An type of a retirement plan is a Simplified Employee Pension individual retirement account (SEP IRA). A small business owner or self-employed person can create one. Small business owners can offer retirement plans to their employees through SEP IRAs. In a SEP IRA, the employer rather than the employee makes the contributions. Learn more about SEP IRA and how they work.

What is a SEP IRA ?

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan can offer a significant source of income at retirement by allowing employers to set aside funds in retirement accounts for themselves and their workers. A SEP provides for contributions of up to 25% of each employee's compensation and does not have the start-up and operating costs of a traditional retirement plan.

Employers can make contributions to SEP-IRA created for employees under a SEP plan. A SEP can be created by business of any size, including one that is self-employed. Employers are the only ones who make contributions, and they are not obligated to make contributions every year.

Employers are obligated to contribute an identical amount of income to each employee's SEP IRA account. Every person who rendered services throughout the year is subject to this, even if they pass away or end their employment before the contributions are made. Additionally, for the first three years that the SEP account is open, business owners who open one may be qualified for a tax credit of up to $500 annually.

Key Facts of Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP)

  • A simplified employee pension (SEP) is an individual retirement account that an employer or self-employed individual can establish.
  • SEP IRAs are used by self-employed individuals and small businesses to meet their retirement savings needs.
  • Employers must make SEP IRA contributions before the tax filing date, which is typically April 15th, in a typical year.
  • The final SEP IRA contribution date is the extension deadline, which is typically October 15, if the employer has requested an extension.
  • The maximum SEP-IRA contribution for 2023 is $66,000, or 25% of your compensation.
  • To be eligible for a SEP in 2022, you had to have earned at least $650 from an employer ($750 in 2023).
  • Within the parameters established by the trustee of the plan, employees control the investments made in their SEP IRAs.
  • A tax credit of up to $500 per year may be available to business owners who establish a SEP IRA.

How Does the SEP IRA (Simplified Employee Pension) Work ?

An employer or a self-employed person may set up a simplified employee pension (SEP), also known as an individual retirement account (IRA). Small company owners can contribute to retirement funds for both themselves and their employees using a SEP IRA.

On behalf of qualified employees, employers may make tax-deductible contributions to their SEP IRAs. Additionally, the company is not obligated to make a donation every year; instead, decisions regarding whether to contribute and how much to provide each year are flexible.

Each eligible employee's plan receives discretionary contributions from the employer, who can deduct contributions made to a SEP IRA from taxes. An SEP IRA that the employer forms on the behalf of the employee is not open to employee contributions.

SEP IRA contributions are fully vesting right away, and the IRA owner makes the investing decisions. The choice of investments is not up to the employer. Instead, the individual employee account owners make precise investment decisions, and the IRA trustee chooses the qualifying investments. The trustee also sends annual statements, deposits contributions, and submits all necessary paperwork with the IRS.

SEP IRAs are designed to be withdrawn after the age of 59½, just like regular IRAs. A 10% early withdrawal penalty will apply if you withdraw before that time. You must start receiving required minimum distributions after you turn 72.

Who is Eligible for a SEP IRA ?

A SEP IRA is a type of traditional IRA available to small-business owners, freelancers and self-employed individuals.

Any individual (including a self-employed person) who satisfies all of the following requirements is an eligible employee :
  • Has reached age of 21
  • Has worked for the employer in at least three of the last five years.
  • For the year 2023, received at least $750 in compensation  ($650 in compensation from the employer for the years 2021 and 2022 and $600 for the years 2019 and 2020).

An employer can use less restrictive participation standards than those mentioned, but not stricter ones.

The following workers may not be included in a SEP by their employer :
  • Employees covered by union agreement and whose retirement benefits were negotiated for in good faith by employer and employees union.
  • Non-resident alien workers for whom the employer does not pay U.S. wages, salaries, or other compensation for personal services.

SEP IRA Contribution Limits

SEP contributions are considered to be made by employers on behalf of their employee. You can contribute up to 25% of employee compensation, or $66,000, whichever is less for the year 2023. For SEP IRAs, there is no catch-up contribution after age 50.

You are only permitted to contribute up to the first limit, which is 25% of each qualifying employee's compensation. The amount of compensation you can use to calculate the 25% limit is limited to $330,000 in 2023.

Employers may adjust their SEP IRA contribution levels from year to year based on business needs.

Contribution Deadline for SEP IRA

The SEP IRA's contribution deadline is the company's or self-employed individual's tax filing deadline (including extensions).

Every employee's SEP IRA account must have contributions deposited before the tax filing date for that year, which is typically April 15 of the following year. The final SEP IRA contribution date is the extension deadline, which is typically October 15, if the employer has requested an extension.

SEP IRA Withdrawal Rules

The same general restrictions that apply to regular IRAs apply to withdrawals of SEP IRA contributions and earnings at any time. Withdrawals are taxed in the year they are made. Participant withdrawals made before to age 59½ are often subject to an extra 10% penalty (tax). After two years of participation, SEP IRA contributions and earnings may be transferred tax-free to other IRAs and retirement plans.

