I Overcontributed to My 401(k). What Do I Do Now?

I Overcontributed to My 401(k). What Do I Do Now?

SmartAsset: What to do when you overcontribute to your 401(k)

SmartAsset: What to do when you overcontribute to your 401(k)

Did you just find out that you overcontributed your 401(k) plan? If you act quickly, you can minimize the damage. But if you wait, the tax bill and inconveniences will multiply. So if you’ve overcontributed to your 401(k), the plan administrator must return the excess funds.  Let’s take a look at the steps you’ll need to take to correct the situation.

If you have more questions about planning your retirement, you can work with a financial advisor to maximize your retirement strategy.

What Is the Maximum Contribution?

What is the maximum contribution for a 401(k) plan? According to the IRS, the maximum contribution for employees participating in 401(k) plans is $22,500 for the year 2023.

However, if you’re 50 or older, you can contribute more than $22,500 as a “catch-up” contribution. In 2023, the catch-up contribution amount is $7,500, bringing the total you can contribute to your 401(k) to $30,000 if you’re 50 and up.

These amounts are often updated on an annual basis. In 2022, the maximum contribution was $20,500 and the catch-up contribution was $6,500. Make sure you’re referencing the correct numbers for your calculations.

Now, these numbers do not include employer contributions. If your employer offers a contribution, they have different limits. In 2023, the total amount you can contribute including any employer contributions is $66,000 or 100% of your salary. But the only problem you’ll have is if you personally go over the individual contribution amount. 

What to Do if You’ve Overcontributed

SmartAsset: What to do when you overcontribute to your 401(k)

SmartAsset: What to do when you overcontribute to your 401(k)

If you now realize you’ve overcontributed, don’t panic—this can usually be fixed with minimal fuss as long as you act quickly. Here are some steps to take:

1.) Contact Your Employer or Plan Administrator Immediately

Let your employer know that you’ve overcontributed. Time is of the essence—catching the error before tax day is extremely helpful. (Tax day is generally April 15 but is April 18 in 2023.)

2.) Correct Your Tax Forms

If you can catch the problem before tax day and before you file your taxes, you can get a corrected W-2 to use. If you didn’t catch it early enough, you’ll still follow these steps, but you’ll need to file an amended tax return.

3.) Pay Taxes on the Excess Contribution

Your employer will return the excess money to you as well as any funds that money earned. You’ll owe taxes on that amount and perhaps an early withdrawal penalty—more on that below.

Let your employer or plan administrator know, and they’ll correct the situation by returning your money and fixing your tax forms. Then you’ll need to correct your tax paperwork and payments on your end. 

What Are the Penalties?

Beyond the stress and annoyance, the penalties for overcontributing can include problems with your tax return, additional taxes and penalties.

If you can fix the error before the tax day deadline, the fallout is relatively minor. You’ll need to file your taxes using the updated W-2 and you’ll have to pay taxes on the overcontribution as if it were wages.

Think of it this way: If you hadn’t overcontributed, that money would have come to you via your usual paycheck, so even though it’s coming late, it’s taxed as if it were.

However, if you miss the deadline, you’ll owe those additional taxes and you may have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty on the amount. Then you’ll owe additional taxes again—yes, once for the tax year in which you made the mistake and again in the year in which it was corrected.

Why Do Overcontributions Happen?

Usually, overcontributions occur because you have two sources of retirement savings and aren’t keeping track. If you have the same employer and retirement account for a full tax year, it’s more likely that your employer or plan administrator may catch the error.

If you change jobs and have two 401(k)s, however briefly, problems can pop up. This can also happen when you work multiple jobs and have 401(k) plans associated with each, so make sure you’re keeping track of all 401(k) plans you may have.

Another common stumbling block is when you get a significant raise or bonus and forget that your 401(k) is set to take out a set percentage of your paycheck. If you’re calculating from your previous, normal salary you might be well within your limits, but with a bigger paycheck comes a bigger 401(k) deferral.

Bottom Line

SmartAsset: What to do when you overcontribute to your 401(k)

SmartAsset: What to do when you overcontribute to your 401(k)

Whenever taxes come into play, finances can get complicated. And retirement savings are no exception. If you think you have overcontributed your 401(k) plan, don’t hesitate to reach out to your employer or plan administrator. And when you are in the middle of tax season, you want to get that situation fixed right away before tax day. Or you could be dealing with penalties.

Tips for Managing Your Retirement Savings

  • Saving for retirement is much easier said than done, but a financial advisor can get you on the right track. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

  • A 401(k) isn’t the only place you can save for retirement. An individual retirement account, or IRA, is another option. It has a contribution limit of $6,500 for 2023 and offers the same tax benefits as a 401(k). Roth IRAs, on the other hand, don’t provide an upfront tax deduction, but you won’t have to pay taxes on your income when you retire.

  • If you are taking advantage of employer 401(k) matching, SmartAsset’s 401(k) calculator can help you figure out how much you will have based on your annual contribution and your employer’s matches.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/AndreyPopov, ©iStock.com/jygallery,  ©iStock.com/Cn0ra

The post What to Do When You Overcontribute to Your 401(k) appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

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