Small employers can still provide their team members with an excellent retirement plan option. The IRS provides insights on profit sharing in the following.


A profit-sharing plan has the same contribution limits as a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) Plan; however, it gives you more flexibility than a SEP. A profit-sharing plan may:

• Exclude employees that work less than 1,000 hours, while a SEP excludes employees who work less than 3 of 5 years or have less than $650 in pay.

• Allow for loans to participants, while a SEP may not make loans.

• Require vesting that rewards longer-term employees, while a SEP is always 100% vested.

• Limit distributions, while SEP participants have no restrictions on taking withdrawals.

Profit-sharing plans have a Form 5500 series filing requirement and must meet other administrative requirements compared to a SEP.

Adopt a Written Plan Document

Plans begin with a written document that serves as the foundation for day-to-day plan operations. There are two basic types of plan documents.

Individually designed plans – provided by a retirement plan professional and may be designed to meet your specific needs

IRS pre-approved plans – provided by plan professionals or financial institutions and have fewer options

You have until the due date of your tax return to adopt a profit-sharing plan for that year. You’re bound by the terms of the plan document, and your plan document may need to be amended from time to time for new law changes.

Eligibility and Participation

An employee becomes a participant in a profit-sharing plan when they meet the plan’s eligibility requirements. Employees that are at least age 21 and work 1,000 hours over the 12-month period after being hired become participants on the next plan entry date.

If you have ownership interests in another business, the employees of that business may be eligible to participate in your plan. It may be possible to exclude those related employees, but your plan will need to work with your plan professional to determine if the plan meets coverage testing.


The plan sponsor decides how much to contribute to eligible participants’ accounts in the plan. Contributions made to a profit-sharing plan must be allocated among the participants by a formula outlined in the plan document. Many plans decide to give a set percentage of compensation to all participants.

Contributions and forfeitures (nonvested employer contributions of terminated participants) are subject to a per-participant annual limitation. This limit is the lesser of:

• 100% of the participant’s compensation, or

• $58,000 for 2021

The deduction for the contribution cannot exceed 25% of total eligible compensation.


Vesting is the percentage of the account that the participant owns, based on years of service. A year of vesting service is normally given for each plan year a participant worked 1,000 hours. Vesting schedules range from 100% vesting after 1 – 3 years, or 20% vesting for each year, leading to 100% ownership after six years.


Publication 4806, Profit Sharing Plans for Small Businesses

Profit-Sharing Information Webpage

Next Step

Making long-term plans for your company and its employees can come with complications. Contact a Hantzmon Wiebel advisory team member today to learn your next best step as you plan for the future.


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Our firm provides the information in this article for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal or other competent advisors. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional advisor who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided “as is,” with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.




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