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What are the Contribution Deadlines for My Self-Employed 401(k)?

Navigating the Timeline of Self-Employed 401(k) Contributions: A Guide to Deadlines and Limitations

If you're self-employed, a tax-advantaged retirement savings plan is an important tool to secure your future financial well-being. In the broad range of retirement savings plans, the Solo 401(k), also known as a Self-Employed 401(k), is particularly designed for the self-employed individuals and small business owners with no employees. It offers unique advantages and flexibility. However, it's crucial to understand the contribution deadlines and limitations associated with these plans to make the most out of them.

Understanding the Self-Employed 401(k)

A Self-Employed 401(k), or Solo 401(k), is a retirement plan that's exclusively available for self-employed individuals and small business owners who do not have employees. This plan applies whether you're a freelancer, an independent contractor, or a small business owner with no employees other than a spouse. The plan allows you to make contributions as both the employer and the employee, potentially maximizing your retirement savings in a tax-efficient manner.

Contribution Deadlines: Employee and Employer Portions

The contribution deadlines for a Self-Employed 401(k) depend on the nature of the contribution. Generally, the contributions consist of two parts: the employee salary deferral and the employer profit-sharing contributions, each with different deadlines.

The employee salary deferral contributions must be deposited within 15 days after the close of your fiscal tax year. For most people, who operate on a calendar fiscal year ending on December 31, the contribution deadline would be January 15th. These deferrals include regular salary deferrals and catch-up contributions for individuals over the age of 50.

On the other hand, the employer's profit-sharing contribution is tied to the income tax preparation timeline for your business. The standard deadline for income tax is March 15th. If you have the ability to prepare your taxes before this date, you can make the contribution by March 15th. However, if you file for an extension until a later date, such as August 15th, your contribution from the profits would also be due by this extended date.

Contribution Limitations: How Much Can You Contribute?

As of 2023, you can contribute a combined total of $66,000 to your Solo 401(k). If you're over the age of 50, you have the opportunity to make an additional catch-up contribution of $7,500.

The employee salary deferral can be up to 100% of compensation or $19,500 if you're under 50 years old, and up to $26,000 if you're over 50, including catch-up contributions.

The employer's profit-sharing contribution is a bit more complex. It can be up to 25% of your net profit or gross income. However, it is reduced by a certain amount due to self-employment tax considerations, effectively making it 20% of your gross income. This contribution can reach up to $58,000, minus the amount of salary deferrals made.

Choosing Between Traditional and Roth Solo 401(k)

One of the distinctive advantages of a Solo 401(k) is the flexibility to choose between a traditional or a Roth plan, each with its unique tax advantages. Traditional Solo 401(k) contributions are made pre-tax, providing an upfront tax deduction, while the distributions in retirement are taxed. On the other hand, Roth Solo 401(k) contributions are made after-tax, meaning that while there are no immediate tax benefits, the distributions in retirement are tax-free.

Utilizing the Benefits of a Self-Employed 401(k)

A Self-Employed 401(k) is a powerful retirement savings tool for the self-employed, offering the flexibility of higher contribution limits and dual contribution roles. Moreover, it allows you to take advantage of Roth or traditional contributions depending on your tax strategy.

However, staying abreast of the contribution deadlines and limitations is critical for optimizing the use of this retirement savings vehicle. Whether you're a one-person outfit, freelancer, or an independent contractor, understanding and leveraging the advantages of a Solo 401(k) can secure a financially stable retirement. Always consult with a certified public accountant or your custodian company to ensure you're interpreting and applying these rules correctly.

Contribution deadlines vary depending on whether it is a salary deferral or contribution based on profits generated. The contributions to a Self-Employed 401(k)s consist of two parts, and the deadlines for these parts are different.

The contribution which you as an employee make on your own behalf, which is considered a salary deferral, is 15 days after the close of your fiscal tax year. If you have a regular fiscal year, which ends on December 31, the contribution deadline is January 15th. These contributions include both regular salary deferrals and catch-up contributions.

In 2016, these deferrals can be up to 100% of compensation or $18,000 if under 50 years old, and up to $24,000 if you’re over 50. The second part of your contribution comes from the profits you generated. In order to compute these profits, you have to prepare the income tax for your business.

The standard deadline for such income tax is March 15th, and if you are one of those very organized business owners who can do it before the deadline, you still have until March 15th to make the contribution. If, however, you belong to a vast majority of procrastinators and file for an extensions of your business income taxes until, say, August 15th, your contribution from the profits will also be due by that date.

These profit-sharing contributions can only be up to 25% of your net profit/gross income, and it will actually be reduced by an amount including part of the self-employment tax that makes it 20% of your gross income. You’ll want to check with your CPA or custodian company to make sure you’re crunching the numbers right.

In 2016 the profit sharing contributions can be up to $53,000, reduced by the amount of salary deferrals you take (leaving out the catch-up contributions, which can make the account total $59,000).

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