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Question to anyone who has knowledge about IRS guidelines regarding contributions to a company sponsored 401K plan.

What is the amount of money that a person can contribute to a 401K plan during a calendar year?

Does company matching contributions count toward that limit? (ie. if a company matches up to 3% of your contributions does that reduce the amount you can contribute?)

If a person contributes a larger % of their paycheck up front during the year toward the plan, will that lower the company matching contribution. The reason I ask is that a company matches a percent up to your eligible annual income and if you max out your contributions early, say September, the matching would not reflect what you have earned during the entire year (only through September).

This issue has come up as I have changed jobs this year due to an acquisition. My old company let me contribute (1996) a total of $9500 of my own money toward the 401K plan and then matched those dollars. My new company is telling me that I can only contribute (1997) a total of $9500 including match. Is this something that is company specific (companies don't have to match) or regulated by the IRS?

Any insights would be appreciated.
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