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Taxes and Your 401(k)

Written By: MB Group

Saving for retirement is an essential part of financial planning, and one of the most popular ways to do so is by contributing to a 401(k) plan. A 401(k) plan is a retirement savings account employers offer that allows employees to donate a portion of their pre-tax income. While a 401(k) plan can be a powerful tool for building wealth, it's integral to understand the tax implications of this type of account. This comprehensive guide will discuss everything you need to know about taxes and your 401(k).

How Does a 401(k) Plan Work?

A 401(k) plan is an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan that allows employees topiggy bank with stacks of coins and 401k bocks contribute a portion of their pre-tax income to the account. The contributions are invested in various investment options, such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, and grow tax-free until the funds are withdrawn.

In addition to employee contributions, many employers also offer matching contributions, where they contribute a certain percentage of the employee's contribution to the account. For example, an employer may match 50% of an employee's contribution up to a certain amount.

One of the primary benefits of a 401(k) plan is that the contributions are made on a pre-tax basis, which means that the gifts are deducted from the employee's income before taxes are applied. This reduces the employee's taxable income, which can result in a lower tax bill in the current year.

However, the downside is that when the funds are withdrawn from the account, they are subject to income tax at the individual's marginal tax rate. This means that if an individual is in a higher tax bracket in retirement than during their working years, they may pay more in taxes overall.

What Are the Tax Benefits of a 401(k) Plan?

There are several tax benefits to contributing to a 401(k) plan, including:

  1. Tax-deferred growth: The contributions and earnings in a 401(k) plan grow tax-free until the funds are withdrawn, which means the account can grow more quickly than a taxable one.
  2. Lower taxable income: Contributions to a 401(k) plan are made pre-tax, reducing the employee's taxable income in the current year. This can result in a lower tax bill and more money in the employee's pocket.
  3. Tax diversification: A mix of taxable and tax-deferred accounts can provide tax diversification in retirement. This means the individual can withdraw funds from both accounts to minimize tax liability.

What Are the Tax Consequences of Withdrawing Funds from a 401(k) Plan?

When individuals withdraw funds from a 401(k) plan, they are subject to income tax at their marginal tax rate. Additionally, if the individual is under 59 ½, they may be subject to a 10% penalty on the amount withdrawn.

However, the penalty has some exceptions, such as if the individual becomes disabled or takes the funds as a series of substantially equal payments over their lifetime.

It's important to note that individuals must start taking distributions from their 401(k) plan by April 1 of the year following the year they turn 72 (or 70 ½ if they were born before July 1, 1949). These required minimum distributions (RMDs) are calculated based on the individual's age and the balance in the account.


You can contribute up to $22,500 to your 401(k) plan in 2023 or $30,000 if you are 50 or older. These contribution limits are subject to periodic adjustments for inflation. In addition to the jar full of coins and 401k labelcontribution limit, there is an annual limit on the total contributions to a 401(k) plan, including employer and employee contributions. This limit is $66,000 in 2023 or 100% of your compensation, whichever is lower. It is important to note that these limits are subject to change, so check the IRS website for the most up-to-date information.

For example, you earn $50,000 annually and contribute $5,000 to your traditional 401(k) plan. Your taxable income for the year would be reduced to $45,000 ($50,000 - $5,000), which could put you in a lower tax bracket and reduce your overall tax liability. However, remember that you will eventually pay taxes on your 401(k) contributions and earnings when you withdraw the money in retirement.

On the other hand, if you contribute to a Roth 401(k) plan, your contributions are made on an after-tax basis, meaning they are taken out of your paycheck after taxes are withheld. This means you won't get a tax deduction for your contributions but won't have any surcharges on your contributions or earnings when you withdraw the money in retirement.

Investing In Your Future

In summary, your 401(k) plan can be a powerful tool for saving for retirement and reducing your taxable income. Contributing to a traditional 401(k) plan can lower your taxable income for the year and potentially reduce your overall tax liability. 

By contributing to a Roth 401(k) plan, you can avoid paying taxes on your contributions and earnings when you withdraw the money in retirement. It is essential to consider your current and future tax situation when deciding between a traditional 401(k) and a Roth 401(k), as well as take advantage of any employer-matching contributions that may be available. If you have any questions surrounding taxes and your 401(k), feel free to contact us.  

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Solo 401(k) or SEP IRA

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