|>||Which members of the uniformed services are eligible to participate in the TSP?|
|>||What are the basic rules for contributing to the TSP?|
|>||What kinds of pay can I contribute to the TSP?|
|>||When can I sign up to contribute?|
|>||What if I rejoin the uniformed services?|
|>||What if I am a member of the uniformed services and also a Federal civilian employee?|
|>||How do I start my contributions to my TSP account?|
|>||What if I transfer to another service or become a Federal civil service employee?|
|>||How do I change the amount of my contributions?|
|>||How do I stop my contributions?|
|>||What is a contribution allocation?|
|>||How do I make a contribution allocation?|
|>||What if I do not make a contribution allocation?|
|>||What are "catch-up" contributions?|
|>||How do I designate beneficiaries for my TSP account?|
|>||Back to Features Table of Contents|
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Which members of the uniformed services are eligible to participate in the TSP?
Uniformed members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Public Health Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration serving on active duty, and members of the Ready Reserve or National Guard of those services in any pay status, may contribute to the TSP.
What are the basic rules for contributing to the TSP?
Note: If you are a member of the Ready Reserve and you are already contributing to a TSP account as a civilian employee of the Federal Government, the sum of your contributions to the two TSP accounts during the same calendar year cannot exceed the applicable Internal Revenue Code contribution limit. In addition, civilian FERS employees who also contribute from Reserve pay should take care not to reach their contribution limit before the end of the calendar year or they will miss out on their civilian agency matching contributions.
The law that extended the TSP to the uniformed services allows the secretary responsible for that service to designate critical specialties for matching contributions. Members serving in these specialties who agree to serve on active duty for 6 years may be eligible for matching contributions. The matching contributions are made during the 6-year active duty obligation. If you are eligible to receive matching contributions, your service will match your basic pay contributions dollar-for-dollar on the first 3 percent of basic pay you contribute and 50 cents per dollar on the next 2 percent of pay per pay period.
What kinds of pay can I contribute to the TSP?
You may elect to contribute basic pay, incentive pay, or special pay (including bonus pay) to the TSP. You must contribute basic pay to be eligible to contribute incentive pay or special pay (including bonus pay).
If you are not receiving incentive pay or special pay (including bonus pay) when you make your TSP election, you may elect to contribute from these types of pay in anticipation of becoming entitled to them. If you make such an election, the election will take effect whenever you receive the specified type of pay.
If you have not yet made a TSP contribution election, but you expect to become eligible for bonus pay and want to contribute some or all of it to the TSP, be sure to make a basic pay election before becoming eligible for the bonus pay.
When can I sign up to contribute?
You can sign up to contribute to the TSP at any time. Your contributions will begin no later than the first full pay period after your service accepts your election.
What if I rejoin the uniformed services?
If you rejoin the uniformed services or become employed as a Federal civilian employee after a break in service of 31 or more full calendar days, you can sign up to contribute to the TSP immediately. You are considered to have rejoined the uniformed services on the date you again became eligible to receive basic pay.
If you rejoin the uniformed services after a break in service of less than 31 full calendar days and you were previously contributing to the TSP, your contributions should resume the first pay period after you rejoin or begin employment. To ensure that your contributions resume properly, you should tell your service that you were previously contributing to the TSP. If you were not previously contributing to the TSP, you may elect to contribute at any time. You can also change the amount of your contributions at any time.
You should inform your service if you have any outstanding TSP loans so that loan payments can continue. You must also make up, from your own funds, any loan payments you have missed.
What if I am a member of the uniformed services and also a Federal civilian employee?
If you are currently both a member of the uniformed services and a Federal civilian employee, you may contribute to the TSP both as a member of the uniformed services and as a Federal civilian employee. For information on the TSP rules that apply to civilian employees, see the Summary of the Thrift Savings Plan or see the civilian TSP Features on this Web site.
Separate Accounts. Your uniformed services account will be maintained separately from your civilian TSP account, and you will be able to contribute to your uniformed services TSP account only from your uniformed services pay. Similarly, you will be able to contribute to your civilian TSP account only from your civilian compensation.
Because you will have two separate accounts, you will need to make contribution allocations for each account and, should you want to make an interfund transfer, you will need to request separate interfund transfers for each account. If you wish to designate a beneficiary, you will need to submit a separate beneficiary designation for each account. If you change your address, you will need to instruct your civilian agency and your service to change the address for your applicable TSP accounts. If you are separated, you will need to send a separate change of address to the TSP for each amount. You will receive a separate participant statement for each account.
However, if you contribute to a uniformed services account and a civilian account:
Combining Accounts. Once you separate from either the uniformed services or Federal civilian service, you will be able to combine your TSP accounts by completing Form TSP-65 and sending it to the TSP. However, restrictions about how and when accounts can be combined apply. For example, you can only combine the money from the account related to your separation into your other account. Also, tax-exempt contributions (i.e., contributions untaxed as a result of the combat zone tax exclusion) in your uniformed services account may not be transferred to your Federal civilian account.
How do I start my contributions to my TSP account?
To start contributing to the TSP, ask your service for the TSP Election Form (TSP-U-1), download it from this Web site, or use your service's electronic version if one is available. Complete the form to show what percentage of basic pay, incentive pay, special pay, or bonus pay you want to contribute, and submit it to your service. Remember, you must elect to contribute from basic pay in order to contribute from incentive or special pay (including bonus pay). Your service will advise you of the effective date of your election.
Your service will deduct the amount you choose from your pay each pay period and will continue to do so until you submit another Form TSP-U-1 to stop or change the amount. Also, if you elect to contribute from a bonus, your initial election will remain in effect and cover any future installments of that bonus or any other bonus to which you become entitled. If this is not what you intend, you will need to terminate your bonus election once the contribution from the current bonus is complete.
