Retirement Plans for Small Businesses – PART I
If you're self-employed or own a small business and you haven't established a retirement savings plan, what are you waiting for? A retirement plan can help you and your employees save for the future.
A retirement plan can have significant tax advantages:
• Your contributions are deductible when made;
• Your contributions aren't taxed to an employee until distributed from the plan;
• Money in the retirement program grows tax deferred (or, in the case of Roth accounts,
potentially tax free).
Types of plans
Retirement plans are usually either IRA-based (like SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs) or "qualified" (like 401(k)s, profit-sharing plans, and defined benefit plans).
Qualified plans are generally more complicated and expensive to maintain than IRA-based plans because they have to comply with specific Internal Revenue Code and ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) requirements in order to qualify for their tax benefits. Also, qualified plan assets must be held either in trust or by an insurance company.
With IRA-based plans, your employees own (i.e. "vest" in) your contributions immediately. With qualified plans, you can generally require that your employees work a certain numbers of years before they vest.
Which plan is right for you?
With a dizzying array of retirement plans to choose from, each with unique advantages and disadvantages, you'll need to clearly define your goals before attempting to choose a plan. For example, do you want:
• To maximize the amount you can save for your own retirement?
• A plan funded by employer contributions? By employee contributions? Both?
• A plan that allows you and your employees to make pretax and/or Roth contributions?
• The flexibility to skip employer contributions in some years?
• A plan with lowest costs? Easiest administration?
The answers to these questions can help guide you and your retirement professional to the plan (or combination of plans) most appropriate for you.
A SEP allows you to set up an IRA (a "SEP-IRA") for yourself and each of your eligible employees. You contribute a uniform percentage of pay for each employee, although you don't have to make contributions every year, offering you some flexibility when business conditions vary. For 2017, your contributions for each employee are limited to the lesser of 25 percent of pay or $54,000. Most employers, including those who are self-employed, can establish a SEP.
SEPs have low start-up and operating costs and can be established using an easy two-page form. The plan must cover any employee aged 21 or older who has worked for you for three of the last five years and who earns $600 or more.
SIMPLE IRA plan
The SIMPLE IRA plan is available if you have 100 or fewer employees. Employees can elect to make pretax contributions in 2017 of up to $12,500 ($15,500 if age 50 or older). You must either match your employees' contributions dollar for dollar -- up to 3 percent of each employee's compensation -- or make a fixed contribution of 2 percent of compensation for each eligible employee. (The 3 percent match can be reduced to 1 percent in any two of five years.) Each employee who earned $5,000 or more in any two prior years, and who is expected to earn at least $5,000 in the current year, must be allowed to participate in the plan. SIMPLE IRA plans are easy to set up. You fill out a short form to establish a plan and ensure that SIMPLE IRAs are set up for each employee. A financial institution can do much of the paperwork. Additionally, administrative costs are low.
Typically, only you, not your employees, contribute to a qualified profit-sharing plan. Your contributions are discretionary — there's usually no set amount you need to contribute each year, and you have the flexibility to contribute nothing at all in a given year if you so choose (although your contributions must be nondiscriminatory, and "substantial and recurring," for your plan to remain qualified). The plan must contain a formula for determining how your contributions are allocated among plan participants. A separate account is established for each participant that holds your contributions and any investment gains or losses. Generally, each employee with a year of service is eligible to participate (although you can require two years of service if your contributions are immediately vested). Contributions for any employee in 2017 can't exceed the lesser of $54,000 or 100 percent of the employee's compensation.
The 401(k) plan (technically, a qualified profit-sharing plan with a cash or deferred feature) has become a hugely popular retirement savings vehicle for small businesses. According to the Investment Company Institute, 401(k) plans held $4.8 trillion of assets as of March 2016, and covered 52 million active participants. (Source: www.ici.org/401k, accessed Nov. 15, 2016.) With a 401(k) plan, employees can make pretax and/or Roth contributions in 2017 of up to $18,000 of pay ($24,000 if age 50 or older). These deferrals go into a separate account for each employee and aren't taxed until distributed. Generally, each employee with a year of service must be allowed to contribute to the plan.
