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March 17, 2021

What does active participant mean? Find the answers here

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Active Participant

An active participant is someone who receives benefits under an employer-sponsored retirement plan or participates in a retirement plan.
A woman who is an active participant in life and her retirement plan

Wh0 is an active participant?

Active participant status affects an individual’s eligibility to take a deduction for a contribution to a traditional IRA on his/her federal tax return.

Note: The IRS uses the phrase ” covered by a retirement plan’ in some of their publications. This means the same thing as ‘active participant’ for purposes of determining whether a contribution to a traditional IRA is deductible.

An individual is considered an active participant if he/she participates in any of the following types of plans for the year.

The following formula is used to calculate the deductible IRA contribution amount, for an active participant

(Highest dollar limit of MAGI range – MAGI) x(Contribution limit/{Highest dollar limit of MAGI range Lowest dollar limit of MAGI  range})

Additional Helpful Information Related to Active Participants

  • Individuals who are active participants are eligible to deduct their traditional IRA contributions, only if their MAGI amounts do not exceed certain limits. The MAGI that applies to each tax-filing status is as follows:

 

 The MAGI limits that apply to each tax-filing status are as follows:

MAGI Limit for Deducting IRA Contributions
2021 MAGI Limits Deducting IRA Contributions
  • The final determination of whether the individual is an active participant depends on the type of retirement plan in which the individual participates or receives benefits, and the year the contribution was made to the plan or the year the benefits were received. For instance:

Type of Plan

Determination of Active Participant Status

SEP IRA&Profit Sharing Plan
The individual is an active participant for the year the contribution is deposited to the individual’s account. For instance, if the contribution is for last year and deposited last year, then the individual is an active participant for last year. However, if the contribution is for last year, but deposited to the individual’s account this year, then the individual is an active participant for this year
Money Purchase and Target Benefit Plans
The individual is an active participant for the year for which a forfeiture is allocated, or the contribution is made regardless of when it is deposited to the individual’s account. For instance, if the contribution is for last year and deposited last year, then the individual is an active participant for last year. And if the contribution is for last year, but deposited to the individual’s account this year, then the individual is an active participant for last year
Defined Benefit Plan
The  individual is an active participant if he/she  is not excluded under the eligibility provisions of the plan for the plan year ending with or within the individual’s taxable year ,regardless of whether the individual has elected to decline participation in the plan, has failed to make a mandatory contribution specified under the plan or has failed to perform the minimum service required to accrue a benefit under the plan.
401(k), 403(b), Salary deferral SEP, SIMPLE IRA
The individual is an active participant if the individual elects to defer compensation (make salary deferral contributions) to the to a plan If the individual is eligible to make salary deferral contributions, but declines to make such salary deferral contributions for a year, and no other contributions or forfeitures are allocated to such individual’s account for the plan year ending with or within the individual’s taxable year, the individual is not an active participant for that year.
  • If an individual is not an active participant, nor married to someone who is an active participant, contributions made to the individual’s traditional IRA is fully deductible. If an individual is an active participant, or married to someone who is an active participant, the individual’s ability to deduct his/her traditional IRA contribution is determined by his/her modified adjusted gross income (MAGI).
  •  Contributions to a Roth IRA are not affected by an individual’s active participant status, as Roth IRA contributions are nondeductible

Rulings on Active Participant Status

  • TC Memo 2001-114: Individual was determined to be an active participant, despite limited participation in plan. Deduction for IRA contribution was denied
  • T.C. Summary Opinion 2007-13: Individual was determined to be an active participant, despite limited participation in plan. Deduction for IRA contribution was denied

Written By

Denise Appleby

Denise is CEO of Appleby Retirement Consulting Inc., a firm that provides IRA resources for financial/ tax/legal professionals. She has over 20 years of experience in the retirement plans field, which includes training and technical consultation.

Denise writes and publishes educational /marketing tools for advisors; available at http://irapublications.com. Denise co-authored several books on IRAs

Denise is a graduate of The John Marshall Law School, where she obtained a Masters of Jurisprudence in Employee Benefits, and has earned 5 professional retirement designations.
She has appeared on numerous media programs, sharing her insights on retirement tax laws.

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Keep Learning

Salary Deferral Contribution

Definition A contribution made pursuant to a participant’s election to have a portion of his/her salary/wages  contributed to his/ her employer sponsored plan  rather than

Annual Addition Limit

Definition The annual Addition limit is the maximum amount that may be added to a defined contribution plan on behalf of a participant for any

Deduction

Definition A deduction is a Tax write-off which is allowed for contributions to traditional IRAs or employer sponsored plans. Individuals who are active participants are

Excess deferral

Definition Salary deferral contributions, contributions are limited to the lesser of the IRC § 402(g) limit or 100% of compensation. Salary deferral contributions in excess

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