Do You Have a Plan For Your Employees?

By Kurt Schmitt

If you are self-employed or are the owner of a small business, you probably understand the difficulties in finding and keeping qualified employees. There are many factors that an employee will consider when deciding where to work. One that may be overlooked is the availability of a tax-qualified retirement plan.

According to a recent survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), 25 percent of small business owners stated the most important reason for offering a retirement plan was recruiting and retaining employees. Another 19 percent said the positive effect on employee attitude and performance was the most important reason they offered a plan.

The Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) and Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) plans are two of the more popular tax-qualified plans available. If a plan is considered tax-qualified, contributions are not subject to current federal income tax.  All earnings grow tax-deferred until withdrawn and taxes are payable by the participant when benefits are actually received, generally at retirement when the participant may be in a lower tax bracket and entitled to an additional standard deduction at age 65.

Unfortunately, a number of employers are unaware of the tax-qualified retirement plans available. The 2001 Small Employer Retirement Survey conducted by EBRI indicated that 52 percent of business owners had not heard of SEP plans while an additional 16 percent had heard of them but knew little about them. The numbers for SIMPLE plans were 34 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

An advantage of the SEP plan is the ease in establishing and maintaining the plan. Any business with one or more employees, including the owner/employee, may set up a SEP-IRA. The plan may be set up by completing IRS form 5305-SEP and no employer tax filing is required.

As an employer, you decide each year whether you will contribute to the plan. If a contribution will be made, you also decide how much you will contribute to each employee’s SEP-IRA. Employees are immediately 100 percent vested in the SEP-IRA proceeds.

A SIMPLE IRA is a salary reduction plan with little administrative paperwork. If you have 100 or fewer employees in your business, you are eligible to begin a SIMPLE IRA by completing IRS form 5305-SIMPLE. SIMPLE IRAs are funded by employee payroll deductions and employer contributions. You can either match the employees’ contributions dollar for dollar up to 3 percent of their salaries, or contribute 2 percent of each eligible employee’s salary up to $3,400. Eligible employees are immediately 100 percent vested.

Employees may take withdrawals from a SEP or SIMPLE IRA at any time. However, they will generally be subject to a 10 percent tax penalty if they are under age 59 1/2 at the time of the withdrawal. The tax penalty increases to 25% for SIMPLE IRA withdrawals made during the first two years the employee participates in any SIMPLE-IRA.

Finding qualified employees that will stay on the job can be difficult. Fortunately, there are retirement plans available to make your business more attractive to job seekers. Speak with a qualified investment professional to discuss which plan may be appropriate for you.

This article is sponsored by State Farm VP Management Corp., One State Farm Plaza, Bloomington, Illinois, 61710-0001. Contact them at 800-447-4930.  Kurt Schmitt, (CLU, CHFC), is an Agency Field Consultant with State Farm Insurance. He has 13 years of experience in the Insurance and Financial Services industry. For more information on SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs, contact your local Registered Representative State Farm Agent.

[From Connection MagazineNovember 2003]

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