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403(b) vs Roth IRA: Key Differences and How to Choose

What’s the Difference Between a 403(b) and a Roth IRA?

A 403(b) and a Roth IRA account are both tax-advantaged retirement plans, but they are quite different — especially regarding the amount you can contribute annually, and the tax implications for each.

Generally speaking, a 403(b) allows you to save more, and your taxable income is reduced by the amount you contribute to the plan (potentially lowering your tax bill). A Roth IRA has much lower contribution limits, but because you’re saving after-tax money, it grows tax free — and you don’t pay taxes on the withdrawals.

In some cases, you may not need to choose between a Roth IRA vs. a 403(b) — the best choice may be to contribute to both types of accounts. In order to decide, it’s important to consider how these accounts are structured and what the rules are for each.

Comparing How a 403(b) and a Roth IRA Work

When it comes to a 403(b) vs Roth IRA, the two are very different.

A 403(b) account is quite similar to a 401(k), as both are tax-deferred types of retirement plans and have similar contribution limits. A Roth IRA, though, follows a very different set of rules.

403(b) Overview

Similar to a 401(k), a 403(b) retirement plan is a tax-deferred account sponsored by an individual’s employer. An individual may contribute a portion of their salary and also receive matching contributions from their employer.

An employee’s contributions are deducted — this is known as a salary reduction contribution and deposited in the 403(b) pre-tax, where they grow tax-free, until retirement (which is why these accounts are called “tax deferred”). Individuals then withdraw the funds, and pay ordinary income tax at their current rate.

Although 403(b) accounts share some features with 401(k)s, there are some distinctions.

Eligibility

The main difference between 403(b) and 401(k) accounts is that 401(k)s are offered by for-profit businesses and 403(b)s are only available to employees of:

•   Public schools, including public colleges and universities

•   hurches or associations of churches

•   Tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organizations

Early Withdrawals

Typically, individuals face a 10% penalty if they withdraw their money before age 59 ½. Exceptions apply in some circumstances. Be sure to consult with your plan sponsor about the rules.

Contribution Limits and Rules

There are also some different contribution rules for 403(b) accounts. The cap for a 403(b) is the same as it is for a 401(k): $23,000 in 2024 and $22,500 in 2023. And if you’re 50 or older you can also make an additional catch-up contribution of up to $7,500 in 2024 and 2023.

In the case of a 403(b), though, if it’s permitted by the 403(b) plan, participants with at least 15 years of service with their employer can make another catch-up contribution above the annual limit, as long as it’s the lesser of the following options:

•   $15,000, reduced by the amount of employee contributions made in prior years because of this rule

•   $5,000, times the number of years of service, minus the employee’s total contributions from previous years

•   $3,000

The wrinkle here is that if you’re over 50, and you have at least 15 years of service, you must do the 15-year catch-up contribution first, before you can take advantage of the 50-plus catch-up contribution of up to $7,500.

Roth IRA Overview

Roth IRAs are different from tax-deferred accounts like 403(b)s, 401(k)s, and other types of retirement accounts. With all types of Roth accounts — including a Roth 401(k) and a Roth 403(b) — you contribute after-tax money. And when you withdraw the money in retirement, it’s tax free.

Eligibility

Unlike employer-sponsored retirement plans, Roth IRAs fall under the IRS category of “Individual Retirement Arrangements,” and thus are set up and managed by the individual. Thus, anyone with earned income can open a Roth IRA through a bank, brokerage, or other financial institution that offers them.

Contribution Limits and Rules

Your ability to contribute to a Roth, however, is limited by your income level.

•   For 2024, if you’re married filing jointly, you can contribute the maximum to a Roth if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is less than $230,000. If your income is between $230,000 and $240,000 you can contribute a reduced amount.

•   For single filers in 2024, your income must be less than $146,000 to contribute the maximum to a Roth, with reduced contributions up to $161,000.

•   For 2023, if you’re married filing jointly, you can contribute the maximum to a Roth if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is less than $218,000. If your income is between $218,000 and $228,000 you can contribute a reduced amount.

•   For single filers in 2023, your income must be less than $138,000 to contribute the maximum to a Roth, with reduced contributions up to $153,000.

Boost your retirement contributions with a 1% match.

SoFi IRAs now get a 1% match on every dollar you deposit, up to the annual contribution limits. Open an account today and get started.


Only offers made via ACH are eligible for the match. ACATs, wires, and rollovers are not included.

Roth 403(b) vs Roth IRA: Are They the Same?

No. A Roth 403(b) does adhere to the familiar Roth structure — the individual makes after-tax contributions, and withdraws their money tax free in retirement — but otherwise these accounts are similar to regular 403(b)s.

•   The annual contribution limits are the same: $23,000 with a catch-up contribution of $7,500 for those 50 and older for 2024; $22,500 with a catch-up contribution of $7,500 for those 50 and older for 2023.

•   There are no income limits for Roth 403(b) accounts.

Also, a Roth 403(b) is like a Roth 401(k) in that both these accounts are subject to required minimum distribution rules (RMDs), whereas a regular Roth IRA does not have RMDs.

One possible workaround: You may be able to rollover a Roth 403(b)/401(k) to a Roth IRA — similar to the process of rolling over a regular 401(k) to a traditional IRA when you leave your job or retire.

That way, your nest egg wouldn’t be subject to 401(k) RMD rules.

Finally, another similarity between Roth 403(b) and 401(k) accounts: Even though the money you deposit is after tax, any employer matching contributions are not; they’re typically made on a pre-tax basis. So, you must pay taxes on those matching contributions and earnings when taking retirement withdrawals. (It sounds like a headache, but your employer deposits those contributions in a separate account, so it’s relatively straightforward to know which withdrawals are tax free and which require you to pay taxes.)


💡 Quick Tip: Investment fees are assessed in different ways, including trading costs, account management fees, and possibly broker commissions. When you set up an investment account, be sure to get the exact breakdown of your “all-in costs” so you know what you’re paying.

Which Is Better, a 403(b) or Roth IRA?

