- HSAs work best when they are used to pay for qualified medical expenses. Neither your original contributions to an HSA nor your investment earnings are taxed when used this way.
- There is no required minimum distribution after you reach age 70½, like there is with 401(k)s and IRAs.
- You can only contribute to an HSA if you have a high deductible health insurance plan. The downside of these plans is that you pay more out of pocket each year when you need to use health services.
- Annual contributions to HSAs are limited to $3,400 a year for individuals and $6,750 a year for families (add $1,000 for people aged 55 or older).
- HSAs typically have fewer investment options compared with other investment tools including 401(k)s and IRAs. They also often have high management and administrative fees.
- Before you reach age 65, non-medical withdrawals from HSAs come with a whopping 20 percent penalty, plus they are taxed as income.
- Even after age 65, both contributions and earnings are taxed when they are withdrawn for non-medical expenses. In this way, HSAs compare unfavorably with 401(k)s and IRAs, which end their early withdrawal period earlier, at age 59½. They also have lower early withdrawal penalties of just 10 percent.
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are a great way to pay for medical expenses, and since unused funds roll over from year to year, the account can also provide a source of retirement funds in addition to other plans like 401(k)s or IRAs. But be aware of how HSAs compare to other retirement investment tools.
As a business owner, you should carefully consider the advantages of establishing an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Generally, you're allowed a deduction for contributions you make to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. In return, however, you're required to include certain employees in the plan, and to give a portion of the contributions you make to those participating employees. Nevertheless, a retirement plan can provide you with a tax-advantaged method to save funds for your own retirement, while providing your employees with a powerful and appreciated benefit.
Types of plans
There are several types of retirement plans to choose from, and each type of plan has advantages and disadvantages. This discussion covers the most popular plans. You should also know that the law may permit you to have more than one retirement plan, and with sophisticated planning, a combination of plans might best suit your business's needs.
Profit-sharing plans are among the most popular employer-sponsored retirement plans. These straightforward plans allow you, as an employer, to make a contribution that is spread among the plan participants. You are not required to make an annual contribution in any given year. However, contributions must be made on a regular basis.
With a profit-sharing plan, a separate account is established for each plan participant, and contributions are allocated to each participant based on the plan's formula (this formula can be amended from time to time). As with all retirement plans, the contributions must be prudently invested. Each participant's account must also be credited with his or her share of investment income (or loss).
For 2017, no individual is allowed to receive contributions for his or her account that exceed the lesser of 100% of his or her earnings for that year or $54,000 ($53,000 in 2016). Your total deductible contributions to a profit-sharing plan may not exceed 25% of the total compensation of all the plan participants in that year. So, if there were four plan participants each earning $50,000, your total deductible contribution to the plan could not exceed $50,000 ($50,000 x 4 = $200,000; $200,000 x 25% = $50,000). When calculating your deductible contribution, you can only count compensation up to $270,000 in 2017 ($265,000 in 2016) for any individual employee.
A type of deferred compensation plan, and now the most popular type of plan by far, the 401(k) plan allows contributions to be funded by the participants themselves, rather than by the employer. Employees elect to forgo a portion of their salary and have it put in the plan instead. These plans can be expensive to administer, but the employer's contribution cost is generally very small (employers often offer to match employee deferrals as an incentive for employees to participate). Thus, in the long run, 401(k) plans tend to be relatively inexpensive for the employer.
The requirements for 401(k) plans are complicated, and several tests must be met for the plan to remain in force. For example, the higher-paid employees' deferral percentage cannot be disproportionate to the rank-and-file's percentage of compensation deferred.
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% of employee deferrals up to 3% of compensation, and 50% of deferrals between 3% and 5% of compensation), or make a fixed contribution of 3% of compensation for all eligible employees, regardless of whether they contribute to the plan. Your contributions must be fully vested immediately.
You can also avoid discrimination testing by adopting a qualified automatic contribution arrangement, or QACA. Under a QACA, an employee who fails to make an affirmative deferral election is automatically enrolled in the plan. An employee's automatic contribution must be at least 3% for the first two calendar years of participation and then increase 1% each year until it reaches 6%. You can require an automatic contribution of as much as 10%. Employees can change their contribution rate, or stop contributing, at any time (and get a refund of their automatic contributions if they elect out within 90 days). As with safe harbor plans, you're required to make an employer contribution: either 3% of pay to each eligible employee, or a matching contribution, but the match is a little different--dollar for dollar up to 1% of pay, and 50% on additional contributions up to 6% of pay. You can also require two years of service before your contributions vest (compared to immediate vesting in a safe harbor plan).
Another way to avoid discrimination testing is by adopting a SIMPLE 401(k) plan. These plans are similar to SIMPLE IRAs (see below), 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 a popular option.
