Profit-Sharing Plan

Companies of any size can offer their employees a profit-sharing plan. These plans allow companies and employees to share some of their profits in a tax-advantaged manner. These plans offer many benefits to both employees and employers, such as helping to attract skilled workers or helping to build retirement savings.

How does profit sharing work?

If a company offers a profit sharing plan, it is deciding to share its profits among employees in the form retirement contributions. Employers can choose whether or not to make these contributions each year.

Employers use a percentage-based approach to determine how much each employee should contribute to their plan. Let's say a small company had $100,000 in profits and decided to share it with its employees. Jan will get 10% (or $10,000) of the total company wages if she earns 10%. Joe will get 5%, or $5,000, if he earns 5% of total company wages.

Contributions to a profit-sharing program are dependent on company performance so they will likely vary from year to year. In one year, a company may contribute a lot to employees' plans. However, the contribution amount might be half as high in the next year.

A company may decide to cut contributions or even stop them entirely during a strong business year. This could be done if the company is making capital improvements, investing in new infrastructure, or needs more cash.

There are a few options available to employers for how to invest money in a profit-sharing program. Employers can give employees the option to make their own investments. In this case, the employer would need to offer a selection of investment options to employees. Employers can, on the other hand choose to manage their investments and not give employees the option.

An employee can receive distributions from the profit sharing plan once they are eligible. They have the option to choose to receive a lump sum distribution, roll the money into an individual retirement account, another employer-sponsored retirement plan or take periodic distributions in retirement.

Employees can start receiving distributions from a profit sharing plan, just like other tax-advantaged retirement plans, once they turn 59 1/2. Plan participants won't pay income taxes because the distributions are not subject to tax as they don't have to make any contributions.

Profit-Sharing Plan Requirements

Companies have a lot more flexibility when it comes to profit-sharing plans. Employers and employees need to be aware of certain requirements.


Profit-sharing plans should be made available to rank-and-file employees as well as owners/managers. However, employees who are:

  • Below the age of 21
  • Do not serve for less than one year
  • Are covered by a collective agreement
  • Are certain nonresident aliens


Every profit-sharing plan should include a formula that determines how contributions will be distributed. Companies usually allocate employees a portion of the profit equal to their compensation. Contributions are not required, but they are limited to 25% of the employee's compensation or $58,000 for 2021.


A vesting schedule can be implemented by companies before employees can receive benefits from the plan. However, it must be included in the plan document. It should also apply to all employees equally.

Nondiscrimination: Profit-sharing companies must provide benefits to rank-and-file employees as well as owners/managers. Annual testing will ensure that this is the case.

Fiduciary responsibilities

Employers have a fiduciary obligation to employees when operating a profit sharing plan. This applies regardless of whether the plan is managed by them or hired. Employers and plan managers must act in the best interests of plan participants. They must also abide to the plan documents and exercise care, prudence and skills.


Employers must keep their employees informed about the profit-sharing program, including alerting them to changes and providing individual benefits statements to help them understand the benefits that they have earned.


The federal government requires that companies offering a profit-sharing program file multiple forms. To share information about the plan's operation and details, the IRS and U.S. Department of Labor must file Form 5500 each year. To report distributions from the plan, Form 1099-R must be filed with IRS. To report deferred vested benefits to participants in a separated plan, Form 8955 -SA should also be filed with IRS

The pros and cons of a profit-sharing plan

While profit-sharing plans offer some significant benefits to both employees and employers, it is also important that each party understands the potential downsides.

Benefits of a Profit-sharing Plan

  • Employers have flexibility with profit-sharing plans because contributions are entirely discretionary.
  • Profit-sharing plans offer employees the chance to increase their retirement savings by allowing them to make no contributions.
  • Employers who offer profit-sharing plans might have a greater chance of retaining and recruiting talented employees.
  • Employees don't pay tax on profits in profit-sharing plans like other tax-advantaged retirement programs until they receive distributions during retirement.

Cons of a Profit-sharing Plan

  • Profit-sharing plans have administrative costs that can be more expensive than other retirement plans, such as SIMPLE IRAs.
  • Employers can't contribute profit-sharing plans. This gives them less control over retirement savings.
  • Employers who offer profit-sharing plans must undergo nondiscrimination testing in order to make sure they are beneficial to all employees and not just the owners or managers. This is a great benefit for employees but it can be problematic for companies who wish to offer higher benefits to highly-paid employees.

What makes a profit-sharing plan different from a 401k?