It’s not a matter of which is “better” — as discussed above, the accounts are quite different. Deciding which one to use, or whether to combine both as part of your plan, boils down to your tax and withdrawal strategies for your retirement.

To make an informed decision about which retirement plan is right for you, it can be helpful to conduct a side-by-side comparison of both plans. This chart breaks down some of the main differences, giving you a better understanding of these types of retirement plans, so that you can weigh the pros and cons of a Roth IRA vs. 403(b).

403(b)

Roth IRA

Who can participate? Employees of the following types of organizations:

•   Public school systems, if involved in day-to-day operations

•   Public schools operated by Indian tribal governments

•   Cooperative hospitals and

•   Civilian employees of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

•   Certain ministers and chaplains

•   Tax-exempt charities established under IRC Section 501(c)(3)

Individuals earning less than the following amounts:

•   Single filers earning less than $146,000 for 2024 (those earning $146,000 or more but less than $161,000 may contribute a reduced amount)

•   Married joint filers earning less than $230,000 for 2024 (those earning $230,000 or more but less than $240,000 may contribute a reduced amount)

•   Single filers earning less than $138,000 for 2023 (those earning $138,000 or more but less than $153,000 may contribute a reduced amount)

•   Married joint filers earning less than $218,000 for 2023 (those earning $218,000 or more but less than $228,000 may contribute a reduced amount)

Are contributions tax deductible? Yes No
Are qualified distributions taxed? Yes No (if not qualified, distribution may be taxable in part)
Annual individual contribution limit $23,000 for 2024 (plus catch-up contributions of $7,500 for those 50 and older)

$22,500 for 2023 (plus catch-up contributions up to $7,500 for those age 50 and older)

$7,000 for 2024 (individuals 50 and older may contribute $8,000)

$6,500 for 2023 (individuals 50 and older may contribute $7,500)

Are early withdrawals allowed? Depends on individual plan terms and may be subject to a 10% penalty Yes, though account earnings may be subject to a 10% penalty if funds are withdrawn before account owner is 59 ½
Plan administered by Employer The individual’s chosen financial institution
Investment options Employee chooses based on investments available through the plan Up to the individual, though certain types of investments (collectibles, life insurance) are prohibited
Fees Varies depending on plan terms and investments Varies depending on financial institution and investments
Portability As with other employee-sponsored plans, individual must roll their account into another fund or cash out when switching employers Yes
Subject to RMD rules Yes No

Pros and Cons of a 403(b) and a Roth IRA

There are positives to both a 403(b) and a Roth IRA — and because it’s possible for qualified individuals to open a Roth IRA and a 403(b), some people may decide that their best strategy is to use both. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of a 403(b) vs. a Roth IRA:

403(b)

Roth IRA

Pros

•   Contributions are automatically deducted from your paycheck

•   Earning less during retirement may mean an individual pays less in taxes

•   Employer may offer matching contributions

•   Higher annual contribution limit than a Roth IRA

•   More investment options to choose from

•   Withdrawal of contributions are not taxed; withdrawal of earnings are not taxed under certain conditions and/or after age 59 ½

•   Account belongs to the owner

Cons

•   May have limited investment options

•   May charge high fees

•   There may be a 10% penalty on funds withdrawn before age 59 ½

•   Has an income limit

•   Maximum contribution amount is low

•   Contributions aren’t tax deductible

Pros of 403(b)

•   Contributions are automatically deducted by an employer from the individual’s paycheck, which can make it easier to save.

•   If an individual earns less money annually in retirement than during their working years, deferring taxes may mean they ultimately pay less in taxes.

•   Some employers offer matching contributions, meaning for every dollar an employee contributes, the employer may match some or all of it, up to a certain percentage.

•   Higher annual contribution limit than a Roth IRA.

Pros of Roth IRAs

•   Individuals can invest with any financial institution and thus will likely have many more investment options when opening up their Roth IRA.

•   Withdrawal of contributions are not taxed; withdrawal of earnings are not taxed under certain conditions and/or after age 59 ½.

•   Account belongs to the owner and is not affected if the individual changes jobs.

There are also some disadvantages to both types of accounts, however.


💡 Quick Tip: How much does it cost to set up an IRA? Often there are no fees to open an IRA, but you typically pay investment costs for the securities in your portfolio.

Cons of 403(b)s

•   There are limited investment options with 403(b)s.

•   Some 403(b) plans charge high fees.

•   Individuals typically pay a 10% penalty on funds withdrawn before age 59 ½. However, there may be some exceptions under the rule of 55 for retirement.

Cons of Roth IRAs

•   There’s an income limit to a Roth IRA, as discussed above.

•   The maximum contribution amount is fairly low.

•   Contributions are not tax deductible.

Choosing Between a Roth IRA and 403(b)

When considering whether to fund a 403(b) account or a Roth IRA, there’s no right choice, per se — the correct answer boils down to which approach works for you. You might prefer the automatic payroll deductions, the ability to save more, and, if it applies, the employer match of a 403(b).

Or you might gravitate toward the more independent setup of your own Roth IRA, where you have a wider array of investment options and greater flexibility around withdrawals (Roth contributions can be withdrawn at any time, although earnings can’t).

Or it might come down to your tax strategy: It may be more important for you to save in a 403(b), and reduce your taxable income in the present. Conversely, you may want to contribute to a Roth IRA, despite the lower contribution limit, because withdrawals are tax free in retirement.

Really, though, it’s possible to have the best of both worlds by investing in both types of accounts, as long as you don’t exceed the annual contribution limits.

Investing With SoFi

Because 403(b)s and Roth IRAs are complementary in some ways (one being tax-deferred, the other not), it’s possible to fund both a 403(b) and a Roth IRA.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here.)

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

Which is better: a 403(b) or a Roth IRA?

Neither plan is necessarily better. A 403(b) and a Roth IRA are very different types of accounts. A 403(b) has automatic payroll deductions, the possibility of an employer match, and your contributions are tax deductible. A Roth IRA gives you more control, a greater choice of investment options, and the ability to withdraw contributions (but not earnings) now, plus tax free withdrawals in retirement. It can actually be beneficial to have both types of accounts, as long as you don’t exceed the annual contribution limits.

