You will be able to contribute a portion of your Compensation as a pre-tax Deferral unless you are a member of one of the excluded classes listed previously. The maximum dollar amount that you can contribute to the Plan each year is $16,500 for 2009 and includes contributions you make to certain other deferral plans (e.g., other 401(k) plans, salary deferral SEP plans, and 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity plans). This amount will increase as the cost of living increases. Deferrals (and the related earnings) are always fully vested and cannot be forfeited. So if you were to leave your Employer, you would be entitled to the full Deferral balance (plus earnings).
The amount of your Compensation that you decide to defer into the Plan generally will be contributed on a pre-tax basis. That means that, unlike the compensation that you actually receive, the pre-tax contribution (and all of the earnings accumulated while it is invested in the Plan) will not be taxed at the time it is paid by your Employer. Instead, it will be taxable to you when you take a payout from the Plan. These contributions will reduce your taxable income each year that you make a contribution but will be treated as compensation for Social Security taxes.
EXAMPLE: Assume your Compensation is $25,000 per year. You decide to contribute five percent of your Compensation into the Plan. Your Employer will pay you $23,750 as gross taxable income and will deposit $1,250 (five percent) into the Plan. You will not pay federal income taxes on the $1,250 (plus earnings on the $1,250) until you withdraw it from the Plan.
Age 50 Catch-up Contributions - If you are eligible to make Deferrals and you turn age 50 before the end of any calendar year, you may defer up to an extra $5,500 each year (for 2009) into the Plan as a pre-tax contribution once you meet certain Plan limits. The maximum catch-up amount may increase as the cost of living increases.
Special 403(b) Catch-up Contributions – If you have worked at least 15 years for the Employer, and the Employer is a qualified organization, you may make a special catch-up contribution equal to the smallest of the three amounts listed below:
$15,000 minus the amount of Special 403(b) Catch-Up Contributions made in prior years
($5,000 times the number of years you have worked for the Employer) minus (the total amount of Deferrals made while you worked for the Employer)
These catch-up contributions will be eligible for Matching Contributions from your Employer (if any.)
If you qualify for both the age 50 catch-up contributions and the special 403(b) catch-up contributions, your catch-up contributions will be allocated first as special 403(b) catch-up contributions. Catch-up contributions (and the related earnings) are considered Deferrals and are always fully vested. So if you were to leave your Employer, you would be entitled to the full catch-up balance (plus earnings.)