Fringe Benefits

Safe Harbor 401(k) Plans

Ella Baker
Safe Harbor
Reading time 3 Mins
Published on Sep 20

What is a Safe Harbor 401(k)?

A Safe Harbor plan differs from a traditional 401(k) in that it is generally not subject to Actual Deferral Percentage (ADP) and Actual Contribution Percentage (ACP) testing. These tests are two types of required annual nondiscrimination tests that 401(k) plans must pass to keep their qualified status under IRS rules and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

In addition, if your plan is Top-Heavy, a Safe Harbor plan design may automatically satisfy the Top-Heavy requirements. Top-Heavy rules help ensure that lower paid employees receive a minimum benefit. Plans are Top-Heavy when the total value of the plan accounts of key employees is more than 60 percent of the total value of the plan assets.

A Safe Harbor 401(k) allows for your plan to be structured in a way that automatically passes the non-discrimination test. Employers must make contributions to each employee’s plan that is the same percentage of salary for every employee. The match amount will depend on your own contributions to the plan as a business owner. Additionally, long vesting schedules are not allowed with Safe Harbor plans.

Plan design highlights

A Safe Harbor plan allows the highly compensated employees to defer the maximum contribution and avoid corrective distributions regardless of the participation from the non-highly compensate employees.

A Safe Harbor plan may be exempt from Top-Heavy rules. Your Sheakley Retirement and 401(k) representative will be able to help you determine if your plan is exempt.

A Safe Harbor plan requires a contribution on the employer’s part. The employer will need to determine which Safe Harbor Contribution Formula is best for them. There is a matching contribution that which is 100% of the employee’s deferrals up to 3% of compensation and 50% of the employee’s deferrals on the next 2% of compensation. This only needs to be made for employees deferring to the plan. An alternative is the 3% of compensation Non-Elective Safe Harbor which is given to all eligible participants including those not deferring.

No Service or Hours Requirement for eligible employees are allowed with Safe Harbor plans. Once an employee is eligible for the plan, the allocation of a Safe Harbor contribution cannot be restricted based on hours worked or a last day rule.

Safe Harbor Contributions are Fully Vested. All Safe Harbor contributions are 100% vested. Any non-safe harbor contributions made to a Safe Harbor Plan can be made subject to vesting.

Sheakley and your Safe Harbor 401(k)

Sheakley Retirement provides health reimbursement account plans and support for small to medium-size employers. Sheakley’s Retirement and 401(k) experts can help you determine if your plan could benefit from a Safe Harbor Plan design.

Schedule your free consultation with a Sheakley Retirement professional today. For more in-depth information about HRAs, download our Health Reimbursement Account whitepaper today. Stay up-to-date on all things Sheakley by subscribing to our blog and following us on social media. Join in the discussion by commenting below.

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