Types of Plans

Qualified Plans

A qualified retirement plan provides numerous benefits, including future financial stability, tax deferrals, and talent retention. 

Employer Benefits

  • Tax-deductible employer contributions
  • Plan assets grow tax-free
  • Protection from creditor’s claims
  • Attracts and retains employees

Employee Benefits

  • Reduce current taxable income
  • Contribution and investment gains are not taxed until distributed
  • Contributions easily made through payroll deductions
  • Compounding interest allows contributions to grow
  • Opportunity to improve financial security in retirement

The plans we cover below are all types of qualified plans. 

Defined Contribution Plans

Defined contribution (DC) plans are characterized by employer or employee contributions made to the plan each year. 

401(k) Plans

This plan gives eligible employees the right to elect to make contributions,  generally made through payroll deductions.  Additionally, the employer can elect to make matching contributions. In most 401(k) plans, a diverse choice of investments is provided for employees. 

Automatic Enrollment 401(k) Plans

Employees are automatically enrolled in this plan and contribute a designated percentage of their pay. Because these plans require an election not to participate, they boast much higher rates of participation. Thus, nondiscrimination testing is easier to pass, but administration and employer costs are higher for matching contributions.

Want to learn more? Read about Automatic Enrollment Options

Safe Harbor 401(k) Plans

Safe harbor plans are exempt from nondiscrimination testing in exchange for a certain level of fully vested contributions to rank-and-file employees from the employer. This contribution is either a minimum percentage of pay for all eligible employees or a required rate of matching. 

Want to learn more? Check out our Safe Harbor Plan Overview

403(b) Plans

These plans function much like a 401(k) plan, but can be offered by non-profit organizations, governmental employers, and churches. Eligible employers generally include certain charitable organizations, as well as public schools, universities, and “steeple” churches. Learn more about these plans here.

Prevailing Wage Plans

Prevailing wage plans help retain quality employees, bid jobs more competitively, and provide an opportunity for retirement savings. They include two parts – the base pay and a separate, per-hour wage, called fringe. The fringe can either be given to contractors as part of their wage in cash, OR it can be used to fund a qualified retirement plan, which make the dollars exempt from all payroll taxes. Check out our Prevailing Wage Overview for more information.

Profit Sharing Plans

In a profit sharing plan, the employer can decide to make contributions on a year-by-year basis. There is generally no minimum amount required. Each contribution is flexible based on the profit of the business that year. Additionally, these plans are often used in conjunction with 401(k) plans and are subject to IRS limits.

New Comparability Profit Sharing Plans

In new comparability plans, eligible employees are placed into different contribution tiers, so allocations are no longer a uniform percentage of employee compensation. Therefore, this enables the employer to design the plan to favor certain groups of employees by providing greater contributions to that tier. However, IRS regulations require that these allocations be tested each year to meet nondiscrimination requirements. 

Defined Benefit Plans

Defined benefit (DB) plans are characterized by the benefit paid out at retirement for participants. The employer is the sole funder for the plan and contributes each year to meet the ultimate benefit goal.

Defined Benefit Plans

Traditional Defined Benefit Plans

In these plans, the IRS often permit a range of employer contributions. This allows the employer to fund higher amounts in good times and reduce funding during leaner times.

These plans work well when the employer is looking for tax deductible contributions that exceed the limits of a defined contribution plan, as they are only limited to the amount of retirement benefit the employer can fund. In many situations, the tax-deductible contributions could be $150,000 or higher.

Cash Balance Plans

Often referred to as a “hybrid” plan, cash balance plans are DB plans that act like DC plans. Employees do not make contributions; the employer makes an annual contribution on behalf of employees. One main benefit of a cash balance plan is that the employer can save much more for retirement than with a 401(k) plan alone. The contributions for an employee can also be much higher than allowed in a profit sharing plan.

Learn more about cash balance plans by checking out our Cash Balance Overview.


Nonqualified plans are a type of arrangement employers can establish to provide benefits for a select group of employees. In these plans, the employer is agreeing to pay the employee a specified benefit upon completion of specified criteria. Qualified plans (i.e., 401(k) plans, cash balance plans) have annual compliance testing and reporting requirements that do not apply to nonqualified plans. Interested in learning more? Review our Nonqualified Plan Overview

It’s a lot.
We can help.

All the plans described above are subject to complex IRS and DOL requirements. Our team at EGPS is here to help. We help clients gain the considerable benefits and tax advantages provided by these plans and avoid regulatory pitfalls. 

We’ll navigate the maze of available options, without crushing you under details.