Tax Deferral Methods You Should Be Using

Tax Deferral

Tax deferral is the method whereby most Americans plan their savings and retirement funds. It is the ingenious method whereby IRAs (initial retirement accounts) are created. An incentive if you would for the employee to create retirement savings account by having his employer deduct pre-tax dollars and deposit them in an individual account for the future. One such tax deferred based plan is the 401(k). It consists of three basic types; the simple, the safe harbor and the traditional 401(k) plans. Although the employer does not report these elective deferrals as current income, he does report them for wages which are subject to social security (FICA), Medicare and federal unemployment taxes (FUTA) on the participants Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. There are two benefits that the 401(k) plan possesses:

1) Employer contributions are deductible on the employers federal tax return as long as they conform to the limitations outlined in Publication 560.

2) Any elective deferrals and investment gains enjoy tax deferred status until these funds are distributed.

The traditional 401(k) plan allows all eligible employees to make pre-tax deferrals through payroll deductions. The employer has the option of making contributions on the behalf of all employees or making matched contributions based on the elective deferrals of employees or both. The contributions of the employer can be controlled by a vesting schedule which stipulates that after a certain period of time these contributions become nonforfeitable to the employee or become immediately vested. The contributions of the employer must meet certain non-discriminating criteria which prevents higher contribution to those making higher salaries.

The Safe Harbor 401(k) is the same as the traditional 401(k) but provides the stipulation that all employer contributed funds must be fully vested. Those employer contributed funds may match those deferred by employees through payroll deduction or may be made by the employer for all employees. This plan does not require the non-discrimination regulations that pertain to the traditional 401(k) plan. However, the company must provide an annual notice which details the employees rights and obligations under the Safe Harbor 401(k) plan.

The SIMPLE 401(k) plan was developed so small businesses could have a means to effectively provide a retirement plan when they had 100 or fewer employees. As with the safe harbor 401(k) the employer must make contributions that are fully vested. It is available to employees who have been compensated at least $5,000 in wages the previous tax year. Employees enrolled in this investment plan may not be enrolled in any other retirement plan of the employer.

These are just a few of the available plans which use the principle of tax deferral. New for 2006 is the Roth deferral wherein the employee can allocate a portion of their tax deferred contribution to a Roth 401(k).