If you don't have any employees (or your spouse is your only employee) an "individual" or "solo" 401(k) plan may be especially attractive. Because you have no employees, you won't need to perform discrimination testing, and your plan will be exempt from the requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). You can make pretax contributions of up to $18,000 in 2017, plus an additional $6,000 of pre-tax catch-up contributions if you're age 50 or older (unchanged from 2016). You can also make profit-sharing contributions; however, total annual additions to your account in 201 7 can't exceed $54,000 (plus any age-50 catch-up contributions).
Note: A 401(k) plan can let employees designate all or part of their elective deferrals as Roth 401(k) contributions. Roth 401(k) contributions are made on an after-tax basis, just like Roth IRA contributions. Unlike pretax contributions to a 401(k) plan, there's no up-front tax benefit--contributions are deducted from pay and transferred to the plan after taxes are calculated. Because taxes have already been paid on these amounts, a distribution of Roth 401(k) contributions is always free from federal income tax. And all earnings on Roth 401(k) contributions are free from federal income tax if received in a "qualified distribution."
Note: 401(k) plans are generally established as part of a profit-sharing plan.
Money purchase pension plans
Money purchase pension plans are similar to profit-sharing plans, but employers are required to make an annual contribution. Participants receive their respective share according to the plan document's formula.
As with profit-sharing plans, money purchase pension plans cap individual contributions at 100% of earnings or $54,000 annually (in 2017; $53,000 in 2016), while employers are allowed to make deductible contributions up to 25% of the total compensation of all plan participants. (To go back to the previous example, the total deductible contribution would again be $50,000: ($50,000 x 4) x 25% = $50,000.)
Like profit-sharing plans, money purchase pension plans are relatively straightforward and inexpensive to maintain. However, they are less popular than profit-sharing or 401(k) plans because of the annual contribution requirement.
Defined benefit plans
By far the most sophisticated type of retirement plan, a defined benefit program sets out a formula that defines how much each participant will receive annually after retirement if he or she works until retirement age. This is generally stated as a percentage of pay, and can be as much as 100% of final average pay at retirement.
An actuary certifies how much will be required each year to fund the projected retirement payments for all employees. The employer then must make the contribution based on the actuarial determination. In 2017, the maximum annual retirement benefit an individual may receive is $215,000 ($210,000 in 2016 ) or 100% of final average pay at retirement.
Unlike defined contribution plans, there is no limit on the contribution. The employer's total contribution is based on the projected benefits. Therefore, defined benefit plans potentially offer the largest contribution deduction and the highest retirement benefits to business owners.
SIMPLE IRA retirement plans
Actually a sophisticated type of individual retirement account (IRA), the SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) IRA plan allows employees to defer up to $12,500 for 2017 (same limit as 2016) of annual compensation by contributing it to an IRA. In addition, employees age 50 and over may make an extra "catch-up" contribution of $3,000 for 2017 (same limit as 2016). Employers are required to match deferrals, up to 3% of the contributing employee's wages (or make a fixed contribution of 2% to the accounts of all participating employees whether or not they defer to the SIMPLE plan).
SIMPLE plans work much like 401(k) plans, but do not have all the testing requirements. So, they're cheaper to maintain. There are several drawbacks, however. First, all contributions are immediately vested, meaning any money contributed by the employer immediately belongs to the employee (employer contributions are usually "earned" over a period of years in other retirement plans). Second, the amount of contributions the highly paid employees (usually the owners) can receive is severely limited compared to other plans. Finally, the employer cannot maintain any other retirement plans. SIMPLE plans cannot be utilized by employers with more than 100 employees.
The above sections are not exhaustive, but represent the most popular plans in use today. Current tax laws give retirement plan professionals new and creative ways to write plan formulas and combine different types of plans, in order to maximize contributions and benefits for higher paid employees.
Finding a plan that's right for you
If you are considering a retirement plan for your business, ask a plan professional to help you determine what works best for you and your business needs. The rules regarding employer-sponsored retirement plans are very complex and easy to misinterpret. In addition, even after you've decided on a specific type of plan, you will often have a number of options in terms of how the plan is designed and operated. These options can have a significant and direct impact on the number of employees that have to be covered, the amount of contributions that have to be made, and the way those contributions are allocated (for example, the amount that is allocated to you, as an owner).
For 2017, the wage base for withholding social security tax from wages has increased to $127,200, up from $118,500 in 2016. The “wage base” is the amount of wages on which employers and employees must pay the 6.2% social security tax. The increased wage base means an additional $8,700 of your income is taxed.
The wage base does not affect the 1.45% Medicare payroll tax. Medicare tax is assessed on all wages and net income from self-employment, including amounts above the base. The 0.9% Additional Medicare Tax is not affected either. That tax applies to your compensation in excess of $250,000 when you’re married filing jointly ($200,000 when you’re single).
The federal payroll tax rate for employers and employees remains 7.65%, with social security tax withheld and paid at 6.2%, and Medicare tax withheld and paid at 1.45%.
