Some employers may disallow one, several, or all of the previous hardship causes. To maintain the tax advantage for income deferred into a 401(k), the law stipulates the restriction that unless an exception applies, money must be kept in the plan or an equivalent tax deferred plan until the employee reaches 59 years of age. Money that is withdrawn prior to the age of 59 typically incurs a 10% penalty tax unless a further exception applies.[13] This penalty is on top of the "ordinary income" tax that has to be paid on such a withdrawal. The exceptions to the 10% penalty include: the employee's death, the employee's total and permanent disability, separation from service in or after the year the employee reached age 55, substantially equal periodic payments under section 72(t), a qualified domestic relations order, and for deductible medical expenses (exceeding the 7.5% floor). This does not apply to the similar 457 plan.
Rollovers between eligible retirement plans are accomplished in one of two ways: by a distribution to the participant and a subsequent rollover to another plan or by a direct rollover from plan to plan. Rollovers after a distribution to the participant must generally be accomplished within 60 days of the distribution. If the 60-day limit is not met, the rollover will be disallowed and the distribution will be taxed as ordinary income and the 10% penalty will apply, if applicable. The same rules and restrictions apply to rollovers from plans to IRAs.
The traditional process of doing an IRA rollover can be somewhat cumbersome and leave account holders with a lot to manage. As a result, most people don’t use a traditional 60-day rollover process to establish a rollover IRA unless they want access to their retirement funds for 60 days as part of 401(k) business funding. Instead, they use direct transfers.
Employees who are eligible for a rollover IRA can do one rollover in a 12-month period — no matter how many IRAs or 401(k) accounts they have. According to IRA rollover rules, completing a rollover is a simple process. There are two ways to do a rollover — a direct transfer between custodians or by having your current custodian send you a check and completing the rollover yourself within 60 days.
After you receive the funds from your IRA, you also have a strict 60 days (and not two months) to complete the rollover to another IRA. If you do not complete the rollover within the time allowed—or do not receive a waiver or extension of the 60-day period from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—the amount will be treated as ordinary income by the IRS. That means you must include the amount as income on your tax return, and any taxable amounts will be taxed at your current, ordinary income tax rate. Plus, if you were not 59.5 years old when the distribution occurred, you'll face a 10% penalty on the withdrawal. (For more, see: Exceptions to the 60-Day Retirement Account Rollover Rule.)

A rollover of retirement plan assets to an IRA is not your only option. Carefully consider all of your available options which may include but not be limited to keeping your assets in your former employer's plan; rolling over assets to a new employer's plan; or taking a cash distribution (taxes and possible withdrawal penalties may apply). Prior to a decision, be sure to understand the benefits and limitations of your available options and consider factors such as differences in investment related expenses, plan or account fees, available investment options, distribution options, legal and creditor protections, the availability of loan provisions, tax treatment, and other concerns specific to your individual circumstances.
Another item to be aware of with rollover IRA contributions is that this may restrict your ability to move your account in the future. If, for example, you do a 401(k) rollover to IRA and later contribute to that rollover IRA, you won’t be able to roll your IRA back into a 401(k) at some point in the future. This is covered further in the 401(k) Rollover to IRA section below.
Many IRAs allow only one rollover per year on an IRA-to-IRA transfer. The one-year calendar runs from the time the account holder made the distribution, and it does not apply to rollovers between traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Individuals who do not follow this rule may have to report extra IRA-to-IRA transfers as gross income in the tax year the rollover occurs.

According to the Council of Foundations, “such distributions do not count as qualified distributions from IRAs under these special rules, donors will have to first recognize those distributions as income. They then must calculate their charitable deduction according to the general rules pertaining to percentage limitations and itemized contribution reductions discussed below.”
Rollovers between eligible retirement plans are accomplished in one of two ways: by a distribution to the participant and a subsequent rollover to another plan or by a direct rollover from plan to plan. Rollovers after a distribution to the participant must generally be accomplished within 60 days of the distribution. If the 60-day limit is not met, the rollover will be disallowed and the distribution will be taxed as ordinary income and the 10% penalty will apply, if applicable. The same rules and restrictions apply to rollovers from plans to IRAs.

To help ensure that companies extend their 401(k) plans to low-paid employees, an IRS rule limits the maximum deferral by the company's highly compensated employees (HCEs) based on the average deferral by the company's non-highly compensated employees (NHCEs). If the less compensated employees save more for retirement, then the HCEs are allowed to save more for retirement. This provision is enforced via "non-discrimination testing". Non-discrimination testing takes the deferral rates of HCEs and compares them to NHCEs. In 2008, an HCE was defined as an employee with compensation greater than $100,000 in 2007, or as an employee that owned more than 5% of the business at any time during the year or the preceding year.[32] In addition to the $100,000 limit for determining HCEs, employers can elect to limit the top-paid group of employees to the top 20% of employees ranked by compensation.[32] That is, for plans with the first day of the plan-year in the 2007 calendar year, HCEs are employees who earned more than $100,000 in gross compensation (also known as 'Medicare wages') in the prior year. For example, most testing done in 2009 was for the 2008 plan-year, which compared 2007 plan-year gross compensation to the $100,000 threshold in order to determine who was an HCE and who was an NHCE. The threshold was $125,000 for 2019, and is $130,000 for 2020.[28]
There is also a maximum 401(k) contribution limit that applies to all employee and employer 401(k) contributions in a calendar year. This limit is the section 415 limit, which is the lesser of 100% of the employee's total pre-tax compensation or $56,000 for 2019, or $57,000 in 2020.[28][27] For employees over 50, the catch-up contribution limit is also added to the section 415 limit.

In order to be eligible to receive a QCD, a qualified charitable organization must meet requirements under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Qualifying organizations must be involved in religious, charitable, educational or literary endeavors, or, the prevention of cruelty to animals and children, fostering amateur sports competitions (locally and internationally), testing for public safety or scientific activities or operations.
A rollover IRA is very similar to a traditional IRA and gets almost identical tax treatment. However, there are key differences between a rollover IRA and a traditional IRA including how they’re established. While a traditional IRA is typically established with new contributions or direct-transfer between custodians, a rollover IRA starts by rolling funds from another retirement account.
To help ensure that companies extend their 401(k) plans to low-paid employees, an IRS rule limits the maximum deferral by the company's highly compensated employees (HCEs) based on the average deferral by the company's non-highly compensated employees (NHCEs). If the less compensated employees save more for retirement, then the HCEs are allowed to save more for retirement. This provision is enforced via "non-discrimination testing". Non-discrimination testing takes the deferral rates of HCEs and compares them to NHCEs. In 2008, an HCE was defined as an employee with compensation greater than $100,000 in 2007, or as an employee that owned more than 5% of the business at any time during the year or the preceding year.[32] In addition to the $100,000 limit for determining HCEs, employers can elect to limit the top-paid group of employees to the top 20% of employees ranked by compensation.[32] That is, for plans with the first day of the plan-year in the 2007 calendar year, HCEs are employees who earned more than $100,000 in gross compensation (also known as 'Medicare wages') in the prior year. For example, most testing done in 2009 was for the 2008 plan-year, which compared 2007 plan-year gross compensation to the $100,000 threshold in order to determine who was an HCE and who was an NHCE. The threshold was $125,000 for 2019, and is $130,000 for 2020.[28]
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