What Are Agency Automatic Contributions?

Agency automatic contributions are contributions made by the federal government to an employee's TSP that equals 1% of his or her pay. Once federal government employees establish a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), the agency they work for automatically makes a contribution equal to 1% of their basic pay each payday. That occurs whether the employee contributes to his or her TSP or not.

Most commonly, this feature is in 401(k) plans, but it can also be included in the following types of plans that permit employees to make elective contributions: 403(b) plans, 457(b) plans, SARSEPs, and SIMPLE IRA plans.

Key Takeaways

  • If you are a federal employee, your agency or service will contribute an amount equal to 1% of your basic pay each pay period to your thrift savings plan (TSP) account.
  • These are called Agency/Service Automatic (1%) Contributions and you don’t need to make employee contributions to receive them.
  • A thrift savings plan is a defined-contribution retirement plan that has many of the advantages of private-sector plans.

Understanding Agency Automatic Contributions

Agency automatic contributions are not added to taxable income for the current year's income taxes, reducing an employee’s wages by a default percentage. However, these automatic =contributions are subject to vesting parameters. Employees are entitled to keep them — and any earnings they accrue in the future — after working three years in their jobs.

Congressional and certain non-career government positions become vested after two years of service. If you leave federal service before satisfying the vesting requirement for your agency, automatic contributions and the earnings on them will be forfeited to the TSP. If you die during your service to the government, you will automatically be considered vested in your TSP account.

Example of an Agency Automatic Contribution Plan

For example, if a federal employee elects to make a 5% contribution toward his or her thrift savings plan, he or she will receive an equivalent amount from the government (assuming that you add the 1% contribution automatically gained from the agency automatic contributions to the 4% gained from the agency matching contributions).

How a TSP Works

A thrift savings plan (TSP) is a type of defined-contribution retirement investment program open to federal employees and members of the uniformed services, including the Ready Reserve. TSP benefits can include automatic payroll contributions and agency matching contributions. Participants can choose to make tax-deferred contributions into a traditional TSP, which means the money that flows into the account will not be taxed until it is withdrawn.

However, participants may also choose to invest in a Roth TSP. This option allows employees to make after-tax contributions into their plans so that they'll owe nothing in taxes when they withdraw the money after retiring.

Employees new to federal employment can roll over qualified 401(k) and individual retirement account (IRA) assets into a TSP and vice versa if they move to the private sector.

Starting in the year you turn 50, you may be eligible to make catch-up contributions to your TSP account in addition to your regular employee contributions.