If you’re over 70½ and are required to take distributions from your IRA or other retirement account, remember that you must take your 2016 required minimum distribution by December 31. Due to year-end holidays and transfer time constraints, getting the process started now can avoid a last-minute rush, as well as a steep penalty of 50% of the amount not taken.
If this year’s distribution is your first, you have a one-time option of waiting until the beginning of April 2017 to start taking withdrawals. Just remember, waiting means you'll have two taxable distributions next year. Contact us for details.
If you haven’t yet begun saving for retirement, a myRA may be a reason to start. “myRA” is an acronym for “my Retirement Account.” myRAs cost nothing to open, have no fees, and let you start saving with any amount that fits your budget. You can open a myRA even if you have other retirement accounts. Your myRA belongs entirely to you and can be moved to any new employer that offers direct deposit capability.
myRAs generally follow Roth IRA rules. That means the maximum contribution for 2015 and 2016 is $5,500 ($6,500 when you’re over age 50). Contributions to your myRA are invested in a U.S. Treasury savings bond. The balance in your account earns interest and is guaranteed to retain its value.
The Department of the Treasury recently added new ways to fund myRAs. As before, you can choose to fund your account from your paycheck by completing a direct deposit authorization form and giving it to your employer. And now you also have the option of making direct deposits from a checking or savings account or from your federal income tax refund.
To learn more about myRAs, please contact us.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 made two changes to social security benefit strategies. “File and suspend” was a way for married couples to allow the higher earning spouse to claim benefits at full retirement age but suspend the benefits until a later date. Under the Act, this strategy will no longer be available after April 30, 2016.
“Restricted application” applied to married couples who had reached full retirement age and who were eligible for both a spousal benefit and a personal retirement benefit. These couples could file a restricted application for spousal benefits only, then delay applying for personal retirement benefits. If you’ll turn 62 after 2015, the Act eliminated the ability to file a restricted application for only spousal benefits. However, if you were already 62 or older in 2015, you can continue to use the restricted application method for spousal benefits, but only upon reaching full retirement age.
With Congress passing the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 recently, there are a few new considerations that need to be made with regard to your social security benefits. Below are the two strategies, considered “loopholes” by many, which are coming to an end very soon:
File and Suspend Strategy – Under this strategy, an individual, who is at least full retirement age, will file for his or her own retirement benefits, and then immediately suspend the receipt of those benefits. At this point, spousal or dependent benefits are eligible to be paid out. Doing so enables the collection of some social security benefits based on the earnings record of the filer, but also allows the earning of delayed retirement credits. Delayed retirement credits increase social security benefits by 8% per year, not considering any potential cost-of-living adjustments that may also be added. The collection of delayed retirement credits can continue until the filer reaches age 70. At that point, the retiree will be able to collect a maximized benefit.
Restricted Application Strategy – Using this strategy, an individual, who is at least full retirement age, will file a Restricted Application to collect only the spousal benefit, which is based on the spouse’s earnings record. Similar to the strategy above, this allows the collection of delayed retirement credits until age 70, also allowing a maximized benefit for the higher earning individual.
What do you need to know?
The termination date of these strategies on May 1, 2016 is quickly looming, however you may still be eligible to take advantage. Those who are already collecting under these strategies will be able to continue collecting with no changes. Individuals who will be age 62 or older by the end of 2015 are still eligible to enact the above. Those who will not meet this minimum age threshold by the end of 2015 will not have the above options available, however they will still be able to delay their benefits to earn delayed retirement credits, but no one will be eligible to collect on their earnings record.
If you will be at least age 62 by the end of this year and are still considering your social security collection options, contact us today so we can assist you in maximizing your benefits. Maximizing your social security benefits is an important way to ensure that you retire comfortably!
If you’re over 70½ and are required to take distributions from your IRA or other retirement account, remember that you must take your 2015 RMD (required minimum distribution) by December 31. Otherwise you may face a penalty of 50% of the amount not taken. If the 2015 distribution is your first RMD, you have the option of waiting until April 1, 2016, to begin withdrawals.
Are your beneficiary designations up to date? Do you know which accounts have beneficiaries, and whom you’ve designated? It’s easy to lose track. But it’s important to keep them current. Here’s why.
When you designate a beneficiary for an account, that person inherits the assets in the account, regardless of what your will says. That’s why updating your will periodically might not be enough. Typically, you’ll have beneficiaries for each of your IRAs, your 401(k) or other retirement plans, annuities, and insurance policies.
Your designations could be out of date because of life changes. For example, since you made your initial choices, you might have married, had children, or divorced. Some of the beneficiaries you chose could have died, divorced, or married.
Changing tax laws also affect beneficiary designations. Choosing the wrong beneficiary, or failing to name a contingent beneficiary, can affect the long-term value of your IRA assets after you die.
Make reviewing and updating beneficiary designations part of your year-end financial review. Give us a call if you need help.
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