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IRS Raises 401(k) Contribution Limits for 2019

Employee Benefits
  • In late October 2018, the IRS boosted annual contribution limits for 2019 for 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans.
  • Plan participants can contribute up to $19,000 for 2019, which is up from $18,500 for 2018.
  • This is a good time to consider adding a retirement savings program to your benefits menu, if your firm doesn't yet have one.

Annual savings ceiling boosted $500

Employees using a workplace-sponsored 401(k) plan, a 403(b) plan, or most 457 plans — available for government and certain non-government employers — will be able to contribute an additional $500 per year in 2019. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raised the annual contribution limits for 2019 to $19,000, which amounts to a cost-of-living adjustment and is an increase from $18,500 in 2018.

It marks the second straight year the IRS has added a $500 bump, following no increases for three years (2015-17).

For employees 50 and older, the catch-up contribution limit remains at $6,000 for workplace plans. When pooled together, a worker who is 50 and older can save as much as $25,000 in a 401(k) plan — even if the individual doesn’t turn 50 until Dec. 31, 2019. 

Time to consider offering a retirement plan

While the size of the increase to the 401(k) plan contribution limit is relatively modest, the boost signals an opportune time to consider adding a retirement savings program to your benefits menu if you don't already have one.

Although the savings rate among Americans today is low — 55 million workers don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, sparking several states to begin implementing state-sponsored retirement programs — increases in contribution limits could lead to an increase in the need for a savings plan. However, more than half of the small-business owners recently surveyed by Paychex said they don’t offer a retirement plan, citing they didn’t see the benefit.

The benefits of establishing a retirement savings plan are both short and long term for a business and its employees. A 401(k) plan can attract and retain talent — similar to competitive salaries — plus enhance employees’ retirement-readiness, and deliver benefits such as tax savings for the business and elevated engagement by employees.

Small-business owners should also use this time to develop their own succession plan, including funding your own retirement. FBA/CNBC Business Owner Succession Planning Survey indicated that 78 percent of small-business owners plan to sell their business to fund 60 to 100 percent of their retirement, but selling your business might not be enough to cover the length of your retirement. So, as you consider implementing a retirement savings plan for employees, also consider your retirement. You also might gain access to better plans for yourself.

Paychex offers plan options designed to help businesses of all sizes that are considering starting a 401(k), or considering switching their current retirement plan.

Additional resources

Maree P Vahue, MBA, QKA, is a professionally accredited Retirement Services Compliance Analyst II for Paychex, Inc. based in Rochester, NY.
This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.