Many companies offer a 401k plan to their employees as a way to save for retirement. What is the basis of the contributions? This is what makes a difference between a profit sharing plan and a plan that 401k.

A profit-sharing plan allows the company to contribute a portion of its profits towards its employees' plans. Contributions can be made at any time. They are not required to be made every year. Employees don't contribute to the plan, and only the employer can contribute.

The 401k plan is designed to be a retirement savings tool. Employees can contribute up to $19,000.500 each year. Employees can choose to contribute money to their own retirement accounts or to another 401k plan.

Employers may contribute to the 401k plans of their employees in addition to employee contributions. Employers who do this often agree to match employees' contributions up until a certain percentage. An employer may agree to match 100% of its employees' contributions to their 401k, but not more than 3% of their salaries. They might also agree to match 50% to employees' contributions up until 6% of their salaries.

There are two options available. You don't have to choose between a profit sharing plan or a 401k. Some companies may offer both. An employer may offer a 401k plan that guarantees contributions up to a certain percent of an employee's salary. To further reward employees who contribute to the success of the company, the employer might also consider establishing a profit-sharing program.

Setting up and operating a profit-sharing plan

You might consider establishing a profit-sharing program if you are a business owner to give your employees ownership and more flexibility in contributing to their retirement plans.

These are the steps you need to take to create and manage a profit sharing plan for your business.

Step 1 – Consult a professional or financial institution.

Consult a professional or financial institution to help you create your profit-sharing plan. This person or entity will help you create the plan and help you maintain it.

Step 2 – Create a written plan

A plan document is required for every profit-sharing plan. It is important that you have a plan document in place before you start planning. If your company has hired someone to create your profit-sharing plan for you, they'll likely prepare the plan document. You can also prepare the document on your own.

Step 3 – Set up a trust to protect the plan's assets

To ensure that the funds go to the beneficiaries of a profit-sharing program, you must make contributions to a trust. You will need to select a trustee to oversee plan investments, contributions, and distributions.

Step 4 – Create a system for keeping records

For your profit-sharing plan, it is crucial that you keep accurate and complete records. You should keep track of your plan's earnings, losses and investments. You will need to compile the annual reports required by the federal government for your plan's recordkeeping system.

Step 5 – Share information about your plan with employees

Once you have set up your profit-sharing program, you must notify all eligible employees. To let employees know what the plan is all about, how it works, and their rights and benefits under it, you should prepare a summary plan description.

Step 6 – Decide who will manage your plan

You have the option of either hiring an individual or company to manage your profit-sharing plan, depending on your financial situation. It is possible to retain the services of the professional or company that set up your plan. They will manage the administration and recordkeeping and make sure that your plan is in compliance with your written plan.

7: Terminating a Profit-sharing Plan (optional).

Companies that create profit-sharing plans should be able to continue operating them for a long time. You may find that your circumstances change, and decide that a profit sharing plan isn’t right for you or that you want to move to another type of retirement plan.

You must generally amend the plan document to terminate a profit sharing plan. Notify your employees and distribute assets. Finally, file a final Form 5500 to notify federal government about termination.

The bottom line

Employers have a great opportunity to offer their employees profit-sharing plans that allow them to build wealth and save money for retirement.

Both employers and employees can benefit from these plans, as they can retain and attract talented employees and employees can save money and get rewarded for their hard work. Profit-sharing plans are just one type of retirement plan available to workers. However, they can be a valuable tool to add to any individual's or company's retirement toolbox.

You can create different plans to help you plan for retirement by using free online financial tools. The Personal Capital Retirement Planner is an interactive online tool that will help you plan your retirement. The tool is used by millions of people to help them improve their chances of a successful retirement. The Retirement Planner makes it easy to:

  • Run different scenarios in a side-by-side comparison
  • Consider the effect of large expenses on retirement
  • Your overall plan should include income sources.
  • Check out how your retirement plan would have performed in historical crashes
  • For retirement, get a spending plan

Are you ready to start your journey to retirement?

Personal Capital: Get started

Personal Capital compensates Erin Gobler ("Author"), for the content in this blog post. The maximum compensation is $500. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is not the client of this author. This blog post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal, tax or accounting advice. For specific questions, you should speak with a qualified tax or legal professional. Remember that investing comes with risk. Your investment's value will fluctuate over time, and you could lose or gain money.


By: Erin Gobler
Title: Profit-Sharing Plan
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 16 Sep 2022 19:00:13 +0000

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