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Internal Revenue Service

ERISA Workplace Retirement Plan Limits

The federal government annually publishes updated qualified retirement plan limits, which impact the contributions, benefit accruals, and compliance of ERISA covered qualified retirement plans. This article provides summary tables with explanations of the changes to plan limits in recent history.


401k and Other Defined Contribution Plans

Limitation Year Maximum Benefit Allocation - [1] Elective Deferral Limit - [2] Catch-Up Limit - [3] Annual Compensation Limit - [4] Highly Compensated Employee - [5] Social Security Wage Base - [6]
2020 57,000 19,500 6,500 285,000 130,000 137,700
2019 56,000 19,000 6,000 280,000 125,000 132,900
2018 55,000 18,500 6,000 275,000 120,000 128,400
2017 54,000 18,000 6,000 270,000 120,000 127,200
2016 53,000 18,000 6,000 265,000 120,000 118,500
2015 53,000 18,000 6,000 265,000 120,000 118,500
2014 52,000 17,500 5,500 260,000 115,000 117,000
2013 51,000 17,500 5,500 255,000 115,000 113,700
2012 50,000 17,000 5,500 250,000 115,000 110,100
2011 49,000 16,500 5,500 245,000 110,000 106,800
2010 49,000 16,500 5,500 245,000 110,000 106,800

Cash Balance and Other Defined Benefit Pension Plans

Limitation Year Maximum Benefit - [7]
2020 230,000
2019 225,000
2018 220,000
2017 215,000
2016 210,000
2015 210,000
2014 210,000
2013 205,000
2012 200,000
2011 195,000
2010 195,000

What The Plan Limits Mean

[1] - For plan years ending after January 1 of the limitation year, the aggregate allocations to a participant's account, including forfeitures, cannot exceed the lesser of this limit or 100% of annual compensation. Example: for a plan year ending December 31, 2019, no more than $56,000 may be allocated to a participant's account.

[2] - For the calendar year, 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plan participants may defer up to this limit from their compensation. Participants who transition employers or otherwise contribute to multiple plans during a calendar year cannot exceed the limit in the aggregate. Example: in the 2020 calendar year, a participant may defer $9,500 into the 401(k) Plan for one employer and $10,000 into the 403(b) Plan for another employer, but the participant may not defer $19,500 into the 401(k) Plan and $19,500 into the 403(b) Plan. If the plan includes a Roth feature, the combined amount for both Roth and Pre-Tax is subject to this limit. Example: in the 2020 calendar year, participants may contribute $9,750 Roth + $9,750 Pre-Tax, but may not contribute $19,500 Roth + $19,500 Pretax.

[3] - For the calendar year, 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plan participants who turn age 50 or are age 50+ may defer additional contributions, up to this limit, from their compensation.

[4] - For plan years beginning after January 1 of the limitation year, annual compensation exceeding this limit will not be considered when allocating contributions or in compliance testing. Example: if an employee earns $300,000 in 2019, only $280,000 will be considered for plan compliance and contribution calculation purposes.

[5] - For plan years beginning after January 1 of the limitation year, anyone whose annual compensation exceeds this figure will be considered highly compensated in the following plan year. Example: if an employee earned $125,000 or more in the 2019 plan year, the employee will be highly compensated for the 2020 plan year.

[6] - This figure represents the maximum social security integration level for plan years beginning after January 1 of the limitation year. In addition, employees and employers stop paying social security taxes on compensation earned in excess of this limit. As a result, workers do not receive social security benefits for compensation earned in excess of the limit.

[7] - For plan years ending after January 1 of the limitation year, a participant's maximum annual pension benefit payable under a plan cannot exceed the lesser of this limit or 100% of annual compensation. The employer's funding obligation to pay this promised benefit is determined annually by an actuary.


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