What is Profit Sharing

Profit-sharing plans can be an effective instrument for boosting retirement financial stability. These retirement savings accounts, also known as a deferred profit-sharing plan (DPSP), can be extremely beneficial to both employees and employers. Profit sharing, as the name implies, is a method for businesses to distribute a portion of their profits to their employees. Continue reading to learn more about profit sharing and how it works.

What is Profit Sharing?

Profit sharing is a type of pre-tax employee contribution plan in which employees receive a portion of a company’s profits. The profit-sharing payments are determined by:

  • Profitability of a company
  • Regular salary and bonuses for employees
  • The amount determined by the company

A profit-sharing plan (PSP) pays employees a percentage of the company’s earnings over a certain period of time (e.g., a year). In most cases, an employee receives a percentage or dollar amount of the company’s profits in cash or company shares. Many companies provide profit sharing as a retirement benefit to their employees.

If an employer does not make a profit over a given time period (e.g., a year), they are not required to contribute that year.
A PSP is typically provided by a company to assist build a sense of ownership in its employees. A small business profit-sharing plan’s purpose is to compensate employees for their contributions to the company’s success while also incentivizing employees to continue accomplishing goals.

How Does a Profit-Sharing Plan Work

This plan provides a specific proportion of profits for each employee covered by the plan. As a result, the corporation must decide how much profit will be distributed to employees covered by a profit-sharing plan. It is also vital to emphasize that only employers, companies, or organizations, not employees, can contribute to this plan.

This plan provides quarterly or annual incentives to the organization’s employees based on quarterly and annual returns, respectively. Furthermore, employees can get their part of the organization’s profit in the form of cash or shares, with the contribution going to a qualifying tax-deferred retirement account. This allows for a penalty-free distribution to employees at a certain predefined age group.

Furthermore, there are schemes in which the employee decides to leave the organization and join another. In this situation, the existing contribution is rolled over to another employer’s plan subject to a specified percentage of the previous contribution being penalized.

Types of Profit-Sharing Plans

#1. Cash Plan

At the conclusion of each year or quarter, employees covered by this plan are given cash or shares in the organization or corporation. As a result, individuals receive immediate feedback on their contributions to the company. The biggest downside of this type of plan is that the employees’ additional income is taxed as normal income.

#2. Deferred Plans

Profit-sharing is channeled into a specialized fund known as the trust fund, which pays rewards to employees at a later period, generally upon retirement. As a result, a deferred plan avoids immediate taxation on the employees’ earnings. Furthermore, the qualifying investment plan offers employees a variety of investment options. In addition, when contributions increase, so does the retirement compensation.

#3. Combination Plan

As the name implies, this plan is a hybrid of the two previously described plans, with a portion of the contribution paid in cash on a regular basis and a portion deferred into a trust fund to be paid at retirement.

Who Can Provide a Profit-sharing Plan?

Many businesses qualify to provide a profit-sharing plan, including:

  • Any size business
  • Organizations that are for-profit and nonprofit (the legal status of your corporation is unimportant)
  • Companies that can provide 401(k) plans (you can provide either a 401(k) or a profit-sharing plan—or both)
  • Companies that are profitable—or not (profitability is not required to provide this type of retirement savings plan).

The plan is available for any size firm, and it can be established even if the company already has other retirement plans. A profit-sharing plan can be implemented in a variety of ways by a corporation.

Profit-Sharing Plan Requirements

Profit-sharing plans provide businesses with a lot of leeways. Having said that, there are several standards both employers and employees should be aware of.

#1. Participation

The profit-sharing plan should be open to both rank-and-file employees and owners/managers, but employees who are:

  • Those under the age of 21
  • Have less than a year of experience
  • Are subject to a collective bargaining agreement?
  • Are some nonresident foreigners

#2. Contributions

Each profit-sharing plan should have a predetermined methodology for allocating contributions. Typically, firms assign each employee a proportion of profit equal to their percentage of remuneration. Contributions are voluntary but are limited to 25% of an employee’s salary, or $58,000 in 2021.

#3. Vesting

A vesting schedule can be implemented before an employee can profit from the plan, but it must be included in the plan document and applied equally to all employees.

#4. Nondiscrimination:

Companies that provide profit-sharing plans must provide benefits to both rank-and-file employees and owners/managers, and will be subject to annual audits to ensure this.

#5. Fiduciary obligations

Employers have a fiduciary duty to their employees while managing a profit-sharing plan, regardless of whether they manage the plan themselves or engage someone else to handle it. As a result, the employer and the individual in charge of the plan must operate only in the best interests of the plan participants, follow the plan documents, and exercise care, prudence, skill, and diligence.

#6. Disclosures

Employers must keep employees informed about the profit-sharing plan. This includes notifying them of any changes to the plan and giving individual benefits statements so employees may understand the benefits they’ve received.

#7. Reporting

Companies that provide a profit-sharing plan must file various forms with the federal government. To begin, Form 5500 is filed annually with both the IRS and the US Department of Labor in order to exchange information about the plan and its operation. To report plan distributions, Form 1099-R should be filed with the IRS. Finally, Form 8955-SA must be filed with the IRS to disclose separated plan participants’ deferred vested benefits.

