If I make contributions to each plan, does each contribution reduce my taxable income? Does the contribution limit for 2012 limit my TOTAL contribution (both plans) or just what I contribute to each plan?
The contribution limit is for all 401(k) plans, so contributing to two different plans will not double your contribution limit for the year.
I think the only exception to Jim's answer is if you are a public employee and have access to a 457 government plan plus another retirement plan (not two 401k plans). Your total contribution may be able to be higher in that situation.
Generally, I agree with everything said above, except you should know that sometimes what may seem like a qestion may have a simple answer, the answer to your question is not a simple answer. But here are the two rules to know: (1) you may contribute to as many 401(k) Plans as you like with as many employers as you like, and (2) Not only do you have to combine all your payroll deducted 401(k) plan elective deferrals made to all of the 401(k) plans that you contributed to (regardless if your contributions are made to different employer's plans), when testing the individuals limits, you also must add to the 401(k) elective deferrals total the amounts that you may contribute to any and all of the following other plan types: salary reduction simplified employee pensions (SARSEPs) under Code Section 408(k)(6) ; Section 408(p) SIMPLE retirement plans; and, Salary reduction contributions made to a Section 403(b) annuity contract. Good luck, Herbie Glass, Certified Pension Consultant
In response to being a public employee your retirement benefits have an additional perk. If you are a teacher you may fully contribute to both a 403b and a 457 plan. For example if you are over 50 you may contribute $23,000, to each plan. This can give you a total yearly contribution of $46,000!! I have clients who do this and it is an incredible benefit. Your school must have both plans available for this to work. Have a great year Anthony Isola ATI Investment Consulting