While you are in the midst of finishing personal tax returns, filing extensions, viewing recordkeeper’s reports, sorting through transaction ledgers amongst countless other tasks associated with the normal course of your business, it may be tough to fathom stopping to ask yourself “What other value could I be adding to my clients?” So I have done that for you! Here are a few ideas that you can immediately add to your practice that could add additional value to your client relationships.
- Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plan – If you are a CPA who works with high net worth individuals or business owners, simply mentioning the idea of a Nonqualified Deferred Compensation (NQDC) plan may be enough to spark your client’s interest. A NQDC plan is a type of savings plan that a business sets up that allows a select group of individuals to put away sums of money over and above what a traditional retirement plan allows. There are several forms of investments that a NQDC can utilize, including mutual funds and corporate owner life insurance, and you must have a plan document in place. However, as the name states because the plan is nonqualified there are not the same restrictions to contributions or participation and there is no annual compliance testing associated with this type of plan. It should be noted that NQDC plans are suitable only for regular (C) corporations. In S corporations or unincorporated entities (partnerships or proprietorships), business owners generally can’t defer taxes on their shares of business income. However, S corporations and unincorporated businesses can adopt NQDC plans for regular employees who have no ownership in the business. There are many more nuisances to a NQDC which we would be happy to help you explore if you have a client who is interested in learning more.
- Safe Harbor Features – If you audit a plan that consistently fails testing resulting in the highly compensated employees receiving refunds, it may be time for that plan to explore the options of adding a Safe Harbor feature to their plan design. A Safe Harbor 401(k) plan generally satisfies annual compliance testing. By satisfying annual compliance testing through either an approved matching formula or non-elective formula, the highly compensated employees are no longer at risk of receiving a refund of their deferral dollars. The stated Safe Harbor match formula is 100% match on the first 3% of elective deferrals and 50% match of the next 2% deferred and the stated non-elective contribution formula is equal to a contribution of 3% of eligible compensation for all eligible employees regardless of participation. In both cases, the participants must be formally notified of the Safe Harbor provision through a notice and the contributions are immediately 100% vested.
- Automatic Enrollment – Another idea that can help that plan who consistently fails compliance testing would be to suggest adding an automatic enrollment feature. In a our best case scenario of automatic enrollment, all eligible employees would be enrolled at 6% with an auto-increase feature up to 10%; but, even adding automatic enrollment at the more widely accepted 3%, the plan is taking steps to not only increase their chances of passing annual compliance testing, but also to help their employees become better prepared for retirement.
As a CPA working side-by-side on a business owner’s personal return or auditing a corporation’s benefit plans, you are in a unique position to provide guidance on areas slightly outside your scope of services that may have a meaningful impact on the retirement success of your client and further cement your already valuable relationship. The information provided on our 3 value-add ideas was brief and there are of course individual circumstances that could affect the appropriateness of the recommendations; therefore, please reach out to me if I can be of any further assistance in explaining.
Jamie Kertis, AIF®, QKA
Retirement Plan Specialist
Grinkmeyer Leonard Financial
1950 Stonegate Drive / Suite 275 /Birmingham, AL 35242
Office: 205.970.9088 / Toll-Free: 866.695.5162