I'm the sole owner of an S-Corp in California. I'm an employee of the company. I need help please determining how much my company should contribution to my SEP IRA for 2020. Because of the pandemic business has been slow most of the year. My annual salary is $96k, but I could only afford to pay myself $36k. In previous years the company has maxed out the contribution to my SEP IRA (25% of my salary = $24k), but based on current 2020 W-2 earnings the max my company can contribute is $9k. I started my retirement planning late, and only began contributing to my SEP IRA a few years ago, so I really don’t want to miss out on the $24k the company has contributed annually.

My company can still contribute $24k to my SEP IRA, but to do this I need to pay myself for 2020 an additional $60k (I realize we're now in 2021, but I have until 1/15/21 to pay myself any earnings for 2020). However, this brings up some possible concerns:

  1. The company doesn't have this money now (or I would have already paid myself), but since I'm paying myself I can hold the checks until the company can afford to cover them. Based on the business already booked for 2021, there won't be enough profits to allow me to begin cashing some of these checks until the 4th quarter 2021, and the rest sometime in the 3rd quarter 2022.

  2. This will cost me ~$16k in payroll expenses just so I can contribute an additional $15k towards my SEP IRA. Does that make sense to do? I'll still need to pay taxes when I eventually withdraw the money (so actually spending ~$16k for about an additional ~$10k)?

  3. This would leave the company's cash reserves dangerously low.

  4. The company still need to be able to cover my 2021 salary IN ADDITION to the $60k I'd be paying myself now. Regardless, my company won't have profits to pay my salary until May 2021. Because of the pandemic we don't have any business scheduled until April 2021, but a busy calendar from that point on.

  5. Of course this ALL depends on what happens in the upcoming months with the pandemic. Nothing is promised. All we can do is hope things return to normal as quickly as possible. But if tight restrictions remain in place for most of the year, I won't have the profits to make this happen, or pay full salary (again).

As I'm writing each of the above points, I'm asking myself why would it do this? It seems like a lot of reasons NOT to. I just hate to miss out being able to contribute as much as possible towards my IRA, and I appreciate a fresh perspective.

Another option that might be a little safer is to still pay myself an additional amount for 2020, but less than $60k, allowing the company to still contribute more than $9k towards my SEP IRA, but possibly with not so much downside. Payroll expenses would be less, but I still wouldn't have profits until late 2021 to let me cash these checks.

Or, I can just leave my 2020 salary as-is at $36k. My company can only contribute $9k to my SEP IRA. I can always pay myself a corporate disbursement, avoid payroll expenses on this amount, and only pay personal income tax. Unfortunately, disbursements cannot be combined with W-2 income to determine Employer SEP IRA contributions.

Perhaps this last option is the best. I miss out on deferring taxes on any amount I would have paid myself now, but saving up to ~$16k in payroll expenses maybe makes up for it?

Thank you for any thoughts on this.

  • You are more likely to get a good answer if you can ask a much more concise question. I'm too lazy to read all that. :)
    – gaefan
    Jan 6 at 18:12

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