How to Fix Your Overfunded Retirement Account

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Dec 01, 2017

Donna Sanders, Vice President, World Trend Financial

Is socking away large sums in a tax-deferred retirement account ever a bad idea? It is when you exceed the annual IRS limits. And intentional or not, the penalties can be painful. Here is how overfunding occurs and what steps to take to fix the problem.

When do overfunding situations occur?

Overfunding retirement accounts happens more than you may realize. It can be the result of a job change that causes you to participate in the two different employer retirement plans. Sometimes people forget they made IRA contributions early in the year and do it again later. Others forget that the IRA limit is the total of all accounts, not per account. The rules are complicated. Traditional IRAs cannot be contributed to after age 70½, while Roth IRA contributions are subject to income limits. Plus, all contributions are predicated on having earned income.

IRAs: The annual Roth and Traditional IRA contribution limit is $5,500 ($6,500 if age 50 or older). If you surpass this amount, you pay a 6 percent penalty on the overpayment every year until it is corrected, plus a potential 10 percent penalty on the investment income attributed to the overfunded amount.

"The fix:" If the overfunding is discovered before the filing deadline (plus extensions), you can withdraw the excess and any income earned on the contribution to avoid the 6 percent penalty. You will potentially owe 10 percent on the earnings of the excess contributions if you are under age 59½. You can apply the withdrawn contribution to the next year. If your issue is due to age (70½ or older for a Traditional IRA) or income limit (for a Roth IRA), consider recharacterizing your contribution from one IRA type to another.

401(k)s: The rules for correcting an overfunded 401(k) are a little more rigid. You have until April 15 to return the funds, period. The nature of the penalty is also different. The excess amount is taxable in the year of the overfunding, plus taxable again when withdrawn. So, you pay tax twice on the same amount. And in certain cases, overfunding a 401(k) could cause it to lose its qualified status.

No matter the cause, if you are in doubt about how to handle excess contributions, feel free to contact Donna Sanders at, or any of the investment advisor representatives at World Trend Financial to set up a meeting to discuss your individual situation.