A SIMPLE IRA, or Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees, is a way for self-employed individuals and small business employers to set up a retirement plan.
It’s one of a number of tax-advantaged retirement plans that may be available to those who are self-employed, includings solo 401(k)s, and traditional IRAs. These plans share a number of similarities. Like 401(k)s, SIMPLE IRAs are employer-sponsored, and like other IRAs they give employees some flexibility in choosing their investments.
SIMPLE IRA contribution limits are one of the main differences between accounts: meaning, how much individuals can contribute themselves, and whether there’s an employer contribution component as well.
Here’s a look at the rules for SIMPLE IRAs, and how to pair a SIMPLE IRA with a traditional or Roth IRA.
SIMPLE IRA Basics
SIMPLE IRAs are a type of employer-sponsored retirement account. Employers who want to offer one cannot have another retirement plan in place already, and they must typically have 100 employees or less.
Employers are required to contribute to SIMPLE IRA plans, while employees can elect to do so, as a way to save for retirement.
Employees can usually participate in a SIMPLE IRA if they have made $5,000 in any two calendar years before the current year, or if they expect to receive $5,000 in compensation in the current year.
An employee’s income doesn’t affect SIMPLE IRA contribution limits.
SIMPLE IRA Contribution Limits, 2021 and 2022
Employee contributions to SIMPLE IRAs are made with pre-tax dollars. They are typically taken directly from an employee’s paycheck, and they can reduce taxable income in the year the contributions are made, often reducing the amount of taxes owed.
Once deposited in the SIMPLE IRA account, contributions can be invested, and those investments can grow tax deferred until it comes time to make withdrawals in retirement. Individuals can start making withdrawals penalty free at age 59 ½. But withdrawals made before then may be subject to a 10% or 25% early withdrawal penalty.
Employee contributions are capped. For 2021, contributions cannot exceed $13,500 for most people. For 2022 it’s $14,000. Employees who are age 50 and over can make additional catch-up contributions of $3,000, bringing their total contribution limit to $16,500 for 2021, and $17,000 in 2022.
See chart below for SIMPLE IRA contribution limits for 2021 and 2022.
|Annual contribution limit||$13,500||$14,000|
|Catch-up contribution for age 50 and older||$3,000||$3,000|
Employer vs Employees Contribution Limits
Employers are required to contribute to each one of their employees’ SIMPLE plans each year, and each plan must be treated the same, including an employer’s own.
There are two options available for contributions: Employers may either make matching contributions of up to 3% of employee compensation — or they may make a 2% nonelective contribution for each eligible employee.
If an employer chooses the first option, call it option A, they have to make a dollar-for-dollar match of each employee’s contribution, up to 3% of employee compensation. (If the employer chooses option B, the nonelective contribution, this requirement doesn’t apply.) An employer can offer smaller matches, but they must match at least 1% for no more than two out of every five years.
If an employee doesn’t make a contribution to their SIMPLE account, the employer does not have to contribute either.
Now let’s consider the second option, option B: Employers can choose to make nonelective contributions of 2% of each individual employee’s compensation. If an employer chooses this option, they must make a contribution whether or not an employee makes one as well.
Contributions are limited. Employers may make a 2% contribution up to $305,000 in employee compensation for 2022 ($290,000 for 2021).
(The 3% matching contribution rule for option A is not subject to this same annual compensation limit.)
Whatever contributions employers make to their employees’ plans are tax deductible. And if you’re a sole proprietor you can deduct the employer contributions you make for yourself.
See chart below for employer contribution limits for 2021 and 2022.
|Matching contribution||Up to 3% of employee contribution||Up to 3% of employee contribution|
|Nonelective contribution||2% of employee compensation up to $290,000||2% of employee compensation up to $305,000|
SIMPLE IRA vs 401(k) Contribution Limits
There are other options for employer-sponsored retirement plans, including the 401(k), which differs from an IRA in some significant ways.
Like SIMPLE IRAs, 401(k) contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, and money in the account grows tax deferred. Withdrawals are taxed at ordinary income tax rates, and individuals can begin making them penalty-free at age 59 ½.
