3.   SIMPLE Plans

Topics - This chapter discusses:

  • SIMPLE IRA plan

  • SIMPLE 401(k) plan

Useful Items - You may want to see:

Publications

  • 590 Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)

  • 3998 Choosing A Retirement Solution for Your Small Business

  • 4284 SIMPLE IRA Plan Checklist

  • 4334 SIMPLE IRA Plans for Small Businesses

Forms (and Instructions)

  • W-2 Wage and Tax Statement

  • 5304-SIMPLE Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees of Small Employers (SIMPLE)–Not for Use With a Designated Financial Institution

  • 5305-SIMPLE Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees of Small Employers (SIMPLE)–for Use With a Designated Financial Institution

  • 8880 Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions

  • 8881 Credit for Small Employer Pension Plan Startup Costs

A savings incentive match plan for employees (SIMPLE plan) is a written arrangement that provides you and your employees with a simplified way to make contributions to provide retirement income. Under a SIMPLE plan, employees can choose to make salary reduction contributions to the plan rather than receiving these amounts as part of their regular pay. In addition, you will contribute matching or nonelective contributions.

SIMPLE plans can only be maintained on a calendar-year basis.

A SIMPLE plan can be set up in either of the following ways.

  • Using SIMPLE IRAs (SIMPLE IRA plan).

  • As part of a 401(k) plan (SIMPLE 401(k) plan).

Many financial institutions will help you set up a SIMPLE plan.

SIMPLE IRA Plan

A SIMPLE IRA plan is a retirement plan that uses SIMPLE IRAs for each eligible employee. Under a SIMPLE IRA plan, a SIMPLE IRA must be set up for each eligible employee. For the definition of an eligible employee, see Who Can Participate in a SIMPLE IRA Plan , later.

Who Can Set Up a SIMPLE IRA Plan?

You can set up a SIMPLE IRA plan if you meet both the following requirements.

  • You meet the employee limit.

  • You do not maintain another qualified plan unless the other plan is for collective bargaining employees.

Employee limit.   You can set up a SIMPLE IRA plan only if you had 100 or fewer employees who received $5,000 or more in compensation from you for the preceding year. Under this rule, you must take into account all employees employed at any time during the calendar year regardless of whether they are eligible to participate. Employees include self-employed individuals who received earned income and leased employees (defined in chapter 1).

  Once you set up a SIMPLE IRA plan, you must continue to meet the 100-employee limit each year you maintain the plan.

Grace period for employers who cease to meet the 100-employee limit.   If you maintain the SIMPLE IRA plan for at least 1 year and you cease to meet the 100-employee limit in a later year, you will be treated as meeting it for the 2 calendar years immediately following the calendar year for which you last met it.

  A different rule applies if you do not meet the 100-employee limit because of an acquisition, disposition, or similar transaction. Under this rule, the SIMPLE IRA plan will be treated as meeting the 100-employee limit for the year of the transaction and the 2 following years if both the following conditions are satisfied.
  • Coverage under the plan has not significantly changed during the grace period.

  • The SIMPLE IRA plan would have continued to qualify after the transaction if you had remained a separate employer.

  
The grace period for acquisitions, dispositions, and similar transactions also applies if, because of these types of transactions, you do not meet the rules explained under Other qualified plan or Who Can Participate in a SIMPLE IRA Plan, below.

Other qualified plan.   The SIMPLE IRA plan generally must be the only retirement plan to which you make contributions, or to which benefits accrue, for service in any year beginning with the year the SIMPLE IRA plan becomes effective.

Exception.   If you maintain a qualified plan for collective bargaining employees, you are permitted to maintain a SIMPLE IRA plan for other employees.

Who Can Participate in a SIMPLE IRA Plan?

Eligible employee.   Any employee who received at least $5,000 in compensation during any 2 years preceding the current calendar year and is reasonably expected to receive at least $5,000 during the current calendar year is eligible to participate. The term “employee” includes a self-employed individual who received earned income.

  You can use less restrictive eligibility requirements (but not more restrictive ones) by eliminating or reducing the prior year compensation requirements, the current year compensation requirements, or both. For example, you can allow participation for employees who received at least $3,000 in compensation during any preceding calendar year. However, you cannot impose any other conditions for participating in a SIMPLE IRA plan.

Excludable employees.   The following employees do not need to be covered under a SIMPLE IRA plan.
  • Employees who are covered by a union agreement and whose retirement benefits were bargained for in good faith by the employees' union and you.

  • Nonresident alien employees who have received no U.S. source wages, salaries, or other personal services compensation from you.

