A Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan is established when an employer adopts a SEP agreement and has a minimum number of employees working in the organization who qualify for owning a SEP-IRA account. The qualification criteria for an employee to become eligible for the employer’s SEP-IRA plan include:
1. The employee must be at least 21 years of age.
2. The employee must have worked for the employer for a minimum of three years in the last five consecutive years.
3. The employee must have earned at least $450 in compensation for that tax year.
Hence, a SEP can be established if an organization has a certain minimum number of employees fulfilling the above criteria and the employer agrees to adopt a SEP agreement. There are three basic steps in setting up a SEP account and all of those must be fulfilled.
1. For setting up a SEP-IRA account, a legally valid written agreement should be executed. This agreement has to conform to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) specimen SEP using ‘Form 5305-SEP’, Simplified Employee Pension – Individual Retirement Accounts Contribution Agreement. A prototype SEP that was earlier approved by the IRS may also be used for the same. Various insurance companies, banks and other competent financial institutions offer approved prototype SEPs. In the end, an individually designed SEP may be adopted.
2. Every employee who is eligible for a SEP must be given necessary information about the SEP. If the SEP was established using the Form 5305-SEP, the information must also include a copy of the Form 5305-SEP, instructions to fill it up, and the remaining details listed in Form 5305-SEP guidelines. In case a specimen SEP or a personally formulated SEP was used, similar information must be provided to every employee in the organization who is eligible for opening up a SEP account.
3. A SEP-IRA must be set up for every eligible employee in the organization. Various insurance companies, banks or other competent financial institutions can be used to set up a SEP-IRA. The employee holds and controls a SEP-IRA account while the employer is required to send the SEP contributions to the financial institution where the organization’s SEP-IRA account is maintained.
Thus we can see that an employer can establish SEPs very easily in order to take care of the post-retirement financial needs of his employees. The two major requirements on the part of the employer to establish SEPs include availability of eligible employees who can own SEP-IRA accounts and adoption of a SEP agreement as specified by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). After meeting these two criteria, the employer can decide on the insurance company, bank or other competent financial institution where he wants to set up the organization’s SEP-IRA account for meeting the retirement needs of the employees. Hence, SEP-IRAs are found to be very easy to establish by the employers and equally easy to operate by the employees. It allows all the benefits of an IRA in a much-simplified form.