What Is a Keogh Plan?

What You Need to Know About Keogh Plans

Financial advisor explaining a Keogh retirement plan with client in the client's home.
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A Keogh (Key-Oh) plan is a type of retirement plan for the self-employed or unincorporated businesses. This type of plan is now called an HR-10 or qualified retirement plan. Find out what Keogh plans require and how they differ from other retirement plan options.

What Is a Keogh Plan?

A Keogh plan is a tax-deferred retirement plan for self-employed people and unincorporated businesses. Keogh plans get their name from the man who created them, Eugene Keogh. He was key in enacting the Self-Employed Individuals Tax Retirement Act of 1962. Because of his efforts, it became known as the Keogh Act.

In 2001, the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA) removed the distinction between Keoghs and other plans. Therefore, the Internal Revenue Code no longer refers to these plans as Keoghs. Instead, Keoghs are now known as HR-10s or qualified retirement plans.

A Keogh is similar to a 401(k), but the annual contribution limits are higher. Also, there is much more to administering these plans than other types.

Keoghs can be used by small businesses set up as limited liability companies (LLCs), sole proprietorships, or partnerships.

Self-employed people have other options that can be used that are not as costly to maintain. Some examples are the Simplified Employee Pensions (SEP-IRAs) or individual or solo 401(k)s. You could also choose a Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLE) for your business.

  • Alternate name: HR-10, qualified plan

How Do Keogh Plans Work?

You'll find two types of Keogh plans available; a defined contribution plan and a defined benefit plan.

Defined Contribution Plans

In a defined contribution plan, you define how much you'll place into the fund each year. There are two ways to define the amount: profit-sharing (your business is the only one that pays into it) or money purchasing (you contribute a fixed amount of your income every year into the plan).

Using a profit-sharing option, you can contribute up to $58,000 (in 2021) or up to 25% of your compensation to your plan, whichever is less. The amount you choose to contribute to a profit-sharing plan can change each year.

You can deduct 25% of the contributions you make for your employees or yourself if you're self-employed.

A money-purchase plan lets you decide at the outset the how much of your profits you can place in a Keogh. You can contribute up to 25% of your compensation. The contribution limit is fixed and can't be changed. Limits for the money-purchase plan are the same as for profit-sharing, $58,000 or 25% of compensation, whichever is less.

Defined Benefit Plans

Defined benefit plans work like normal pension plans: you set a pension goal for yourself and fund it. You can contribute up to $230,000 for 2021.

You make contributions to each type of plan on a pre-tax basis. You also pay taxes each pay period on less and have the option of taking an upfront deduction on your income tax return.

Investing in a Keogh

As with a 401(k), you can defer taxes on the money you invest in a Keogh until retirement. You can begin taking distributions at age 59.5 but no later than April 1 of the year after you reach 72.

Withdrawals made before that time are taxed federally. They may even be taxed by the state you live in. Plus, you may pay a 10% penalty for early distributions unless certain exceptions apply.

You can invest the money in a Keogh plan in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other investments.

You have to establish your qualified retirement plan before the end of the year you wish to receive the deduction. But you can make contributions for the prior year before you file your tax return by mid-April. If you file a tax extension, you have until mid-October.

Keogh Plan vs. 401(k)

Keogh vs. 401(k)
Keogh 401(k)
Contributions can be made any time before filing taxes Contributions must be made by December 31
Can contribute up to $230,000 depending on plan Can contribute up to $19,500 ($26,000 if over age 50)
Rigorous reporting Simplified reporting
Taxes deferred on earnings until distributions are taken Post-tax (Roth) contributions allowed
No loan allowed Can take out loan on the balance
Employer contributions Employer and employee contributions

Key Takeaways

  • A Keogh plan is a type of retirement savings option for self-employed people.
  • Keogh plans were created in 1962 but are now called HR-10s or qualified plans by the IRS.
  • Keoghs can be defined benefit or defined contribution plans.

The Balance does not provide tax, investment, or financial services and advice. The information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investing involves risk including the possible loss of principal.