Definitions You Need To Know
Certain terms used in this publication are defined below. The same term used in another publication may have a slightly different
Annual additions are the total of all your contributions in a year, employee contributions (not including rollovers),
and forfeitures allocated to
a participant's account.
Annual benefits are the benefits to be paid yearly in the form of a straight life annuity (with no extra benefits)
under a plan to which employees
do not contribute and under which no rollover contributions are made.
A business is an activity in which a profit motive is present and economic activity is involved. Service as a newspaper
carrier under age 18 or as
a public official is not a business. However, a service as a newspaper dealer or as a sharecropper under an owner-tenant arrangement
is a business.
A common-law employee is any individual who, under common law, would have the status of an employee. A leased employee
can also be a common-law
A common-law employee is a person who performs services for an employer who has the right to control and direct the
results of the work and the way
in which it is done. For example, the employer:
Common-law employees are not self-employed and cannot set up retirement plans for income from their work, even if
that income is self-employment
income for social security tax purposes. For example, common-law employees who are ministers, members of religious orders,
salespeople, and U.S. citizens employed in the United States by foreign governments cannot set up retirement plans for their
earnings from those
employments, even though their earnings are treated as self-employment income.
However, an individual may be a common-law employee and a self-employed person as well. For example, an attorney can
be a corporate common-law
employee during regular working hours and also practice law in the evening as a self-employed person. In another example,
a minister employed by a
congregation for a salary is a common-law employee even though the salary is treated as self-employment income for social
security tax purposes.
However, fees reported on Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Business, for performing marriages, baptisms, and other
personal services are
self-employment earnings for qualified plan purposes.
Compensation for plan allocations is the pay a participant received from you for personal services for a year. You
can generally define
compensation as including all the following payments.
Wages and salaries.
Fees for professional services.
Other amounts received (cash or noncash) for personal services actually rendered by an employee, including, but not limited
Commissions and tips.
For a self-employed individual, compensation means the earned income, discussed later, of that individual.
Compensation generally includes amounts deferred in the following employee benefit plans. These amounts are elective
Qualified cash or deferred arrangement (section 401(k) plan).
Salary reduction agreement to contribute to a tax-sheltered annuity (section 403(b) plan), a SIMPLE IRA plan, or a SARSEP.
Section 457 nonqualified deferred compensation plan.
Section 125 cafeteria plan.
However, an employer can choose to exclude elective deferrals under the above plans from the definition of compensation.
The limit on elective
deferrals is discussed in chapter 2 under Salary Reduction Simplified Employee Pension (SARSEP)
and in chapter 4.
In figuring the compensation of a participant, you can treat any of the following amounts as the employee's compensation.
The employee's wages as defined for income tax withholding purposes.
The employee's wages you report in box 1 of Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.
The employee's social security wages (including elective deferrals).
Compensation generally cannot include either of the following items.
Reimbursements or other expense allowances (unless paid under a nonaccountable plan).
Deferred compensation (either amounts going in or amounts coming out) other than certain elective deferrals unless you choose
not to include
those elective deferrals in compensation.
A contribution is an amount you pay into a plan for all those participating in the plan, including self-employed individuals.
Limits apply to how
much, under the contribution formula of the plan, can be contributed each year for a participant.
A deduction is the plan contributions you can subtract from gross income on your federal income tax return. Limits
apply to the amount deductible.
Earned income is net earnings from self-employment, discussed later, from a business in which your services materially
helped to produce the
You can also have earned income from property your personal efforts helped create, such as royalties from your books
or inventions. Earned income
includes net earnings from selling or otherwise disposing of the property, but it does not include capital gains. It includes
income from licensing
the use of property other than goodwill.
Earned income includes amounts received for services by self-employed members of recognized religious sects opposed
to social security benefits who
are exempt from self-employment tax.
If you have more than one business, but only one has a retirement plan, only the earned income from that business
is considered for that plan.
An employer is generally any person for whom an individual performs or did perform any service, of whatever nature,
as an employee. A sole
proprietor is treated as his or her own employer for retirement plan purposes. However, a partner is not an employer for retirement
plan purposes. The
partnership is treated as the employer of each partner.
Highly compensated employee.
A highly compensated employee is an individual who:
Owned more than 5% of the interest in your business at any time during the year or the preceding year, or
For the preceding year, received compensation from you of more than $100,000 (if the preceding year is 2006 or 2007, $105,000
preceding year is 2008) and, if you so choose, was in the top 20% of employees when ranked by compensation.
A leased employee who is not your common-law employee must generally be treated as your employee for retirement plan
purposes if he or she does all
Provides services to you under an agreement between you and a leasing organization.
Has performed services for you (or for you and related persons) substantially full time for at least 1 year.
Performs services under your primary direction or control.
A leased employee is not treated as your employee if all the following conditions are met.
Leased employees are not more than 20% of your non-highly compensated work force.
The employee is covered under the leasing organization's qualified pension plan.
The leasing organization's plan is a money purchase pension plan that has all the following provisions.
Immediate participation. (This requirement does not apply to any individual whose compensation from the leasing organization
in each plan
year during the 4-year period ending with the plan year is less than $1,000.)
Full and immediate vesting.
A nonintegrated employer contribution rate of at least 10% of compensation for each participant.
However, if the leased employee is your common-law employee, that employee will be your employee for all purposes, regardless
of any pension
plan of the leasing organization.
Net earnings from self-employment.
For SEP and qualified plans, net earnings from self-employment is your gross income from your trade or business (provided
your personal services
are a material income-producing factor) minus allowable business deductions. Allowable deductions include contributions to
SEP and qualified plans for
common-law employees and the deduction allowed for one-half of your self-employment tax.
Net earnings from self-employment do not include items excluded from gross income (or their related deductions) other
than foreign earned income
and foreign housing cost amounts.
For the deduction limits, earned income is net earnings for personal services actually rendered to the business. You
take into account the income
tax deduction for one-half of self-employment tax and the deduction for contributions to the plan made on your behalf when
figuring net earnings.
Net earnings include a partner's distributive share of partnership income or loss (other than separately stated items,
such as capital gains and
losses). It does not include income passed through to shareholders of S corporations. Guaranteed payments to limited partners
are net earnings from
self-employment if they are paid for services to or for the partnership. Distributions of other income or loss to limited
partners are not net
earnings from self-employment.
For SIMPLE plans, net earnings from self-employment is the amount on line 4 of Short Schedule SE (Form 1040), Self-Employment
subtracting any contributions made to the SIMPLE plan for yourself.
A participant is an eligible employee who is covered by your retirement plan. See the discussions of the different
types of plans for the
definition of an employee eligible to participate in each type of plan.
A partner is an individual who shares ownership of an unincorporated trade or business with one or more persons. For
retirement plans, a partner is
treated as an employee of the partnership.
An individual in business for himself or herself is self-employed. Sole proprietors and partners are self-employed.
Self-employment can include
Not everyone who has net earnings from self-employment for social security tax purposes is self-employed for qualified
plan purposes. See
earlier. Also see Net earnings from self-employment.
In addition, certain fishermen may be considered self-employed for setting up a qualified plan. See Pub. 595, Capital
Construction Fund for
Commercial Fishermen, for the special rules used to determine whether fishermen are self-employed.
A sole proprietor is an individual who owns an unincorporated business by himself or herself. For retirement plans,
a sole proprietor is treated as
both an employer and an employee.