A SEP IRA is a type of traditional IRA for self-employed individuals or small business owners. (SEP stands for Simplified Employee Pension.) Any business owner with one or more employees, or anyone with freelance income, can open a SEP IRA; an employee is eligible to participate in a SEP IRA if he or she is at least 21 years old and has worked for the company in three of the last five years, and received at least $550 in compensation during the year.
SEP IRA contributions, which are tax-deductible for the business or individual, go into a traditional IRA held in the employee’s name. Employees of the business cannot contribute – the employer does. Like a traditional IRA, the money in a SEP IRA is not taxable until withdrawal.
One of the key advantages of a SEP IRA over a traditional or Roth IRA is the elevated contribution limit. For 2014, business owners can contribute up to 25% of income or $52,000, whichever is less.
As an employer, you don’t have to fund contributions every year. But when you do choose to make contributions, you must contribute not only to your own SEP IRA, but the SEP IRA of every eligible employee.