Should you open a Roth IRA if you have a 403(b)?

You can open a Roth IRA if you have a 403(b). In fact it may make sense to have both, since each plan has different advantages. You may get an employer match with a 403(b), for instance, and your contributions are tax deductible. A Roth IRA gives you more investment options to choose from and tax-free withdrawals in retirement. In the end, it really depends on your personal financial situation and preference. Be sure to weigh all the pros and cons of each plan.

When should you convert your 403(b) to a Roth IRA?

If you are leaving your job or you’re at least 59 ½ years old, you may want to convert your 403(b) to a Roth IRA to avoid taking the required minimum distributions (RMDs) that come with pre-tax plans starting at age 73. However, because you are moving pre-tax dollars to a post-tax account, you’ll be required to pay taxes on the money. Speak to a financial advisor to determine whether converting to a Roth IRA makes sense for you and ways you may be able to minimize your tax bill.


SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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What Is a Non-Deductible IRA?

What Is a Non-Deductible IRA?

A non-deductible IRA is an IRA, or IRA contributions, that cannot be deducted from your income. While contributions to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible, non-deductible IRA contributions offer no immediate tax break.

In both cases, though, contributions grow tax free over time — and in the case of a non-deductible IRA, you wouldn’t owe taxes on the withdrawals in retirement.

Why would you open a non-deductible IRA? If you meet certain criteria, such as your income is too high to allow you to contribute to a traditional IRA or Roth IRA, a non-deductible IRA might help you increase your retirement savings.

It helps to understand how non-deductible contributions work, what the rules and restrictions are, as well as the potential advantages and drawbacks.

Who Is Eligible for a Non-Deductible IRA?

Several factors determine whether an individual is ineligible for a traditional IRA, and therefore if their contributions could fund a non-deductible IRA. These include an individual’s income level, tax-filing status, and access to employer-sponsored retirement plans (even if the individual or their spouse don’t participate in such a plan).

If you and your spouse do not have an employer plan like a 401(k) at work, there are no restrictions on fully funding a regular, aka deductible, IRA. You can contribute up to $7,000 in 2024; $8,000 if you’re 50 and older. In 2023, you can contribute up to $6,500; $7,500 if you’re 50 or older. And those contributions are tax deductible.

However, if you’re eligible to participate in an employer-sponsored plan, or if your spouse is, then the amount you can contribute to a deductible IRA phases out — in other words, the amount you can deduct gets smaller — based on your income:

•   For single filers/head of household: the 2024 contribution amount is reduced if you earn more than $77,000 and less than $87,000. Above $87,000 you can only contribute to a non-deductible IRA. (For 2023, the phaseout begins when you earn more than $73,000 and less than $83,000. If you earn more than $83,000, you can’t contribute to a traditional IRA.)

•   For married, filing jointly:

◦   If you have access to a workplace plan, the phaseout for 2024 is when you earn more than $123,00 and less than $143,000. (For 2023, the phaseout is when you earn more than $116,000, but less than $136,000.)

◦   If your spouse has access to a workplace plan, the 2024 phaseout is when you earn more than $230,000 and less than $240,000. (For 2023, the phaseout is when you earn more than $218,000 but less than $228,000.)

💡 Quick Tip: Before opening any investment account, consider what level of risk you are comfortable with. If you’re not sure, start with more conservative investments, and then adjust your portfolio as you learn more.

Boost your retirement contributions with a 1% match.

SoFi IRAs now get a 1% match on every dollar you deposit, up to the annual contribution limits. Open an account today and get started.


Only offers made via ACH are eligible for the match. ACATs, wires, and rollovers are not included.

Non-Deductible IRA Withdrawal Rules

The other big difference between an ordinary, deductible IRA and a non-deductible IRA is how withdrawals are taxed after age 59 ½. (IRA withdrawals prior to that may be subject to an early withdrawal penalty.)

•   Regular (deductible) IRA: Contributions are made pre-tax. Withdrawals after 59 ½ are taxed at the individual’s ordinary income rate.

•   Non-deductible IRA: Contributions are after tax (meaning you’ve already paid tax on the money). Withdrawals are therefore not taxed, because the IRS can’t tax you twice.

To make sure of this, you must report non-deductible IRA contributions on your tax return, and you use Form 8606 to do so. Form 8606 officially documents that some or all of the money in your IRA has already been taxed and is therefore non-deductible. Later on, when you take distributions, a portion of those withdrawals will not be subject to income tax.

If you have one single non-deductible IRA, then the process is similar to a Roth IRA. You deposit money you’ve paid taxes on, and your withdrawals are tax free.

It gets more complicated when you mix both types of contributions — deductible and non-deductible — in a single IRA account.

Here’s an example of different IRA withdrawal rules:

Let’s say you qualified to make deductible IRA contributions for 10 years, and now you have $50,000 in a regular IRA account. Then, your situation changed — perhaps your income increased — and now only 50% of the money you deposit is deductible; the other half is non-deductible.

You contribute another $50,000 in the next 10 years, but only $25,000 is deductible; $25,000 is non-deductible. You diligently record the different types of contributions using Form 8606, so the IRS knows what’s what.

When you’re ready to retire, the total balance in the IRA is $100,000, but only $25,000 of that was non-deductible (meaning, you already paid tax on it). So when you withdraw money in retirement, you’ll owe taxes on three-quarters of that money, but you won’t owe taxes on one quarter.

Contribution Limits and RMDs

There are limits on the amount that you can contribute to an IRA each year, and deductible and non-deductible IRA account contributions have the same contribution caps. People under 50 years old can contribute up to $7,000 for 2024, and those over 50 can contribute $8,000 per year. People under 50 years old can contribute up to $6,500 for 2023, and those over 50 can contribute $7,500 per year.

IRA account owners are required to start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs), similar to a 401(k), from their account once they turn 73 years old. Prior to that, account holders can take money out of their account between ages 59 ½ and 73 without any early withdrawal penalty.

