Employee Retirement Plans: Tax Advantages and Other Benefits

Thinking of offering a retirement plan to your employees? Here’s some of what you need to know.

If you were employed during the 1980s, you probably remember what a benefits bonanza that period was. Inexpensive health and life insurance. Short- and long-term disability. And pensions. The defined benefit pension was beginning to fade as the defined contribution pension — created when Congress established 401(k)s — took hold. The onus of retirement income began its slow shift from the employer to the employee, though many employers continue to contribute.

Today’s retirement accounts have tax advantages for both employer and employee, but there are many IRS regulations you’ll need to follow. Here’s a basic overview of what’s available. We’ll work closely with you when you decide to get started.

A Trio of Options

Most retirement plans fall into one of three categories:

1. Simplified Employee Pension (SEP). This is the simplest method; you contribute on an ongoing basis to a retirement plan for yourself and your employees. Your contributions are deposited directly into a traditional individual retirement account or individual retirement annuity (SEP-IRA).

The maximum contribution is $49,000 or 25 percent of employee’s salary, whichever is smaller. Maximum deduction is 25 percent of all participants’ compensation (a cap of $245,000 in compensation was — “generally” — in place for the 2011 tax years).

2. Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees of Small Employers (SIMPLE). These can be either IRAs or 401(k)s. To be eligible, you must have 100 or fewer employees who earned at least $5,000 during the last year. Employees can opt to have a portion of their paychecks deducted regularly for this purpose, and you would contribute matching or non-elective contributions.

Employees can defer up to $11,500 ($14,000 if age 50 or older), and there are two options for the employer contribution:

  • Dollar-for-dollar matching contributions, up to 3 percent of employee salary (up to $245,000 in 2011)
  • Fixed, nonelective contributions of 2 percent of compensation (same salary limit)

The maximum deduction here is the same as the maximum contribution.

 

3. Qualified Plans. These are more complicated than SEPs and SIMPLEs. Still, they offer advantages like more flexibility in creating plans and — sometimes — higher contribution and deduction limits. The contribution and deduction limits vary greatly.

 

Numerous Tax Implications

 

Keep in mind, too, that you may be able to claim a tax credit for, “…part of the ordinary and necessary costs of starting a SEP, SIMPLE or Qualified Plan.”

 

Obviously, your taxes are about to get a whole lot more complicated. We’d like to work with you early in the process, before you’ve even determined what kid of plan to offer. We applaud you for your efforts to help your employees build income for their retirement.

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