Tag Archive for: Deduction

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When might a cash balance plan be a good fit?

“How can I determine if a cash balance plan might be a good fit for a business owner?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center (RLC) Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, stock options, and Social Security and Medicare.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with an advisor in New Mexico is representative of a common question related to maximizing retirement plan contributions.

Highlights of Discussion

The question of whether to set up a qualified retirement plan has important tax ramifications. Therefore, business owners would be best served by seeking the guidance of a tax professional when making such a decision.

As a type of defined benefit plan, a cash balance plan requires an adopting employer to fund the plan to provide participants with a promised retirement benefit. Cash balance plans are most popular among smaller, well-established firms that have significant and consistent cash flow (e.g., law firms, medical groups, and professional firms such as CPAs, architects, and consultants). They also work well for older small business owners who are no longer making heavy investments in their businesses, and have significant amounts of pass-through income, resulting in high tax bills.

To determine suitability for a cash balance plan, consider the following questions. The more “yes” responses the greater the possibility a business could benefit from having a cash balance plan.

Question Yes No Why it Matters
1.   Is the business owner over age 50?     The potential to contribute more income to a cash balance plan increases with age.
2.   Does the business owner have less of a need to reinvest in the business?     If the owner has put money into the business in prior years, the business is now, likely, well established, freeing up capital.
3.   Does the owner have significant pass-through income?     This can lead to discussions on how to reduce a large tax bill.
4.   Does the owner want to catch-up on saving more for the future?     Cash balance plans allow for higher contribution and deduction limits than defined contribution plans.
5.   Has the business owner shown interest in setting up a nonqualified deferred compensation plan (NQDC) to save more?     NQDC plans do not reduce taxable income for business owners of pass-through entities.
6.   Has the business owner shied away from a define benefit plan due to complexity and employee coverage issues?     Cash balance plans are less complicated to maintain than traditional defined benefit plans, and design features allow owners to maximize contributions for themselves.

As the table below illustrates, cash balance plans can allow much higher levels of contributions than a profit sharing or 401(k) plan. That equates to higher tax deductions for business owners. For some businesses, having both a defined contribution and cash balance plan may be appealing.

2022 Cash Balance Chart

Conclusion

There are some key characteristics to look for in a business owner when evaluating whether a cash balance plan might be a good fit. For the right candidate, a cash balance plan—or even a combination cash balance and defined contribution plan—can provide significant benefits. Above all, whether or not to set up a qualified retirement plan is an important tax-related question that a business owner should only answer with the help of his or her tax professional.

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PPP loans and deductible employer plan contributions

“My client received a Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan for his small business to help cover payroll expenses. He maintains a safe harbor 401(k) plan, and each year my client makes an annual lump sum contribution to the plan. The company will make its 2019 contribution in 2020, and the timing will be such that the contribution will be after the business received the PPP funds and during the 8-week loan forgiveness period. Can the business use some of the PPP loan to make the contribution and deduct the full amount of the 401(k) employer safe harbor contribution?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center (RLC) Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, stock options, and Social Security and Medicare.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with a financial advisor from Massachusetts is representative of a common inquiry related to the PPP loan.

Highlights of the Discussion

This question can only be fully answered by your client’s tax professional and/or CPA.  The following response provides some general information on the topic based on the guidance issued to date. It’s for informational purposes only and cannot be relied upon as tax advice.

As it stands now, the IRS appears to take the position (in Notice 2020-32) that if a business uses the PPP loan for eligible expenses that would otherwise be deductible, the business cannot also take the tax deduction. That would be double dipping because the PPP loan, once forgiven, is not taxable income to the business. Consequently, that would mean if a business uses PPP funds to make employer contributions to a retirement plan as an eligible expense, and the PPP loan is forgiven, the business could not also deduct the employer contributions under Internal Revenue Code Sec. 404. Please see page 6-7 of Notice 2020-32 for a formal discussion.

There are some policy makers in Congress (e.g., Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and House, Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal, D-Mass) who are seeking to make changes to the IRS’s apparent stance on this tax issue. Therefore, it is important to watch for additional updates on this ever-evolving question of deductibility, and seek competent tax advice.

