Category: Safe Harbor

Find information relating to Safe Harbor Plans and from Ubiquity Retirement + Savings. Find easy to understand rules and regulations, along with tips and advice from our team of Retirement Planning experts. Call Ubiquity today for a Free Consultation at 855.466.5825.

Safe Harbor 401(k)s are a popular choice for small business owners who are looking to reward employees with higher retirement contributions, while also maximizing their own retirement funds. With mandatory employer contributions, Safe Harbor 401(k) plans exempt employers from the hassle of certain annual IRS auditing and most nondiscrimination testing. Below are our tips on how to get the most out of Safe Harbor retirement plans.

Safe Harbor 401(k) Quick Facts

  • Employees can contribute up to $22,500 of their annual salary, which can reduce their taxable income.
  • The maximum combined employer/employee contribution limit for 2023 is up to $66,000.
  • Employees age 50 and older can put in an extra $7,500 in catch-up contributions on top of the maximum limits.
  • Taxes are due when employees take the money out at retirement as early as 55 years of age.
  • Employers must contribute at least 3% of each employee’s salary or match up to 4% of contributions.
  • All employer contributions are immediately 100% vested.

How to Save the Most for Your Retirement As a Small Business Owner

There are several reasons Safe Harbor plans are excellent small business retirement plans, allowing company owners to save more for retirement:

  • No annual nondiscrimination testing: Administrative costs include statement mailing, completing IRS Form 5500, approving loans and distributions, and plan participant support. These costs can range from $750 to $3,000 a year, but tend to be on the higher side if annual nondiscrimination testing is required, too. Unlike most 401(k) administrators, Ubiquity does not charge AUM or per-person fees.
  • No corrective refunds: In a traditional 401(k), the average amount business owners and highly compensated employees contribute to the plan generally cannot exceed 2% higher than the average amount regular employees contribute.

If the 401(k) plan has low enrollment or modest participation, those with the means to fund their retirement would be unable to do so. By agreeing to contribute at least 3% to all staff members, you maximize the freedom to fund your retirement to the limit and generously reward key employees as well.

  • Lower tax burden: Contributions made to your own plan lower your personal taxable income for the year. Contributions made to your employees lower your taxable business income for the year.
  • Higher profitability: According to T. Rowe Price, companies with great 401(k) plans have 20-80% higher profits than companies with poor 401(k)s. The research suggests that well-compensated employees are more satisfied and productive. Lower turnover means lower training costs, which allows you to save more money for retirement and reinvest more into the business.

Answer a few simple questions to find the optimal plan for you and your small business.

How many employees do you have?
I am a sole proprietor
(just me/or my business partner/spouse)

Or schedule a free consultation with a retirement specialist.

What Safe Harbor 401(k) Formulas Are Available?

With a 3% nonelective contribution, employers simply fund each employee’s plan to the tune of 3% of the employee’s annual salary up to the maximum employer/employee limit, regardless of what the employee contributes.

Other options for a Safe Harbor 401(k) employer matching formula include:

  • Basic: A 100% match on the first 3% of employee contributions and 50% match on the next 3-5%.
  • Enhanced: A 100% match on the first 4-6% of employee contributions.

As a small business employer, any of these match formulas will satisfy the Safe Harbor requirements and allow you to contribute up to $61,000 to your own retirement fund, acting as both “employee” and “employer.”

Considering the Transition to a Safe Harbor 401(k)?

Whether you’re starting a brand-new Safe Harbor or converting an existing small business 401(k) by adding an amendment, Ubiquity can help. Our small business focus and flexible plans allow us to serve our clients at a lower cost without AUM or per-enrollee fees, which means your plan can grow without penalty. Contact us for details.


Please refer to Important Information for details.

As a small business owner, you’re responsible for encouraging your employees to plan for their retirement. That can sound like a lot to handle, but don’t worry! With proper education and incentives, it’s easy to help your employees start saving for the future.

1. Educate Your Employees about Retirement Savings

Many employees don’t understand the benefits of saving for retirement (or the consequences of not saving). The easiest way to get your employees involved is to get them learning. We have two favorite ways to do this:

Holding Retirement Planning Workshops

Invite a financial advisor or retirement planner to speak to your small business’s employees about retirement planning, investment strategies, and the various retirement savings plans available. (We suggest doing so during work hours… and with snacks.)

