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Planning and Managing a Business Retirement Plan – Government eTools That Can Help

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Planning and Managing a Business Retirement Plan – Government eTools That Can Help

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: October 17, 2012 Updated: September 8, 2016

Are you self-employed and trying to understand your retirement savings plan options? Are you perhaps an employer who wants to offer your employees a retirement savings plan program?

There are many ways to fund a retirement plan. In some cases, employers contribute. In others, employees or both (employer and employee) contribute. If you have no employees, your options are different again. The program you choose may dictate which options are available.

Even after you’ve chosen a plan, it will take more work and diligence to maintain it. Plan requirements change and it’s your responsibility to know when they do. That’s why reviewing your retirement plan each year helps ensure it’s compliant with current tax laws. Like routine physicals, retirement plan check-ups can help you prevent problems or detect them early.

The good news for employers and the self-employed is that the government offers very useful online tools to help you choose a retirement savings plan, maintain it and even make corrections to your plan to protect participants’ benefits and keep plans in compliance with the law.

Determine the Right Retirement Savings Plan for Your Business

If you are interested in offering your employees an employer-sponsored plan, then you need to understand your options. The Department of Labor’s online Small Business Retirement Savings Advisor is a useful first stop to finding the right plan for you.

The Advisor is part of the DOL’s wider elaws Advisors program that gives both employers and employees easy-to-understand information about a number of federal employment laws. 

Simply answer a series of Yes/No questions and the Advisor will suggest retirement plans appropriate to the number of employees you have, whether you want to have a plan funded by employer, employees or both. It also offers links to the required IRS reporting forms for each plan.

Navigate Your Retirement Plan and Stay Compliant with IRS Laws

Another useful online resource for employers is the IRS Retirement Plans Navigator. This glossy tool not only helps you understand more about plan options, it also helps you manage a well-run plan – both for the benefit of your employees and in line with current federal tax law.

Giving your business retirement plan a check-up, whether it’s a 401(k), IRA, SEP, or 403(k), can also help you save time, money and paperwork, and increase tax return accuracy. Some of the common mistakes the IRS looks out for in retirement plan examinations include:

  • Not covering the proper employees
  • Not giving employees required information
  • Not depositing employee deferrals in a timely fashion
  • Not following the terms of the plan document
  • Not limiting employee deferrals and employer contributions to the proper maximum limits

These errors can have an impact on the tax benefits accrued from operating a business retirement plan and expose you to audits and penalties, so it's a good idea to continuously monitor and review your plan. The IRS Retirement Plans Navigator is an essential tool for keeping your plan compliant and includes useful plan check-ups that can help you prevent problems or detect them early. You can even make appropriate plan changes without having to notify the IRS.

Related Resources

About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


The good news for employers and the self-employed is that the government offers very useful online tools to help you choose a retirement savings plan,
This is really great information for business owners. It is definitely a great idea to offer your employees retirement benefits. This will hopefully keep a good employee longer, and not to mention the owner need to have retirement benefits as well.
As a small business owner in the UK I amazed at the level of information/support available to small business owners in the US. Unlike the UK where we have virtually no information on pension and retirment planning. What information is available has the one size fits all approach which does not always work. One reason why my fellow directors and I look at whats happening in the US market is to guage what we should be doing of ourselves. Whilst I like post and think it is very useful, by reading hte follow up comments we get a better idea from posters as it affects them directly (no offence to the writer intended).
Great post for planning your old age. Better pension planning can give a sound sleep in your older age. This is really useful.
Thanks for this great post!Its a good news for those who are planning to take retirement from there work. Retirement savings done in the right way will be helpful in the long run especially in old age. I am sure your post will be very useful for all those who are thinking of retirement.
One plan that isn't explicitly listed above but often is still a great option for small businesses is a SIMPLE-IRA. Simple-IRAs work like "lite" 401(k)s. The downside as compared to a 401(k) plan is that the plan limits are lower. E.g., in 2012, $11,500 versus $17,000 ( $14,000 versus $22,500 if aged 50 or older). But SIMPLE-IRAs are usually free to administer. (In comparison, except for one person or husband and wife 401(k)s, a small company 401(k) plan can cost several grand a year...) BTW, it's too late for 2012 to establish a SIMPLE-IRA. Such plans need to be set up by Oct 1.

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