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Elective-Deferral Contribution


An Elective-Deferral Contribution is an arrangement in which an employee elects to contribute a part of their pre-tax salary into a retirement savings account, like a 401(k) or 403(b) plan. The funds are automatically deducted from their salary before taxes are calculated, hence, lowering their taxable income. This investment allows growth over time and provides income upon retirement.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Elective-Deferral Contribution” would be:Elective – i-ˈlek-tivDeferral – di-ˈfər-əlContribution – ˌkän-trə-ˈbyü-shən

Key Takeaways

  1. Employee Saving Mechanism: An elective-deferral contributes is a method that allows employees to contribute a portion of their pre-tax wages to a retirement account. This means that taxes are not paid on the money until it is withdrawn during retirement.
  2. Tax Benefits: Elective-deferral contributions provide considerable tax advantages. The contributions are made pre-tax, lowering the employee’s taxable income for the year. Plus, your money can also grow tax-free until you start making withdrawals in retirement.
  3. Contribution Limits: There are annual limits on how much an employee can defer. The IRS sets these limits and modifies them from year to year. It is important for employees to be aware of these limits to fully utilize their savings potential and avoid penalties.


Elective-Deferral Contributions are important in business and finance because they are a key component of retirement savings plans like 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans. These contributions represent the amount of income that employees choose to defer from their paycheck and invest into their retirement plan on a pre-tax basis. This not only helps to increase the potential for long-term growth, but also provides immediate tax benefits as the contributed amount is deducted from taxable income. Imposing limits on these contributions ensures the system is fair and prevents high earners from benefiting disproportionately. Thus, understanding this term and its implications can greatly aid in retirement and tax planning.


The main purpose of an Elective-Deferral Contribution primarily revolves around saving for one’s retirement while enjoying several tax benefits. Employees are able to choose to contribute a portion of their pre-tax salary towards a retirement savings account such as 401(k), 403(b), or a 457 plan. This not only greatly bolsters an individual’s future retirement nest egg, but also provides the employee with a form of tax relief in the present. By deferring a part of their income, employees effectively lower their current taxable income, meaning that they pay less in taxes because the contributions are pre-tax, resulting in immediate tax savings.

Moreover, Elective-Deferral Contributions are seen as an effective mechanism for employers to incentivize their workforce towards a financially stable retirement. The contributions deferred from the employees’ wages can sometimes be matched by the employer up to a certain percentage, maximizing the potential for growth in the employee’s retirement fund. Also, contributions and associated earnings in the fund grow tax-deferred until withdrawal, which generally happens during retirement when one might find themselves in a lower tax bracket. Therefore, Elective-Deferral Contributions serve as a substantial instrument for ensuring individual retirement security, budgeting personal finance, and effective tax management.


1. 401(k) Plan Contributions: One common example of Elective-Deferral Contributions is in 401(k) retirement plans. Employees choose to defer a portion of their salaries into these plans pre-tax, which makes this a type of elective-deferral contribution. For example, an employee might choose to contribute 5% or $5,000 annually to their 401(k). This amount is deferred from their paycheck and invested in the plan before tax is deducted, allowing for tax-deferred growth until retirement when funds are withdrawn.

2. 403(b) Plan Contributions: Another example is seen among employees of non-profit organizations, public schools, or certain other public institutions who can electively defer a portion of their salaries into a 403(b) retirement plan. This plan is similar to a 401(k), but designed specifically for public service employees. The deferral they choose comes out of their pre-tax income and is instead invested in various securities, where it enjoys tax-deferred growth until retirement.

3. SIMPLE IRA Contributions: A Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA is another example where an employee can make elective-deferral contributions. Small businesses typically offer this type of retirement plan. Employees can choose to defer a portion of their pre-tax salary into their SIMPLE IRA, and similar to a 401(k) plan, this money is then invested and grows tax-deferred until retirement.In all these cases, the key aspect is the voluntary action by the employee to have a certain amount of their pre-tax income deferred from their paycheck and invested in a retirement plan, rather than receiving that pay in cash where it would be taxed immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Elective-Deferral Contribution?

An Elective-Deferral Contribution refers to the amount of income that an employee opts to have withheld from their paycheck and instead put directly into their employer-sponsored retirement plan. The income deferred is pre-tax, and grows tax-free until withdrawal.

How does an Elective-Deferral Contribution work?

During the salary agreement process or while the retirement plan is being set up, employees can decide how much of their earnings they’d like to contribute to the retirement plan. This deducted amount is then funneled directly into the retirement account each pay period.

Can I change the amount of my Elective-Deferral Contribution?

Yes, typically, you are allowed to change your deferral rate at specific times during the year. It’s best to communicate with your employer or plan administrator for the specific rules around your plan.

Are there limits to how much I can contribute to my retirement plan through Elective-Deferral Contributions?

Yes, the IRS sets limits on the amount you can defer each year. For 2021, the limit is $19,500 for 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans. People aged 50 and over can make catch-up contributions of up to $6,500.

What are the tax implications of Elective-Deferral Contributions?

Elective-Deferral Contributions are often tax-deductible, meaning they reduce your taxable income in the year they are made. The contributions and earnings then grow tax-deferred until you begin making withdrawals. Withdrawals are then typically considered ordinary income for tax purposes.

Can I withdraw my Elective-Deferral Contributions whenever I want?

Distribution rules for these types of contributions can be complex. While some withdrawals can be made penalty-free under certain circumstances (like disability or financial hardship), generally, a penalty is applied for withdrawals made before the age of 59.5, along with being subject to income tax. It’s best to consult with a financial advisor or tax professional for guidance.

What happens to my Elective-Deferral Contributions if I leave my job?

Most retirement plans allow you to keep your funds in the plan even after leaving the job. Alternatively, you may choose to roll over the contributions to a new employer’s plan or into an individual retirement arrangement (IRA). Each option has different potential fees, taxes, and rules you should consider.

Related Finance Terms

  • 401(k) Plan: A type of retirement savings account which allows employees to defer a portion of their salaries into long term investments.
  • Employer Match: The contribution an employer makes to their employee’s 401(k) or other retirement plan, usually based on the amount the employee contributes.
  • Pre-Tax Contribution: Money that is contributed into a retirement savings plan before taxes are deducted from the paycheck. Elective Deferral Contributions are often pre-tax.
  • Contribution Limit: The maximum amount that can be contributed to a retirement plan within a calendar year, set by IRS guidelines.
  • Vesting Schedule: The time frame an employee must wait to gain full access and rights to their 401(k) or other retirement plan contributions, including those made on their behalf by the employer.

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