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What Are the Contribution Limits for my Self-Employed 401(k)?

Understanding Contribution Limits for Self-Employed 401(k) Plans

Planning for retirement is a crucial aspect of financial management, and for self-employed individuals, a Self-Employed 401(k) plan can be an effective tool for building retirement savings. However, it's important to be aware of the contribution limits set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In this article, we will explore the contribution limits for self-employed individuals and the key considerations to keep in mind.

The Basics of Self-Employed 401(k) Plans

A Self-Employed 401(k), also known as a Solo 401(k) or a Uni-k plan, is designed for self-employed individuals or small business owners with no employees (except for their spouse, under certain circumstances). These plans allow self-employed individuals to make contributions both as an employer and as an employee, offering potential tax advantages and retirement savings opportunities.

Contribution Limits for Self-Employed Individuals

As a self-employed individual, you have the opportunity to contribute to your Self-Employed 401(k) plan in two ways: as an employer and as an employee. Let's explore the contribution limits for each category.

  1. Employee Contributions: As of 2023, you can contribute up to $20,500 to your Self-Employed 401(k) plan as an employee. Additionally, if you are 50 years or older, you can make catch-up contributions of up to $7,500, for a total employee contribution of $28,000.

  2. Employer Contributions: In addition to employee contributions, you can also make employer contributions to your Self-Employed 401(k) plan. The maximum employer contribution is limited to 25% of your compensation. However, the total combined employee and employer contributions cannot exceed $61,000 (or $66,000 for those aged 50 and older) in 2023. It's important to note that the employer contribution is based on your net self-employment income after deducting half of the self-employment tax and your own employee contributions.

Considerations and Limitations

While the contribution limits for Self-Employed 401(k) plans provide opportunities for substantial retirement savings, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Annual Income Limitations: The IRS imposes limitations on the maximum amount of income that can be used for calculating contributions. Highly compensated individuals (HCEs) can only use the first $330,000 of income in 2023 ($305,000 for 2022) when determining the contribution limits.

  2. Tax Deductibility: Contributions to a Self-Employed 401(k) plan are generally tax-deductible. This means that the contributions you make as an employer or an employee can lower your taxable income, potentially reducing your tax liability.

  3. Flexibility in Contributions: Unlike traditional 401(k) plans, Self-Employed 401(k) plans offer flexibility in contributions. You have the option to adjust your contributions each year based on your financial situation, allowing you to save more during prosperous years and adjust accordingly during leaner years.

  4. Consult with a Professional: Understanding the intricacies of Self-Employed 401(k) plans and navigating the contribution limits can be complex. It's advisable to consult with a certified public accountant (CPA) or a tax professional who specializes in retirement planning for guidance tailored to your specific circumstances.

Self-Employed 401(k) plans provide self-employed individuals with an effective vehicle for retirement savings. By taking advantage of the contribution limits set by the IRS, you can make substantial contributions to your plan and benefit from potential tax advantages. However, it's essential to stay informed about the current contribution limits, consult with a qualified professional, and regularly review your retirement savings strategy to ensure you are on track to meet your long-term financial goals. Investing in your retirement today can provide financial security and peace of mind in the future.


There is a high possible contribution you can make to your own 401(k), but you still have to pay attention to the limits.

As of 2016, you may contribute up to $53,000 annually to your Self-Employed 401(k), plus a $6,000 catch-up contribution if you’re over 50. If your spouse is also on the payroll, you are allowed to have a combined contribution of up to $106,000, or $118,000 if you’re both over 50.

You have to be mindful of the limits for each portion of the contribution, though. Just like a regular 401(k), the elective salary deferrals comprise $18,000 of the limit, and the catch-up contribution.

All of these contributions can be made without regard for the total salary of the person funding it (up to 100% of salary/income can be contributed to this portion of the account). Contributions to this account will limit the amount that you can deduct in IRAs outside of the 401(k).

The other part of the 401(k) is the profit-sharing component, and this is where you have to pay attention, because you can only contribute up to 25% of gross salary into a profit-sharing plan. You also must be mindful of how the self-employment tax and your actual profit-sharing contribution will reduce the income base on which you calculate the maximum 25%.

Effectively, it makes it 20% of gross income/profit. The same kind of calculations must be made for your spouse’s contributions and profit sharing contributions made to his or her account, because, unlike a Roth IRA, which can be funded for a non-working spouse, a qualified plan will require actual work and income before someone can make elective deferrals.

Obviously it is easy to get a little lost in some of this material, so we advise that you not only attempt to educate yourself, but check with a CPA or tax attorney if you are not absolutely sure.

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 Disclaimers and Limitations

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