Individuals can continue to contribute to their IRA at any age as long as they still meet the requirements.

Benefits and Risks of Non-Deductible IRA

While there are benefits to putting money into a non-deductible IRA, there are some risks that individuals should be aware of as well.

Benefits

There are several reasons you might choose to open a non-deductible IRA. In some cases, you can’t make tax-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA, so you need another retirement savings account option. Though your contributions aren’t deductible in the tax year you make them, funds in the IRA that earn dividends or capital gains are not taxed, because the government doesn’t tax retirement savings twice.

Another reason people use non-deductible IRAs is as a stepping stone to a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs also have income limits, but they come with additional choices. High income earners can start by contributing funds to a non-deductible IRA, then convert that IRA into a Roth IRA. This is called a backdoor Roth IRA.

One thing to keep in mind with a backdoor Roth is that the conversion may not be entirely tax free. If an IRA account is made up of a combination of deductible and non-deductible contributions, when it gets converted into a Roth account some of those funds would be taxable.

Risks

The primary benefits of non-deductible IRAs come when used to later convert into a Roth IRA. It can be risky to keep a non-deductible IRA ongoing, especially if it’s made up of both deductible and non-deductible contributions, which can be tricky to keep track of for tax purposes. You can keep a blended IRA, it just takes more work to keep track of the amounts that are taxable.

As noted above, it requires dividing non-deductible contributions by the total contributions made to all IRAs one has in order to figure out the amount of after-tax contributions that have been made.

Non-Deductible IRA vs Roth IRA

With a non-deductible IRA, you contribute funds after you’ve paid taxes on that money, and therefore you’re not able to deduct the contributions from your income tax. The contributions that you make to the non-deductible IRA earn non-taxable interest while they are in the account. The money isn’t taxed when it is withdrawn later.

Roth IRA contributions are similarly made with after-tax money and one can’t get a tax deduction on them. Also, a Roth IRA allows an individual to take out tax-free distributions during retirement.

Unlike other types of retirement accounts, a Roth IRA doesn’t require the account holder to take out a minimum distribution amount.

There are income limits on Roth IRAs, so some high-income earners may not be able to open this type of account. The non-deductible IRA is one way to get around this rule, because an individual can start out with a non-deductible IRA and convert it into a Roth IRA.

How Can I Tell If a Non-Deductible IRA Is the Right Choice?

Non-deductible IRAs can be a way for high-income savers to make their way into a backdoor Roth account. This strategy can help them reduce the amount of taxes they owe on their savings. However, they may not be the best type of account for long-term savings or lower-income savers.

The Takeaway

For many people, contributing to an ordinary IRA is a clearcut proposition: You deposit pre-tax money, and the amount can be deducted from your income for that year. Things get more complicated, however, for higher earners who also have access (or their spouse has access) to an employer-sponsored plan like a 401(k) or 403(b). In that case, you may no longer qualify to deduct all your IRA contributions; some or all of that money may become non-deductible. That means you deposit funds post tax and you can’t deduct it from your income tax that year.

In either case, though, all the money in the IRA would grow tax free. And the upside, of course, is that with a non-deductible IRA the withdrawals are also tax free. With a regular IRA, because you haven’t paid taxes on your contributions, you owe tax when you withdraw money in retirement.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Help grow your nest egg with a SoFi IRA.


Photo credit: iStock/Drazen Zigic

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

SOIN0124129

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SIMPLE IRA Contribution Limits for Employers & Employees

SIMPLE IRA Contribution Limits for Employers & Employees

A SIMPLE IRA, or Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees, is a way for self-employed individuals and small business employers to set up a retirement plan.

It’s one of a number of tax-advantaged retirement plans that may be available to those who are self-employed, along with solo 401(k)s, and traditional IRAs. These plans share a number of similarities. Like 401(k)s, SIMPLE IRAs are employer-sponsored (if you’re self-employed, you would be the employer in this case), and like other IRAs they give employees some flexibility in choosing their investments.

SIMPLE IRA contribution limits are one of the main differences between accounts: meaning, how much individuals can contribute themselves, and whether there’s an employer contribution component as well.

Here’s a look at the rules for SIMPLE IRAs.

SIMPLE IRA Basics

SIMPLE IRAs are a type of employer-sponsored retirement account. Employers who want to offer one cannot have another retirement plan in place already, and they must typically have 100 employees or less.

Employers are required to contribute to SIMPLE IRA plans, while employees can elect to do so, as a way to save for retirement.

Employees can usually participate in a SIMPLE IRA if they have made $5,000 in any two calendar years before the current year, or if they expect to receive $5,000 in compensation in the current year.

An employee’s income doesn’t affect SIMPLE IRA contribution limits.


💡 Quick Tip: Investment fees are assessed in different ways, including trading costs, account management fees, and possibly broker commissions. When you set up an investment account, be sure to get the exact breakdown of your “all-in costs” so you know what you’re paying.

SIMPLE IRA Contribution Limits, 2023 and 2024

Employee contributions to SIMPLE IRAs are made with pre-tax dollars. They are typically taken directly from an employee’s paycheck, and they can reduce taxable income in the year the contributions are made, often reducing the amount of taxes owed.

Once deposited in the SIMPLE IRA account, contributions can be invested, and those investments can grow tax deferred until it comes time to make withdrawals in retirement. Individuals can start making withdrawals penalty free at age 59 ½. But withdrawals made before then may be subject to a 10% or 25% early withdrawal penalty.

Employee contributions are capped. For 2023, contributions cannot exceed $15,500 for most people. For 2024, it’s $16,000. Employees who are age 50 and over can make additional catch-up contributions of $3,500 for 2023 and 2024, bringing their total contribution limit to $19,000 in 2023 and $19,500 in 2024.

See the chart below for SIMPLE IRA contribution limits for 2023 and 2024.

2023

2024

Annual contribution limit $15,500 $16,000
Catch-up contribution for age 50 and older $3,500 $3,500

Boost your retirement contributions with a 1% match.

SoFi IRAs now get a 1% match on every dollar you deposit, up to the annual contribution limits. Open an account today and get started.


