If you're a government employee or work for an employer with a pension or profit - sharing plan, you have at least a partial financial program for your eventual retirement.
Good or bad, you generally have little control over the provisions of the program - you're governed by the established terms. But it's there; in most cases, you get a tax break on all or part of the funds deposited.
Thanks to recent changes in the tax laws, if you're self - employed or work for an employer who doesn't have a compulsory pension plan, you can now build your own retirement program and save tax dollars while doing it.
Keogh plans for the self - employed have been around for more than ten years. The Pension Reform Act of 1974 established a new concept - the Individual Retirement Account, or IRA.
Under the terms of that original legislation and various sweeteners in succeeding years, you are eligible for an IRA for any year in which you do not participate in a qualified government or private pension plan, a tax - deferred annuity contract (generally for school system employees), or a Keogh program.
If you quality, you can invest up to 15 per cent of your gross wages, with a maximum of $1,500 in any year, and deduct the amount invested from income on your tax return. In addition, all earnings by the IRA funds are exempt from tax until you withdraw money from the account after retirement.
Starting with the 1977 tax year, an IRA may also be established for the spouse of a qualifying worker if the spouse has no separate earnings. In this case the ceiling is raised to $1,750, but you must deposit equal amounts in each "spousal" IRA - that is, you are limited to a maximum of $875 in each (See TAX, G5, Col. 1) (TAX, From G1) account, and the combined total still don't exceed the 15 per cent limit.
You can open an IRA in an account passbook or certificate of deposit) in a bank, savings and loan association, or credit union; special government retirement bonds; a mutual fund; stocks or bonds; or an insurance annuity contract.
You may diversify your investments by setting up more than one IRA, or by establishing a trust account at a operating savings institution or broerage house. But the total invested in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] accounts cannot exceed the annual [WORD ILLEGIBLE].
In addition, you are not irrevocably summitted to any selection you make initially. You may arrange a tax-free [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of all or part of the assets of one [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to another account once every three years.
Eligibility does not depend on the entity of the employer. Thus you may change jobs and continue with the same plan, as long as you do not anticipate in a qualified program at for new place of employment.
If you do change to a job where you are covered by your employers [WORD ILLEGIBLE] plan, then you may not contribute an IRA for that tax year. However, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] funds legally deposited in the IRA during previous years when you were [WORD ILLEGIBLE] continue to accrue tax-deferred earnings.
The funds in an IRA may not normally be withdrawn until you reach the 59 1/2 without incurring a severe tax penalty, except in the event of the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] or disability of the account owner.
Generally, payments under the plan must start before you reach the age of 70 1/2. All withdrawals are taxable as ordinary income in the year received; the assumption, of course, is that you will then be retired and in a lower tax bracket. In any event, the funds have been earning compounded income over the years without reduction for current taxes, and should therefore have grown faster than after-tax dollars.
This year for the first time you need not make the IRA deposit by December 31 to qualify for the tax deduction. You can make payments into an established IRA as late as February 14, 1978 and still deduct the amout on your 1977 tax return, if you meet the requirements and the total does not exceed the specified ceiling.
Payments into an IRA can be made either in a lump sum or in small periodic payments during the year. But remember that the earlier in the year you make the accumulating tax-deferred income.
If you should overestimate your earnings for the year, you can withdraw, by the due date of your tax return, any amount over the ceiling. (You must at the same time withdraw any earnings credited to the surplus payments during the period before withdrawal.)
If you are self-employed, you may use an IRA if you meet all the requirements; but you meet all the requirements; but a Keogh retirement plan - established specifically for and available only to the self-employed - has some advantages over the IRA.
For one thing, there is no restriction with regard to participation in another pension plan. If, for example, you are a civil service worker moonlighting as a self-employed house painter on weekends, you are not eligible for an IRA - but you can have a Keogh account for the net earnings from the painting business.
As with the IRA, you are limited to 15 per cent of net earnings from self-employment. But the Keogh annual ceiling is $7,500 instead of $1,500, and you have until April 15 to place funds in an established Keogh plan and still have it apply to the preceding year.
There may be a major disadvantage to keogh, however. If you employ othersin your business, you are generally required to make payments on their behalf in order to qualify yourself. In this situation you may prefer to use the IRA despite the lower ceiling on contributions.
The other rules for a Keogh plan are similar to those for an IRA. The same types of investment media are available, and diversification in your investments is possible. Contributions may be made throughout the year or in a single lump sum. Withdrawals can't be made before age 59 1/2 (except in the event of death or disability) and must normally begin by age 70 1/2.
IRA and Keogh are "do-it-yourself" plans, and there are some precise rules for establishing either one. But most sponsoring agencies that offer these investment programs have filed master plans with the Treasury Department.
You need only use their pre-approved contract forms, then complete a relatively simple reports as a part of your fedeeral tax return each year to claim the deduction.Uncle Sam will help you build a retirement program on your own by deferring the tax bite on the dollars you put away each year for your retirement.