Although a Keogh plan is usually established by self-employed persons and businesses
such as sole proprietorships and partnerships, it can also be established
by a corporation. With a partnership, it is the partnership itself that must
set up the plan (individual partners may not do so). A Keogh plan (often
just referred to as a "Keogh" or "HR-10 plan") is a type of retirement plan
where the employer, not the employee, makes contributions to benefit the
employees. There are both defined contribution and defined benefit Keogh
For income tax purposes, employer contributions for employees are not considered
The contributions and earnings grow tax-deferred (income tax isn't due until
The general tax rules below are the federal income tax rules as of January 1,
2001) and may be subject to exceptions. Always check your state (and local) income
tax rules on Keogh plans. Finally, since tax laws may (and probably will) change
from time to time, always check with your tax advisor before making major decisions
regarding your Keogh plans.
As a general rule, if any Keogh contributions are made, they must be made for
all employees who:
1. are at least age 21 and
The term "year of service" means 1,000 hours of work.
2. have completed one year of service with the
employer (two years in some cases)
Employers can include more employees by reducing these requirements.
Self-employed individuals need net earnings (not losses) from personal services (not investments) to make contributions for themselves.
Depending upon the type of plan(s) in effect, there are different limitations on contributions. In every case, the maximum compensation considered for employees is $170,000 in the
If you are the owner or a partner of a business, there may be special rules that apply to you in calculating your allowable contribution.
Profit Sharing Plan
The annual contribution limit per employee is the lesser of:
1. 25% of compensation or
Money Purchase Pension Plan
The contribution limit per employee is the lesser of:
1. 25% of compensation or
For a self-employed participant, the 25% limit of compensation is actually about
20% of net earnings.
Defined Benefit Pension Plan
With a defined benefit plan, the normal retirement benefit being funded cannot
exceed the lesser of:
1. an indexed amount ( $140,000 for the year 2001) or
There are other variables that can be built in such as reducing plan benefits
by the amount of expected Social Security benefits (this reduces the cost of
funding plan benefits and tends to favor the more highly compensated plan participants).
2. 100% of a participant's average compensation for the three consecutive
years of highest compensation.
Your ownership of contributions made for you and the earnings on those contributions
depends upon the vesting period set up in the Keogh plan. A plan must allow you
to vest (or own) in one of these three ways:
1. 20% after 3 years of service and an additional 20% for
each additional year of service (making you 100% vested within 7 years) or
Whenever you are considering job opportunities, it is a good idea to check the
retirement plan vesting schedule.
2. No vested interest until after 5 years of service and then you
are 100% vested (this method of vesting is known as "cliff vesting") or
3. A more liberal, faster vesting plan either selected by your employer
or required by law in some cases.
Benefits of the Keogh Plan
1. Depending upon the type of plan(s), contributions may
Timing of Distributions
a. up to the lesser of 25% of compensation or $35,000
2. Contributions aren't considered part of an employee's salary for
income tax purposes and can be deducted by employers.
b. providing for a normal retirement benefit up to the lesser
of $135,000 or 100% of average compensation for three consecutive years
of highest compensation
3. Earnings and contributions grow tax-deferred without any reduction
for income tax each year.
4. Contributions are generally only made by the employer.
5. You may be able to borrow from the plan
6. You may be able to delay the start of distributions beyond age
70½ if you continue to work (and do not own more than 5% of the company).
7. Special creditor protection may be available.
Generally, distributions are made to you once you reach age 65 or leave the company.
It depends upon how the plan document is written. The plan may even provide for
early retirement benefits.
Depending upon the plan, you must start taking distributions no later than by
April 1 of the year after you reach age 70½. However, if you want to delay distributions
until you stop working after age 70½ (and you do not own more than 5% of the
company), you may be allowed to wait until April 1 of the year following retirement.
Income Taxes & Penalties
Distributions of earnings and employer contributions are usually subject to federal
and state ordinary income tax (the federal rate is from 15% to 39.6%).
Penalties can apply in these cases:
1. Withdrawing too little once you reach age 70½ can result
in a 50% penalty.
Exceptions to the Early Distribution Penalty
2. Taking a distribution before you are age 59½ is subject to a
10% penalty unless an exception applies (see exceptions to the early distribution
Distributions of earnings or employer contributions before age 59½ will be subject
to a 10% penalty unless:
1. You separated from service (are no longer working for
your employer) and the separation occurred on or after the calendar year in
which you reached age 55 or
2. You are disabled or
3. Your beneficiaries are receiving distributions due to your death
4. You are taking the distributions under an approved annuity formula
5. You are paying medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of your adjusted
gross income or
6. You make a qualifying rollover/transfer.
Legal and tax advice is useful when determining how to complete beneficiary designations.
Properly completed designations can help save estate (death) tax, avoid probate,
allow better income tax opportunities and avoid creditor claims on retirement
Extra care needs to be taken in naming trusts as a beneficiary of most retirement
assets in case of a death. Sometimes, naming trusts as a beneficiary can trigger
income tax sooner than it would otherwise be owed and reduce the amount ultimately
shielded from death tax.
Note that many plans require the participant's spouse to be the beneficiary,
unless the spouse provides written permission for another beneficieary to be
Retirement plans and accounts may have special creditor protection under federal
and/or state laws. Different types of plans and accounts may have varying degrees
of protection. State protection rules may also vary from state to state.
If you convert from one type of plan to another (e.g., from a traditional IRA
to a Roth IRA), you may be changing how much protection you have. This may be
also be the case if you move to another new state where the new state rules are
Consulting with an attorney for guidance on the creditor protection issue may
Estate and Death Taxes
Retirement assets are added to your other assets and may be subject to federal
and/or state death (estate) tax. It depends upon the size of your overall estate
and the estate planning done for you. Consult with your advisor about ways to
defer or avoid estate tax.
For more information:
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Charles M. Bloom, Registered Principal offers securities
and advisory services through Centaurus Financial, Inc. - Member FINRA and SIPC - 775 Avenida Pequena, CA, 93111 (mailing address: 3905 State Street Suite 7173, Santa Barbara, CA, 93105) - CA Life Insurance License No. 0A52786 - Centaurus Financial, Inc. and Shoreline Wealth & Investment Management are not affiliated companies.
The information contained in this web site is neither an offer nor solicitation of any security or service.