Only offers made via ACH are eligible for the match. ACATs, wires, and rollovers are not included.

Employer vs Employee Contribution Limits

Employers are required to contribute to each one of their employees’ SIMPLE plans each year, and each plan must be treated the same, including an employer’s own.

There are two options available for contributions: Employers may either make matching contributions of up to 3% of employee compensation — or they may make a 2% nonelective contribution for each eligible employee.

If an employer chooses the first option, call it option A, they have to make a dollar-for-dollar match of each employee’s contribution, up to 3% of employee compensation. (If the employer chooses option B, the nonelective contribution, this requirement doesn’t apply.) An employer can offer smaller matches, but they must match at least 1% for no more than two out of every five years.

In option A, if an employee doesn’t make a contribution to their SIMPLE account, the employer does not have to contribute either.

In the second option, option B: Employers can choose to make nonelective contributions of 2% of each individual employee’s compensation. If an employer chooses this option, they must make a contribution whether or not an employee makes one as well.

Contributions are limited. Employers may make a 2% contribution up to $330,000 in employee compensation for 2023, and up to $345,000 in employee compensation for 2024.

(The 3% matching contribution rule for option A is not subject to this same annual compensation limit.)

Whatever contributions employers make to their employees’ plans are tax deductible. And if you’re a sole proprietor you can deduct the employer contributions you make for yourself.

See the chart below for employer contribution limits for 2023 and 2024.

2023

2024

Matching contribution Up to 3% of employee contribution Up to 3% of employee contribution
Nonelective contribution 2% of employee compensation up to $330,000 2% of employee compensation up to $345,000

SIMPLE IRA vs 401(k) Contribution Limits

There are other options for employer-sponsored retirement plans, including the 401(k), which differs from an IRA in some significant ways.

Like SIMPLE IRAs, 401(k) contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, and money in the account grows tax deferred. Withdrawals are taxed at ordinary income tax rates, and individuals can begin making them penalty-free at age 59 ½.

Contribution limits for 401(k)s are much higher than for SIMPLE IRAs. In 2023, individuals could contribute up to $22,500 to their 401(k) plans. Plan participants age 50 and older could make $7,500 in catch-up contributions for a total of $30,000 per year. In 2024, individuals can contribute $23,000 to their 401(k), and those 50 and older can make $7,500 in catch-up contributions for a total of $30,500.

Employers may also choose to contribute to their employees’ 401(k) plans through matching contributions or non-elective contributions. Employees often use matching contributions to incentivize their employees to save, and individuals should try to save enough each year to meet their employer’s matching requirements.

Employers may also make nonelective contributions regardless of whether an employee has made contributions of their own. Total employee and employer contributions could equal up to $66,000 in 2023, or 100% of an employee’s compensation, whichever is less. For those aged 50 and older, that figure jumped to $73,500. In 2024, total employee and employer contributions are $69,000, or $76,500 for those 50 and up.

As a result of these higher contribution limits, 401(k)s can help individuals save quite a bit more than they could with a SIMPLE IRA. See chart below for a side-by-side comparison of 401(k) and SIMPLE IRA contribution limits.

SIMPLE IRA 2023

SIMPLE IRA 2024

401(k) 2023

401(k) 2024

Annual contribution limit $15,500 $16,000 $22,500

$23,000

Catch-up contribution $3,500 $3,500 $7,500

$7,500

Employer Contribution Up to 3% of employee contribution, or 2% of employee compensation up to $330,000 Up to 3% of employee contribution, or 2% of employee compensation up to $345,000 Matching and nonelective contributions up to $66,000

Matching and nonelective contributions up to $69,000.




💡 Quick Tip: The advantage of opening a Roth IRA and a tax-deferred account like a 401(k) or traditional IRA is that by the time you retire, you’ll have tax-free income from your Roth, and taxable income from the tax-deferred account. This can help with tax planning.

SIMPLE IRA vs Traditional IRA Contribution Limits

Individuals who want to save more in tax-deferred retirement accounts than they’re able to in a SIMPLE IRA alone can consider opening an IRA account. Regular IRAs come in two flavors: traditional and Roth IRA.

Traditional IRAs

When considering SIMPLE vs. traditional IRAs, the two actually work similarly. However, contribution limits for traditional accounts are quite a bit lower. For 2023, individuals could contribute $6,500, or $7,500 for those 50 and older. In 2024, individuals can contribute $7,000, or $8,000 for those 50 and older.

That said, when paired with a SIMPLE IRA, individuals could make $22,000 in total contributions in 2023, which is almost as much as with a 401(K). In 2024, they could make $23,000 in total contributions, which is the same as a 401(k).

Roth IRAs

Roth IRAs work a little bit differently.

Contributions to Roths are made with after-tax dollars. Money inside the account grows-tax free and individuals pay no income tax when they make withdrawals after age 59 ½. Early withdrawals may be subject to penalty. Because individuals pay no income tax on withdrawals in retirement, Roth IRAs may be a consideration for those who anticipate being in a higher tax bracket when they retire.

Roth contributions limits are the same as traditional IRAs. Individuals are allowed to have both Roth and traditional accounts at the same time. However, total contributions are cumulative across accounts.

See the chart for a look at SIMPLE IRA vs. traditional and Roth IRA contribution limits.

SIMPLE IRA 2023 SIMPLE IRA 2024 Traditional and Roth IRA 2023 Traditional and Roth IRA 2024
Annual contribution limit $15,500 $16,000 $6,500 $7,000
Catch-up contribution $3,500 $3,500 $1,000 $1,000
Employer Contribution Up to 3% of employee contribution, or 2% of employee compensation up to $330,000 Up to 3% of employee contribution, or 2% of employee compensation up to $345,000 None None

The Takeaway

SIMPLE IRAs are an easy way for employers and employees to save for retirement — especially those who are self-employed (or for companies with under 100 employees). In fact, a SIMPLE IRA gives employers two ways to help employees save for retirement — by a direct matching contribution of up to 3% (assuming the employee is also contributing to their SIMPLE IRA account), or by providing a basic 2% contribution for all employees, regardless of whether the employees themselves are contributing.

