What is “earned income” that does NOT qualify as “self-employment” income for Self-Directed Solo K?

Updated: Apr 23

For purposes of qualifying to adopt and contribute to a Self-Directed Solo 401(k), you must have earned income from self-employment. But what does that mean?

In general, the term “earned income” refers to an individual’s net earnings from self-employment activities generated through a trade or business as a sole proprietor, 1099 independent contractor, LLC, partnership, or corporation. Furthermore, the earned income must arise from the individual’s personal services and the personal services must be of a material income-producing component.


The following income is not considered self-employment income, so it does not qualify as income that is eligible to adopt, or be contributed to, a Self-Directed Solo 401(k) plan:


  • Earnings and gain from any type of investment or property, such as rental income, interest, or dividends

  • Income from a partnership for which you do not provide any services that are of a material income-producing component

  • Pass-through income earned from being a shareholder of an S-corporation

  • Retirement income, such as Social Security benefits, pension payments, or annuity income

  • Alimony or child support

  • Deferred compensation

  • Unemployment benefits

  • Income received through disability income payments

  • Income received through worker’s compensation payments

  • Pay received for work performed while an inmate in a penal institution

  • Income for which you received a Form W-2


For more information regarding the eligibility requirements to adopt and participate in this kind of plan, click here.

For more information about the difference between W-2 and 1099 income, click here.

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