Solo 401k Rollover Explained: Rollover, Direct Rollover, and Transfer; what’s the difference?

An individual may move assets between various types of retirement plans through a rollover, a direct rollover, or a transfer. However, each method results in different reporting and tax consequences.

Although a rollover, direct rollover, and transfer achieve the same result (the movement of retirement funds to a Solo 401k Plan), there are clear-cut procedures for each process. These rules must be carefully followed to ensure the movement of funds remains a tax-free transaction. These methods are discussed below.

ROLLOVER. A rollover takes place when and individual takes a distribution (i.e., physically takes possession of the check or assets) from his or her IRA or from a qualified plan such as a 401k, Thrift Savings Plan, 403b, 457 or Profit Sharing Plan and then deposits the proceeds to another IRA or a Solo 401k Plan. For purposes of the 60-day rule, the date on which a distribution is actually received is the start date of the 60-day period. See [Treas. Reg. 1.402 (c)-2, Q&A-11]. If assets in a traditional IRA, SEP or SIMPLE IRA are paid directly to the Solo 401k owner (i.e, made payable in his or her name without also listing the Solo 401k trust name on the check, or in the case of an in-kind transfer (an asset–mutual fund, stock, notes or real estate), the releasing custodian or trustee will report the distribution on form 1099-R using either code 1-early distribution if you are under age 59 1/2 or code 7-normal distribution if you are age 59 1/2 or older. IMPORTANT: In the case where a qualified plan such as a profit sharing plan or 401k is being distributed as rollover, federal income tax withholding is required. See [I.R.C. 3405(a), 3405(b), 3405(c)]

With respect to a 401k or PSP, What tax amount must be withheld from a rollover distribution?

The amount of tax withholding on all rollover distributions is 20% of the amount being distributed. See [Treas. Reg. 31.3405 (c)-1, Q&A-11]

DIRECT ROLLOVER. A direct rollover occurs when assets are moved directly from an IRA, SEP or SIMPLE IRA to a Solo 401k. Note that a direct rollover, which is similar to a transfer in some ways, is still different from a transfer in that tax reporting applies.

How is a direct rollover distribution reported for income tax purposes?

The custodian or trustee processing the outgoing-direct rollover is required to report the transaction on form 1099-R using Code G- direct rollovers of a traditional IRA, SEP or SIMPLE IRA to a Solo 401k. In other words, it is treated as a distribution that is immediately rolled over. See [Treas. Reg 31.3405 (c)-1, Q&A-16]. Lastly, a direct rollover is not subject to the 60-day rule.

How is a direct rollover accomplished?

The releasing trustee or custodian can transfer benefits in a direct rollover by wire transfer or mailing of check or assets to the Solo 401k trustee, who is usually the participant. IMPORTANT: If this method is used, the check must be made payable to the named Solo 401k trustee as trustee of the Solo 401k plan. The check must also indicate for whose benefit it is. See [Treas. Reg. 1.401(a)(31)-1, Q&A-4]

Note: In many cases the terms rollover and transfer are often used interchangeably, incorrectly.

May a SIMPLE IRA be rolled or directly rolled over to a Solo 401k?

Yes. After the expiration of the two-year period, an individual may take a tax-free rollover of a distribution from a SIMPLE IRA to a qualified plan such as a Solo 401k plan. See [I.R.C 408(d)(3)(G)]

TRANSFER.A transfer is a way of moving money or property, tax free, from one 401k to a Solo 401k. When the trustee of Solo 401k is also the participant, he or she receives the money or property in a direct transfer. As a result, it is vital that the check is made payable to the receiving Solo 401k trustee, for example as follows: (John Do, Trustee of the ABC Solo 401k Trust). If stock or property is being transferred in-kind (stocks, real estate, etc., rather than cash), it must be re-registered in the name of the new Solo 401k trust.

Are Transfers tax reportable on Form 1099-R?

Yes, transfers are  reported to the IRS. The releasing or sending organization  generates a 1099-R-Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., reflecting a distribution using code G. Income tax withholding does not apply when moving funds from another 401k to a Solo 401k because the transaction is not considered a distribution from the 401k.

Can I receive the Transfer proceeds and deposit them?

Yes, a key component of a direct transfer is that the check is made payable to the receiving or accepting Solo 401k Trust. Thus, as long as the check is properly issued, the Solo 401k trustee may hand carry the check to the bank for deposit into his Solo 401k checking account.

Self-Directed IRA In-Kind Transfer QUESTION:

I currently have a self-directed IRA account with two assets, worth $50K and $40K.  Do I have to liquidate it in order to transfer to the solo 401k or can I just roll it over and re-register it without triggering taxable event?


As long as these self-directed IRA accounts are not Roth IRA accounts, you can transferred to the solo 401(k). It is not necessary to liquidate your investments prior to the rollover. For example, you could transfer as an in-kind transfer.  As part of our services, we will handle the transfer to ensure that it is processed as a nontaxable direct rollover to the self-directed 401k plan. Moreover, we will handle setting up a free brokerage account, or bank account with checkbook control for your Solo 401k.

Process Transfer by Wire QUESTION:

It will be much quicker if I have the transfer to the solo 401k done by wire instead of by check. Any issues with requesting a wire of my former employer 401k fund to my new solo 401k plan?


As a matter of industry standard, it is highly recommended that a check be made payable in the name of the plan so that there is a paper trail to support the direct rollover.  In our experience, when funds are wired, there is an increase in the chances that the institution sending the funds will improperly code the 1099-R as a taxable event.

12 Months QUESTION:

Am I correct to believe that I can rollover any amount in my IRA once every 12 months?


Yes, you can transfer traditional IRAs to the solo 401(k) plan. If you do it is a direct rollover– that is, the check is made payable in the name of the solo 401(k), with the funds deposited directly into the solo 401K plan, the movement of the IRA funds will be treated as a non-taxable direct-rollover. As such, the 60 day IRA rollover rule and the once per 12 month rollover rule would not come into play.

IRA Rollover for Paying Solo 401k Loan QUESTION:

Can the IRA rollover amount count towards repayment of a solo 401k participant loan?


No, as the solo 401k participant loan has to be paid with personal funds not retirement funds.

Promissory Note Transfer QUESTION:

I would like to roll over my self directed IRA funds to my solo 401k account. The funds are attached to an unsecured note. Can I still roll this over?


Yes, bot the IRA and the 401k rules allow for the in-kind direct rollover of a promissory note from the self directed IRA to the solo 401k plan.

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About Mark Nolan

Each day I speak with energetic entrepreneurs looking to take the plunge into a new venture and small business owners eager to take control of their retirement savings. I am passionate about helping others find their financial independence. Having worked for over 20 years with some of the top retirement account custodian and insurance companies I have a deep and extensive knowledge of the complexities of self-directed 401ks and IRAs as well as retirement plan regulations. Learn more about Mark Nolan and My Solo 401k Financial >>


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