For incorporated business owners, Solo 401k contributions will generally be based on the business owner’s compensation, which is often defined as Social Security wages (as reported on IRS Form W-2). However, incorporated business owners should be sure to understand the definition of compensation within their plan documents, as the definition of compensation can vary slightly from one plan document to the next.
Solo 401k Contributions Consist of Two Components
Remember that the maximum Solo 401k contribution is comprised of two components:
- Employer profit sharing contribution
- Employee salary deferral contribution
Once the incorporated business owner’s compensation is determined (or estimated in the case of advance planning), the maximum Solo 401k contribution may be determined as follows, based on 2019 and 2020 limitation.
With respect to your self-employment income earned from your S-corporation, you can contribute:
- Employee contribution equal $19,000 for 2019 (plus an additional $6,000 if you are 50 or older). For 2020, the employee contribution limit increased by $500 to $19,500 (plus an additional $6,500 if you are 50 or older). Note that you must have the applicable W-2 wages from your self-employed corporation to justify the solo 401k contribution amount. The contribution is based on the amount listed in Box 1 of your w-2 from the S-corporation plus any pre-tax employee contributions not in Box 1. Note: The employee contribution limit must be reduced by any contributions made to another 401k plan (e.g. a “day job” plan). Also, you cannot contribute more than you report on the W-2. For example, if you only report $10,000 on your W-2, you cannot contribute the $19,000 allowed limit for 2019.
- Employer contribution equal to 25% of the amount equal to Box 1 of your w-2 from the S-corporation plus any pre-tax elective deferrals not in Box 1 provided that the total sum of the contributions does not exceed the overall limit: $56,000 for 2019 (plus $6,000 catch up if you are 50 or older), or $57,000 for 2020 plus $6,5000 if you are 50 or older.
Step 1: Determine maximum profit sharing contribution
maximum profit sharing contribution = .25 x compensation
Step 2: Determine maximum salary deferral
maximum salary deferral = lesser of $18,000, or
compensation-maximum profit sharing contribution
Step 3: Calculate maximum Solo 401(k) contribution
maximum Solo 401(k) contribution = maximum profit sharing contribution
+ maximum salary deferral
NOTE: The maximum Solo 401(k) contribution for 2019 may not exceed $56,000 (unless your age 50 or older and therefore qualify for an additional $6,000 of catch-up contributions)
Solo 401k Contribution Example for Tax Year 2019
For example, if you are under 50 years of age, not making any contributions to any other plan such as a 401k plan offered by your full-time employer, and you receive a w-2 from your S-corporation that shows $32,000 in Box 1 with $19,000 of pre-tax employee contributions not in Box 1 you can contribute the following amounts for 2019:
- Employee Contribution: $19,000 (i.e. the lesser of $19,000 and $51,000 which is the sum of $32,000 and $19,000)
- Employer Contriubtion: $12,750 (i.e 25% of $51,000 which is the sum of $32,000 and $19,000).
IMPORTANT COMPLIANCE NOTE: Owners of Subchapter S corporations must base their contributions on Form W-2 income and may not base Solo 401k contributions on pass-through profits.
You can use our online Solo 401k contribution calculator to determine your contribution; CLICK HERE.
Income Needed for Maximum Contribution QUESTION:
In order to maximize the full amount I can contribute to the Solo 401K yearly, what should my W2 earnings look like “at minimum”, as well as the company’s revenues?
The ability to contribute to a solo 401k plan is based on your self-employment income and the specific calculation depends on how your business is taxed (e.g. sole proprietor, S-corporation, etc.). For example, if your business is taxed as a sole proprietorship it is based on your net income as reported on Schedule C. If your business is taxed as a S-corporation, it is based on your w-2 wages. For example, if you are under 50 and your business is taxed as an S-corporation (and you are not making any contributions to another 401k plan such as through a day job), then you would be able to contribute $56,000 for 2019 provided that you received at least $147,000 in w-2 wages from your self-employed business.
Can both Spouses Participate in The Solo 401k Plan QUESTION:
Is there any relationship between the new solo 401k trust and my existing S-corp business, and can we transfer my and my wife’s IRA, and 401k funds to the solo 401k plan?
In order to have a 401k, there must be an employer as 401k plans are for employees. As such, in order to set up a Solo 401k you must be self-employed. Therefore, this confirms that yes your self-employed business (i.e. S corp) will be the sponsor of the Solo 401k. As long as both you and your wife are working in the business (e.g. receiving w-2 wages from the S-corp) then you can both participate in the Solo 401k plan and rollover funds from eligible pre-existing retirement accounts which would include non-Roth IRA accounts and former employer 401k plans.
Employer Profit Sharing Deduction for S-corporation Form 1120-S QUESTION:
On a federal 1120-S, does the profit-sharing belong on Line 17 and NOT on Line 18 (fringe benefits)?
For an S-corp, employer profit sharing contributions are deducted on line 17 of Form 1120-S not Line 18.
LLC Taxed as S-Corporation Contribution Deadline QUESTION:
See also the following chart from IRS publication 560.
Employer Contribution and FICA & Medicare QUESTION:
Are employer contributions subject to FICA or Medicare Tax?
In terms of tax benefits, profit-sharing plan
More S-Corporation Contribution Rules
The contribution limits that apply are different:
o Roth Salary Deferrals: For a self-employed business taxed as an S corporation, for 2019 you can contribute 100% of your W-2 wages not to exceed $19,000 (or $25,000 if you’re 50 or older). Please note that this amount is reduced by any pretax salary deferrals made to the solo 401(k) as well as any salary deferrals made to another 401(k) plan (such as a 401(k) plan provided through “day job” employer).
o Voluntary After-tax Contributions: For a self-employed business taxed as an S corporation, you You can contribute up to the lesser of (i) 100% of your self-employment compensation (i.e. w-2 wages when your self-employed business is taxed as an S-corporation) or (ii) the overall limit ($56,000 for 2019 contributions) reduced by any pre-tax or Roth employee contributions/salary deferrals and any pre-tax employer/profit-sharing contributions made to the Solo 401k.
S-Corporation Distributor Rules
The distribution/rollover rules applied differently:
o Roth Salary Deferrals: You generally can’t distribute (or rollover to another retirement account such as a Roth IRA) until you are 59.5.
o Voluntary After-tax Contributions: These amounts can be distributed/rolled over at any time.
- While the gains on voluntary after-tax funds are taxable, the gains on Roth funds may grow tax-free (i.e. if you are able to satisfy the qualified Roth distribution rules – see more here: (https://www.mysolo401k.net/what-is-a-qualified-roth-solo-401k-distribution/). Of course, if you transfer voluntary after-tax funds to a Roth sub-account the subsequent gains would grow on a tax-deferred and potentially tax-free basis.