What Are SARSEP Plans?

Salary Reduction Simplified Employee Pension (SARSEP plans)

A SARSEP is a SEP set up before 1997. Before 1997 an employee could choose (elect) to have an employer contribute part of his pay to a SEP-IRA. This contribution is called an elective deferral.

Deferral means, income taxes on the portion of the employee's wages contributed to his SEP-IRA remain untaxed until they are eventually distributed to the employee.

After 1996, SARSEPs could no longer be established. However, if an employer maintained a SARSEP before 1997 the employer may continue to maintain it and employees hired after 1996 may choose to enroll in it.

Participants in a SARSEP set up before 1997 can continue to have the employer contribute part of their pay to the plan.Employees hired after 1996 who enroll in a previously established SARSEP may also have part of their pay contributed to the plan.

Form W-2 Reporting for SARSEPs

Salary reduction contributions are not subject to federal income tax. Do not include SARSEP contributions in the Wages, tips, other comp. box on Form W-2.

However, salary reduction contributions are subject to social security and Medicare taxes. Include an employee's gross wages (which must include his SEP-IRA contributions) on Form W-2, in the boxes for social security wages, and Medicare wages.

Salary reduction contributions are also subject to Federal Unemployment Taxes (FUTA).

To Establish a SARSEP, You...

  • Must have established the plan before 1997.
  • Have 25 or fewer eligible employees in the preceding year.
  • Use Form 5305A-SEP or adopt a prototype or individually designed SARSEP plan document.

Who Contributes:

Employee and employer contributions allowed.

Filing Requirements:

An employer generally has no filing requirements.  The annual reporting required for qualified plans (Form 5500 series) is normally not required for SARSEPs.  The financial institution handles most of the paperwork.

Notice Requirements:

Employees must receive notice of the adoption of a SARSEP, any subsequent amendment to it, the requirements for receiving contributions, and the amounts of excess deferrals if the ADP test was not satisfied (see SARSEP ADP Test.

Participant Loans:

Not permitted.

In-Service Withdrawals:

Permitted, but includible in income and subject to a 10% additional tax if under age 59 1/2.

Pros and Cons:

  • Easy to set up and operate - usually just a phone call to a financial institution gets things started.
  • Administrative costs are low.
  • Plan does not have fixed contribution requirements - a good plan if cash flow is an issue.
  • Discrimination rules apply. These rules are in place to see that contributions don’t discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees (when compared to contributions for non-highly compensated employees).

QuickBooks Self-Employed
For Freelancers and independent Contractors

- Organize your financial data into one central accounting system on the cloud
- Software kept up to date.
- Your data kept secure
- Anytime, anywhere data access.
- Pay your quarterly estimated taxes online.
- Export Schedule C to TurboTax at year-end for faster filing.
- Save up to 50% off QuickBooks Self-Employed. Track every deduction! Start your free trial now!

Have an accounting or bookkeeping question? Email it to me.