Retirement Plan Options for Small BusinessesPosted on May 6th, 2017
Marianne Kern, CPA
Kern & Associates CPA, P.A.
Employer-sponsored retirement plans have become a key component for retirement savings. They are also an increasingly important tool for attracting and retaining the high-quality employees you need to compete in today’s competitive environment. Also, keep in mind throughout this article that if you are self-employed and operate under an LLC or corporation, for example, your business entity is the “employer,” and you are the “employee.”
Besides helping employees save for the future, however, instituting a retirement plan can provide you, as the employer, with benefits that enable you to make the most of your business’s assets. Such benefits include:
- Tax-deferred growth on earnings within the plan
- Current tax savings on individual contributions to the plan
- Immediate tax deductions for employer contributions
- Easy to establish and maintain
- Low-cost benefit with a highly perceived value by your employees
Here’s an overview of four retirement plans options that can help you and your employees save:
SIMPLE: Savings Incentive Match Plan
A SIMPLE IRA plan allows employees to contribute a percentage of their salary each paycheck and to have their employer match their contribution. Under SIMPLE IRA plans, employees can set aside up to $12,500 in 2017 by payroll deduction. If the employee is 50 or older then they may contribute an additional $3,000. Employers can either match employee contributions dollar for dollar – up to 3 percent of an employee’s wage – or make a fixed contribution of 2 percent of pay for all eligible employees instead of a matching contribution.
SIMPLE IRA plans are easy to set up by filling out a short form. Administrative costs are low and much of the paperwork is done by the financial institution that handles the SIMPLE IRA plan accounts. Employers may choose either to permit employees to select the IRA to which their contributions will be sent or to send contributions for all employees to one financial institution. Employees are 100 percent vested in contributions, get to decide how and where the money will be invested, and keep their IRA accounts even when they change jobs.
SEP: Simplified Employee Pension Plan
A SEP plan allows employers to set up a type of individual retirement account–known as a SEP IRA–for themselves and their employees. Employers must contribute a uniform percentage of pay for each employee. Employer contributions are limited to whichever is less: 25 percent of an employee’s annual salary or $54,000 in 2017. SEP plans can be started by most employers, including those that are self-employed.
SEP plans have low start-up and operating costs and can be established using a single quarter-page form. Businesses are not locked into making contributions every year. You can decide how much to put into a SEP each year – offering you some flexibility when business conditions vary.
401(k) plans have become a widely accepted savings vehicle for small businesses and allow employees to contribute a portion of their own incomes toward their retirement. The employee contributions, not to exceed $18,000 in 2017, reduce a participant’s pay before income taxes, so that pre-tax dollars are invested. If the employee is 50 or older then they may contribute another $6,000 in 2017. Employers may offer to match a certain percentage of the employee’s contribution, increasing participation in the plan.
While more complex, 401(k)plans offer higher contribution limits than SIMPLE IRA plans and IRAs, allowing employees to accumulate greater savings.
Employers also may make profit-sharing contributions to plans that are unrelated to any amounts an employee chooses to contribute. Profit-sharing Plans are well suited for businesses with uncertain or fluctuating profits. In addition to the flexibility in deciding the amounts of the contributions, a Profit-Sharing Plan can include options such as service requirements, vesting schedules and plan loans that are not available under SEP plans.
Contributions may range from 0 to 25 percent of eligible employees’ compensation, to a maximum of $54,000 in 2017 per employee. The contribution in any one year cannot exceed 25 percent of the total compensation of the employees participating in the plan. Contributions need not be the same percentage for all employees. Key employees may actually get as much as 25 percent, while others may get as little as 3 percent. A plan may combine these profit-sharing contributions with 401(k) contributions (and matching contributions).
Retirement plan rules are complex, and the tax aspects can also be confusing. There are various restrictions on contributing to more than one type of plan in the year, adjusted gross income in the case of joint tax returns, and if you have other employees besides yourself, requirements to offer your retirement plan to them as well. If you need help finding the right plan for you or your employees, seek professional advice from your financial advisor. If you do not have a financial advisor, seek one out or contact your CPA / accountant for suggestions.