While SIMPLE IRAs don’t offer the same high contribution limits that 401(k)s do, individuals who want to save more can compensate by opening a traditional or Roth IRA on their own.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Help grow your nest egg with a SoFi IRA.

Photo credit: iStock/FatCamera


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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401(k) Catch-Up Contributions: What Are They & How Do They Work?

401(k) Catch-Up Contributions: What Are They & How Do They Work?

Retirement savers age 50 and older get to put extra tax-advantaged money into their 401(k) accounts beyond the standard annual contribution limits. Those additional savings are known as “catch-up contributions.”

If you have a 401(k) at work, taking advantage of catch-up contributions is key to making the most of your plan, especially as retirement approaches. Here’s a closer look at how 401(k) catch-up limits work.

What Is 401(k) Catch-Up?

A 401(k) is a type of defined contribution plan. This means the amount you can withdraw in retirement depends on how much you contribute during your working years, along with any employer matching contributions you may receive, as well as how those funds grow over time.

There are limits on how much employees can contribute to their 401(k) plan each year as well as limits on the total amount that employers can contribute. The regular employee contribution limit is $22,500 for 2023 and $23,000 for 2024. This is the maximum amount you can defer from your paychecks into your plan — unless you’re eligible to make catch-up contributions.

Under Internal Revenue Code Section 414(v), a catch-up contribution is defined as a contribution in excess of the annual elective salary deferral limit. For 2023 and 2024, the 401(k) catch-up contribution limit is $7,500.

That means if you’re eligible to make these contributions, you would need to put a total of $30,000 in your 401(k) in 2023 to max out the account and $30,500 in 2024. That doesn’t include anything your employer matches.

Congress authorized catch-up contributions for retirement plans as part of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA). The legislation aimed to help older savers “catch up” and avoid falling short of their retirement goals, so they can better cover typical retirement expenses and enjoy their golden years.

Originally created as a temporary measure, catch-up contributions became a permanent feature of 401(k) and other retirement plans following the passage of the Pension Protection Act in 2006.

Who Is Eligible for 401(k) Catch-Up?

To make catch-up contributions to a 401(k), you must be age 50 or older and enrolled in a plan that allows catch-up contributions, such as a 401(k).

The clock starts ticking the year you turn 50. So even if you don’t turn 50 until December 31, you could still make 401(k) catch-up contributions for that year, assuming your plan follows a standard calendar year.

Making Catch-Up Contributions

If you know that you’re eligible to make 401(k) catch-up contributions, the next step is coordinating those contributions. This is something with which your plan administrator, benefits coordinator, or human resources director can help.

Assuming you’ve maxed out your 401(k) regular contribution limit, you’d have to decide how much more you want to add for catch-up contributions and adjust your elective salary deferrals accordingly. Remember, the regular deadline for making 401(k) contributions each year is December 31.

It’s possible to make catch-up contributions whether you have a traditional 401(k) or a Roth 401(k), as long as your plan allows them. The main difference between these types of plans is tax treatment.

•   You fund a traditional 401(k) with pre-tax dollars, including anything you save through catch-up contributions. That means you’ll pay ordinary income tax on earnings when you withdraw money in retirement.

•   With a Roth 401(k), regular contributions and catch-up contributions use after-tax dollars. This allows you to withdraw earnings tax-free in retirement, which is a valuable benefit if you anticipate being in a higher tax bracket when you retire.

You can also make catch-up contributions to a solo 401(k), a type of 401(k) used by sole proprietorships or business owners who only employ their spouse. This type of plan observes the same annual contribution limits and catch-up contribution limits as employer-sponsored 401(k) plans. You can choose whether your solo 401(k) follows traditional 401(k) rules or Roth 401(k) rules for tax purposes.

401(k) Catch-Up Contribution Limits

Those aged 50 and older can make catch-up contributions not only to their 401(k) accounts, but also to other types of retirement accounts, including 403(b) plans, 457 plans, SIMPLE IRAs, and traditional or Roth IRAs.

The IRS determines how much to allow for elective salary deferrals, catch-up contributions, and aggregate employer and employee contributions to retirement accounts, periodically adjusting those amounts for inflation. Here’s how the IRS retirement plan contribution limits for 2023 add up:

Retirement Plan Contribution Limits in 2023

Annual Contribution Catch Up Contribution Total Contribution for 50 and older
Traditional, Roth and solo 401(k) plans; 403(b) and 457 plans $22,500 $7,500 $30,000
Defined Contribution Maximum, including employer contributions $66,000 $7,500 $73,500
SIMPLE IRA $15,000 $3,500 $18,500
Traditional and Roth IRA $6,500 $1,000 $7,500

These amounts only include what you contribute to your plan or, in the case of the defined contribution maximum, what your employer contributes as a match. Any earnings realized from your plan investments don’t count toward your annual or catch-up contribution limits.

Also keep in mind that employer contributions may be subject to your company’s vesting schedule, meaning you don’t own them until you’ve reached certain employment milestones.

Tax Benefits of Making Catch-Up Contributions

Catch-up contributions to 401(k) retirement savings allow you to save more money in a tax-advantaged way. The additional money you can set aside to “catch up” on your 401(k) progress enables you to save on taxes now, as you won’t pay taxes on the amount you contribute until you withdraw it in retirement. These savings can add up if you’re currently in a high tax bracket, offsetting some of the work of saving extra.

The amount you contribute will also grow tax-deferred, and making catch-up contributions can result in a sizable difference in the size of your 401(k) by the time you retire. Let’s say you start maxing out your 401(k) plus catch-up contributions as soon as you turn 50, continuing that until you retire at age 65. That would be 15 years of thousands of extra dollars saved annually.

Those extra savings, thanks to catch-up contributions, could easily cross into six figures of added retirement savings and help compensate for any earlier lags in saving, such as if you were far off from hitting the suggested 401(k) amount by 30.

