Does employer match count toward 401(k) limit?

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Don Taylor
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Dear Dr. Don,
Do employer contributions to a 401(k) plan count against the maximum limits you can contribute to the plan? Do they affect the amount you can put into a traditional or Roth IRA?
-- Pat Plans

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Dear Pat,
The employer matching contributions don't count toward the maximum limits you can contribute to a 401(k) plan.

In 2012, the contribution limit is $17,000 for employees. For plans that favor highly compensated employees, the limitation is $110,000. A highly compensated employee includes officers of the company, certain major shareholders, employees who are highly compensated "based on the facts and circumstances," and spouses or dependents of those above.

Your plan administrator can provide additional information about highly compensated employee limits if you fall into that category.

Catch-up contributions of up to an additional $5,500 are allowed for employees ages 50 and older.

Still, your participation in a 401(k) plan may limit your ability to make tax-deferred contributions to a traditional IRA, although you can make nondeductible contributions if you have sufficient taxable compensation to do so. As I point out in another letter, there are income limitations on contributing to a Roth IRA, but no income limitations on converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

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