Compensation.   Compensation for employees is the total wages, tips, and other compensation from the employer subject to federal income tax withholding and the amounts paid for domestic service in a private home, local college club, or local chapter of a college fraternity or sorority. Compensation also includes the employee's salary reduction contributions made under this plan and, if applicable, elective deferrals under a section 401(k) plan, a SARSEP, or a section 403(b) annuity contract and compensation deferred under a section 457 plan required to be reported by the employer on Form W-2. If you are self-employed, compensation is your net earnings from self-employment (line 4 of Short Schedule SE or line 6 of Long Schedule SE (Form 1040)) before subtracting any contributions made to the SIMPLE IRA plan for yourself.

How To Set Up a SIMPLE IRA Plan

You can use Form 5304-SIMPLE or Form 5305-SIMPLE to set up a SIMPLE IRA plan. Each form is a model savings incentive match plan for employees (SIMPLE) plan document. Which form you use depends on whether you select a financial institution or your employees select the institution that will receive the contributions.

Use Form 5304-SIMPLE if you allow each plan participant to select the financial institution for receiving his or her SIMPLE IRA plan contributions. Use Form 5305-SIMPLE if you require that all contributions under the SIMPLE IRA plan be deposited initially at a designated financial institution.

The SIMPLE IRA plan is adopted when you have completed all appropriate boxes and blanks on the form and you (and the designated financial institution, if any) have signed it. Keep the original form. Do not file it with the IRS.

Other uses of the forms.   If you set up a SIMPLE IRA plan using Form 5304-SIMPLE or Form 5305-SIMPLE, you can use the form to satisfy other requirements, including the following.
  • Meeting employer notification requirements for the SIMPLE IRA plan. Form 5304-SIMPLE and Form 5305-SIMPLE contain a Model Notification to Eligible Employees that provides the necessary information to the employee.

  • Maintaining the SIMPLE IRA plan records and proving you set up a SIMPLE IRA plan for employees.

Deadline for setting up a SIMPLE IRA plan.   You can set up a SIMPLE IRA plan effective on any date from January 1 through October 1 of a year, provided you did not previously maintain a SIMPLE IRA plan. This requirement does not apply if you are a new employer that comes into existence after October 1 of the year the SIMPLE IRA plan is set up and you set up a SIMPLE IRA plan as soon as administratively feasible after your business comes into existence. If you previously maintained a SIMPLE IRA plan, you can set up a SIMPLE IRA plan effective only on January 1 of a year. A SIMPLE IRA plan cannot have an effective date that is before the date you actually adopt the plan.

Setting up a SIMPLE IRA.   SIMPLE IRAs are the individual retirement accounts or annuities into which the contributions are deposited. A SIMPLE IRA must be set up for each eligible employee. Forms 5305-S, SIMPLE Individual Retirement Trust Account, and 5305-SA, SIMPLE Individual Retirement Custodial Account, are model trust and custodial account documents the participant and the trustee (or custodian) can use for this purpose.

  A SIMPLE IRA cannot be a Roth IRA. Contributions to a SIMPLE IRA will not affect the amount an individual can contribute to a Roth or traditional IRA.

Deadline for setting up a SIMPLE IRA.   A SIMPLE IRA must be set up for an employee before the first date by which a contribution is required to be deposited into the employee's IRA. See Time limits for contributing funds , later, under Contribution Limits.

Credit for startup costs.   You may be able to claim a tax credit for part of the ordinary and necessary costs of starting a SIMPLE IRA plan that first became effective in 2013. For more information, see Credit for startup costs under Reminders, earlier.

Notification Requirement

If you adopt a SIMPLE IRA plan, you must notify each employee of the following information before the beginning of the election period.

  1. The employee's opportunity to make or change a salary reduction choice under a SIMPLE IRA plan.

  2. Your decision to make either matching contributions or nonelective contributions (discussed later).

  3. A summary description provided by the financial institution.

  4. Written notice that his or her balance can be transferred without cost or penalty if they use a designated financial institution.

Election period.   The election period is generally the 60-day period immediately preceding January 1 of a calendar year (November 2 to December 31 of the preceding calendar year). However, the dates of this period are modified if you set up a SIMPLE IRA plan in mid-year (for example, on July 1) or if the 60-day period falls before the first day an employee becomes eligible to participate in the SIMPLE IRA plan.

  A SIMPLE IRA plan can provide longer periods for permitting employees to enter into salary reduction agreements or to modify prior agreements. For example, a SIMPLE IRA plan can provide a 90-day election period instead of the 60-day period. Similarly, in addition to the 60-day period, a SIMPLE IRA plan can provide quarterly election periods during the 30 days before each calendar quarter, other than the first quarter of each year.

Contribution Limits

Contributions are made up of salary reduction contributions and employer contributions. You, as the employer, must make either matching contributions or nonelective contributions, defined later. No other contributions can be made to the SIMPLE IRA plan. These contributions, which you can deduct, must be made timely. See Time limits for contributing funds , later.

