A 401(k) plan is a qualified plan that includes a feature allowing an employee to elect to have the employer contribute a portion of the employee’s wages to an individual account under the plan. The underlying plan can be a profit-sharing, stock bonus, pre-ERISA money purchase pension, or a rural cooperative plan. Generally, deferred wages (elective deferrals) are not subject to federal income tax withholding at the time of deferral, and they are not reported as taxable income on the employee’s individual income tax return.
401(k) plans are permitted to allow employees to designate some or all of their elective deferrals as “Roth elective deferrals” that are generally subject to taxation under the rules applicable to Roth IRAs. Roth deferrals are included in the employee's taxable income in the year of the deferral.
Two of the tax advantages of sponsoring a 401(k) plan are:
There are several types of 401(k) plans available to employers - traditional 401(k) plans, safe harbor 401(k) plans and SIMPLE 401(k) plans. Different rules apply to each. For tax-favored status, a plan must be operated in accordance with the applicable rules. Therefore, it is important that the employer be familiar with the special rules that apply to its plan so the plan is administered in accordance with those rules. To qualify for the tax benefits available to qualified plans, a plan must both contain language that meets certain requirements (qualification rules) of the tax law and be operated in accordance with the plan’s provisions. The following is a brief overview of important qualification rules. It is not intended to be all-inclusive.
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