You can also make employer contributions to your 401(k) plan — either matching contributions or discretionary profit-sharing contributions. Combined employer and employee contributions for any employee in 2017 can't exceed the lesser of $54,000 (plus catch-up contributions of up to $6,000 if your employee is age 50 or older) or 100 percent of the employee's compensation. In general, each employee with a year of service is eligible to receive employer contributions, but you can require two years of service if your contributions are immediately vested.
401(k) plans are required to perform somewhat complicated testing each year to make sure benefits aren't disproportionately weighted toward higher paid employees. However, you don't have to perform discrimination testing if you adopt a "safe harbor" 401(k) plan. With a safe harbor 401(k) plan, you generally have to either match your employees' contributions (100 percent of employee deferrals up to 3 percent of compensation, and 50 percent of deferrals between 3 and 5 percent of compensation), or make a fixed contribution of 3 percent of compensation for all eligible employees, regardless of whether they contribute to the plan. Your contributions must be fully vested.
Another way to avoid discrimination testing is by adopting a SIMPLE 401(k) plan. These plans are similar to SIMPLE IRAs, but can also allow loans and Roth contributions. Because they're still qualified plans (and therefore more complicated than SIMPLE IRAs), and allow less deferrals than traditional 401(k)s, SIMPLE 401(k)s haven't become popular.
Defined benefit plan
A defined benefit plan is a qualified retirement plan that guarantees your employees a specified level of benefits at retirement (for example, an annual benefit equal to 30 percent of final average pay). As the name suggests, it's the retirement benefit that's defined, not the level of contributions to the plan. In 2017, a defined benefit plan can provide an annual benefit of up to $215,000 (or 100 percent of pay if less). The services of an actuary are generally needed to determine the annual contributions that you must make to the plan to fund the promised benefit. Your contributions may vary from year to year, depending on the performance of plan investments and other factors.
In general, defined benefit plans are too costly and too complex for most small businesses. However, because they can provide the largest benefit of any retirement plan, and therefore allow the largest deductible employer contribution, defined benefit plans can be attractive to businesses that have a small group of highly compensated owners who are seeking to contribute as much money as possible on a tax-deferred basis.
As an employer, you have an important role to play in helping America's workers save. Now is the time to look into retirement plan programs for you and your employees.
DISCLAIMER: Securities and Investment Advisory services offered through SagePoint Financial, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC and a registered investment advisor. Fixed and/or Traditional Insurance Services may be offered through Capital Insurance & Asset Protection LLC, which is not affiliated with SagePoint Financial or registered as a broker-dealer or investment advisor.
To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.
Haren Mehta, managing partner of Capital Insurance & Asset Protection in Tampa, can be reached at (813) 679-5204 or email email@example.com
Planning a Drawdown Strategy? Ask These Questions First
These 10 considerations from Merrill Lynch Wealth Management can help you put together a strategy to help make retirement income last.
For previous generations, retirement planning generally meant saving and investing for the time when you would no longer bring in an income. Nowadays, with people living longer, health-care costs rising, pensions disappearing and people increasingly embracing more active, adventurous post-career lives, retirees need to be a lot more deliberate about making their money last.
To create a customized “drawdown” strategy — a plan for using the savings you’ve accumulated — start by considering these questions.
1. What kind of life do I want in retirement?
Your income needs in retirement will be affected by decisions such as where you live, how much you travel and whether you continue to work. Couples may need to compromise or create parallel strategies. For example, a wife may be more concerned than her husband about running out of money during a long retirement — a realistic concern since studies show women generally have a longer life expectancy than men.
2. How much will I spend?
First, determine your basic expenses that must be covered: mortgage or rent payments, utilities, food, Medicare premiums and the like. Then consider your wants, such as travel, entertainment and gifts. Bear in mind that people tend to overestimate how much they can afford to spend in the early years of their retirement.
