Is a 401k tax deductible or tax-deferred?

With tax-deferred 401 (k) plans, workers set aside part of their salary before withholding federal and state income taxes. These plans allow you to save taxes today. Money taken from your net salary and destined for a 401 (k) plan reduces your taxable income, so you now pay less income taxes. Tax-exempt accounts, such as a Gold Silver Backed IRA, offer future tax benefits instead of tax breaks on contributions. Retirement withdrawals are not taxable.

Since account contributions are made with after-tax dollars, meaning they're funded with money you've already paid taxes on, there's no immediate tax advantage. The main benefit of the tax-exempt structure is that investment returns increase and can be withdrawn completely tax-free. A 401 (k) plan is a qualified deferred compensation plan. If you meet the plan's requirements, you can usually choose to have your employer contribute a portion of your compensation to the plan before paying taxes.

Generally, your deferred compensation (commonly known as elective contributions) is not subject to income tax withholding at the time of deferment and you don't report it as salary on Form 1040, an individual U.S. income tax return. Department of State or Form 1040-SR, U.S. tax return for seniors, because it's not included in box 1 of wages on your W-2 Form, Wage and Tax Tax Return.

However, it is included as a wage subject to withholding to pay social security and Medicare taxes. In addition, your employer must declare elective contributions as wages subject to federal unemployment taxes. Some plans also allow you to choose to make your elective after-tax contributions as designated Roth contributions. A 401 (k) is a tax-deferred account.

That means you don't pay income taxes when you contribute money. Instead, your employer withholds your contribution from your paycheck before the money can be subject to income tax. When you choose investments within your 401 (k) plan and as those investments grow, you won't have to pay income taxes on growth either. Instead, you defer paying those taxes until you withdraw the money.

IRAs are another way to save for retirement while also reducing your taxable income. Depending on your income, you may be able to deduct any IRA contribution on your tax return. Like a 401 (k) or 403 (b), IRA money will increase with deferred taxes and you won't pay income tax until you withdraw it.