Solo 401k Loan Rules and Regulations

Who may borrow money from his or her Solo 401k plan?

Assuming the Solo 401k plan contains loan provisions that allow for participant loans, as My Solo 401k plan document does, as trustee you are permitted to borrow from your Solo 401k. This option became effective beginning January 1, 2002. See [I.R.C. 4975(f)(6)(B)(iii); ERISA 408(d)(2)(C), 29 U.S.C. 1108(d)(2)(C)]

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What is a reasonable rate of interest for Solo 401k loans?

As long as the Solo 401k loan interest rate is consistent with the interest rate charged by commercial lenders for a loan made under similar conditions, the interest rate is considered reasonable. See [DOL Reg. 2550.408b-1(e)].

Based on the testimony of a DOL expert, rates considered reasonable by the DOL for loans secured by a participant’s Solo 401k account balance range from:

  •  A certificate deposit rate plus 2 percent
  •  To the prime rate plus 1 percent.

See [Mclaughlin V. Rowley, 698 F. Supp 1333 (N.D. Tex. 1988)]

Must My Solo 401k plan Loan interest rate be reviewed each time a new Solo 401k loan is made?

Yes. The DOL regulations require that the reasonable rate of interest standard must be reviewed at each time a loan is originated, renewed, renegotiated, or modified. See [DOL Reg. 2550.408b-1(a) (3) (ii)]

As such, a Solo 401k plan sponsor cannot simply choose a loan rate at the time the plan is setup and use that rate continuously. Loan rates must be reviewed and updated as often as needed to confirm that they remain uniform with commercial lending practices.

How is My Solo 401k participant loan secured?

Up to 50 percent of the present value of a participants account balance can be used to secure a loan. This is determined at the time the Solo 401k loan is made. See [DOL Reg. 2550.408b-1(f) (2)]

Therefore, if a Solo 401k participant borrows one half of his or her account balance and then takes a Solo 401k hardship distribution before the loan is repaid, he or she will still be in compliance with this rule.

Must the Solo 401k administrator examine the creditworthiness of each Solo 401k borrower?

No. the DOL does not require plan administrators to review financial statements or other indications of creditworthiness of each Solo 401k participant who wants a loan.

Are there any restrictions on how a Solo 401k loan is used by a participant?

No. In fact, as long as the employer does not place any restrictions on use of the loan that would benefit itself, a fiduciary, or other party in interest, there is no reason why a participant cannot independently make the decision to use loan proceeds in a way that would benefit the employer or other restricted party. See [DOL Reg. 2550.408b-1 (a) (4), Ex. 6]

Does the DOL impose any other restrictions on Solo 401k participant loans?

Yes. The parties to a Solo 401k loan agreement must intend to repay the loan [DOL Reg. 2550.408b-1 (a)(3)(i) For this reason, it is important that the plan administrator be diligent in ensuring amounts due on participant loans are timely made.

How may taxation of Solo 401k participant loans be avoided?

The following three conditions must be met in order to avoid taxation of a participant loan at the time the loan is made.

  1. The loan must be paid in full within five years, unless the loan is used to acquire a principal residence of the participant. See [I.R.C. 72(p) (2) (B)]
  2. The loan must require substantially level amortization of principal and interest, with payments required at least quarterly. For example, a loan for a five-year term that requires payments of interest only until the end of the term, and a balloon payment at the end, does not qualify. [I.R.C. 72(p)(2) (C)
  3. The loan is evidenced by a legally enforceable agreement and the loan is limited to a dollar limit equal to the lesser of

(a) $50,000, reduced by: The highest outstanding balance of loans during the one-year period ending on the day before the date a loan is to be made less the outstanding balance of loans on the date the loan is to be made.

(b) The greater of: One half of a participants vested accrued benefit; or $10,000.

See [I.R.C. 72(p) (2) (A)]

Maximum Solo 401k Loan Amount

Generally, the maximum amount that an employee may borrow at any time is one-half the present value of his vested account balance, not to exceed $50,000. The maximum amount, however, is calculated differently if an individual has more than one outstanding loan from the plan.

Example: Mark would like to take a loan from his Solo 401k plan. Mark has a vested balance of $50,000, the maximum amount that he can borrow from the account is $25,000.

50% x $50,000 = $25,000

If Mark had a vested balance greater than $100,000, he could only borrow $50,000

What happens if My Solo 401k Loan amount exceeds allowed amount?

If the principal loan amount exceeds allowed amount, the amount of the loan that exceeds the limit will be deemed a distribution and thus taxable to the participant.