3. What strategies could help me make the most of my potential income?
Most experts suggest finding guaranteed monthly income sources to cover your basic expenses. Some of that may come in the form of a corporate pension or your Social Security benefits. But if these sources of income are not enough to cover your basic expenses, you may consider purchasing a lifetime income annuity to help fill the gap.
4. In what order should I consider tapping my assets?
You could choose to take money from taxable accounts first. Your long-term investment profits, on the sale of most investment assets held for more than one year, will generally be taxed at long-term capital gains rates — currently up to 20 percent. That option may look more attractive than making withdrawals from an IRA or 401(k) plan, now taxed as regular income at rates as high as 39.6 percent. But if investments in taxable accounts have appreciated substantially—or if you think they have great potential to grow — you could earmark those assets for your heirs.
5. Should I roll over my 401(k) accounts into an IRA?
You have five options to consider for the assets in a former employer’s retirement plan account, depending on your financial circumstances, needs and goals:
- Take a lump-sum cash distribution.
- Leave the money in the plan.
- Move it to your new employer’s retirement plan.
- Roll over all or part into a traditional IRA.
- Convert all or part to a Roth IRA.
Each choice may offer different investment options and services, fees and expenses, withdrawal options, required minimum distributions, tax treatment, and provide different protection from creditors and legal judgements. As with all investment decisions, there are potential benefits and disadvantages for each option. It is important to note that if you take a lump-sum distribution, move your assets to a Traditional IRA, or convert your assets to a Roth IRA, your decision is irreversible. These are complex choices and should be considered with care.
6. What about Social Security?
If you begin taking benefits at 62, the earliest allowable age for those born between 1943 and 1959, instead of waiting until full retirement age at 66, you lock in a permanent discount of about 25 percent on your monthly checks. If, on the other hand, you can wait until age 70, you may get nearly a third more than if you had started at full retirement age — and about 75 percent more than if you opted to begin benefits at 62. A further reason to consider electing a later start date for Social Security benefits is that you could ensure a higher monthly check for your surviving spouse.
7. How can I continue to potentially grow my assets?
“Retirees today have to view themselves as long-term investors,” says David Laster, head of Retirement Strategies at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. That could mean keeping part of your portfolio in stocks, which over the long term have outperformed bonds and other fixed-income investments, keeping in mind that past performance is not a guarantee of future results.
8. What about inflation?
The inflation rate for retirees can be somewhat higher than the rate for the population as a whole, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is largely because retirees spend more on fast-rising health expenses.
9. What about health costs and longevity risk?
“Even if you have a couple of million dollars in assets, a long-term care need such as Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia could totally exhaust your wealth,” Laster says. Long-term-care insurance can help pay for care in instances such as these, which could wipe out an inheritance or assets for the surviving spouse.
10. Do I need to adjust my strategy?
Revisiting your drawdown strategy and making necessary course corrections along the way is a critical component in its potential long-term success. “Enjoying your wealth in retirement without fear of outliving your assets is a challenge for many retirees,” Laster says. “But by regularly reviewing your drawdown strategy, you can make the changes you need to.”
In the end, how you draw down your assets can help you determine whether or not you outlive them. Finding good answers to these and other questions now could be crucial in helping make sure your money lasts as you move toward your goals in a way that fits your unique circumstances.
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Long-term care insurance coverage contains benefits, exclusions, limitations, eligibility requirements and specific terms and conditions under which the insurance coverage may be continued in force or discontinued. Not all insurance policies and types of coverage may be available in your state.
Annuities are long-term investments designed to help meet retirement needs. An annuity is a contractual agreement where a client makes payments to an insurance company, which, in turn, agrees to pay out an income stream or a lump sum amount at a later date. Early withdrawals may be subject to surrender charges, and taxed as ordinary income, and in addition, if taken prior to age 59 1/2 an additional 10% federal income tax may apply.
