According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, well over half of all employees in midsized and large companies can take advantage of an employment-based retirement plan. But with small companies, barely a third of employees are covered. Many small-business owners say a reason for not creating a retirement plan is the cost. However, the federal government is offering a tax break for small companies that meet certain IRS guidelines.
If you want to offer your employees a simplified employee pension, individual retirement account, SIMPLE IRA or qualified plan, including a 401(k), your company may be able to claim a tax credit for the first three years of the plan for some of the costs — a credit of 50% of your eligible startup expenses, up to $500 per year, for:
Your small business qualifies if:
You may decide to start claiming the credit in the tax year before the plan becomes effective. The credit is part of the IRS' general business credits, and you're allowed to carry it back or forward to other tax years if you can't use it in the current year. But you can't carry it back as far as a tax year before January 1, 2002.
Another proviso: You can't both deduct the startup costs and claim the credit for the same expenses. For example, if you're claiming a $500 credit for a $1,000 plan setup fee, you can't deduct that cost from your company's income.
The Form 8881, Credit for Small Employer Pension Plan Startup Costs, is available to claim the credit.
Related IRS aids include:
As a small-business owner, you've probably considered the high costs of setting up and administering a retirement plan as a major hurdle. That's why this tax credit, which offsets the startup costs and expenses of educating employees about the new plan, is so attractive.
Of course, there are a lot of other factors to consider before offering a plan, and you need to consider all the details of your company's eligibility for any credits. The bottom line is that you shouldn't assume you're too small to offer a retirement plan.
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