Home  |  About  |  Contact  |  Login  |  Open an Account

Personal 401k – Individual 401k

A “Personal 401k” is a term that is sometimes used to refer to the Individual 401k.

The Personal 401k is not a new type of 401k plan, but is simply a traditional 401k plan covering a business owner with no W-2 employees (other than themselves, their spouse or their partner in a partnership). A Personal 401k is much less expensive administratively then a traditional 401k that has full time W-2 employees.

Personal 401k plans were developed due to the passage of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) that went into effect January 1st, 2002. The new law made several changes to the existing rules of 401k plans. These changes made the Personal 401k a very attractive retirement plan for the self employed.

Simply stated there are 2 primary advantages of the Personal 401k versus other self employed retirement plans.

  1. Potentially greater retirement contributions at the same income level, therefore maximizing retirement contributions and valuable tax deductions.
  2. The option of a 401k loan up to a maximum of $50,000 using your 401k balance for the loan.

The maximum Personal 401k contribution limit in 2015 is $53,000 and $59,000 if age 50 or older. Because of the way the contribution is calculated a larger contribution usually can be made into the Personal 401k than to a Keogh plan, SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA at the same income level. Only the Defined Benefit Plan can potentially allow a greater contribution than the Personal 401k, however a Defined Benefit Plan is much more expensive administratively and has mandatory annual funding requirements. As a result the Personal 401k is popular choice for self employed individuals who want the option of making a significant contribution and having the flexibility of completely discretionary contributions. Personal 401k plan contributions are not mandatory and can be increased or decreased or stopped on a year by year basis.

Who is eligible for a Personal 401k?

An owner only business, an owner and spouse business and partnerships are eligible for a Personal 401k. Independent contractors, self employed individuals and small business owners frequently setup Personal 401k plans.

The business owner must have the presence of self employed activity which generally would include ownership and operation of the business. It is generally believed that the IRS will consider you eligible for a Personal 401k if the business being conducted is a legitimate business that is run with the intention of generating profits.

What type of business entity can setup a Personal 401k?

Sole proprietors such as independent contractors and self employed individuals. Also eligible business entities include partnerships, LLCs, S corporations and C corporations.

Who is ineligible for a Personal 401k?

If a business owner has salaried W-2 employees age 21 or older who work more than 1,000 hours in a calendar year they are ineligible for a Personal 401k. Business owners and their spouse do not apply to the 1,000 hour threshold.

A business owner is still eligible for a Personal 401k if they hire independent contractors who work more than 1,000 hours in a calendar year.

What are the IRS rules about when and how much profit the business must generate before setting up a Personal 401k?

There are no established thresholds for how much profit the business must generate or how soon profits must happen.

What are the IRS rules about how much and when the business owner must make contributions to a Personal 401k?

The intent of the business owner must be to make significant contributions to the Personal 401k plan, however there are no established thresholds regarding how much money is required to be contributed annually. Also there are no IRS rules about how soon contributions must be made after establishing a Personal 401k plan.

I participate in a 401k through my primary employer and I have a part time business. Can I have a Personal 401k for my part time business?

Yes. You are eligible to establish a Personal 401k for a side business even if you participate in a 401k, 403b, 457 or Thrift Savings Plan through your primary employer. It is important to note that contributions made to the employer’s 401k, 403b or Thrift Savings Plan will impact the contributions for the Personal 401k. Contributions to the employer’s 401k, 403b or TSP count towards the Personal 401k salary deferral limit of $18,000 ($24,000 if age 50 or older). Contributions made into a 457 plan do not count towards the salary deferral limit. In addition to a salary deferral contribution, a business owner can also make contributions to the profit sharing portion of a Personal 401k.

Example: Jennifer is age 40 and works as a W-2 employee for ABC accounting firm and contributes $10,000 to the 401k. In addition to working at the accounting firm, Jennifer is the owner of an S corporation. She is the only employee and pays herself a $100,000 W-2 salary in 2015. Based on this information Jennifer would be eligible to make a contribution of $8,000 in salary deferrals (the $10,000 contribution to the ABC accounting firm 401k counts toward the $18,000 salary deferral limit) plus make a profit sharing contribution of $25,000 (25% of 100,000 W-2 salary) for a total of $33,000 in Personal 401k contributions in 2015.

What are the Personal 401k eligibility rules when a business owner has part time W-2 employees?

A business owner who employs part-time W-2 employees may be able to exclude them from plan participation. Generally, under federal law you are permitted to exclude the following types of employees:

  • Employees under age 21.
  • Employees with less than one year of service.
  • W-2 employees who work less than 1000 hours per year.
  • Certain union employees.
  • Certain nonresident alien employees.

Learn more about the benefits of the Individual 401k

  • 401k Loans - A 401k loan up 50% of the total value of the 401k up to a maximum loan of $50,000 is permitted with an Individual 401k plan.
  • Rollover - You can rollover your 401k, 403b, 457 and Thrift savings plan from a previous employer. You can transfer a Rollover IRA, Traditional IRA, SEP IRA, Simple IRA and Keogh plan. Rollovers are often popular for those that want a 401k loan.
  • 401k Rules - Frequently asked questions, rules and information about the Individual 401k.
  • Eligibility - Learn about the eligibility rules and find out who is eligible and who is ineligible to establish an Individual 401k plan.
  • Roth 401k - There is an option to make Roth 401k contributions with the salary deferral portion of the Individual 401k. In 2015 the Roth 401k salary deferral contribution limit is $18,000 and $24,000 if age 50 or older.
  • Self Employed Retirement Plan Comparison - Compare the Individual 401k, SEP IRA, Defined Benefit Plan and Simple IRA.


How Can BCM Help You?

Beacon Capital Management Advisors (BCM) is experienced in setting up retirement plans for our clients. BCM provides retirement plans to the self employed, freelancers, entrepreneurs, independent contractors and small business owners and is registered in 50 States. Complete the form below and a BCM Advisor will promptly respond to your inquiry.




*The information on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, and should not be construed as, professional, legal or tax advice. To determine your individual tax situation and specific needs, please consult a professional tax advisor.

*Information contained in these sections merely highlight some benefits. There are risks involved with all investments that could include tax penalties and risk/loss of principal.