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Retirement Information & Services

Leaving Government Service before Retirement

Here are frequently asked questions and answers about leaving Government service before retirement. Select a question to read the answer.

I left my Government job before becoming eligible for retirement. What are my options regarding my retirement contributions?

You can ask that your retirement contributions be returned to you in a lump sum payment. Or, you can wait until you are retirement age to apply for monthly retirement benefit payments. If you get a refund of your retirement contributions now, you will no longer be eligible to receive monthly payments when you reach retirement age. Refer to information about retirement eligibility.

How do I apply to have my retirement contributions returned to me in a lump sum payment?

If you are leaving your Federal job and want a refund of your retirement contributions, you can get an application from your personnel office, complete it, and return it to them. If you are no longer in the Federal service, you can acquire the appropriate application from our website. The applications are shown below:

If you are still working, submit your application to your servicing personnel office.

If you have left Federal service, submit your application to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Will I get interest on the lump sum payment of my retirement contributions?

If you contributed to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), you will get interest on the refund of those contributions if you worked more than one year. Interest is paid at the same rate that is paid for government securities. See the variable interest rates.

If you contributed to the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) while you worked, interest will be included in the refund of those contributions if you have more than one but less than five years of service. Interest is paid at three percent.

Is my refund of retirement contributions taxable?

Your retirement contributions are not taxable, but interest included in the payment is taxable. You should contact the Internal Revenue Service for additional tax information.

Can I roll over my refund of retirement contributions?

You can roll over lump sum payments representing your retirement contributions, including voluntary contributions, and applicable interest.

An eligible payment can be paid either to you or directly to an individual retirement account or other employee sponsored plan. Your choice will affect the amount of taxes you owe.

We are required to withhold Federal income tax from taxable payments over $200 at the rate of 20 percent. However, you may choose to take all or part of these payments in a direct roll over to an individual retirement account or an employer-sponsored retirement plan that accepts roll overs. The taxable portion can be rolled over into the Thrift Saving Plan. If you make this election, we will not withhold the Federal income tax from the taxable payments.

You can open an individual retirement account to receive a direct roll over. You must contact the individual retirement account sponsor to find out how to have your payment made to your account. If you are unsure of how to invest your money, you may wish to temporarily establish an account to receive the payment. However, you may wish to consider whether or not you may move any or all of the monies to another account at a later date without penalties or limitations.

If you choose to have the payment made to you and it is over $200, it is subject to the 20 percent Federal income tax withholding. The payment is taxed in the year in which it is received unless within 60 days after receiving it, you roll it over to an individual retirement account or retirement plan that accepts roll overs. You can roll over up to 100 percent of the eligible distribution, including the 20 percent withholding. To do so, you must replace the 20 percent withholding within the 60 day period. You will be taxed on any amount that you do not roll over. For example, if you roll over only the 80 percent of the distribution, you will be taxed on the remaining 20 percent.

You can find more information about the taxation of payments from qualified retirement plans from the following Internal Revenue Service publications:

We will not withhold any amount for Federal income tax if your total taxable lump sum is less than $200. We will request a rollover election when you are eligible for a payment of $200 or more.

Will I be eligible for health and life insurance benefits when I begin receiving a deferred retirement benefit?

Generally, since your coverage under these programs effectively ended when you left Federal service, you cannot continue the coverage into retirement when you receive a deferred annuity.