Conclusion

The various forms of Covid-19 relief granted to businesses and individuals come with myriad questions. Patience will be needed as answers trickle in, as well as the services of tax experts.

 

© Copyright 2022 Retirement Learning Center, all rights reserved
IRA
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Active Plan Participant and IRA Contributions

“Active participation in an employer’s retirement plan can affect whether an IRA contribution made by the participant is deductible on the tax return. What does ‘active participation’ mean?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings plans. We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with a financial advisor from Minnesota is representative of a common inquiry involving a taxpayer’s ability to make a deductible IRA contribution. 

Highlights of Discussion

For purposes of the IRA deduction rules, an individual shall be an “active participant” for a taxable year if either the individual or the individual’s spouse actively participates during any part of the year in a(n)[1]

  • Qualified plan described in Internal Revenue Code Section [IRC §401(a)], such as a defined benefit, profit sharing, 401(k) or stock bonus plan;
  • Qualified annuity plan described in IRC §403(a);
  • Simplified employee pension (SEP) plan under IRC §408(k);
  • Savings incentive match plan for employees (SIMPLE) IRA under IRC §408(p);
  • Governmental plan established for its employees by the federal, state or local government, or by an agency or instrumentality thereof (other than a plan described in IRC §457);
  • IRC §403(b) plan, either annuity or custodial account; or
  • Trust created before June 25, 1959, as described in IRC §501(c)(18).

When an individual is considered active depends on the type of employer-sponsored plan.

Profit Sharing or Stock Bonus Plan:   During the participant’s taxable year, if he or she receives a contribution or forfeiture allocation, he or she is an active participant for the taxable year.

Voluntary or Mandatory Employee Contributions: During the participant’s taxable year, if he or she makes voluntary or mandatory employee contributions to a plan, he or she is an active participant for the taxable year.

Defined Benefit Plan: For the plan year ending with or within the individual’s taxable year, if an individual is not excluded under the eligibility provisions of the plan, he or she is an active participant for that taxable year.

Money Purchase Pension Plan: For the plan year ending with or within the individual’s taxable year, if the plan must allocate an employer contribution to an individual’s account he or she is an active participant for the taxable year.

Refer to IRS Notice 87-16 for specific examples of active participation.

As a quick check, Box 13 on an individual’s IRS Form W-2 should contain a check in the “Retirement plan” box if the person is an active participant for the taxable year.

 

Form W-2 Box 13 Retirement Plan Checkbox Decision Chart

Type of Plan Conditions Check Retirement Plan Box?
Defined benefit plan (for example, a traditional pension plan) Employee qualifies for employer funding into the plan, due to age/years of service—even though the employee may not be vested or ever collect benefits Yes
Defined contribution plan (for example, a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, a Roth 401(k) or 403(b) account, but not a 457 plan) Employee is eligible to contribute but does not elect to contribute any money in this tax year No
Defined contribution plan (for example, a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, a Roth 401(k) or 403(b) account, but not a 457 plan) Employee is eligible to contribute and elects to contribute money in this tax year Yes
Defined contribution plan (for example, a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, a Roth 401(k) or 403(b) account, but not a 457 plan) Employee is eligible to contribute but does not elect to contribute any money in this tax year, but the employer does contribute funds Yes
Defined contribution plan (for example, a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, a Roth 401(k) or 403(b) account, but not a 457 plan) Employee contributed in past years but not during the current tax year under report No (even if the account value grows due to gains in the investments)
Profit-sharing plan Plan includes a grace period after the close of the plan year when profit sharing can be added to the participant’s account Yes

 

If a person is an active participant, he or she must apply income thresholds to determine whether an IRA contribution is deductible or not. Please refer to the following chart

IRA Contribution Deductibility

 

Conclusion

Participating in certain employer-sponsored retirement plans can affect an individual’s ability to deduct a traditional IRA contribution on an individual’s tax return for the year. The IRS Form W-2 should indicate active participation in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. When in doubt, taxpayers should check with their employers.

 

 

[1]  IRS Notice 87-16

 

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