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When 401(k) Plans were created each plan had to pass a discrimination test which ensured the "chiefs" didn't take unfair advantage of the plan vis-a-vis the "indians".

This test compares the average deferral rate of the highly compensated employees, "the chiefs" against the average deferral rate of the non-highly compensated employees, "the indians".  "Highly Compensated Employees" are determined annually based on IRS rules.

In general, the two average deferral rates cannot be more than 2% apart.  For example, if the "indians" average deferral rate is 4%, the "chiefs" cannot defer more than 6% on average.

If the employer also has a matching contribution, the match may be tested similarly on it's own, or tested with the employee deferrals, based on certain IRS rules.