What is the SEP contribution limit based on?

June 5, 2002

Subject:  SEP IRA Contributions
Date:  Thu, 2 May 2002
From:  Bryan

I am seeing conflicting information on the web about maximum precentage contributions for SEP IRAs.

I am the President of an S corporation employing two people and am curious about the percentage limit.

Your site indicates a 25% limit. Can you tell me what this is based on? I understand the IRS has announced a potential ruling to bump up this amount, but no finalization.



Date:  Mon, 3 Jun 2002

Hello Bryan,

Remember this limit is not effective for calendar year taxpayers until 2002. It was adopted as part of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, which was signed by President Bush on June 7, 2001.

I'm afraid the explanation is confusing, but a friend who is a pension attorney confirmed the reasoning.

As amended, Internal Revenue Code Section 408(j) states the maximum contribution for Simplified Employee Pension plans is based on Section 415(c)(1)(A).

According to amended Section 415(c)(1)(A), the maximum contribution to a defined contribution plan is $40,000.

According to amended Section 404(a)(3)(A)(i), the maximum deduction for an amount contributed to a profit sharing plan, such as a SEP, is limited to 25% of compensation.

To determine the SEP contribution for a self-employed person, the contribution is computed based on income after deducting the contribution amount. Therefore, the maximum self-employment income on which the maximum deduction is computed is $200,000. ($200,000 - $40,000 = $160,000. $160,000 X 25% = $40,000.)

Also remember there is a controversy because many of the states haven't conformed their retirement plan limits to the new Federal rules. California recently enacted legislation to conform, but certain taxpayers' rights groups claim the new law is invalid because it wasn't passed by more than two-thirds of the legislature.

Hopefully most of the mess will be cleaned up before tax season, 2003.

Good luck!
Mike Gray

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