Providing Resources

Another way to educate your employees about retirement savings is to provide them with accessible information like brochures, websites, FAQs, and videos. One great resource is the Ubiquity blog, which is full of easy-to-understand articles about 401(k) plans and other retirement topics. You can also give your employees access to financial calculators to help them determine how much they need to save for retirement.

Answer a few simple questions to find the optimal plan for you and your small business.

How many employees do you have?
I am a sole proprietor
(just me/or my business partner/spouse)

Or schedule a free consultation with a retirement specialist.

2. Offer Retirement Savings Plans

Offering a small business 401(k) plan is an effective way to encourage your employees to start saving for retirement. By offering a plan, you can provide your employees with a convenient and cost-effective way to save for retirement. There are many options and provisions you can add to a 401(k) plan.

Traditional 401(k) Plan

The classic retirement savings plan for a reason, a 401(k) plan allows your employees to contribute a portion of their salary to a tax-deferred investment account. You can set up a 401(k) plan for your employees and offer them a matching contribution to encourage them to save more.

Safe Harbor 401(k) Plan

This type of plan includes a “safe harbor” provision. It allows small business owners to avoid certain annual IRS tests. This can be a great relief.

In exchange for this, employees receive mandatory contributions to their 401(k)s from the employer. There are some more details and options to this type of plan – read more here.

3. Incentivize Retirement Saving

The best way to inspire your small business’s employees to participate in the 401(k) plan is to offer them something in return. This could be a bonus or additional incentive for those who join the plan, such as a match on their contributions or a one-time bonus.

Additionally, you could provide employees with educational materials to help them understand the benefits of the 401(k) plan, as well as regular updates on their progress and performance. By making the 401(k) plan attractive and accessible, you can inspire your employees to take control of their financial future and save for retirement.

Matching Contributions

One of the most effective ways to encourage your employees to participate in their retirement savings is to offer matching contributions. This means that you contribute a certain amount of money to your employee’s retirement accounts based on their contributions. It’s basically free money for them, but you get to claim these contributions1 as a tax deduction for your small business.

Offer Bonuses

You can also offer bonuses to employees who save a certain amount of money in their retirement accounts. This can be a one-time bonus or an ongoing incentive to encourage your employees to continue saving for retirement.



1 Ubiquity is not a registered investment advisor, and the information provided herein should not be considered legal or tax advice. We recommend consulting with your financial planner, attorney, and/or tax advisor for personalized advice. Employers with 50 or fewer employees can receive a tax credit for contributing to their employees’ retirement plans. The credit is a percentage of the amount contributed by the employer, up to a per-employee cap of $1,000. The credit percentage is reduced over five years, with 100% in the first and second years, 75% in the third year, 50% in the fourth year, and 25% in the fifth year. No credit for subsequent tax years, thereafter. 

If you are a small business owner, you may have considered offering your employees a 401(k) plan to help them save for their future (and reduce their taxable income in the process).

However, setting up and maintaining a 401(k) plan can be complex, and failure to comply with the regulations could result in corrections and even have large penalties. One way to make the process easier (and safer) is by offering a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan.

What is Safe Harbor?

Although most people refer to this as a Safe Harbor plan, Safe Harbor is actually just an optional provision to a 401(k) plan. This provision is designed to automatically pass certain nondiscrimination testing requirements set by the IRS. These requirements ensure that the plan does not favor highly compensated employees over non-highly compensated employees when it comes to contributions and benefits.

With a Safe Harbor provision in your 401(k) plan, you agree to make certain contributions on your employees’ behalf; in return, the plan is exempt from certain non-discrimination testing requirements.

Answer a few simple questions to find the optimal plan for you and your small business.

How many employees do you have?
I am a sole proprietor
(just me/or my business partner/spouse)

Or schedule a free consultation with a retirement specialist.

The Benefits of a Safe Harbor 401(k) Plan

Reduced Administrative Burden

One of the main benefits of offering a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan at your small business is that it can greatly reduce the administrative burden on you as the employer. Non-Safe Harbor plans require annual deferral and match testing, which can be complex and time-consuming.

With a Safe Harbor plan, those testing requirements are waived, allowing the employer to spend less time and resources on plan administration.

Increased Employee Participation

Another advantage of a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan is that it can increase employee participation. By offering a safe, simple, and automatic plan, employees are more likely to enroll and contribute to the plan. This can help employees save for their future while also helping you attract and retain top talent.

Avoiding Corrections

Non-compliance with non-discrimination testing can result in corrections, which could mean you have to return contributions to highly compensated employees and pay taxes and penalties. Safe harbor plans are exempt.