Roth 401(k) Catch-Up Contributions

The maximum amount you can contribute to a Roth 401(k) is the same as it is for a traditional 401(k): $22,500 and, if you’re 50 or older, $7,500 in catch-up contributions, as of 2023. For 2024, it is $23,000 and, if you’re 50 or older, $7,500 in catch-up contributions. This means that if you’re age 50 and up, you are able to contribute a total of $30,000 to your Roth 401(k) in 2023 and $30,500 in 2024.

If your employer offers both traditional and Roth 401(k) plans, you may be able to contribute to both, and some may even match Roth 401(k) contributions. Taking advantage of both types of accounts can allow you to diversify your retirement savings, giving you some money that you can withdraw tax-free and another account that’s grown tax-deferred.

However, if you have both types of 401(k) plans, keep in mind while managing your 401(k) that the contribution limit applies across both accounts. In other words, you can’t the maximum amount to each 401(k) — rather, they’d share that limit.

The Takeaway

Putting money into a 401(k) account through payroll deductions is one of the easiest and most effective ways to save money for your retirement. To determine how much you need to put into that account, it helps to know how much you need to save for retirement. If you start early, you may not need to make catch-up contributions. But if you’re 50 or older, taking advantage of 401(k) catch-up contributions is a great way to turbocharge your tax-advantaged retirement savings.

Of course, you can also add to your retirement savings with an IRA. While a 401(k) has its advantages, including automatic savings and a potential employer match, it’s not the only way to grow retirement wealth. If you’re interested in a traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA, you can easily open an IRA account on the SoFi Invest® brokerage platform. If you’re age 50 or older, those accounts will also provide an opportunity for catch-up contributions.

Help grow your nest egg with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

How does the 401(k) catch-up work?

401(k) catch-up contributions allow you to increase the amount you are allowed to contribute to your 401(k) plan on an annual basis. Available to those aged 50 and older who are enrolled in an eligible plan, these catch-contributions are intended to help older savers meet their retirement goals.

What is the 401(k) catch-up amount in 2023?

For 2023, the 401(k) catch-up contribution limit is $7,500.


Photo credit: iStock/1001Love

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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401(k) Taxes: Rules on Withdrawals and Contributions

Employer-sponsored retirement plans like a 401(k) are a common way for workers to save for retirement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a little more than half of private industry employees participate in a retirement plan at work. So participants need to understand how 401(k) taxes work to take advantage of this popular retirement savings tool.

With a traditional 401(k) plan, employees can contribute a portion of their salary to an account with various investment options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and cash.

There are two main types of workplace 401(k) plans: a traditional 401(k) plan and a Roth 401(k). The 401(k) tax rules depend on which plan an employee participates in.

Traditional 401(k) Tax Rules

When it comes to this employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, here are key things to know about 401(k) taxes and 401(k) withdrawal tax.

Recommended: Understanding the Different Types of Retirement Plans

401(k) Contributions are Made With Pre-tax Income

One of the biggest advantages of a 401(k) is its tax break on contributions. When you contribute to a 401(k), the money is deducted from your paycheck before taxes are taken out, which reduces your taxable income for the year. This means that you’ll pay less in income tax, which can save you a significant amount of money over time.

If you’re contributing to your company’s 401(k), each time you receive a paycheck, a self-determined portion of it is deposited into your 401(k) account before taxes are taken out, and the rest is taxed and paid to you.

For 2024, participants can contribute up to $23,000 to a 401(k) plan, plus $7,500 in catch-up contributions if they’re 50 or older. These contribution limits are up from 2023, when the limit was $22,500, plus the additional $7,500 for those aged 50 and up.

401(k) Contributions Lower Your Taxable Income

The more you contribute to your 401(k) account, the lower your taxable income is in that year. If you contribute 15% of your income to your 401(k), for instance, you’ll only owe taxes on 85% of your income.

Withdrawals From a 401(k) Account Are Taxable

When you take withdrawals from your 401(k) account in retirement, you’ll be taxed on your contributions and any earnings accrued over time.

The withdrawals count as taxable income, so during the years you withdraw funds from your 401(k) account, you will owe taxes in your retirement income tax bracket.

Early 401(k) Withdrawals Come With Taxes and Penalties

If you withdraw money from your 401(k) before age 59 ½, you’ll owe both income taxes and a 10% tax penalty on the distribution.

Although individual retirement accounts (IRAs) allow penalty-free early withdrawals for qualified first-time homebuyers and qualified higher education expenses, that is not true for 401(k) plans.

That said, if an employee leaves a company during or after the year they turn 55, they can start taking distributions from their 401(k) account without paying taxes or early withdrawal penalties.

Can you take out a loan or hardship withdrawal from your plan assets? Many plans do allow that up to a certain amount, but withdrawing money from a retirement account means you lose out on the compound growth from funds withdrawn. You will also have to pay interest (yes, to yourself) on the loan.

Roth 401(k) Tax Rules

Here are some tax rules for the Roth 401(k).

Your Roth 401(k) Contributions Are Made With After-Tax Income

When it comes to taxes, a Roth 401(k) works the opposite way of a traditional 401(k). Your contributions are post-tax, meaning you pay taxes on the money in the year you contribute.

If you have a Roth 401(k) and your company offers a 401(k) match, that matching contribution will go into a pre-tax account, which would be a traditional 401(k) account. So you would essentially have a Roth 401(k) made up of your own contributions and a traditional 401(k) of your employer’s contributions.

Recommended: How an Employer 401(k) Match Works

Roth 401(k) Contributions Do Not Lower Your Taxable Income

When you have Roth 401(k) contributions automatically deducted from your paycheck, your full paycheck amount will be taxed, and then money will be transferred to your Roth 401(k).

For instance, if you’re making $50,000 and contributing 10% to a Roth 401(k), $5,000 will be deposited into your Roth 401(k) annually, but you’ll still be taxed on the full $50,000.

Roth 401(k) Withdrawals Are Tax-Free

When you take money from your Roth 401(k) in retirement, the distributions are tax-free, including your contributions and any earnings that have accrued (as long as you’ve had the account for at least five years).

