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Business Owners: What’s Your Plan for Retirement?

Business owners often put their heart, soul, and nearly all of their money into their business. When it comes to retirement planning, business owners should not rely on selling their business as their only means of a nest egg for retirement. Many things can happen along the way, an owner may become ill and have to sell the business early, or the business could experience setbacks just before a planned exit.

Rather than relying on the business to define a retirement lifestyle, business owners should consider a tax-advantaged retirement plan to supplement their strategy. Employer-sponsored plans offer many benefits, including current tax deductions for the business itself and tax-deferred growth (and perhaps even tax-free income) for owners and their employees.

The following are some options to consider:

Qualified plans

Although these types of plans generally have regulatory requirements that can be costly and somewhat cumbersome, they offer a certain level of control and flexibility.

  • Profit-sharing plan: Typically, only the business contributes to a profit-sharing plan. Contributions are discretionary (although they must be “substantial and recurring”) and are placed into separate accounts for each employee according to an established allocation formula. There’s no fixed amount requirement, and in years when profitability is particularly tight, you generally need not contribute at all.
  • 401(k) plan: Perhaps the most popular type of retirement plan offered by employers, a 401(k) plan can allow employees to make both pre- and after-tax (Roth) contributions. The accounts grow on a tax-deferred basis. Distributions from pre-tax accounts are taxed as ordinary income, whereas distributions from Roth accounts are tax-free as long as they are qualified. Employee contributions cannot exceed $18,500 in 2018 ($24,500 for those 50 and older) or 100% of compensation, and you, as the employer, can choose to match a portion of employee contributions. These plans must pass tests to ensure they are nondiscriminatory; however, you can avoid the testing requirements by adopting a “safe harbor” provision that requires a set matching contribution based on one of two formulas. Another way to avoid testing is by adopting a SIMPLE 401(k) plan. However, because they are more complicated than SIMPLE IRAs (described later in this article), SIMPLE 401(k)s are not widely utilized.
  • Defined benefit (DB) plan: Commonly known as a traditional pension plan, DB plans are not as popular as they once were and are uncommon among small businesses due to costs and complexities. They promise to pay employees a set level of benefits during retirement, based on a formula typically expressed as a percentage of income. DB plans generally require an actuary’s expertise.

Total contributions to profit-sharing and 401(k) plans cannot exceed $55,000 or 100% of compensation in 2018. With both profit-sharing and 401(k) plans (except safe-harbor 401(k) plans), you can impose a vesting schedule that permits your employees to become entitled to employer contributions over a period of time.

IRA plans

Unlike qualified plans that must comply with specific regulations, SEP-IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs are less complicated and typically less costly.

  • SEP-IRA: A SEP allows you to set up an IRA for yourself and each of your eligible employees. Although you contribute the same percentage of pay for every employee, you’re not required to make contributions every year. Therefore, you can time your contributions according to what makes sense for the business. For 2018, total contributions (both employer and employee) are limited to 25% of pay up to a maximum of $55,000 for each employee (including yourself).
  • SIMPLE IRA: The SIMPLE IRA allows employees to contribute up to $12,500 in 2018 on a pre-tax basis. Employees age 50 and older may contribute an additional $3,000. As the employer, you must either match your employees’ contributions dollar for dollar up to 3% of compensation, or make a fixed contribution of 2% of compensation for every eligible employee. (The 3% contribution can be reduced to 1% in any two of five years.)

For the self-employed

In addition to the options noted above, sole entrepreneurs may consider an individual or “solo” 401(k) plan. This type of plan is very similar to a standard 401(k) plan, but because it applies only to the business owner and his or her spouse, the regulatory requirements are not as stringent. It can also have a profit-sharing feature, which could help you maximize your tax-advantaged savings potential.

 

Source: Broadridge

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