Unlike an IRA where you are not required to be self-employed to open an IRA, a solo 401k requires the individual to be self-employed because a solo 401k is a qualified plan not an IRA. To that end, the solo 401k rules are more complex than the IRA rules; however, there are advantages to solo 401k plans, such as increased flexibility in designing plans, increased contribution and deduction limits, the ability to borrow from the plan, and the option to make large voluntary after-tax contributions.
You must be self-employed to open a solo 401k plan. An individual in business for himself or herself (i.e., contractor, and sole proprietor) is self-employed. Partnerships, LLCs, S-corporation and C-corporations also fall under the self-employed umbrella provided the business owner is performing self-employment activity under the entity.
In order qualify as self-employment and to open a solo 401k, whether you contribute or no, you need to personally render services to the business. Net earnings include a partner’s distributive share of partnership income or loss (other than separately stated items, such as capital gains and losses). They don’t include income passed through to shareholders of S-corporations. Guaranteed payments to limited partners are net earnings from self-employment if they are paid for services to or for the partnership. Distributions of other income or loss to limited partners aren’t net earnings from self-employment.
For 2020 and going forward the solo 401k establishment deadline is the owner’s self-employed business tax return due date including the business tax return extension due date. See the following chart:
IMPORTANT for 2020 New Solo 401k Plan Adopters:
While the 2019 SECURE Act extended the deadline to adopt a Solo 401k plan from the end of the year to the business tax return deadline including any timely filed extension, the IRS has not yet updated its prior guidelines stating that employee contributions must be elected by the end of the year.
Therefore until the IRS issues final guidance, the conservative approach is to adopt the plan by 12/31/2020 to ensure that both employee and employer contributions can be made for 2020 in 2021 by your business tax return plus extension.
Since a solo 401k plan in a non-ERISA plan, the contribution deadlines are not the same as ERISA plans (e.g., full-time employer 401k and 403b). The contribution deadline for all solo 401k contribution sources (i.e., employee and employer contributions) is the due date of the employer’s tax return as outlined in the above chart.
As long as you are self-employed, which means you can open a solo 401k plan, you can then elect to fund the plan by making an annual contribution or by transferring/rolling over IRAs (i.e., Traditional, SEP and SIMPLE IRA but not Roth IRAs or after-tax IRAs) and former employer plans.
Employer Identification Number
The solo 401k is a separate entity. For this reason, a separate employer identification number (EIN) is must be obtained in the name of the solo 401k plan. The solo 401k EIN will be also used when opening its funding account (i.e., the bank or brokerage account), for tax reporting and when making alternative investments such as real estate, cryptocurrency, promissory notes, private placements, metals, etc.
Bank or Brokerage Account
You cannot use your personal an/or business bank account to hold the solo 401k funds. As part of our services, we would guide you through the process to set up an account for your Solo 401k. You can have a bank or brokerage account for your solo 401(k), or even both (and we would help you set up the accounts as part of our services). For example, if you wish to have an account at a brokerage like Fidelity or Schwab, we would prepare all of the paperwork that Fidelity or Schwab needs to set up a free account for the Solo 401k (i.e. no set up or maintenance fees) that comes with a free checkbook and through which you can invest in traditional investments (e.g., stocks, mutual funds, bonds, etc.) as well as alternative investments such as real estate, promissory notes, etc. since they are allowed under our IRS-approved plan documents. Please see more at the following links:
Hire a TPA QUESTION:
Same Solo 401k Plan Name QUESTION:
The solo 401k is distinguishable by the employer identification number (EIN) for the plan.
This is similar to individuals with the same name but the individual’s social security number (SSN) is unique.
Transfer IRA to Solo 401k for Syndication Investment QUESTION:
Yes pretax IRAs can be transferred to a solo 401k for investing in alternative investments such as a real estate syndication. While we move very fast (e.g. sending you the establishment documents within 1 business) with the solo 401k setup process, the time will come down to how funds are released by the existing provider (and more time if you need to move to a cash position).
Transfer Limit QUESTION:
No, transfers to the solo 401k from other retirement plans including former employer 401k plans and IRAs are not subject to a maximum amount and do not count toward the annual solo 401k contribution limit.