Higher Contribution Limits Annually

All 401(k) plans, including those with a Safe Harbor provision, have higher contribution limits each year per the IRS. In 2023, employees can contribute up to $22,500 to their 401(k) plan, with an additional $7,500 catch-up contribution for those over age 50. This can help employees save more for their retirement. While the increased limit isn’t unique to Safe Harbor plans, it’s certainly a nice expansion of the benefit. A Safe Harbor provision does allow highly compensated employees to contribute up to the limits without worry of any corrective refunds.

How to Set Up a Safe Harbor 401(k) Plan

If you are interested in setting up a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan for your small business, there are a few things you need to know.

Contribution Types

To be eligible for a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan, you as the employer must make certain contributions to your employees’ retirement accounts. There are two types of Safe Harbor contributions: a non-elective contribution or a matching contribution.

  • The non-elective contribution requires employers to contribute a percentage of each eligible employee’s compensation, regardless of whether the employee contributes to the plan.
  • The matching contribution requires the employer to match 100% of each eligible employee’s contributions up to a certain percentage (usually 4%) of their compensation.

Funding Requirements

To maintain Safe Harbor status, employers must make the required contributions on time each year. Both contribution types must be funded by the end of the next plan year and generally, to take as a deduction, they must fund prior to their tax return including extensions. However, some documents require that the match be funded each pay period, which means they are required to fund no less than a quarterly basis to avoid late penalties.

Notice Requirements

To offer a small business 401(k) plan with a Safe Harbor provision, you must also provide certain information to employees. This includes notification explaining the plan’s provisions and informing employees of their right to make contributions to the plan. This notice must be provided at least 30 days before the beginning of each plan year.

Small businesses have a myriad of retirement plan options. One is a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan, which reduces plan administration duties and frees you from annual IRS testing. While these time-saving incentives are undeniably attractive, it’s important for small business owners to consider how the Safe Harbor option stacks up against other small business retirement plans.

The following 401(k) questions and answers can help you determine whether a Safe Harbor plan provision is right for your small business.

Answer a few simple questions to find the optimal plan for you and your small business.

How many employees do you have?
I am a sole proprietor
(just me/or my business partner/spouse)

Or schedule a free consultation with a retirement specialist.

What is a Safe Harbor 401(k)?

All qualified retirement plans are subject to certain nondiscrimination tests to verify that they do not provide unfair advantages to owners and highly compensated executives over other employees. Safe Harbor provisions enable immediate vesting of retirement benefits and allow the plan to bypass nondiscrimination tests.

These plans enable a type of contribution made by the employer into an employee’s 401(k) account. This amount is predetermined and normally represented as a percentage of the participant’s salary. The most common form of a Safe Harbor contribution is a match, meaning the employer is only responsible for contributing when the employee does so too.

What specific provisions are required for a plan to claim Safe Harbor protection?

Small business 401(k)s with Safe Harbor provisions generally include one of three employer contribution alternatives:

  • The company matches 100% of an employee’s contributions up to 3% of the employee’s salary, with an option of an additional 2% match for half the salary.
  • The company matches 100% of an employee’s contributions up to 4% of the employee’s salary, with no option for additional employer contributions.
  • The company contributes an amount equal to 3% of the employee’s salary with no contributions by the employee.

How does a small business implement a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan?

If a small business wants to include Safe Harbor provisions in a retirement plan, it must provide prior written notice of those provisions to all employees. That notice must specify the Safe Harbor provisions that the small business has elected to adopt, as well as detailed information on the provisions’ effects on taxation and employee rights. The small business must also factor contributions and plan administration costs into its accounting systems.

How do small businesses benefit from Safe Harbor 401(k) plans?

First, when an employer has a Safe Harbor feature in their 401(k) plan, the most critical advantage is that they are automatically exempted from the annual compliance testing that’s required for all non-Safe Harbor 401(k) plans. This testing is essentially a government-mandated review of the plan whose purpose is to ensure that the 401(k) plan itself isn’t overly advantageous to highly compensated employees (HCEs) at the company.

A highly compensated employee is generally someone who owns or has owned more than 5% of the interest in the business any time during the year or preceding year. Another definition of an HCE is one who made more than $135,000 in the previous year in their income.

