SIMPLE IRA Basics

What is a SIMPLE IRA?

A SIMPLE IRA is a tax-favored retirement plan that certain small employers and the self employed alike can set up for the benefit of they’re employees or when talking about the self-employed, can set up to benefit themselves.  SIMPLE IRAs are written agreements between you and your employer that allow to choose to reduce your salary each pay period and have the employer contribute those salary reductions to a SIMPLE IRA on your behalf.

See Publication 560 for information on the requirements employers must satisfy to set up a SIMPLE plan IRA.

Contributing to a SIMPLE IRA

Salary reduction contributions or “elected deferrals” are made by your employer on your behalf to the SIMPLE IRA along with matching contributions or non-elective contributions.

60 days before the beginning of the next year or 60 days from when you are eligible to start taking advantage of a SIMPLE IRA, you are allowed to choose a salary reduction by percentage or if the employer gives you the option, a specific dollar amount to go towards your salary reduction contributions.

Matching and Non-Elective Contributions

Employers are not allowed to set limits on contribution amounts except to comply with the salary reduction contributions limit.

Employers are required to make either matching contributions or non-elective contributions on your behalf to the SIMPLE IRA. The difference is that with matching contributions, your employer contributes what you contribute up to a limit, but with non-elective contributions they contribute a set percentage for each eligible employee regardless of whether they have made contributions or not that year.

When self employed, matching contributions do not count as salary reduction contributions (elected deferrals).

Contribution Limits

The salary contributions reduction limit is $11, 500 but additional elective deferrals can be contributed to your SIMPLE plan if you have reached 50 in that calendar year and no other elective deferrals can be contributed due to limits or restrictions. Additionally the most you can contribute to a SIMPLE IRA is the compensation for the year reduced by your other elective deferrals or $2500 (for the 2011 Tax Year).

Additional referrals are not subject to any other contribution limits and should not be taken into account when applying other contribution limits.

The matching employer contribution limit is equal to the amount you elect to contribute but not more than 3% of your total salary for that year.

Employers may reduce that 3% to 1% on a calendar year if the limit has not been reduced below 1%, the limit has not been reduced for more than 2 years out of a 5 year period that includes the year in which the election is made effective, and all employees are notified of the reduced limit within a reasonable time frame before the election period that they will be eligible for salary reduction agreements.

The non-elective employer contribution limit takes effect only when an employer has chosen to make non-elective contributions which are 2% of an employees yearly income up to $245,000. Any employes making more than $245,000 will not receive contributions on any amounts that exceed the $245,000 limit.

Receiving Distributions from a SIMPLE IRA

SIMPLE IRAs fall under the same rules as traditional IRAs.

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