IRS Publication 571: Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plans (403(b) Plans)

What Is IRS Publication 571: Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plans (403(b) Plans)?

IRS Publication 571: Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plans (403(b) Plans) provides tax information for filers who have a 403(b) retirement plan. IRS Publication 571 indicates who can contribute to a 403(b) plan, the maximum contribution that can be made to a 403(b) plan during the year, rules regarding excess contributions, and the rules regarding rollovers or distributions.

Contributions for a 403(b) plan are generally reported in an employee's W-2 by the employer and do not need to be reported by the individual employee to the IRS.

Understanding IRS Publication 571: Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plans (403(b) Plans)

While IRS Publication 571 does provide some information on rollovers and distributions of 403(b) accounts, it does not get into specific details. Specifics for rollovers can be found in IRS Publication 590, and information on distributions in Publication 575.

Special Considerations

The IRS notes that a 403(b) plan, also known as a tax-sheltered annuity (TSA) plan, is a retirement plan for certain employees of public schools, employees of certain tax-exempt organizations, and certain ministers. Also eligible are cooperative hospital service organizations, civilian faculty, and staff of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and employees of public school systems organized by Indian tribal governments.

Individual accounts in a 403(b) plan can be any of the following types: 

Generally, retirement income accounts can invest in either annuities or mutual funds.

Like a 401(k) or IRA, you don’t pay income tax on contributions until you begin making withdrawals from the plan, usually, after you retire. Account principal and returns are not taxed until you withdraw them. As of 2021, plan participants must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their retirement accounts by April 1 following the year they reach age 72.

According to the IRS, one additional benefit may be "if you or your employer make eligible contributions to a retirement plan, you may be able to take a credit of up to $1,000 (up to $2,000 if filing jointly). This credit could reduce the federal income tax you pay dollar for dollar." This is called the saver's tax credit.

There are limits on adjusted gross income for the credit, however. They are $66,000 for 2021 ($65,000 for 2020) if your filing status is married filing jointly; $49,500 for 2021 ($48,750 for 2020) if your filing status is head of household (with qualifying person); or $33,000 for 2021 ($32,500 for 2020) if your filing status is single, married filing separately, or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child.

Roth versions of the 403(b) may be available, allowing you to contribute after-tax money that can grow with no taxes upon withdrawal of principal or returns.

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  2. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 590-A (2020), Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)," Pages 21-22. Accessed May 25, 2021.

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 575 (2020), Pension and Annuity Income," Pages 16-19. Accessed May 25, 2021.

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "Retirement Plans FAQs Regarding 403(b) Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plans." Accessed May 25, 2021.

  5. Internal Revenue Service. "Retirement Topics—Who Can Participate in a 403(b) Plan?" Accessed May 25, 2021.

  6. Internal Revenue Service. "IRC 403(b) Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plans—Establish a 403(b) Plan." Accessed May 25, 2021.

  7. Internal Revenue Service. "403(b) Plan Fix-It Guide—403(b) Plan Overview." Accessed May 25, 2021.

  8. Internal Revenue Service. "Retirement Plan and IRA Required Minimum Distributions FAQs." Accessed May 25, 2021.

  9. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 571 (01/2021), Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plans (403(b) Plans)," Page 20. Accessed May 25, 2021.

  10. Internal Revenue Service. "Income Ranges for Determining IRA Eligibility Change for 2021." Accessed May 25, 2021.

  11. Internal Revenue Service. "Retirement Plans FAQs on Designated Roth Accounts." Accessed May 25, 2021.