Salary reduction contributions.   The amount the employee chooses to have you contribute to a SIMPLE IRA on his or her behalf cannot be more than $12,000 for 2013 and 2014. These contributions must be expressed as a percentage of the employee's compensation unless you permit the employee to express them as a specific dollar amount. You cannot place restrictions on the contribution amount (such as limiting the contribution percentage), except to comply with the $12,000 limit.

  If you or an employee participates in any other qualified plan during the year and you or your employee have salary reduction contributions (elective deferrals) under those plans, the salary reduction contributions under a SIMPLE IRA plan also count toward the overall annual limit ($17,500 for 2013 and 2014) on exclusion of salary reduction contributions and other elective deferrals.

Catch-up contributions.   A SIMPLE IRA plan can permit participants who are age 50 or over at the end of the calendar year to also make catch-up contributions. The catch-up contribution limit for 2013 and 2014 for SIMPLE IRA plans is $2,500. Salary reduction contributions are not treated as catch-up contributions for 2013 or 2014 until they exceed $12,000. However, the catch-up contribution a participant can make for a year cannot exceed the lesser of the following amounts.
  • The catch-up contribution limit.

  • The excess of the participant's compensation over the salary reduction contributions that are not catch-up contributions.

Employer matching contributions.   You are generally required to match each employee's salary reduction contributions on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to 3% of the employee's compensation. This requirement does not apply if you make nonelective contributions as discussed later.

Example.

In 2013, your employee, John Rose, earned $25,000 and chose to defer 5% of his salary. Your net earnings from self-employment are $40,000, and you choose to contribute 10% of your earnings to your SIMPLE IRA. You make 3% matching contributions. The total contribution you make for John is $2,000, figured as follows.

Salary reduction contributions 
($25,000 × .05)
$1,250
Employer matching contribution 
($25,000 × .03)
750
Total contributions $2,000
   

The total contribution you make for yourself is $5,200, figured as follows.

Salary reduction contributions 
($40,000 × .10)
$4,000
Employer matching contribution 
($40,000 × .03)
1,200
Total contributions $5,200

Lower percentage.   If you choose a matching contribution less than 3%, the percentage must be at least 1%. You must notify the employees of the lower match within a reasonable period of time before the 60-day election period (discussed earlier) for the calendar year. You cannot choose a percentage less than 3% for more than 2 years during the 5-year period that ends with (and includes) the year for which the choice is effective.

Nonelective contributions.   Instead of matching contributions, you can choose to make nonelective contributions of 2% of compensation on behalf of each eligible employee who has at least $5,000 (or some lower amount you select) of compensation from you for the year. If you make this choice, you must make nonelective contributions whether or not the employee chooses to make salary reduction contributions. Only $255,000 of the employee's compensation can be taken into account to figure the contribution limit in 2013 ($260,000 in 2014).

  If you choose this 2% contribution formula, you must notify the employees within a reasonable period of time before the 60-day election period (discussed earlier) for the calendar year.

Example 1.

In 2013, your employee, Jane Wood, earned $36,000 and chose to have you contribute 10% of her salary. Your net earnings from self-employment are $50,000, and you choose to contribute 10% of your earnings to your SIMPLE IRA. You make a 2% nonelective contribution. Both of you are under age 50. The total contribution you make for Jane is $4,320, figured as follows.

Salary reduction contributions 
($36,000 × .10)
$3,600
2% nonelective contributions 
($36,000 × .02)
720
Total contributions $4,320
   

The total contribution you make for yourself is $6,000, figured as follows.

Salary reduction contributions 
($50,000 × .10)
$5,000
2% nonelective contributions 
($50,000 × .02)
1,000
Total contributions $6,000

Example 2.

Using the same facts as in Example 1, above, the maximum contribution you make for Jane or for yourself if you each earned $75,000 is $13,500, figured as follows.

Salary reduction contributions 
(maximum amount allowed)
$12,000
2% nonelective contributions 
($75,000 × .02)
1,500
Total contributions $13,500

Time limits for contributing funds.   You must make the salary reduction contributions to the SIMPLE IRA within 30 days after the end of the month in which the amounts would otherwise have been payable to the employee in cash. You must make matching contributions or nonelective contributions by the due date (including extensions) for filing your federal income tax return for the year. Certain plans subject to Department of Labor rules may have an earlier due date for salary reduction contributions.

When To Deduct Contributions

You can deduct SIMPLE IRA contributions in the tax year within which the calendar year for which contributions were made ends. You can deduct contributions for a particular tax year if they are made for that tax year and are made by the due date (including extensions) of your federal income tax return for that year.