Contribution limits for 401(k)s are much higher than for SIMPLE IRAs. In 2022, individuals can contribute up to $20,500 each year to their 401(k) plans. Plan participants age 50 and older may make $6,500 in catch-up contributions for a total of $27,000 per year.
Employers may also choose to contribute to their employees’ 401(k) plans through matching contributions or non-elective contributions. Employees often use matching contributions to incentivize their employees to save, and individuals should try to save enough each year to meet their employer’s matching requirements.
Employers may also make nonelective contributions regardless of whether an employee has made contributions of their own. Total employee and employer contributions can equal up to $61,000 per year, or 100% of an employee’s compensation, whichever is less. For those age 50 and older, that figure jumps to $67,500.
As a result of these higher contribution limits, 401(k)s can help individuals save quite a bit more than they could with a SIMPLE IRA. See chart below for a side-by-side comparison of 401(k) and SIMPLE IRA contribution limits.
|SIMPLE IRA 2021||SIMPLE IRA 2022||401(k) 2021||401(k) 2022|
|Annual contribution limit||$13,500||$14,000||$19,500||$20,500|
|Employer Contribution||Up to 3% of employee contribution, or 2% of employee compensation up to $290,000||Up to 3% of employee contribution, or 2% of employee compensation up to $305,000||Matching and nonelective contributions up to $58,000||Matching and nonelective contributions up to $61,000.|
SIMPLE IRA vs Traditional IRA Contribution Limits
Individuals who want to save more in tax-deferred retirement accounts than they’re able to in a SIMPLE IRA alone can consider opening an IRA account. Regular IRAs come in two flavors: traditional or Roth.
When considering SIMPLE vs. traditional IRAs, the two actually work similarly. However, contribution limits for traditional accounts are quite a bit lower. For 2022, individuals can contribute $6,000, or $7,000 for those 50 and older.
That said, when paired with a SIMPLE IRA, individuals could be making $20,500 in total contributions, the same as with a 401(k).
Roth IRAs work a little bit differently.
Contributions to Roths are made with after-tax dollars. Money inside the account grows-tax free and individuals pay no income tax when they make withdrawals after age 59 ½. Early withdrawals may be subject to penalty. Because individuals pay no income tax on withdrawals in retirement, Roth IRAs may be a consideration for those who anticipate being in a higher tax bracket when they retire.
Roth contributions limits are the same as traditional IRAs. Individuals are allowed to have both Roth and traditional accounts at the same time. However, total contributions are cumulative across accounts.
(Want to learn more about IRAs? Check out these frequently asked questions.)
See chart for a look at SIMPLE IRA vs. traditional and Roth IRA contribution limits.
|SIMPLE IRA 2021||SIMPLE IRA 2022||Traditional and Roth IRA 2021 & 2022|
|Annual contribution limit||$13,500||$14,000||$6,000|
|Employer Contribution||Up to 3% of employee contribution, or 2% of employee compensation up to $290,000 for 2021||Up to 3% of employee contribution, or 2% of employee compensation up to $305,000 for 2022||None|
SIMPLE IRAs are an easy way for employers and employees to save for retirement — especially those who are self-employed (or for companies with under 100 employees). In fact, a SIMPLE IRA gives employers two ways to help employees save for retirement — by a direct matching contribution of up to 3% (assuming the employee is also contributing to their SIMPLE IRA account), or by providing a basic 2% contribution for all employees, regardless of whether the employees themselves are contributing.
While SIMPLE IRAs don’t offer the same high contribution limits that 401(k)s do, individuals who want to save more can compensate by opening a traditional or Roth IRA on their own. If you’re ready to invest in your future, you can get an easy start by opening a SoFi Invest® account. You can open an IRA or an investment account (or both). Even better: SoFi members have access to complimentary financial advice from professionals.
Photo credit: iStock/FatCamera
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Update: The deadline for making IRA contributions for tax year 2020 has been extended to May 17, 2021.