A key point to know for testing season is if the 401(k) plan doesn’t have a safe harbor, and it goes through that annual testing, and those test results find that a given HCE’s contributions for the year exceeded 2% of the average contribution rate of all non-HCEs, then that HCE who over-contributed will have to take a mandatory distribution from their account. By extension, this money will no longer be accruing in their retirement accounts.

How do Qualified Automatic Contribution Arrangements (QACAs) affect a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan?

QACAs are a subset of Safe Harbor 401(k)s that include automatic enrollment provisions. With a QACA option, the small business is obligated to make matching contributions to employee retirement plan accounts. The primary QACA benefit is that it allows a small business to implement a two-year vesting schedule for employer matching contributions.

More Safe Harbor 401(k) Questions? Ask Ubiquity

If you have questions about 401(k) retirement plans for your small business, including how to take advantage of Safe Harbor tax credits, contact Ubiquity — one of America’s top providers of low-cost, flat-fee small business 401(k)s.

The end of the year means a lot of things for small business owners: closing out budgets, getting your year-end orders completed, and benefits enrollment. Whether you’re opening a new 401(k) or sticking with your existing plan, you might be facing IRS testing to make sure your plan treats all employees fairly.

These tests are called nondiscrimination tests, and they are designed to find out if highly compensated employees are able to save money for retirement at a rate that is disproportionately favorable compared to the rate at which rank-and-file employees can save. Small business owners can stay compliant with 401(k) nondiscrimination testing rules by:

  • Understanding what a highly compensated employee is.
  • Encouraging rank-and-file employee participation.
  • Designing a plan with employer contributions that automatically passes IRS testing.
  • Keeping up with annual IRS changes.

If you’re running a small business, working with an experienced retirement plan administrator for your 401(k) planning needs is another great way to set your plan up for success.

Answer a few simple questions to find the optimal plan for you and your small business.

How many employees do you have?
I am a sole proprietor
(just me/or my business partner/spouse)

Or schedule a free consultation with a retirement specialist.

Understand what highly compensated means:

Understanding how employees are defined is an important step toward compliance.

  • A highly compensated employee (HCE) owns more than 5% of the business at any time during the year or preceding year or earned more than $135,000 in 2022 or was designated as the “top paid group” (which often comprises the top 20% in terms of salary)
  • A non-highly compensated employee (NHCE) is anyone who is eligible to participate in the plan who doesn’t meet the criteria
  • Key employees can include HCEs or NHCEs if they own more than 5% of the company, if they are the parent/child/spouse of someone who owns more than 5% of the company, or if they own more than 1% of the company and more than $150,000

If the plan fails nondiscrimination testing, refunds may be due back to the HCEs, or you may need to make contributions to non-HCEs to bring their contribution ratio up. In the worst-case scenario, the whole plan could fail and become disqualified.

Encourage widespread 401(k) plan participation

Financial wellness advising and retirement education training can help boost employee participation rates, though these services can be cost-prohibitive for small business employers.

Establishing a plan with automatic enrollment is one way around this issue, as it provides employers with a three-year tax credit that helps offset the costs of setting up a new plan.

Employees can always opt out, but this strategy has shown to double or even triple the rate of participation, particularly among younger employees and those earning less than $30,000.

Most commonly, auto-enrollment plans deduct at least 3% of an employee’s pay, increasing by 1% a year to a maximum of 10%.

Design a plan that passes

Plan providers often recommend Safe Harbor 401(k)s for small businesses. Though these small business 401(k) retirement plans require employer matching or non-elective contributions, they automatically pass nondiscrimination tests and negate the need for annual plan auditing.

A Safe Harbor matching formula may be:

  • Traditional: Employer matches 100% of salary deferrals on the first 3% of compensation plus 50% of salary deferrals on the next 2% of compensation
  • Enhanced: Employer matches 100% of salary deferrals up to 3-6% of compensation
  • Non-elective: Employer contributes at least 3% of employee pay up to the limit, regardless of what employees themselves contribute

Keep up with annual IRS changes

Every year, the IRS adjusts certain figures in response to inflation and rising salaries. These figures are typically announced at the end of October, so keep your eyes on this space for those updates.

Contact 401(k) plan administrator Ubiquity for more details on setting up a small business retirement savings plan.

If you’ve held off on providing a 401(k) plan to your employees in the past due to startup expenses, then it’s time to look into the SECURE Act tax credit. As of January 1, 2020, small business 401(k)s are eligible for a tax credit that offsets the cost of plan setup and administration for the first three years.

As a small business 401(k) provider, the experts at Ubiquity will provide all the information you need to offer a new retirement plan at a low, fixed cost.