The Benefits of a Profit-Sharing Plan

Employees gain immediately since it helps them to save more money. However, because these profit-sharing payments are not subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes, the net benefits to employees are significantly greater than a comparable taxable bonus. Employers may also benefit from a profit-sharing plan, especially when compared to other retirement plans.
Incentives for productivity

#1. Productivity Incentives

To begin with, a profit-sharing plan may encourage employees to be more productive. If people believe that their efforts will be rewarded, they may begin to think more like business owners.
It may also help to attract and keep skilled employees, and the effective use of a vesting schedule may encourage talent to stay for a longer period of time.

#2. Tax benefits

Employers benefit from the profit-sharing plan as well. Contributions to a profit-sharing 401(k) are tax-deductible, lowering the employer’s tax liability. According to Tsoir, employers can decide as late as September of the following year and still claim a deduction for the previous tax year.
While profit-sharing plans must undergo some yearly testing and reporting, they also “provide for vesting timelines, loan provisions, and varied eligibility restrictions that are often better than plans like a SEP IRA.

A SEP IRA, another common retirement plan option for small businesses, is simpler to set up and operate, but it compels the company to provide the same retirement benefit to all employees, providing limited flexibility. It also lacks the capacity to demand vesting, which might encourage employees to stay longer.

A SIMPLE IRA, also, provides an easier approach to setting up a retirement plan with fewer reporting requirements. It, too, provides less flexibility in terms of employer contributions and does not provide vesting. It is also worth noting that an employee’s salary contributions to a SIMPLE IRA cannot exceed $14,000 in 2022. Catch-up contributions of up to $3,000 are allowed for those over the age of 50.

So, a profit-sharing plan has certain distinct advantages over other plans, and it can be set up as an add-on to a 401(k), making that plan the primary repository for an employee’s retirement assets.

Drawbacks of a Profit-Sharing Plan

  1. Profit-sharing plans may have higher administrative costs than other retirement plans, such as SIMPLE IRAs.
  2. Employees are unable to contribute to profit-sharing plans, giving them less control over their retirement assets, particularly if the employer does not also have a 401k plan.
  3. Profit-sharing plans offered by employers are subject to nondiscrimination testing to verify that they benefit all employees, not only owners and managers. While this is beneficial to employees, it may pose a dilemma for organizations that want to provide more benefits to highly compensated employees.

Creating and Managing a Profit-Sharing Plan

If you operate a business, you may elect to implement a profit-sharing plan to give your employees a sense of ownership in the firm and to provide you greater flexibility in contributing to your employees’ retirement plans.
Here are the steps to setting up and running a profit-sharing plan in your company:

Step #1. Consult a financial institution or a professional first.

Consultation with a financial institution or specialist is the first stage in developing your company’s profit-sharing plan. This individual or entity can assist you in establishing the plan in the first plan as well as maintaining it moving forward.

Step #2: Write down your plan.

A plan document governs each profit-sharing plan. Because that document will control your plan, it is critical to have it in place from the start. If you hired someone or a corporation to set up your profit-sharing plan, they will most likely generate your plan document for you. You can also prepare the document yourself.

Step #3: Create a trust for the assets of the plan.

When you contribute to a profit-sharing plan, the money must be placed in a trust to ensure that they are distributed to the plan’s participants as promised. You must appoint a trustee to supervise plan contributions, investments, and dividends.

Step #4: Establish a record-keeping system.

Maintain detailed and accurate records for your company’s profit-sharing plan. Contributions, earnings, losses, costs, investments, and distributions should all be tracked in your recordkeeping. Your recordkeeping system will also be essential in gathering the documents needed for your plan’s annual report, which you must file with the federal government.

Step #5: Inform employees about the plan.

You must advise eligible employees about your profit-sharing plan once it has been established. To inform employees about the plan, how it works, and their benefits and rights under the plan, you should provide a concise plan description.

Step #6: Determine who will be in charge of the plan.

Depending on your situation and the size of your firm, you may choose to administer the profit-sharing plan yourself or engage someone or a company to do so for you. You have the option of continuing to manage your plan with the firm or professional who set it up. In such instances, they will handle much of the administrative and recordkeeping work, as well as ensure that your plan functions in line with the terms of your written plan instrument.

Step #7: Cancellation of a profit-sharing plan (optional)

Profit-sharing plans should, in general, be established with the purpose of continuing to operate indefinitely. However, circumstances might change and you may decide that a profit-sharing plan isn’t the best fit for you or that you want to move to another type of retirement plan.
To terminate a profit-sharing plan, you must normally change the plan contract, tell your employees, distribute the plan assets, and file a final Form 5500 to notify the federal government of the termination.

The Distinction Between a 401(k) Plan and a Profit-sharing plan

A significant distinction between a 401(k) plan and a profit-sharing plan is who contributes to the employee’s plan. In the former, the employee contributes to the plan with the plan of investing in the retirement plan, whereas in the latter, the retirement payouts merely offset the employer’s contribution.


At its foundation, the tax advantages of a profit-sharing plan provide companies with a mechanism to put more money in the hands of their employees. Perhaps more important is how a profit-sharing plan affects employee morale. Employers may find a profit-sharing plan invaluable in today’s environment if it can aid with employee happiness and retention.
If you aren’t currently a part of a profit-sharing plan, you should talk to your financial advisor about whether it makes sense for your company.


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