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Contribution types

Regular employee contributions

Each pay period, your agency or service will deduct your contribution from your basic salary in the amount or percentage that you chose when you started contributing. If you began or rejoined federal service on or after October 1, 2020, you were automatically enrolled at 5% of your basic salary. If you began or rejoined federal service between August 1, 2010, and September 30, 2020, you were automatically enrolled at 3%.

Your agency or service will continue to deduct your contribution until you do the following:

  • Make a new election changing the amount
  • Elect to stop your contributions
  • Reach the IRS contribution limit

For more information, visit Contribution limits.

Agency/Service automatic (1%) contributions

If you’re a FERS or BRS employee, your agency or service will contribute an amount equal to 1% of your basic pay each pay period to your TSP account. These are called Agency/Service Automatic (1%) Contributions and you don’t need to make employee contributions to receive them.

Agency/Service Automatic (1%) Contributions are not taken out of your pay and do not reduce your pay for income tax purposes.

A few words about vesting

  • Being “vested” means you’re entitled to keep all of the money in your account. Vesting only applies to Agency/Service Automatic (1%) Contributions (and their earnings) and occurs after you work in the federal government or uniformed services for a certain number of years. All your years of service in a position eligible for the TSP count toward vesting, even if you don’t contribute to the TSP during that time. Most FERS participants are vested in Agency/Service Automatic (1%) Contributions after completing 3 years of service.
  • FERS employees in congressional and certain noncareer positions become vested in Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions after 2 years of service.
  • BRS members become vested in Service Automatic (1%) Contributions after 2 years of service.

If you leave government service before satisfying the vesting requirement, the Agency/Service Automatic (1%) Contributions and their earnings will be forfeited to the TSP. If you die before separating from service, you are automatically considered vested in all the money in your account.

Agency/Service matching contributions

If you’re a FERS or BRS participant, you will receive Agency/Service Matching Contributions from your agency or service based on your regular employee contributions once you’re eligible. Unlike Agency/Service Automatic (1%) Contributions, Matching Contributions are not subject to vesting requirements.

As a FERS or BRS participant, you receive matching contributions on the first 5% of pay that you contribute each pay period.

Your Biweekly Contribution Automatic 1% Contribution Agency Matching Contribution Total Contributions
0% 1% 0% 1%
1% 1% 1% 3%
2% 1% 2% 5%
3% 1% 3% 7%
4% 1% 3.5% 8.5%
5% 1% 4% 10%
5% + 1% 4% Your % + 5%

The first 3% of pay that you contribute will be matched dollar-for-dollar; the next 2% will be matched at 50 cents on the dollar. Contributions above 5% of your pay will not be matched. If you stop making regular employee contributions, your matching contributions will also stop.

Further, your Agency/Service Matching Contributions are based on the total amount of money (traditional and Roth) that you contribute each pay period. All agency/service contributions are deposited into your traditional balance.

Contributions toward the catch-up limit

Starting in the year you turn 50, you become eligible to save even more by contributing toward the catch-up limit.

Here’s what you should know:

If you are a uniformed services member and enter a combat zone, your contributions toward the catch-up limit must be Roth. (The TSP cannot accept traditional tax-exempt contributions toward the catch-up limit.) You also cannot contribute toward the catch-up limit from incentive pay, special pay, or bonus pay.

If you are contributing to both a civilian and uniformed services account, the limits apply to the total you contribute to both accounts during the year.

To contribute toward the catch-up limit, use Form TSP-1, Election Form (or Form TSP-U-1 for uniformed services), or your agency’s or service’s electronic system (e,g., Employee Express, EBIS, LiteBlue, myPay, or NFC Employee Personal Page). You can add any contributions toward the catch-up limit in the same place as your other TSP contributions. Remember, separate catch-up elections are not required.

A note for members of the uniformed services

If you are a member of the uniformed services:

Note: If you contribute tax-exempt pay, your total contributions from all types of pay must not exceed the IRS annual addition limit for the year.

For more information, visit Contribution Limits.