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Qualified Plan Limits

The federal government annually publishes updated limitations, which impact the contributions, benefit accruals, and compliance of qualified retirement plans. The below tables summarize the most significant changes in recent history.

Defined Contribution Plans

Limitation Year Maximum Benefit Allocation [1]Elective Deferral Limit [2]Catch-Up Limit [3]Annual Comp. Limit [4]Highly Comp. Employee [5]Social Security Wage Base [6]
200030,00010,500N/A170,00085,00076,200
200135,00010,500N/A170,00085,00080,400
200240,00011,000N/A200,00090,00084,900
200340,00012,0002,000200,00090,00087,000
200441,00013,0003,000205,00090,00087,900
200542,00014,0004,000210,00095,00090,000
200644,00015,0005,000220,000100,00094,200
200745,00015,5005,000225,000100,00097,500
200846,00015,5005,000230,000105,000102,000
200949,00016,5005,500245,000110,000106,800
201049,00016,5005,500245,000110,000106,800
201149,00016,5005,500245,000110,000106,800
201250,00017,0005,500250,000115,000110,100
201351,00017,5005,500255,000115,000113,700
201452,00017,5005,500260,000115,000117,000
​2015
53,000
18,000​
6,000​265,000​120,000​118,500​
2016​
​53,000
​18,000
​6,000
​265,000
​120,000
​118,500
2017
54,000
18,000
6,000270,000
120,000127,200

Defined Benefit Plans

Limitation YearMaximum Benefit Accrual [7]
2000135,000
2001140,000
2002160,000
2003160,000
2004165,000
2005170,000
2006175,000
2007180,000
2008185,000
2009195,000
2010195,000
2011195,000
2012200,000
2013205,000
2014210,000
​2015
210,000​
​2016
​210,000
2017
215,000

What It Means

[1] - For plan years ending after January 1 of the limitation year, the aggregate allocations to a participant’s account, including forfeitures, cannot exceed the lesser of this limit or 100% of annual compensation. Example: for a plan year ending December 31, 2015, no more than $53,000 may be allocated to a participant's account.

[2] - For the calendar year, 401(k) and 403(b) plan participants may defer up to this limit from their compensation. If the plan includes a Roth feature, the combined amount for both Roth and Pre-Tax is subject to this limit. Example: in the 2015 calendar year, participants may contribute $9,000 Roth + $9,000 Pre-Tax, but may not contribute $18,000 Roth + $18,000 Pretax.

[3] - For the calendar year, 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plan participants who turn age 50 or are age 50+ may defer additional contributions, up to this limit, from their compensation.

[4] - For plan years beginning after January 1 of the limitation year, annual compensation exceeding this limit will not be considered when allocating contributions or in compliance testing. Example: if an employee earns $300,000 in 2015, only $265,000 will be considered for compliance and contribution calculation purposes.

[5] - For plan years beginning after January 1 of the limitation year, anyone whose annual compensation exceeds this figure will be considered highly compensated in the following plan year. Example: if an employee earned $130,000 in the 2014 plan year, the employee will be highly compensated for the 2015 plan year.

[6] - This figure represents the maximum social security integration level for plan years beginning after January 1 of the limitation year. In addition, employees and employers stop paying social security taxes on compensation earned in excess of this limit. As a result, workers do not receive social security benefits for compensation earned in excess of the limit.

[7] - For plan years ending after January 1 of the limitation year, a participant's annual pension benefit cannot exceed the lesser of this limit or 100% of annual compensation.