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

Generally, $9,500 (which will be increased for inflation) is the maximum contribution.

<< 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?)>>

Generally not. The employer's deduction is generally limited to the LESSER of 15% of wages or $22,500 (could be higher if integrated with other plans).

<<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).>>

That will depend upon how the plan is structured, and you should check with your 401k administrator to really get the appropriate answer. But if you max out, you max out...regardless of when that takes place. So I'm not really sure that I understand your question.

<< 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?>>

Sounds like a company specific issue to me. Remember that employer match is NOT mandatory. They must just be running their plan a little differently. Which is their right. But if that is how it REALLY works, it's not such a wonderful deal, is it??

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