Different Methods of Rolling Over Retirement Accounts

“Rollover” is the term used to describe the tax-free, penalty-free transfer of funds from one tax shelter plan to another. Plans that can be rolled over include 401(k), IRAs in their various flavors, 403 plans, and 457 plans. For example, an employee may change jobs so naturally the funds can rollover from the first employer’s 401(k) plan to the new employer’s 401(k) plan without any taxes or penalties. The same employee changing jobs can also elect to rollover all or part of the 401(k) funds into an IRA account. Employees usually take advantage of rolling over tax shelter funds when changing jobs but also can do so once they reach retirement age as defined by the plan.

When an employee does change jobs, a decision must be made quickly on how to handle the retirement funds. IRS laws mandate this decision must be made within 60 days or else the funds received from the retirement account will be treated as taxable income. If the new employer does not offer a 401(k) plan or mandates a length of employed time before qualifying for the plan, the employee should deposit the funds in an IRA account during this transitional period to avoid any taxes. Sometimes the funds may be able to remain in the 401(k) plan of the former employer, it is obviously important to understand these guidelines thoroughly when changing jobs.

Generally, all rollovers must be deposited into retirement accounts in the same way they were distributed from the previous account, cash must be cash, stock must be stock, etc. If amounts are not rolled over they are considered to be taxable income. Rollover can occur either directly or indirectly. A direct rollover is handled directly between the 401(k) custodians or from the employee’s 401(k) to the employees IRA. In a direct rollover the employee never actually handles any funds. With an indirect rollover, the account holder actually receives a distribution of cash or assets from the retirement account and then deposits the funds in another retirement account within 60 days to avoid tax consequences.

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