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Year–End Tax Tips
It’s tax time again (almost)! Below are some tips and reminders that may help with your taxes before the yearend:
Itemized Deductions – if you itemize deductions on your tax return, you may be able to deduct certain miscellaneous expenses (in addition to state/real estate/property taxes, mortgage interest, and charitable contributions).
Deductions Subject to the Two Percent Limit. You can deduct most miscellaneous expenses only if they exceed two percent of your adjusted gross income. These include expenses such as:
- Unreimbursed employee expenses;
- Expenses related to searching for a new job in the same profession;
- Certain work clothes and uniforms / Tools needed for your job/union dues;
- Non-reimbursed work-related travel and transportation.
Deductions Not Subject to 2 Percent Limit. Some deductions are not subject to the 2 percent of AGI limit:
Certain casualty and theft losses. This deduction applies if you held the damaged or stolen property for investment; gambling losses up to the amount of gambling winnings; losses from Ponzi-type investment schemes.
Retirement Plans – maximize contributions to your participating retirement plans such as 401(k), Simple, etc. If you are not a participant to any of the retirement plans, you may be eligible to contribute to the traditional IRA accounts. If you are self-employed, you may be eligible to contribute to individual/solo 401K/SEP-IRA plan, etc. The 401(k) deferrals are $18,000 for 2017.
Sell loser investments - You can use capital losses to offset taxable capital gains, plus up to $3,000 in ordinary income. Remember, any losses you can't use to offset gains this year can be carried over into future tax years. Be cautious of the ‘wash sale rule,’ which prohibits taxpayers from recognizing losses on sales of securities that are repurchased within 30 days.
Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) - In certain cases, accelerating tax deductions can trigger AMT taxes. Ensure that the itemized deductions do not result in AMT calculations
Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) from retirement accounts – if you're age 70½ or older and required to take minimum required distributions from your retirement accounts, you need to do so before year-end. If an account owner fails to withdraw a RMD, fails to withdraw the full amount of the RMD, or fails to withdraw the RMD by the applicable deadline, the amount not withdrawn is taxed at 50 percent
Social Security benefits Properly time claiming Social Security benefits. If you stop working, you can claim benefits as early as age 62. But note that each year you delay — until age 70 — promises higher benefits for the rest of your life. And, delaying benefits means postponing the time you'll owe tax on them
Estimated taxes/withholdings – ensure that you have adequate tax withholdings from your employments; pay estimated taxes for any additional income.
Equipment Purchase if you are in business and purchase equipment (both old and new) you may make a ‘section 179 election,’ which allows to expense fully in the current tax year. The current deduction limit is $500,000. This means businesses can deduct the full cost of qualifying equipment from their 2017 taxes, up to $500,000 (subject to restrictions). The equipment must be purchased and put into use by midnight, Dec. 31, 2017.
Qualified leasehold improvement property. Generally, this is any improvement to an interior part of a building that is nonresidential real property; in addition, qualified restaurant property and qualified retail improvement property that also satisfies the definition of qualified leasehold improvement property is eligible for bonus depreciation (50 or 100 percent) assuming all requirements are met.
- Standard Mileage Rate: The 2017 standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) are:
- 53.5 cents per mile for business miles driven;
- 17 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes;
- 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.
Note: There may be several tax law changes per the new tax reform proposals
There are various limitations, thresholds, & procedures for many of the deduction and filings. Please consult your CPA/Tax attorney/or tax consultant for proper guidance with the above subject matter.
Suresh Kumar, CPA, MBA is the Principal of Kumar Consulting, PA, a CPA & Consulting firm licensed in the states of FL, KS, & MO and maybe reached @ 813-421-5068 or email@example.com/www.kumarconsultingcpa.com.
In accordance with IRS Circular 230, the above information is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used as or considered a "covered opinion" or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for the purpose of avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code; promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or tax-related matter(s) addressed herein; for IRS audit, tax dispute or other purposes.