Baseball fans and particularly Cub fans will recognize this picture of Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub”. Banks became well known for his catch phrase of, “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame… Let’s play two!” In retirement plan terms, it’s the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) telling business owners that two retirement plans can be a beautiful thing. I know, I know that this is a stretch, but I’m trying to make tax stuff interesting.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) made some important changes in the funding of defined benefit pension plans. And for the business owner seeking to increase retirement plan contributions, these changes included increasing the deduction limits when maintaining both a defined benefit plan and a defined contribution plan, i.e., 401(k) and profit sharing.

Pre-PPA employers maintaining both types of plans were subject to a combined 25% plan deduction limit. But starting in 2006, these employers were still subject to that 25% limit but could make a profit sharing contribution of up to 6% of compensation without the amount being counted towards the 25% limit. And like prior law, if  401(k) plan contributions are limited to elective deferrals only, such a plan would be excluded from the deduction calculations. So using 2008 compensation and contribution limits, a business owner could make an additional contribution of up to $34,300 for 401(k) and profit sharing.

And it gets even better for plan years starting in 2008. For employers with defined benefit plans covered by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), these plans are no longer subject to the 25% combined defined benefit/defined contribution deduction limit rules. This means that an employer with a PBGC-covered pension plan may take a deduction for the minimum funding amount even when it exceeds 25% of compensation, AND the employer may also take a deduction of up to 25% of compensation for the defined contribution plan.

And this opens the door for substantial contributions to cash balance pension plans by “professional service employers”, (law firms, accounting firms, and medical practices) with more than 25 active participants which are subject to PBGC-coverage and premiums. But that’s a topic for another day.