January 30, 2023

Saving for retirement is a crucial aspect of financial planning. While traditional 401(k)s have long been the preferred choice for many, self-employed individuals and small business owners can opt for a Solo 401(k) to maximize their retirement savings. With a Solo 401(k), you act as both the employee and the employer, giving you more control over your retirement savings.

However, navigating the compliance requirements of a Solo 401(k) can be tricky, and failing to meet the necessary criteria can lead to hefty fines and penalties. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the 5 critical checkpoints you need to follow to ensure Solo 401(k) compliance and secure maximum retirement savings.

Checkpoint 1: Eligibility Requirements

Before you can set up a Solo 401(k), you need to meet specific eligibility requirements. You must be self-employed with no full-time employees other than yourself and any spouse who works for the business. You can have part-time employees, but they must work less than 1,000 hours per year. If you have employees who meet the eligibility criteria, you will need to include them in the Solo 401(k) plan, making it a regular 401(k) plan.

Checkpoint 2: Establishing the Plan

The next step is to establish the Solo 401(k) plan. You can either set it up yourself or consult a financial professional. You will need to obtain a tax ID number, provide plan information to the IRS, and ensure that the plan document adheres to the IRS regulations. You must establish the plan before the end of the tax year to make contributions for that year.

Checkpoint 3: Contribution Limits

One of the most significant advantages of a Solo 401(k) is the ability to contribute more substantial amounts than traditional 401(k)s. As both the employee and the employer, you can contribute up to $58,000 ($64,500 if you are 50 or older) in 2021. Contributions are tax-deductible, and your investment grows tax-free until retirement.

Checkpoint 4: Recordkeeping and Reporting

To ensure Solo 401(k) compliance, you need to maintain accurate records of all transactions related to the plan. This includes contributions and distributions, and any transactions or fees associated with the investments. Additionally, you will need to file an annual report, Form 5500-SF, with the IRS once your plan’s assets exceed $250,000.

Checkpoint 5: Avoid Prohibited Transactions

Prohibited transactions are actions that can result in taxes, penalties, and even the disqualification of your Solo 401(k) plan. Examples of prohibited transactions include using plan assets to buy personal items or lending money to yourself or a family member from the plan account. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the IRS’s guidelines to avoid unintended prohibited transactions.


If you’re self-employed or own a small business, a Solo 401(k) can be an excellent way to invest in your future. However, Solo 401(k) compliance can be complex, and failing to follow the IRS’s regulations can result in hefty fines and penalties. By following these five critical checkpoints, you can ensure that you’re on the right track to maximizing your retirement savings, while avoiding any compliance pitfalls.


Q1. Can I have a Traditional IRA and a Solo 401(k) at the same time?

Yes, you can. However, your contribution limits to both plans combined will still be the same as if you only had a Solo 401(k). For example, if you are under 50 and have a Traditional IRA with a $6,000 contribution limit, you can only contribute up to $52,000 to your Solo 401(k) plan.

Q2. Can I rollover funds from my existing IRA or 401(k) into a Solo 401(k)?

Yes, you can rollover funds from a Traditional IRA or a previous employer 401(k) into a Solo 401(k). This allows you to consolidate your retirement assets and take advantage of the higher contribution limits offered by a Solo 401(k). However, you cannot rollover contributions made to a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) into a Solo 401(k) plan.

Q3. How often can I contribute to my Solo 401(k) plan?

You can make contributions to your Solo 401(k) plan at any time, as long as they are made before the end of the tax year. You can make contributions in a lump sum or spread them out throughout the year.

Q4. Can I take out a loan from my Solo 401(k) plan?

Yes, you can take out a loan from your Solo 401(k) plan, with some restrictions. You can borrow up to 50% of your account balance, up to a maximum of $50,000, and need to repay the loan with interest over five years. However, failure to repay the loan can lead to early withdrawal penalties, taxes, and the disqualification of your Solo 401(k) plan.

Q5. Can I open a Solo 401(k) plan if my business is a partnership or an S corporation?

Yes, you can. Partnerships and S corporations can set up a Solo 401(k) plan, provided that all eligible employees meet the eligibility criteria. The contribution limits and other regulations of the Solo 401(k) plan are the same as those for a sole proprietorship. Be sure to consult a financial professional to ensure your plan adheres to the IRS’s guidelines.

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