Step 1: Determine your SECURE Act eligibility.

For SECURE Act 2022 eligibility, you must:

  • Have less than 100 employees who receive $5,000+ per year in compensation.
  • Have at least one plan participant who is a non-highly compensated employee.
  • Not have had a 401(k) or other qualifying retirement plan within the past 3 years.

Answer a few simple questions to find the optimal plan for you and your small business.

How many employees do you have?
I am a sole proprietor
(just me/or my business partner/spouse)

Or schedule a free consultation with a retirement specialist.

Step 2: Set up your small business 401(k) plan.

Next, you’ll need to work with a small business 401(k) plan provider to set up your plan. You’ll need to create a plan document that complies with IRS Code and outlines all the details of your retirement plan. You’ll also need a trust to hold the plan assets and a broker to help you select funds and execute the investments.

Over the years, your 401(k) administrator will help you maintain 401(k) records, enroll new employees, track employee deductions, provide information to plan participants, and keep your plan in compliance with the law.

Ideally, you will choose a low-cost 401(k) provider that focuses on small business clientele and charges a flat fee for service. Administrative costs can vary considerably, with some providers charging per-person fees and assets under management fees — expenses that grow along with the size of your plan. Alternatively, Ubiquity provides flat-fee plans whose cost will never rise, no matter how much your savings grow.

Step 3: Claim your SECURE Act credit.

When you file your taxes, you’ll need to file IRS Form 8881 to claim your startup tax credit. Taking this simple step can qualify you for a tax credit worth $500 to $5,000, put toward up to 50% of your 401(k) setup and administration expenses. If you choose the automatic enrollment feature, you qualify for an additional $500 per year, dollar for dollar.

These credits can be applied for the first three years of your new plan. In total, you can get up to $16,500 in free money for your business just for starting a retirement savings plan, which can help you save more for your own retirement and make your company more competitive in the job market.

Keep in mind that even after the first three years, you’ll be able to write off any non-elective or matching contributions to reduce your company’s taxable income. What’s more, any money put into your own 401(k) will reduce your personal taxable income. The saved money will gain compounding interest over the years, helping you to feel more financially secure in your retirement.

Questions about 401(k) retirement plans for your small business? Contact Ubiquity today.

The most highly valued benefit of Safe Harbor 401k plans is that small business owners automatically satisfy non discrimination testing allowing them to maximize their deferrals without worry of a failed test. But did you know that choosing to set up a Safe Harbor retirement savings plan also qualifies small businesses for special tax credits to offset administrative costs? It’s true – the Safe Harbor provision can help you bring down your corporate taxes, and the savings can be applied to running the plan itself.

Who Qualifies for Safe Harbor Tax Credits?

As of January 2020, the SECURE Act permits qualified small businesses to claim a tax credit (of up to $5,000 per year for the first three years) for adopting a new 401(k) retirement plan, regardless of the plan’s Safe Harbor status.

To qualify, a small business must have 100 or fewer employees who received at least $5,000 in compensation in the preceding year, had at least one non highly compensated employee,  and you must not have had a 401(k) or qualifying retirement plan within the last three years.

Answer a few simple questions to find the optimal plan for you and your small business.

How many employees do you have?
I am a sole proprietor
(just me/or my business partner/spouse)

Or schedule a free consultation with a retirement specialist.

What Tax Credits Apply to Safe Harbor 401(k) Plans?

There are two types of tax credits that apply to small business 401(k) plans:

The New Plan Tax Credit

The SECURE Act tax credit lets qualified small businesses claim up to $5,000 in tax deductions per year for up to three years. They can save up to a total of $15,000 when they establish a new 401(k) plan.

The Auto-Enrollment Tax Credit

Small business employers can also claim $500 a year (for three years) by adding an auto-enrollment feature to a new or existing plan. When you choose auto-enrollment, all eligible employees will be entered into the plan at a base rate of 3% pay, which automatically increases by 1% each year until reaching a maximum of 15%. Employees can opt out or modify their savings rate at any time without affecting the small business tax credit.

In summary: you can claim a maximum of $5,500/year — or $16,500 in total — over a three-year period.

Additional Benefits of Safe Harbor 401(k) Plans

The tax credit opportunity is just one of the many reasons small businesses consider a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan.

