University


  • Form 5500, attachments and supporting documents must be kept for six years after reports are filed. See ERISA Requirements.
  • Documents relating to employee benefit plans must be kept long enough to determine an employee's entitlement to benefits and when those benefits become due. See ERISA Requirements.
  • The employer or plan administrator may face penalties under ERISA for failure to retain records. See Penalties for Noncompliance.
  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) records must be kept for six years. See COBRA Records.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) records must be kept for six years. See HIPAA Records.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) records must be kept for three years. See FMLA Records.
  • Grandfathered group health plans are required to maintain documents that support the plan's status as grandfathered. See The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
  • Employers should establish a document retention policy. See Document Retention Policy.
  • After a lawsuit is filed, records relating to the claim may not be destroyed. See Effect of Lawsuit on Retention.