How Long Does Employer Have to Deposit 401k Match

According to ERISA, an employer has a timeframe to deposit matching contributions made to a 401(k) plan on behalf of eligible employees. Generally, employers are required to deposit the contributions within a “reasonable” period of time, which is interpreted as no later than 15 business days after the end of the month in which the employee contributions were made. However, some plan documents may specify a shorter timeframe for the employer to make these deposits. If an employer fails to deposit the matching contributions within the required timeframe, it may be considered a breach of fiduciary duty and subject to legal consequences.

Employer Contribution Deadlines

Employer contributions to 401(k) plans are subject to specific deadlines. Failure to meet these deadlines can result in penalties for the employer and potential tax consequences for the employees.

  • Traditional 401(k) Plans: Employers have until the last day of the 15th calendar month after the end of the plan year to make matching contributions for the prior year.
  • Safe Harbor 401(k) Plans: Employers have until 30 days after the end of the plan year to make matching contributions.
  • Employer Contributions Made by Employees: Employee elective deferrals (Roth and pre-tax contributions) are generally required to be deposited into the plan within 5 business days of when the funds are withheld from the employee’s paycheck.
Contribution TypeDeadline
Traditional 401(k) Match15th calendar month after the end of the plan year
Safe Harbor 401(k) Match30 days after the end of the plan year
Employee Elective Deferrals5 business days after withholding from paycheck

It’s important for both employers and employees to be aware of these deadlines to ensure timely contributions and avoid potential penalties.

When Employers Must Deposit 401(k) Match

When an employee contributes to a 401(k) plan, their employer may make a matching contribution. The employer is required to deposit this match within a certain time frame.

Safe Harbor Provisions

For plans that meet certain requirements (known as safe harbor provisions), the employer has 30 days to deposit the matching contribution. These requirements include:

  • Matching at least 100% of the first 3% of employee contributions
  • Matching at least 50% of the next 2% of employee contributions
  • Immediately vesting employees in the matching contributions

Other Plans

For plans that do not meet safe harbor provisions, the employer typically has 60 days to deposit the matching contribution.

Table of Deposit Deadlines

Plan TypeDeposit Deadline
Safe Harbor Plans30 days
Non-Safe Harbor Plans60 days

Employer’s Timeline for Depositing 401(k) Match

Employers must deposit employee contributions into 401(k) accounts within a reasonable time, typically by the payday following the contribution.

Top-Heavy Plans

  • Top-heavy plans are plans where more than 60% of the plan’s assets are owned by key employees (e.g., owners, executives).
  • In top-heavy plans, employers must match contributions for non-key employees at a higher rate than for key employees.
  • The employer has 90 days to deposit the additional matching contributions for non-key employees in top-heavy plans.

Match Vesting

  • Match vesting refers to the employee’s right to the employer’s matching contributions.
  • Employer match can be subject to vesting schedules, which determine when employees become fully entitled to the match.
  • Vesting schedules can vary, but employers typically must deposit the vested portion of the match within a reasonable time (e.g., by the payday following the vesting date).
Type of MatchDeposit Timeline
Regular matchPayday following contribution
Additional match in top-heavy plans90 days from end of plan year
Vested matchPayday following vesting date

Regulatory Compliance for 401(k) Plans

As an employer, it’s crucial to comply with the regulations governing 401(k) plans, including the timing for depositing employee and employer contributions. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) sets forth these requirements to protect the interests of plan participants.

Timeframe for Depositing 401(k) Match

ERISA mandates that employers deposit employee elective deferrals within a certain timeframe. The deadline for depositing both employee and employer matching contributions is determined based on the type of payroll schedule:

  1. Semi-monthly or bi-weekly: 15 calendar days after the end of the pay period.
  2. Monthly: 30 calendar days after the end of the month.
  3. Quarterly: 45 calendar days after the end of the quarter.

It’s important to note that these deadlines apply to most 401(k) plans, but there may be exceptions for certain types of plans or circumstances.

Consequences of Noncompliance

Failure to comply with these deadlines can result in various consequences, including but not limited to:

  • Fines and penalties from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Legal action by plan participants
  • Loss of tax benefits for the plan and participants


Adhering to the regulatory requirements for 401(k) plans is essential to protect the interests of plan participants and avoid potential legal and financial liabilities. Employers must ensure that employee elective deferrals and employer matching contributions are deposited within the prescribed timeframes.

Payroll ScheduleDeposit Deadline
Semi-monthly or bi-weekly15 calendar days after the end of the pay period
Monthly30 calendar days after the end of the month
Quarterly45 calendar days after the end of the quarter

Thanks for sticking with me through this 401(k) matching marathon! I appreciate you taking the time to learn about these important deadlines. Remember, knowledge is power, especially when it comes to managing your retirement savings. If you have any more questions about 401(k)s or other financial topics, don’t hesitate to swing by again. Check back soon for more retirement wisdom and tips to help you get the most out of your hard-earned cash. Until then, keep saving and keep growing that nest egg!