A 414(h) plan is an employer-sponsored benefit plan that defers taxation on earnings. Earnings are not taxed until they are distributed to the retiree. A 414(h) is a type of defined contribution retirement plan, along with 401(k), profit-sharing, or money purchase plans.
Eligible to this type of retirement plan are government employees whether in local, state, or federal government agencies.
How Does a 414(h) Plan Work?
The main features of the 414 (h) include:
- Contributions to the plan are made by both the employer and the employee.
- Contributions can either be calculated as a percentage of the employee’s salary or a fixed dollar amount. This is determined by the employer.
- Pre-tax employee contributions are “picked up” by the employer which means the contributions are not subject to federal income tax withholding.
- This type of retirement savings plan is only available to government employees.
- There are no income restrictions as to who can participate in this type of retirement savings plan, unlike an IRA.
Tax Considerations of 414(h) Plan Withdrawals
Here are some points to consider regarding taxation of withdrawals from a 414(h) plan:
- Withdrawals are considered taxable income at the time they are distributed.
- The distribution may be subject to mandatory 20% federal income tax withholding, depending on the withdrawal amount.
- If you are under the age of 59 ½, you may also be subject to an additional 10% federal early withdrawal penalty.
- Your state may also impose income taxes on distributions from a retirement account.
- Required minimum distributions (RMDs) must begin once you reach 70 ½.
- Should a rollover be made, all of the funds in a 414(h) plan must be rolled over. Rollovers can be done via direct rollover or a 60-day rollover. It is beneficial to go for a direct rollover to avoid penalties on the rollover.
- Note that you can take penalty-free early withdrawals to pay for certain first-time home purchases, higher education expenses, or medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
Advantages of a 414(h) Plan
Here are some advantages of the 414(h) plan:
Employer Matching Contributions
Your employer may offer matching contributions that help grow your account faster. This can be a great incentive to participate in such a retirement savings plan as it allows you to maximize your return on investment (ROI).
As mentioned earlier, contributions are made with pre-tax dollars. This reduces your taxable income, which can result in a lower tax bill at the end of the year.
The earnings on your account grow tax-deferred. You don’t have to pay taxes on them until you withdraw the funds, which can provide you with a larger nest egg come retirement time.
No Income Restrictions
Unlike an IRA, there are no income restrictions as to who can participate in a 414(h) plan. This makes it a great option for those who earn a high income and want to save for retirement.
No Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) Until Age 70 ½
Unlike other retirement savings plans, there are no required minimum distributions (RMDs) from a 414(h) plan until you reach 70 ½ years of age. This gives you more flexibility as to when you want to start taking withdrawals.
Disadvantages of a 414(h) Plan
Here are some potential disadvantages of the 414(h) plan:
Higher Tax Bills in Retirement
Since withdrawals from a 414(h) plan are considered taxable income, you may end up with a higher tax bill in retirement than if you had saved in other types of accounts. This is especially true if you have a large balance in your account.
Less Flexibility Than Other Retirement Accounts
The disadvantage of a 414(h) is that it offers less flexibility than other retirement accounts, such as a 401(k) or IRA. For example, you are unable to borrow money from the account and there are penalties for early withdrawals.
Only Available to Government Employees
The 414(h) plan is only available to government employees. If you are not employed by the government, you will not be able to take advantage of this retirement savings plan.
The 414(h) plan can be a great way to save for retirement if you are a government employee.
It offers many benefits, such as employer matching contributions, pre-tax contributions, and tax-deferred growth. There are also no income restrictions or required minimum distributions (RMDs).
However, there are some disadvantages to consider, such as higher tax bills in retirement and less flexibility than other retirement accounts.
About the Author
True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®
True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.
True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.