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Category: Safe Harbor 401k

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.

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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.

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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.

Safe Harbor 401(k) Tax Credits 

Siân Killingsworth / 5 Aug 2022 / Safe Harbor 401k

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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.

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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.




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 annual IRS auditing and most nondiscrimination testing. Below are our tips on how to get the most out of Safe Harbor retirement plans in 2022.

2022 Safe Harbor 401(k) Quick Facts

  • Employees can contribute up to $20,500 of their annual salary, which reduces their taxable income.
  • The maximum combined employer/employee contribution limit for 2022 is up to $61,000.
  • Employees age 50 and older can put in an extra $6,500 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.
  • Annual IRS testing is considered satisfied.
  • Employers can claim a $500 additional tax credit for plan startup costs for the first three years of a new 401(k) if the plan has automatic enrollment.

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.

How much will you pay for 401(k)? Get an instant quote.

How many employees do you have?
I am a sole proprietor
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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.

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.

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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.

How much will you pay for 401(k)? Get an instant quote.

How many employees do you have?
I am a sole proprietor
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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.



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© 2022 Ubiquity Retirement + Savings
Privacy Policy
Do not sell my info
44 Montgomery Street, Suite 3060
San Francisco, CA 94104
Support: 855.401.4357

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