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403b + 401a + SE 401k contribution limits

Guest evphd

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Please excuse the cross-board posting, I wasn't sure which board was most relevant.

I'm hoping someone may be able to guide me to the correct answer.

I contribute to a University sponsored 401(a). These are mandatory contributions in the amount of 7.5% of my gross with 6% employer contribution.

I also participate in an optional 403(b) plan via the University.

Now, I've opened up a self-employed 401(k) for my consulting business.

I've received conflicting responses on the max I can contribute to the SE 401(K).

Answer 1: 14,000 - my 403b contribution - my 401a contribution

Answer 2: 14,000 - my 403b contribtion

Can anyone help clarify this matter or point me to the relevant sections of the IRS code?


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See IRS publication 571, at P4 and 7 available at www.irs.gov.

You must aggregate all of your salary reduction contributions to the 403b and 401k plan so as not to exceed 14k.

You must also aggreate all contributions to the 403b plan with contributions to your 401k plan so as not to exceed 42k. Contributions to the employer 401a plan have a separate 42k limit.

The amount of your deduction for contributions to the 401k plan will be limited to 20% of your net earnings from SE if less than the amount of your contribution. See IRS pub 560.


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  • 3 weeks later...
You must aggregate all of your salary reduction contributions to the 403b and 401k plan so as not to exceed 14k.

Just to help clarify mbozek's post in case you don't know all of the terminology:

The 7.5% payment to the 401(a) plan is NOT a salary reduction. Note that he does not include it in relating to the 14k.

Getting back to the original question, (b) is the answer, as pointed out by mbozek.

Note that the amount is even higher if you will be 50 or older by the end of the year.

This assumes the university 401(a) plan is truly a pure defined contribution or defined benefit plan and not a 401(k) plan.

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evphd, I think the real answer to your question is "None of the above". It appears to me that to maximize your deferral opportunity you should max out your 403(b) salary deferral and establish a 401(a) profit sharing plan (instead of a SE 401(k) plan-but your existing plan may allow both) through your self employed business. Or you could even consider a defined benefit plan depending upon your situation.

In this manner you may actually have several different limits:

Salary deferral opportunity maximized through 403(b) $14K plus.

401(a) limit through University plan - as MGB said - assuming this is correct.

401(a) limit of 25/20% (or more if DB established) through side business-separate 401(a) limit

Hope you've got enough money to do all this! How about those non-profits!

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Guest merlin

What about a 457, a 403b, and a SEP? The individual is an economist who works for the gov't (hence the 457), is a professor of economics at a local university (403b), and has self-employment income from writing, lecturing, etc.

I think:

1. The 457 stands on its own, so he can defer $14000+catch-up(s) as applicable for 05.

2. He can defer another 14000+catchup in the 403b.

3. He has an total 42000 limit between the 403b and the SEP.

4. If the 457 and 403b were sponsored by the same entity then he'd only have one overall 402g limit and one overall 415 limit.

Any one agree? Disagree?

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Employee has three separate platforms for tax deferred contributions:

Max contribution to 403(b) and SEP, 401(k) or HR-10 is 42k +4k catch up

Employer can contribute up to 42k in 401(a) plan

Employee can contribute 14k to NP 457(b) plan +457 catch up


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