Safe Harbor small business 401(k)s  require employer contributions. You can choose from several contribution formulas: You can contribute in one of two ways:

  • A non-elective contribution worth 3% pay to every eligible employee in the plan.
  • A basic or enhanced matching contribution which is immediately 100% vested.
  • A sample basic match might be 100% on the first 3% and 50% on the next 2%.
  • A sample enhanced match might be a 100% match on the first 4%.

At tax time, you can also write off any amount contributed as a tax-deductible business expense, which may lower your tax bill.

Also, because you will automatically pass the IRS non-discrimination tests, you won’t have the stress or potential penalties from noncompliance as a financial concern.

If you have questions about 401(k) retirement plans for your small business, including how to take advantage of Safe Harbor tax credits, contact Ubiquity — one of America’s top providers of low-cost, flat-fee small business 401(k)s.




See what rule changes are in place for small business Safe Harbor 401(k) plans for 2022.

It’s helpful to know which IRS rules and limits apply from year to year, whether you currently offer a Safe Harbor 401(k) or you are exploring options to open a small business 401(k) plan in 2022. If you have an existing 401(k) that is not a Safe Harbor, making the switch is as easy as adding a plan amendment. As one of the leading providers of small business retirement plans, Ubiquity can help you do just that.

Since 1999, small businesses have counted on Ubiquity Retirement + Savings to administer affordable retirement solutions, including Safe Harbor 401(k)s. Whether you’re a solopreneur, startup owner, or employ fewer than 100 people, we keep up on the latest plan rules to keep you in compliance.

General Safe Harbor 401(k) Rules

If you’ve failed ADP and ACP nondiscrimination tests or if IRS compliance is of concern to you, then it’s worth looking into the Safe Harbor 401(k) plan. These plans allow you to bypass testing when you accept a few ground rules that ensure fairness for Non-Highly Compensated Employees (NHCEs) and Highly Compensated Employees (HCEs).

  • Employers must provide a matching or nonelective contribution to all 401(k)-eligible employees
  • The contribution must be immediately vested
  • On average, HCEs cannot contribute more than two percentage points greater than NHCEs

2022 Contribution Limits

The upper limit for 401(k) contribution limits, including for Safe Harbor plans, went up in 2022:

  • Both traditional and Safe Harbor 401(k) plan limits increase by $1,000 to $20,500 in 2022
  • Those age 50 or older can add another $6,500 in catch-up contributions
  • The employer/employee maximum is $61,000 – up $3,000 from 2021
  • The maximum employee limit for calculating contributions increased by $15,000 to $305,000 in 2022
  • The threshold for key employee top-heavy testing increased $15,000 to $200,000
  • The threshold for highly compensated employee nondiscrimination testing increased $15,000 to $200,000

SECURE Act Changes Applicable to 2022

The SECURE Act (first in effect for the 2020 plan year) created the following changes that remain in place for 2022:

  • A 15% maximum automatic contribution rate for QACA Safe Harbor 401(k)s

Qualified Automatic Contribution Arrangements Safe Harbor plans previously auto-enrolled participants at a rate of 3-10%, increasing contributions in 1% annual increments to a 10% maximum. Companies may opt to increase to a 15% maximum if they so choose. Changes can be made to the plan as late as the end of 2022.

  • No need for nonelective plan notice requirements

Prior to the SECURE Act, employers were required to notify all Safe Harbor plan participants of their eligibility, prior to the beginning of the year. Employers must still notify employees of a matching contribution plan in order to satisfy ACP test requirements. However, notification is not mandatory to satisfy ADP requirements when nonelective contributions are made on the employees’ behalf. Other notices – like eligible automatic contribution arrangements, auto-enrollment opt-outs, and mid-year contribution elimination – are still required.

  • Retroactive Safe Harbor with nonelective contributions allowed

Employers may retroactively apply a 3% nonelective contribution to the year up until December 1, 2022.

Employers may retroactively apply a 4% nonelective contribution to the year up until December 31, 2022.

Contact Ubiquity for Safe Harbor 401(k) Administration in 2022

It’s not too late to start a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan for 2022. Contact us to customize a retirement savings solution for your small business.

Answer a few simple questions to find the optimal plan for you and your small business.

How many employees do you have?
I am a sole proprietor
(just me/or my business partner/spouse)

Or schedule a free consultation with a retirement specialist.

The IRS is increasing the maximum individual 401(k) contribution limit by $1,000 – from $19,500 to $20,500 in 2022. The Safe Harbor 401(k) contribution limit for 2022 is the same as a Traditional 401(k), even though Safe Harbor plans are exempt from most nondiscrimination testing. The 2022 catch-up contribution limit for Traditional and Safe Harbor plan participants who are age 50 or older remains the same at $6,500.

