Safe Harbor plans

An even easier way to 401(k)

A Safe Harbor 401(k) from Guideline can help boost savings and reduce admin work. Open your plan before our August 23 deadline.

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Guideline 401(k)

Safe Harbor, explained

Safe Harbor 401(k) plans are popular because they generally satisfy IRS nondiscrimination tests. In exchange, companies must contribute to their employees’ 401(k) accounts. Get the details in our guide

  • 71% of our plans are Safe Harbor, as of May 2023

Jeri Alcock

Rose City Philanthropy

”With our Guideline Safe Harbor 401(k), we don’t have to worry about compliance. And we’re able to offer a match with quick enrollment.”

Client of Guideline. Views may not be representative of other clients.

Less work. More ways to save.

With IRS nondiscrimination testing exemptions and a company contribution, Safe Harbor plans are a benefit that can benefit everyone.

  • A visual representation of the accuracy and real-time updates of Guideline 401(k)'s real-time sync feature

    Less admin time

    Plan admin on a Guideline Safe Harbor 401(k) takes less than 30 minutes a month for most plan sponsors.

  • A visual representation of security and ease of access provided by Guideline 401(k)'s single sign-on feature.

    Maximize savings

    Everyone can get a savings boost. Highly compensated employees can max out their deferrals.

  • A visual representation of a firewall with a shield icon, symbolizing the protection and defense provided by Guideline 401(k)'s secure APIs.

    Stronger benefit

    A company contribution encourages employee participation and can help attract and retain talent.

Key dates + deadlines

Open a new plan by August 23 and start saving by October. Once the plan is set up, we’ll send 30-day notices to employees to open their account before the live date.

  • Last day to sign up

    Aug. 23, 2023

  • Notices sent

    Sep. 1, 2023

  • Plan is live

    Oct. 1, 2023

Open a new Safe Harbor 401(k) plan today and start saving this year.

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Get an all-in-one 401(k) experience

Our plans include foundational services and features — including Safe Harbor. Monthly plans start at $49, plus $8 per participant.

  • Recordkeeping
  • Government filing
  • 3(38) fiduciary
  • 3(16) fiduciary - plan admin with eligible providers
  • Payroll integrations
  • Employee onboarding + education


Estimate your plan costs

If you’re starting a new 401(k), your small business may be eligible to receive up to $16,500 in tax credits over the plan’s first three years to help offset initial plan costs.

Frequently asked questions

How is a Safe Harbor 401(k) different from a traditional 401(k)?

Unlike traditional 401(k) plans, Safe Harbor 401(k) plans get certain “safe harbor” protections and automatically satisfy most IRS nondiscrimination tests. In exchange, companies must contribute to their employees’ 401(k)

Why is nondiscrimination testing important?

Nondiscrimination testing is required by the IRS to help ensure that 401(k) plans benefit both owners and employees. But even the most well-intentioned business owner can run into trouble when sponsoring a 401(k) plan. An owner contributing too much or employees contributing too little can result in a failed test and expensive corrections.

What’s the timeline to open a new Safe Harbor plan?

Aug. 23, 2023 Last day to set up a Safe Harbor 401(k) matching plan with Guideline

Sep. 01, 2023 30-day notice sent to employees

Oct. 01, 2023 Your Safe Harbor 401(k) plan is live

What is the timeframe to adding a Safe Harbor provision to an existing 401(k)?

Nov. 20, 2023 Last day to add Safe Harbor matching provisions to your 401(k) with Guideline

Dec. 01, 2023 30-day notice sent to employees

Jan. 01, 2024 Safe Harbor matching provision takes effect for 2024

What are key dates for Safe Harbor nonelective contributions?

The deadline to add a 3% Safe Harbor nonelective provision to your 401(k) plan is Dec. 1, 2023. In order to adopt this provision, you’ll need to request an amendment by Nov. 5, 2023. If you want to add this provision to your plan after the Dec. 1 deadline, it must be at least 4%.