Want the latest blog recommendations? Read our 2015 guide to The 18 best blogging and publishing platforms on the internet today. The IRS mandates that 401(k) participants can’t take out more than $50,000 or half of their vested balance, whichever is lesser, in loans from any given plan from an employer. Loans have to be paid back over a five-year period, unless you’re using the proceeds to buy a home or you’re called up for military service. Loans aren't hardship-based, but ultimately the IRS allows administrators a lot of leeway in how they handle them, as long as the borrowers don't exceed the IRS limits.