Applicable tax reporting if My Solo 401k Loan amount exceeds allowed amount

If a Solo 401k loan is treated as a taxable distribution, it will be subject to a 10 percent early distribution penalty if the employee is under age 591 1/2. 2. See IRC Sec. 72t If a Solo 401k plan loan fails to satisfy the loan regulations and is considered a deemed distribution, code L is to be used on Form 1099-R Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., to report the distribution.

DOL & IRS Solo 401k Loan Requirements

  1. The loan must have level amortization, with payments at least quarterly.
  2. The loan generally must be repaid within five years.
  3. The loan must not exceed statutory limits.
  4. Bear a reasonable rate of interest
  5. Be adequately secured (DOL Reg. 2550.408b-1(a)(1)).

Solo 401k Loan Repayment Terms

IRC Sec. 72(p)(2)(C) requires that the loan amortization schedule provide for substantially equal payments to be made at least quarterly.

Solo 401k Loan grace period for late payment

Effective January 1, 2002, Treas.Reg.1.72 (p)-1, Q&A 10, provides for a cure period that allows a loan participant to avoid an immediate deemed distribution following a missed payment. The cure period may not extend beyond the last day of the calendar quarter following the calendar quarter in which the required payment was due.

Solo 401k Loan Repayment Period (5 years and greater)

Loans must generally be repaid in full within five years from the date of loan origination (IRC Sec. 72(p)(2)(B)). An exception to the five-year payback rule exists for loans used to purchase a principal residence of the participant. If a participant wants a repayment period longer than five years, plan administrators should obtain a sworn statement from the participant certifying that the loan is to be used to purchase the participants principal place of residence (a principal residence, has the same meaning as the term under IRC Sec. 121).

Solo 401k Proper Loan Documentation

Plan loan documents should contain sufficient information to clearly demonstrate that the loan program is intended to satisfy DOL and IRS regulations.

Solo 401k Loan Agreement

The loan must be confirmed by a legally enforceable agreement (Treas. Reg. 1.72(p)-1, Q&A 3(b). According to regulations, the loan agreement must clearly identify an amount borrowed, a loan term, and a repayment schedule.

Other Suggested Forms

Using the following forms further contribute to a smooth and successful Solo 401k loan program:

Loan application form
Payment authorization form

Reporting Solo 401k Loan Defaults | IRS Form 1099-R

If a Solo 401k loan is defaulted, the loan value at the time of default is taxable and reported to the plan participant and to the IRS on IRS Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc. Distribution code L is used only for defaulted loans when there is no offset of the plan balance as a result of a distribution triggering event under the plan. If an offset occurs, the actual distribution is reported as usual (i.e., according to the age of the participant), code L would not apply. The following example illustrates Form 1099-R reporting on a defaulted loan.

Example: John Do has a Solo 401k plan balance consisting of $95,000 in cash and $5,000 of outstanding Solo 401k loan assets for a total account balance of $100,000. John defaults on his outstanding Solo 401k loan which results in a deemed distribution of $5,000. For the year of default, the plan administrator issues a Form 1099-R showing a gross distribution amount of $5,000 in Box 1 and a taxable amount of $5,000 in Box 2a. The distribution code is L for a loan treated as a distribution without a corresponding offset. John’s after-tax basis in the plan is not adjusted. After several years, John terminates his business and requests a distribution of his Solo 401k balance which, at that point, consists of $105,000 in cash and the $5,000 outstanding loan amount for a total plan balance of $110,000. Before distribution, the plan administrator offsets the $5,000 outstanding loan amount against the $5,000 loan receivable, leaving $105,000 as the final plan balance valuation. The plan administrator then issues a Form 1099-R showing a gross distribution of $105,000 in Box 1 and a taxable amount of $105,000 in Box 2a.

Form 1098 QUESTION:

Can I deduct the interest paid on my solo 401k participant loan on using Form 1098?


Form 1098 does not apply to solo 401k participant loans as interest paid on a solo 401k participant loan is not tax deductible.

Loan Amount Calculation QUESTION:

How do I take out a personal loan from my solo 401k account?  What interest do I need to pay back?  I believe I read that the maximum that can be taken out is 50% of the account up to $50k.  Is that amount based on the total value of the Solo 401k or whatever amount is in the physical account.  Example: total value is $100k but only $30k remains in the account because of investments.  Is the loan based on the $100k or the $30k?


Good question. The total of assets and cash; of course, you would have to have enough liquid cash for the loan. In your case the loan amount would be based on the $100k, so you could borrow $30,000since that is all the liquid cash available.

Multiple Loans QUESTION:

Can I take multiple participant loans from my solo 401k? For example, would it be acceptable to take a loan of $15,000, a second one for $15,000 and a third one for $15,000?