SEP IRA Calculator

Regular taxable savings, Traditional IRAs, SEP IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs, Roth IRAs, and other types of IRAs can all be compared and evaluated using the IRA calculator. SEP IRA and normal taxable deposits will be converted to after-tax values for comparison's sake. Please use the SEP IRA Calculator to calculate a SEP IRA with after-tax inputs. This calculator is primary intended for use by U.S. residents.

How to Set Up a SEP IRA ?

Setting up a simplified employee pension plan involves a few steps. You cab establish SEP by signing a written agreement and setting up the with a qualified financial institution. You might do this through a bank, mutual fund company, brokerage firm, or financial advisor. The next step is to open an IRA account for every qualified employee. You must notify employees that you have established a plan and they must be made aware of the requirements as well.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) outlines 3 steps for establishing a SEP IRA :

1) Written agreement :
Make a formal agreement in writing. You can accomplish this through your account provider or the IRS Form 5305-SEP.

2) Provide information to participants :
Inform qualified employees about the SEP IRA. Give them a copy of IRS Form 5305-SEP, or contact your account provider for information of a similar nature.

3) Set up a SEP IRA for each employee :
Each eligible employee must establish a SEP-IRA on their own behalf or for themselves. They could be connected to banks, insurance providers, or other respectable financial entities. Traditional IRAs must receive all SEP donations. Employees are in charge of choosing the investments for their SEP-IRA funds.

As late as the due date (including extensions) of your business income tax return for the year you want to establish the plan, you can set up a SEP for that year.

How to Invest in SEP IRA ?

Once you’ve opened the account, you can select among the investments that your account provider provides. Usually, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are available. After the account has been funded, you should invest the money based on your age, anticipated retirement age, and risk tolerance.

Terminate a SEP Plan

Consult with your financial institution to see if another retirement plan would be a better fit if you decide that your SEP no longer works for your company.

Notify the SEP-IRA financial institution that you will no longer be making contributions and that you wish to end the contract or agreement in order to terminate a SEP. Notifying your staff that the plan has been cancelled is a good idea. You are not required to notify the IRS in any way that you have terminated the SEP.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an employer make a different contribution for each employee?
No, SEP-IRA IRS laws require businesses to make equal contributions to each qualifying employee's SEP-IRA account.

Is it Possible to Withdraw Funds from a SEP IRA Before Retiring?
Yes, however any money you take out before you turn 59½ will be taxed at your regular rate plus an additional 10%, and will therefore be taxable. There are several exceptions to this, so be sure to consult your financial counsellor or tax consultant if you're thinking about it.

Who Can Contribute to a SEP IRA?
A SEP IRA is a variant of a traditional IRA that is only available to self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and small business owners. Only an employer may contribute to a SEP IRA. The company must incorporate an identical amount of each employee's income, even though they are not required to contribute annually.

Does a SEP plan reduce self-employment tax?
If you are self-employed and make a SEP-IRA contribution, your self-employment tax will go down since the increased business expenses will result in a lower net profit and, consequently, a reduced self-employment tax and income tax.

What are the advantages of SEP?
SEPs offer a number of benefits. Every year, employers are not obligated to make contributions. The contribution amount expressed as a % of income can change from year to year. There is no need for further tax forms. A 401(k) plan requires the yearly filing of Form 5500. A SEP does not need this.
The financial institution that manages the SEP accounts is chosen by the employer. However, it is up to each employee to decide how much money they want to put into the account. The fact that the employer is exempt from liability for the underlying investments is advantageous.

What are the disadvantages of SEP IRA?
SEPs can have some drawbacks for proprietors of small businesses. Once the employer has made a contribution, the employee has full ownership in it. SEP contributions may not be accompanied by a vesting schedule. The contribution is the employee's if they depart on the day after it is made. Furthermore, suppose they leave midway through the year and you contribute for the entire year. Then you are required to make a payment on their behalf depending on the total amount of eligible remuneration they had at the time of their departure.

Who can establish a SEP IRA?
A high earner who works for themselves and has no staff might think about establishing a SEP IRA. It can be beneficial for putting off income, saving for retirement, and reducing taxes.

Can part-time workers invest in SEP IRA?
If you are over 21, have worked for the company for three of the previous five years, and have made at least $650 with the company in the previous year, you are eligible to contribute to a SEP-IRA.

On Form 1040, where do I report SEP IRA contributions?
If you are self-employed, you can list your SEP-IRA contributions on line 16 of Schedule 1. Line 10 of your Form 1040 now has the sum from Schedule I, Part II. Contributions must be reported in relation to the tax year in which the SEP was created.

What are the differences between SEP IRA and SIMPLE IRA?
Another choice for small business employers looking to provide a retirement plan is a SIMPLE IRA. There are a few ways in which it differs from a SEP IRA. First off, a SEP is an option for businesses of any size, whereas a SIMPLE IRA is only available to businesses with less than 100 employees. Additionally, SIMPLE IRAs can be funded by both employee discretionary deferrals and employer contributions, whereas SEP plans do not permit employee contributions.