What if I transfer to another service or become a Federal civil service employee?
If you transfer to another service, your new service should continue your contributions and loan payments, if any, without interruption. To avoid any delay, you should notify your new service TSP representative that you have been contributing to the TSP; you should also notify your service if you have a TSP loan.
If you separate from the uniformed services and become a Federal civil service employee covered by FERS, CSRS, or an equivalent plan, you may make a TSP contribution election immediately. TSP accounts for Federal civil service employees are separate from those of members of the uniformed services. You may combine the tax-deferred money in your uniformed services TSP account with your new Federal civil service TSP account or maintain two separate accounts.
How do I change the amount of my contributions?
If you want to change the amount of your contributions from basic, incentive, or special pay, submit Form TSP-U-1 to your service (or use your service's electronic version, if one is available).
If you want to change the amount of your contributions from bonus pay, submit Form TSP-U-1 to your service at any time (or use your service's electronic version, if one is available).
How do I stop my contributions?
You can stop contributing to the TSP at any time by completing the appropriate sections of Form TSP-U-1 and submitting it to your service. Your contributions will generally stop no later than the end of the pay period in which your service accepts the form. Because of cut-off dates for processing elections, your service will advise you of the date your election will be made effective. The following rules apply to your termination request:
What is a contribution allocation?
A contribution allocation specifies the way contributions to your account will be invested among the TSP funds. The contribution allocation applies to all future contributions, as well as loan payments and transfers of funds (or rollovers) from other plans into the TSP. It does not affect the money already in your account. (To change the way your existing account balance is invested, you must make an interfund transfer.)
Before you decide how to allocate your contributions, read "Your Investment Options."
How do I make a contribution allocation?
To specify the way you want your contributions to be invested, use this Web site or the ThriftLine, or submit Form TSP-U-50, Investment Allocation, to the TSP. (Do not submit Form TSP-U-50 to your service). If you have not previously invested in the F, C, S, I, or L Funds, you must acknowledge the risk of investing in these funds before you can proceed with your contribution allocation. To request a contribution allocation, follow the instructions and enter the percentages you want invested in each fund each pay period. Percentages must be stated in one percent increments and must add up to 100 percent. Whether you are using the Web site or ThriftLine, be sure to follow the instructions for confirming the percentages or your allocation will not become effective.
The Web site and the ThriftLine are the most efficient ways of making a contribution allocation. Contribution allocations generally will become effective within 2 business days of the date the TSP receives your request.
What if I do not make a contribution allocation?
If you have never made a contribution allocation, all contributions will be invested in the G Fund until you make a contribution allocation on the Web site or the ThriftLine or submit Form TSP-U-50 to the TSP.
What are "catch-up" contributions?
Catch-up contributions are supplemental tax-deferred contributions available to TSP participants age 50 or older who are already contributing the maximum amount of regular TSP contributions for which they are eligible up to the maximum IRS elective deferral limit: $15,500 for 2008 and $16,500 for 2009. Catch-up contributions have their own annual limit: $5,000 for 2008 and $5,500 for 2009. Thereafter, increases will be indexed to inflation. Your catch-up contributions are invested in the TSP funds according to your most recent contribution allocation.
If you are eligible, you can submit an election at any time to make these contributions. Use Form TSP-U-1-C, Catch-up Contribution Election, available in the Forms & Publications section of this Web site or from your service. Some services may use an electronic version of the form — for example, MyPay. Check with your service TSP representative for guidance.
You can change, stop, or restart catch-up contributions at any time. Your contributions will automatically stop at the end of the calendar year or when you reach the maximum dollar limit for the year. You must make a new election each calendar year. If you are currently contributing to both a civilian and a uniformed services TSP account, you can make separate catch-up contributions to each account, so long as the total for both accounts combined does not exceed the annual catch-up contributions limit.
Your catch-up contributions are deducted from your taxable basic pay each pay period; therefore, you must be currently employed as a member of the uniformed services and receiving pay. As a member of the uniformed services, you may not make catch-up contributions from tax-exempt basic pay (earned while serving in a combat zone), or from bonus pay, special pay, or incentive pay. In addition, you may not be in the 6-month non-contribution period following receipt of a TSP financial hardship in-service withdrawal. For more information, read the TSP Fact Sheet: Catch-Up Contributions.
How do I designate beneficiaries for my TSP account?
To designate beneficiaries to receive your account in the event of your death, download Form TSP-U-3, Designation of Beneficiary, from the TSP Web site, or ask your service TSP representative for a copy of the form. If you have left service, you can also obtain the form from the TSP. If you do not file Form TSP-U-3, your account will be distributed after your death according to the order of precedence required by law.
Submit Form TSP-U-3 to the TSP at the address on the form. Do not submit Form TSP-U-3 to your service. Your beneficiary designation will not be valid unless it is received by the TSP record keeper on or before the date of your death. Follow the instructions on the form carefully. The TSP may not be able to honor an improperly completed form; mistakes may make your form invalid.
Mention of your TSP account in your will (or another document, such as a prenuptial agreement) has no effect on the disposition of your account after your death. A will is not a substitute for Form TSP-U-3. However, you can use Form TSP-U-3 to designate your estate or a trust to receive your TSP account.
You should review your designation of beneficiary whenever your personal situation changes (for example, as a result of marriage, birth or adoption of a child, or divorce). Your participant statement will show whether you have a designation on file and the date of your most recent designation. To cancel or change your designation of beneficiary, submit another Form TSP-U-3 to the TSP.
Remember, Form TSP-U-3 will apply only to your uniformed services account. Therefore, if you also have a civilian TSP account and you would like to designate a beneficiary (or beneficiaries) to receive money from that account, you must submit the civilian Form TSP-3, Designation of Beneficiary, to the TSP.
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