Continue reading to learn how Safe Harbor contribution limit changes for 2022 can affect how much you are able to put into tax-deferred savings this year. The amount you contribute is pre-tax, meaning that it can also reduce your taxable income, tax bracket, and the percentage of taxes you owe for 2022.

Contact Ubiquity, a leading provider of Safe Harbor 401(k) plans for small businesses, for details. It’s not too late to start a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan or add a Safe Harbor provision to an existing plan for 2022.

Answer a few simple questions to find the optimal plan for you and your small business.

How many employees do you have?
I am a sole proprietor
(just me/or my business partner/spouse)

Or schedule a free consultation with a retirement specialist.

2022 Employer 401(k) Safe Harbor Limits

The $20,500 limit applies to individual 401(k) contributions. Employers offering Safe Harbor 401(k)s are required to make contributions to all eligible employees’ plans. Safe Harbor match can range from 3.5% to 6% if you have auto enrollment, and 4% – 6% if you do not have auto enrollment. A plan with or without auto enrollment can elect a 3% Safe Harbor non-elective contribution. If you have auto enrollment, you can elect to vest at two years, whereas without it, the Safe Harbor would be vested at 100%.

  • For 2022, employers can add $40,500 onto the $20,500 individual limit.
  • The total combined contribution limit is $61,000 for people under 50 or $67,500 for people over 50.

2022 Income Threshold for Determining Employer Contributions

Highly-paid employees are restricted in their ability to make 401(k) contributions. Plan compensation limit has increased to $305,000 in 2022 – this is up from the $290,000 2021 401(k) Safe Harbor contribution limit. For example, a company plan matching 4% of an employee’s salary would not match 4% on employees earning $1 million. Instead, the employer would pay the employee 4% of the $305,000 maximum cap.

2022 Definition of Highly Compensated Employees

If you haven’t set up a 401(k) Safe Harbor plan for 2022 yet, you may consider doing it soon if you’ve failed nondiscrimination tests in the past or if you have a lot of “highly compensated” or “key” employees.

  • Highly Compensated Employees: In 2022, a highly compensated employee is someone who earned more than $130,000 or who owned more than 5% of the business in 2021 (family attribution rules apply). If the average employee puts 4% of their income into the retirement savings plan, a highly compensated employee generally cannot contribute more than 6% of their income.
  • Key Employees: Officers earning salaries of more than $200,000, more than 5% owners (family attribution rules apply), or more than 1% owner earning more than $150,000 in 2022.

2022 Safe Harbor Deadline

Business owners concerned with maxing out their retirements, compensating highly paid and key employees well, and passing the IRS non-discrimination testing may add a Safe Harbor amendment to their plans.

  • The deadline to amend an existing plan to add Safe Harbor match was December 1, 2021 for 2022
  • The deadline to adopt a new Safe Harbor 401(k) plan with matching in 2022 is October 1, 2022
  • The deadline to adopt a new Safe Harbor 401(k) plan with nonelective contributions is December 2, 2022

Call Ubiquity to get started on setting up a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan or to add a Safe Harbor provision to your existing plan. We take care of small businesses with the industry’s most affordable 401(k) plans at low, flat, monthly rates with no AUM or per-person fees.


Top 10 Reasons to Open a Safe Harbor 401(k)

Siân Killingsworth / 16 Oct 2020 / Safe Harbor

Dollar folded like a boat promoting that you can "Keep taxes at bay" with a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan

Deciding to offer employees a 401(k) savings plan is a huge stride toward making your business more competitive and preparing yourself for retirement. But which type of 401(k) is right for you and your enterprise?

A Safe Harbor 401(k) is one popular choice, particularly for small businesses, as it allows you to bypass many of the administrative hassles associated with a Traditional 401(k) – most notably the auditing and annual nondiscrimination testing.

Why Choose a Safe Harbor 401(k) for Your Small Business?

Here are ten reasons that a Safe Harbor 401(k) might be the right choice for your business:

Skip Annual Auditing and Nondiscrimination Testing

Nondiscrimination testing ensures that all employees receive the same fair tax advantages, whether they are highly compensated or rank-and-file members of the organization. Plans that fail testing must be remedied immediately or face substantial penalties and risk having the entire plan balance refunded. If regular employees aren’t putting enough into savings, the highly compensated employees may need portions of their contributions refunded to them. An alternative – though costly – solution would be for the business owner to make increased contributions to regular employees to bring them up to par – thus adding an unexpected and potentially exorbitant expense.