No matter what your tax bracket is in retirement, qualified withdrawals from your Roth 401(k) are not counted as taxable income.

There Are Limits on Roth 401(k) Withdrawals

In order for a withdrawal from a Roth 401(k) to count as a qualified distribution — meaning, it won’t be taxed — an employee must be age 59 ½ or older and have held the account for at least five years.

If you make a withdrawal before this point — even if you’re age 61 but have only held the account since age 58 — the withdrawal would be considered an early, or unqualified, withdrawal. If this happens, you would owe taxes on any earnings you withdraw and could pay a 10% penalty.

Early withdrawals are prorated according to the ratio of contributions to earnings in the account. For instance, if your Roth 401(k) had $100,000 in it, made up of $70,000 in contributions and $30,000 in earnings, your early withdrawals would be made up of 70% contributions and 30% earnings. Hence, you would owe taxes and potentially penalties on 30% of your early withdrawal.

If the plan allows it, you can take a loan from your Roth 401(k), just like a traditional 401(k), and the same rules and limits apply to how much you can borrow. Any Roth 401(k) loan amount will be combined with outstanding loans from that plan or any other plan your employer maintains to determine your loan limits.

You Can Roll Roth 401(k) Money Into a Roth IRA

Money in a Roth 401(k) account can be rolled into a Roth IRA. Like an employer-sponsored Roth 401(k), a Roth IRA is funded with after-tax dollars.

One of the significant differences between a Roth 401(k) and a Roth IRA is that the 401(k) requires participants to start taking required minimum distributions at age 72, but there is no such requirement for a Roth IRA.

It’s important to note, however, that there’s also a five-year rule for Roth IRAs: Earnings cannot be withdrawn tax- and penalty-free from a Roth IRA until five years after the account’s first contribution. If you roll a Roth 401(k) into a new Roth IRA, the five-year clock starts over at that time.

Do You Have to Pay Taxes on a 401(k) Rollover?

If you do a direct rollover of your 401(k) into an IRA or another eligible retirement account, you generally won’t have to pay taxes on the rollover. However, if you receive the funds from your 401(k) and then roll them over yourself within 60 days, you may have to pay taxes on the amount rolled over, as the IRS will treat it as a distribution from the 401(k).

Recommended: How to Roll Over Your 401(k)

Do You Have to Pay 401(k) Taxes after 59 ½?

If you have a traditional 401(k), you will generally have to pay taxes on withdrawals after age 59 ½. This is because the money you contributed to the 401(k) was not taxed when you earned it, so it’s considered income when you withdraw it in retirement.

However, if you have a Roth 401(k), you can withdraw your contributions and earnings tax-free in retirement as long as you meet certain requirements, such as being at least 59 ½ and having had the account for at least five years.

Do You Pay 401(k) Taxes on Employer Contributions?

The taxation of employer contributions to a 401(k) depends on whether the account is a traditional or Roth 401(k).

In the case of traditional 401(k) contributions, the employer contributions are not included in your taxable income for the year they are made, but you will pay taxes on them when you withdraw the funds from the 401(k) in retirement.

In the case of Roth contributions, the employer contributions are not included in a post-tax Roth 401(k) but rather in a pre-tax traditional 401(k) account. So, you do not pay taxes on the employer contributions in a Roth 401(k), but you do pay taxes on withdrawals.

How Can I Avoid 401(k) Taxes on My Withdrawal?

The only way to avoid taxes on 401(k) withdrawals is to take advantage of a Roth 401(k), as noted above. With a Roth 401(k), your contributions are made post-tax, but withdrawals are tax-free if you meet certain criteria to avoid the penalties mentioned above.

However, even if you have to pay taxes on your 401(k) withdrawals, you can take the following steps to minimize your taxes.

Consider Your Tax Bracket

Contributing to a traditional 401(k) is essentially a bet that you’ll be in a lower tax bracket in retirement — you’re choosing to forgo taxes now and pay taxes later.

Contributing to a Roth 401(k) takes the opposite approach: Pay taxes now, so you don’t have to pay taxes later. The best approach for you will depend on your income, your tax situation, and your future tax treatment expectations.

Strategize Your Account Mix

Having savings in different accounts — both pre-tax and post-tax — may offer more flexibility in retirement.

For instance, if you need to make a large purchase, such as a vacation home or a car, it may be helpful to be able to pull the income from a source that doesn’t trigger a taxable event. This might mean a retirement strategy that includes a traditional 401(k), a Roth IRA, and a taxable brokerage account.

Decide Where To Live

Eight U.S. states don’t charge individual income tax at all: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. And New Hampshire only taxes interest and dividend income.

This can affect your tax planning if you live in a tax-free state now or intend to live in a tax-free state in retirement.

The Takeaway

Saving for retirement is one of the best ways to prepare for a secure future. And understanding the tax rules for 401(k) withdrawals and contributions is essential for effective retirement planning. By educating yourself on the rules and regulations surrounding 401(k) taxes, you can optimize your retirement savings and minimize your tax burden.

Another strategy to help stay on top of your retirement savings is to roll over a previous 401(k) to a rollover IRA. Then you can manage your money in one place.

SoFi makes the rollover process seamless. The process is automated so there’s no need to watch the mail for your 401(k) check — and there are no rollover fees or taxes.

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

Do you get taxed on your 401(k)?

You either pay taxes on your 401(k) contributions — in the case of a Roth 401(k) — or on your traditional 401(k) withdrawals in retirement.

When can you withdraw from 401(k) tax free?

You can withdraw from a Roth 401(k) tax-free if you have had the account for at least five years and are over age 59 ½. With a traditional 401(k), withdrawals are generally subject to income tax.

How can I avoid paying taxes on my 401(k)?

You never truly avoid paying taxes on a 401(k), as you either have to pay taxes on contributions or withdrawals, depending on the type of 401(k) account. By contributing to a Roth 401(k) instead of a traditional 401(k), you can withdraw your contributions and earnings tax-free in retirement.


SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Update: The deadline for making IRA contributions for tax year 2020 has been extended to May 17, 2021.
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