Generally, loans taken from 401(k) plans must be repaid within five (5) years in “substantially level payments,” including principal and interest, at least quarterly.
Loan repayments may be suspended for a one (1) year leave of absence, but the loan must still be repaid within the original five (5) year period.
If the loan was used to buy the participant’s main home, the period of repayment can be greater than five (5) years.
Loans are not taxable distributions unless they are not paid back according to repayment terms, or do not satisfy plan regulations.
A participant may receive a “hardship distribution,” which is limited to the amount of their elective deferrals. This distribution must be due to “immediate and heavy financial need” and must be “necessary to satisfy that financial need.” The criteria to meet these requirements are defined in the IRS’s “401(k) Resource Guide.”
If the participant is no longer an employee of the company, the loan must be repaid within 60 days. Otherwise, the money is taxable, and if the participant is under 59 ½, they will have to pay an additional penalty of 10% on the distribution.