Heritage Financial Planning

What Is A Qualified Retirement Plan?

February 02, 2022

A quality retirement plan is established by an employer and is designed to provide retirement income for the employer's designated employees and their beneficiaries. This plan must match the Internal Revenue Code stipulation for tax benefits. The requirements are normally offered through the employee's job, and they allow pre-tax contributions and tax-deferred growth.

A qualified retirement plan is an awesome way to build retirement savings as you plan for your future—but what does it require and what do you need to do to leverage the benefits?

What Is Required Of A Qualified Retirement Plan?

A qualified retirement plan matches all the prerequisites indicated in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) to allow the employee to make tax-deferred contributions. In most scenarios, these plans have employer-sponsored plans like the 401 (k)s, Keogh (H.R 10), and the 403 (k)s within them.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 controls the qualified retirement plan. The standards are set to ensure that adequate security is provided so that employees are safe when investing. There are also stringent regulations for tax-deferred regulations.

How Does A Qualified Retirement Plan Work?

For a retirement plan to be considered qualified, it is supposed to meet certain criteria in the Internal Revenue Code. The criteria pertain to contribution limits, participation and other characteristics. The key requirements include:

1. Participation

A qualified retirement plan has to be availed to employees as soon as they reach 21 and after working for one year with the employer.

2. Operation according to the plan document

The employer must prepare the plan document stating the type of contributions and benefits therein. The plan is also supposed to work strictly without fail.

3. The compensation limits

The maximum contribution per employee must be considered when calculating the benefits. As it stands, 2021 employee benefits are at $290,000 and $305,000 threshold benefits for 2022.

4. Elective deferral limits

For the 2022 plan, elective deferral limits are not supposed to exceed $20,500 or $27,000 for employees older than 50 years (this figure has risen from $19,500 in 2021 for employees 50 years and older). This is usually the case for 401(k) contributions and other qualified plans that allow them to make pre-tax and Roth contributions.

5. Total contribution limits

For 2022, the maximum contribution to a defined contribution plan should be less than $61,000 for employees aged 50 years and over or 100% compensation. For 2021, the maximum contribution is the lesser of $58,000 (or $64,000 if aged 50 years and over) or, better still, 100% compensation. In addition, the highest amount that each employee can receive in annual contributions and benefits within a defined benefit plan is not supposed to exceed $245,000 in 2022, up from $230,000 in 2021.

It is important to note that contribution limits are subject to cost of living adjustments and, therefore, are not immune to future increments. 

Different Types Of Qualified Requirement Plans

A qualified plan may be a defined contribution plan or a defined benefit plan. A defined contribution plan allows employers and employees to contribute to their accounts that the employer establishes under the plan. The account's value is expected to change over time, which means that the employee does not receive a fixed benefit when he retires. The most common examples include 401(k), profit sharing, 403(b), money purchase plans and employer stock ownership.

On the other hand, a defined benefit plan makes a fixed monthly benefit when retirement happens. It is based on a formula that considers the salary history and the years of service. Established pension plans have waned in popularity over the years but remain good examples of defined benefit plans.

Differences Between Non-qualified Retirement Plans And Qualified Retirement Plans

Many retirement plans do not meet ERISA's requirements. They are referred to as non-qualified plans and are available in different forms. They are generally based on deferred income and are mostly designed for executives. Their difference with qualified plans is because of the deferred compensation method, since qualified plans are not based on it.

Benefits Of Qualified Plans To The Employer

Many benefit plans are associated with qualified plans for small and large businesses. Here are some of the most prominent.

1. Tax-Free Growth

They allow assets in the plan to experience tax-free growth. In general instances, employers are not responsible for taxes on contributions and to a lot of small business owners, it provides them with good room to make large investments.

2. Incentives

When businesses start a qualified plan, they qualify to receive special tax credits and other incentives. For many instances, qualified employers with less than 100 employees and at least $5,000 in earnings can claim a tax credit.

3. Recruitment Value

Qualified plans make many employees yearn to work with qualified employers. In addition, the plans represent a solid investment to an employee's future.

Benefits of Qualified Plans To Employees

Qualified retirement plans are among the most effective ways for employees to fund their nest eggs. Below are the various reasons:

1. They offer convenience

The employee does not have to offer monthly contributions, since they are automatically deducted from the paycheck.

2. Their assets grow tax-deferred

When an employee makes contributions to a qualified plan, his earnings continue to grow. The biggest advantage is that they grow while the employee is sheltered from taxes until they are withdrawn.

3. The employee gets diverse investments

An employee has several investment options to choose from, including collective investment funds. The different plans offer professional guidance and investment advice. 


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Written By: Heritage Financial Planning Team

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