This post is from the IRS quarterly newsletter.

Retirement News for Employers – Spring 2011 – Retirement Plans for Self-Employed People

 
Are you self-employed? Did you know you have many of the same options to save for retirement on a tax-deferred basis as employees participating in company plans?

Here are highlights of a few of your retirement plan options.

Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE IRA Plan)

 

  • You can put all your net earnings from self-employment in the plan: up to $11,500 (plus an additional $2,500 if you’re 50 or older) in salary reduction contributions and either a 2% fixed contribution or a 3% matching contribution.
  • Establish the plan:
  1. complete
  • Form 5305-SIMPLE, Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees of Small Employers (SIMPLE) – for Use With a Designated Financial Institution,
  • Form 5304-SIMPLE, Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees of Small Employers (SIMPLE) – Not for Use With a Designated Financial Institution, or
  • an IRS-approved “prototype SIMPLE IRA plan” offered by many mutual funds, banks and other financial institutions, and by plan administration companies; and
  1. open a SIMPLE IRA through a bank or another financial institution.
  • Set up a SIMPLE IRA plan at any time January 1 through October 1. If you became self-employed after October 1, you can set up a SIMPLE IRA plan for the year as soon as administratively feasible after your business starts.

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP)

  1. complete
  • Form 5305-SEP, Simplified Employee Pension – Individual Retirement Accounts Contribution Agreement, or
  • an IRS-approved “prototype SEP plan” offered by many mutual funds, banks and other financial institutions, and by plan administration companies; and
  1. open a SEP-IRA through a bank or other financial institution.

Set up the SEP plan for a year as late as the due date (including extensions) of your income tax return for that year.

401(k) Plan

  • Make salary deferrals up to $16,500 (plus an additional $5,500 if you’re 50 or older) of your compensation from the business either on a pre-tax basis or as a designated Roth contribution.
  • Contribute up to an additional 25% of your net earnings from self-employment (not including contributions for yourself), up to $49,000 including salary deferrals.
  • Tailor the plan to allow you access to the money in the plan through loans and hardship distributions.
  • A one-participant 401(k) plan is sometimes referred to as a “solo-401(k),” “individual 401(k)” or “uni-401(k).” It is generally the same as other 401(k) plans, but because there are no other employees, other than the spouse, that work for the business, it is exempt from discrimination testing.

 

Other Defined Contribution Plans

  • Profit-sharing plan: allows you to decide how much to contribute on an annual basis, up to 25% of compensation (not including contributions for yourself) or $49,000.
  • Money purchase plan: requires you to contribute a fixed percentage of your income every year, up to 25% of compensation (not including contributions for yourself), according to a formula stated in the plan.

 

Defined Benefit Plans
  • Traditional pension plan with a stated annual benefit you will receive at retirement, usually based on salary and years of service.
  • Benefit may also be defined based on a cash balance formula in a hypothetical individual account (a cash balance plan).
  • Maximum annual benefit can be up to $195,000.
  • Contributions are calculated by an actuary based on the benefit you set and other factors (your age, expected returns on plan investments, etc.); no other annual contribution limit applies.

Retirement plans for self-employed people were formerly referred to as “Keogh plans” after the law that first allowed unincorporated businesses to sponsor retirement plans. Since the law no longer distinguishes between corporate and other plan sponsors, the term is seldom used.

Dollar figures are for 2011 and are subject to annual cost-of-living adjustments.