A simple warning to all companies that provide employees with some type of pension plan or health, welfare, or fringe benefits: don't mess up federal reporting requirements or you'll face hefty late-filing penalties. The reporting rules may be complex, but the feds won't let you off the hook because you couldn't figure them out. Here are some guidelines:

If fewer than 100 people are covered by a pension plan, benefits plan (including medical, dental, life-insurance, scholarship, and disability), or fringe benefit, file Form 5500 C/R annually, listing details on membership, assets, and so on.

For any plan with 100 participants or more, the more detailed Form 5500 must be filed each year. "Some plans may require Form 5500s, while others will require C/Rs," says Mitchell Eichen, a tax manager at New York City-based accounting firm WG&S Associates. "Or some plans may grow into requiring the fuller form." Pay attention.

-- Jill Andresky Fraser

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