You could take a third loan equal to 50% of the balance of your Solo 401k up to $50,000 less than the sum total of the highest outstanding balances over the prior 12 months of all 401k loans outstanding at any time over the prior 12 months. For example, if you (i) had a previously taken and outstanding solo 401k 401k participant loan with a highest outstanding balance of $10,000 over the prior 12 months; and (ii) within the last 12 months you had taken a second solo 401k participant loan equal to $20,000 and paid it off, you could take a third loan equal to 50% of the balance of your Solo 401k up to $20,000.

Borrow from Roth and Pretax Solo 401k Funds QUESTION:

Can the Roth solo401k fund also be borrowed from for personal use subject to the 5 year repayment limitation?


Yes you can take a 401(k) participant loan from your Roth solo 401(k) sub-account. If you use both pretax and Roth funds to fund your 401(k) participant loan, this would need to be documented as two separate loans (i.e. one from the pretax account and the second from the Roth account’s). Note that the statutory IRS solo 401k participant loan limit would be aggregated between both sources (the pretax and the Roth  account). The maximum Solo 401k loan amount is either 50% of account balance or maximum amount of $50K.

Former Employer Loan Offset QUESTION:

I I am trying to transfer my former employer 401k plan to a solo 401k plan. I was informed by them that the loan would default and I would be required to pay the 10%penalty + tax on the outstanding loan. I was previously informed that a rollover would extend my time to pay the loan until April 2020. Are you aware if this is true or  of other options to prevent the added fee accumulation at rollover with this existing 401k participant loan.


I understand that you have an outstanding 401k participant loan under your former employer plan.  If the loan is not paid back, your former employer 401k plan administrator may treat it as a “loan offset” (rather than a deemed distribution).  In that case, the amount of the loan is subject to taxes and possibly penalties.  Under the Tax Cut & Jobs Act that  came into effect in 2018, these taxes and penalties can be avoided with respect to an unpaid loan that is treated as a loan offset if the individual contributes the amount of the loan offset to an IRA by the tax return deadline (including timely filed extensions) for the year of the loan offset (e.g. if the loan offset occurs in 2019 by April 15, 2020 or October 15, 2020 if a timely extension is filed).  
If you wish to pursue this, it would be prudent to confirm that the administrator will treat it as a “loan offset” (rather than a deemed distribution) and discuss with your tax adviser. 

Restate 401k With Outstanding Loan QUESTION:

I have existing loan on my 401k. Will I have to settle that loan before moving / restating the 401k to my  solo 401k financial?


If the existing participant loan is held in another solo 401k, yes it can also be moved to the new solo 401k that we offer when the existing solo 401k is restated/moved to us. You would continue making the loan payments pursuant to the initial participant loan payment schedule.

On the other hand if the participant loan is currently held in a former employer 401k plan, yes that loan can be transferred to the solo 401k since it also allows for participant loans. However, most former employers do not allow for the transfer of a 401k participant loan and instead apply the loan offset rule. To learn more about the loan offset rules see the following:

Borrow Cryptocurrency 401k Loan QUESTION:

I had a question for you regarding my solo 401k. Currently, it is being invested in Bitcoin. I would like to take it out as a loan to myself and make monthly payments back including interest to myself. Is it possible to loan the BTC directly, without having to liquidate it to cash first? And would an 8% interest rate be an appropriate APR?


The 401k loan rules provide that a participant may withdraw cash in the form of US dollars (subject to certain limits, repayment requirements, etc.) and if properly documented as a loan and paid back according to the payment schedule the withdrawal is not subject to taxes or penalties.
These loan rules would not allow one to withdraw a Solo 401k asset as a loan including a digital asset like cryptocurrency which is treated per the IRS as property (not cash).
Therefore, one may not borrow bitcoin held in their Solo 401k plan as a Solo 401k loan.

Transfer Former Employer 401k Loan QUESTION:

I have an outstanding loan with the current 401k. Can it be transferred as well to the self-directed solo 401k, or does it need to be paid off?


Yes, if the participant loan in your former employer’s 401k plan is in good order and the former employer allows you to transfer it. However, former employer’s generally won’t allow you to transfer-out the existing participant loan; therefore, you will need to ultimately check with your former employer’s 401k plan administrator. You will want to communicate to them that you now have a solo 401k plan for your self-employed business which accepts the transfer of the outstanding 401k loan to the solo 401k plan. If they say yes, then the transfer of the participant loan will be requested when completing the transfer forms.

On the other hand, if they say no, then you may want to consider asking them to process the loan as a “loan offset” which is a way of ultimately indirectly transferring the loan to the new plan. For more on these specific loan offset rules, please see the following page:

SOLO 401(K)