A Safe Harbor 401(k) allows employers to disregard the nondiscrimination checks and balances, so long as they agree to make a guaranteed contribution to all employees. Options include:

  • A Nonelective Contribution worth 3% of every employee’s salary, regardless of participation in the plan
  • A Basic Match worth 100% of the first 3% of employee contributions and 50% match on the next 2%
  • An Enhanced Match worth 100% on 4-6% of employee contributions.

Prepare for Your Own Retirement and Increase Personal 401(k) Savings

Like a Traditional 401(k), a Safe Harbor 401(k) is an ideal way to save for retirement with pre-tax income. In 2020, you can contribute up to $19,000 a year or $25,000 if you’re turning 50 or older this year. A 3% contribution to all employees gives you the freedom to maximize payments for yourself, highly-compensated employees, and key executives, regardless of what others choose to do.

Incentivize Highly-Compensated and Key Employees

A 401(k) Safe Harbor Profit Sharing Plan allows employees to retain control over what they personally set aside for their own retirements, while allowing employers the ability to make vested contributions that will pass nondiscrimination testing even if some employees want to invest to the max. By adding profit-sharing plan contributions, you can adequately reward the company’s most-prized talent up to the individual maximum of $56,000.

Boost Employee Engagement and Benefits Usage

What good is it to offer an employee benefit that no one uses? Lack of participation can be a major problem for small businesses, especially if employees feel the benefits are too costly or difficult to understand. Worse yet, some employees may be uneducated as to the benefits of a 401(k).

Regardless of the reason for low participation rates, you can remedy the situation by choosing automatic enrollment during the Safe Harbor setup. Unless employees specifically opt out, a standard deduction will be put into their retirement accounts.

Making Safe Harbor matches is another way to get employees participating in their own plans. At worst, the 3% nonelective contribution will ensure adequate participation levels to allow you and HCEs the opportunity to maximize savings.

Satisfy and Retain Employees with Mandatory Contributions

The vast majority of modern 401(k) plans include an employer match, so you’ll need one anyway if you want to compete for talent and retain your workers. By opening a Safe Harbor plan, you’re incentivizing employees to remain committed to the company. You’re demonstrating that you are likewise committed to their financial security and wellness, too.

Save Money at Tax-Time

As the employer, you receive additional tax savings for making Safe Harbor contributions. All contributions can be deducted as a “business expense” on your federal income tax return and are free from your payroll tax obligation.

Gobble Up Juicy Tax Credits

New 401(k) plans (regardless of Safe Harbor or not) can be eligible to receive up to $16,500 in small business tax credits over a three-year period to offset administration expenses. The SECURE Act allows employers to write off up to $5,000 per year or 50% of the plan’s startup costs, each year for the first three years. Administrative cost write-offs include plan setup, annual maintenance, and employee education.

Enjoy Maximum Plan Flexibility

No business year is the same. At some point, you may wish to make more or less generous contributions to the plan. Safe Harbor 401(k)s can be amended at any time during the year. You can alter the match formula or remove a Safe Harbor provision entirely with 30 days’ notice. The Safe Harbor can be later reinstated or ramped up, as economic conditions permit.

Reduce Administrative Burdens

A Safe Harbor is not the only way to avoid nondiscrimination rules, but it is the easiest, from an administrative standpoint. While Safe Harbor plans do come with a lot of requirements, they aren’t any harder to administer than Traditional 401(k)s. In fact, plan administration is a lot easier without the time-consuming expense of auditing and testing. At Ubiquity, we are happy to ensure your contributions, notice requirements, and participant disclosures are all on schedule.

Since 1999, Ubiquity has been a low-cost small business 401(k) plan provider with a genuine stake in your company’s success. We are happy to discuss the benefits of a Safe Harbor vs. a Traditional 401(k) and provide you with a Safe Harbor free consultation to explore all your benefits options. When you’re ready, we can have you set up in just a few minutes to start enjoying tax and retirement savings right away.

Read Ubiquity's Guide to Small Business 401(k) Plans
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Talk to Sales
Schedule a Free Consultation

Contact Support
Visit our Help Center
6am–5pm PT / 9am–8pm ET

© 2024 Ubiquity Retirement + Savings
44 Montgomery Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94104