Author Topic: Would you defer bonuses to 2020 to avoid HCE classification on 401k plan?  (Read 548 times)

Nick_Miller

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Our (6 person) office started a 401k plan in summer 2018. The problem is that only 2 of 6 employees are either eligible or have decided to participate thus far. I currently have about 85% of the total plan assets based on last year's contributions, and that percentage might even go up this year unless others jump aboard, as I plan to max out my 401k contributions this year. I narrowly ducked being defined as a highly compensated employee for this year based on my 2018 year earnings.  (Our plan defines HCE as earning gross $120K+; I earned $118K in 2018).

But I only ducked being a HCE by deferring a $37K bonus to this year, which I got last Friday, so now I'm in the same spot I was in last December. With my regular salary ($80K) and the $37K bonus, I'm already projected to earn $117K this year, and that's assuming I earn NO other bonuses for the entire year, which is VERY unlikely, and which has NEVER happened.

Obviously I would rather have money now than have money later, BUT if I take my bonuses this year, I WILL be a HCE for 2020, which will GREATLY hamper my ability to contribute anything to our 401k in 2020 (unless other employee join up and contribute healthy amounts, which is unlikely in my view).

Assume that my boss is not willing to make any changes to the 401k plan. What would you do and why?

EDITED TO ADD: Because this information might be useful, I would anticipate earning between $10K-$25K in bonuses this year based on my current case load, the cases I think will settle, etc. Last year's huge bonus was due to settling a huge case, and I don't currently have any cases like that, so bonus expectations are lower this year.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2019, 07:48:19 AM by Nick_Miller »

mm1970

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I probably would.

At least they raised the # for 2019 to be $125k?

But yeah, at the beginning of 2018 I got a salary raise to *just* the HCE #.  I'm about 20 cents over for last year.  Was tempted to ask if I could take 1 hour leave without pay. 

Nobody has talked to me yet this year, but google tells me they don't HAVE to limit my 401k contributions.  If I'm not in the 20% of employees in compensation, they can allow me to max out.  Looking around the office at the VPs, directors, and PhD's, I'm probably not in the top 20%.

We'll see, but I may be screwed for this year.

Nick_Miller

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I probably would.

At least they raised the # for 2019 to be $125k?

But yeah, at the beginning of 2018 I got a salary raise to *just* the HCE #.  I'm about 20 cents over for last year.  Was tempted to ask if I could take 1 hour leave without pay. 

Nobody has talked to me yet this year, but google tells me they don't HAVE to limit my 401k contributions.  If I'm not in the 20% of employees in compensation, they can allow me to max out.  Looking around the office at the VPs, directors, and PhD's, I'm probably not in the top 20%.

We'll see, but I may be screwed for this year.

Sorry if you end up getting screwed!

But thanks for drawing my attention to the increase to $125K for HCEs in 2019. That gives me a little wiggle room to where I can track what would be my bonuses and maybe draw some out toward the end of the year.