Example 1.

Your tax year is the fiscal year ending June 30. Contributions under a SIMPLE IRA plan for the calendar year 2013 (including contributions made in 2013 before July 1, 2013) are deductible in the tax year ending June 30, 2014.

Example 2.

You are a sole proprietor whose tax year is the calendar year. Contributions under a SIMPLE IRA plan for the calendar year 2013 (including contributions made in 2014 by April 15, 2014) are deductible in the 2013 tax year.

Where To Deduct Contributions

Deduct the contributions you make for your common-law employees on your tax return. For example, sole proprietors deduct them on Schedule C (Form 1040) or Schedule F (Form 1040); partnerships deduct them on Form 1065; and corporations deduct them on Form 1120 or Form 1120S.

Sole proprietors and partners deduct contributions for themselves on line 28 of Form 1040. (If you are a partner, contributions for yourself are shown on the Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) you receive from the partnership.)

Tax Treatment of Contributions

You can deduct your contributions and your employees can exclude these contributions from their gross income. SIMPLE IRA plan contributions are not subject to federal income tax withholding. However, salary reduction contributions are subject to social security, Medicare, and federal unemployment (FUTA) taxes. Matching and nonelective contributions are not subject to these taxes.

Reporting on Form W-2.   Do not include SIMPLE IRA plan contributions in the “Wages, tips, other compensation” box of Form W-2. You must, however, include them in the “Social security wages” and “Medicare wages and tips” boxes. You must also include them in box 12. Mark the “Retirement plan” checkbox in box 13. For more information, see the Form W-2 instructions.

Distributions (Withdrawals)

Distributions from a SIMPLE IRA are subject to IRA rules and generally are includible in income for the year received. Tax-free rollovers can be made from one SIMPLE IRA into another SIMPLE IRA. However, a rollover from a SIMPLE IRA to a non-SIMPLE IRA can be made tax free only after a 2-year participation in the SIMPLE IRA plan.

Generally, you or your employee must begin to receive distributions from a SIMPLE IRA by April 1 of the first year after the calendar year in which you or your employee reaches age 70½.

Early withdrawals generally are subject to a 10% additional tax. However, the additional tax is increased to 25% if funds are withdrawn within 2 years of beginning participation.

More information.   See Publication 590 for information about IRA rules, including those on the tax treatment of distributions, rollovers, required distributions, and income tax withholding.

More Information on SIMPLE IRA Plans

If you need help to set up or maintain a SIMPLE IRA plan, go to the IRS website and search SIMPLE IRA Plan.

SIMPLE 401(k) Plan

You can adopt a SIMPLE plan as part of a 401(k) plan if you meet the 100-employee limit as discussed earlier under SIMPLE IRA Plan. A SIMPLE 401(k) plan is a qualified retirement plan and generally must satisfy the rules discussed under Qualification Rules in chapter 4, including the required distribution rules. However, a SIMPLE 401(k) plan is not subject to the nondiscrimination and top-heavy rules discussed in chapter 4 if the plan meets the conditions listed below.

  1. Under the plan, an employee can choose to have you make salary reduction contributions for the year to a trust in an amount expressed as a percentage of the employee's compensation, but not more than $12,000 for 2013 and 2014. If permitted under the plan, an employee who is age 50 or over can also make a catch-up contribution of up to $2,500 for 2013 and 2014. See Catch-up contributions , earlier under Contribution Limits.

  2. You must make either:

    1. Matching contributions up to 3% of compensation for the year, or

    2. Nonelective contributions of 2% of compensation on behalf of each eligible employee who has at least $5,000 of compensation from you for the year.

  3. No other contributions can be made to the trust.

  4. No contributions are made, and no benefits accrue, for services during the year under any other qualified retirement plan sponsored by you on behalf of any employee eligible to participate in the SIMPLE 401(k) plan.

  5. The employee's rights to any contributions are nonforfeitable.

No more than $255,000 of the employee's compensation can be taken into account in figuring matching contributions and nonelective contributions in 2013 ($260,000 in 2014). Compensation is defined earlier in this chapter.

Employee notification.   The notification requirement that applies to SIMPLE IRA plans also applies to SIMPLE 401(k) plans. See Notification Requirement in this chapter.

Credit for startup costs.   You may be able to claim a tax credit for part of the ordinary and necessary costs of starting a SIMPLE 401(k) plan that first became effective in 2013. For more information, see Credit for startup costs under Reminders, earlier.

Note on Forms.   Please note that Forms 5304-SIMPLE and 5305-SIMPLE can not be used to establish a SIMPLE 401(k) plan. To set up a SIMPLE 401(k) plan, see Adopting a Written Plan in chapter 4.


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