Do 401(k) Contributions Reduce AGI and MAGI?

Traditional 401(k) contributions effectively reduce both adjusted gross income (AGI) and modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). Participants are able to defer a portion of their salaries and claim tax deductions for that year. However, a Roth 401(k) contribution offers no immediate income reduction, as it consists of after-tax dollars.

Key Takeaways

  • Traditional 401(k) contributions effectively reduce both adjusted gross income (AGI) and modified adjusted gross income (MAGI).
  • The potential of tax deferral and reduction of current taxable income means that traditional 401(k) contributions offer ways to soften tax liabilities.
  • In 2022, the maximum contribution limit is $20,500, up from $19,500 in 2021. Those age 50 or older are able to contribute a "catch-up" amount of an additional $6,500.
  • Roth 401(k) contributions don't reduce either AGI or MAGI, as they are made with after-tax dollars.

401(k) Contributions

Traditional 401(k) plan contributions are not considered to be deductions on a 1040 tax return, like a contribution to a traditional IRA. To contribute to a 401(k), an employee must be eligible and the employer must offer such a plan. Then, an employee may begin deferring a percentage of his salary toward that plan throughout the year. Any amount contributed to the plan up to the IRS limit is considered a reduction of that employee's taxable wage.

In 2022, the maximum contribution limit is $20,500, up from $19,500 in 2021. Those age 50 or older are able to contribute a "catch-up" amount of an additional $6,500. For example, if a 40-year-old employee who makes a $100,000 a year salary contributes the full amount of $20,500, the reported income from the employer shows $79,500. The original contribution of $20,500 is deposited into the employee's own personal 401(k) plan to be invested within the plan's options. The employee is taxed only when the funds are distributed from the 401(k) plan or from a future rollover IRA.

Traditional 401(k) plans are very attractive for individuals looking to reduce their AGI or MAGI. The potential of tax deferral and reduction of current taxable income offer ways to soften tax liabilities. Many have also found this a better option than a traditional IRA due to the maximum annual contribution being limited to only $6,000, with a $1,000 catch-up, in both 2021 and 2022.

If you are interested in contributing to your employer's 401(k) plan, contact your plan sponsor or human resources department. For more tax strategies, consult a tax or financial advisor.

Roth 401(k) and Roth IRA

A Roth 401(k) is an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, just like a 401(k). However, unlike a 401(k), a Roth 401(k) is funded by after-tax dollars up to the same contribution rate of $20,500 per year (total, including both employer and employee contribution), plus an additional $6,500 catch-up contribution for employees age 50 or older. Roth IRAs have a max contribution of $6,000, plus an additional $1,000 for employees age 50 or older, for 2021 and 2022.

Because a Roth 401(k) and Roth IRA are taxed upfront, they do not lower your AGI/MAGI. The initial contributions are not tax-deductible, but money can be withdrawn without taxation, provided it is a qualified distribution, meaning the account has been held for at least five years and distributions are made after age 59½ or due to other certain specific qualifications.

For Roth 401(k)s, distributions are required after you hit 72 years of age. The RMD age was increased to 72 from 70½ in 2019 under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (SECURE) Act.

Roth 401(k)s and Roth IRAs can be good options for people who believe they will be paying a much higher tax rate at retirement than when making contributions. They can also be a good investment and savings option once 401(k) contributions have been maxed out.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Internal Revenue Service. "Lowering AGI This Year Can Help Taxpayers When They File Next Year." Accessed Dec. 11, 2021.

  2. Internal Revenue Service. "401(k) Plan Overview." Accessed Dec. 11, 2021.

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "IRS Announces 401(k) Limit Increases to $20,500." Accessed Dec. 11, 2021.

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "2021 Limitations Adjusted as Provided in Section 415(d), etc." Accessed Dec. 11, 2021.

  5. Internal Revenue Service. "401(k) Resource Guide - Plan Participants - General Distribution Rules." Accessed Dec. 11, 2021.

  6. 116th Congress, 2nd Session. "H.R.1994 - Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019." Accessed Dec. 11, 2021.

Take the Next Step to Invest
×
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.
Service
Name
Description