Quietly rolling over a 401(k)

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Jun 01, 2005

I will be receiving a retirement plan distribution when I change jobs. I intend to roll it over to my new employer's plan and have been told that such a rollover will avoid a 20 percent withholding tax. I'd rather not disclose where I'm going, though, so can I make the transfer myself?

"Yes, you can handle the transfer yourself, but not without paying the hefty 20 percent tax," says Elise Lacher, CPA, who heads the Veterinary Consulting Division of Lacher, McDonald and Co. CPAs in Seminole, Fla. Government regulations require that plan administrators withhold the tax on any monies that aren't handled through a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer of the funds, Lacher says.

"However, in my experience, word about your new job will get back to your old employer eventually, no matter how careful you are," Lacher says. "At that point, the issue of handling the transfer quietly becomes moot."