Issue Briefs

Following is a recent publication from the TSP summarizing policies on catch-up contributions, which are additional investments allowed for those who are at least age 50 during the pertinent year and who meet certain other conditions.

If you’re an active participant of a certain age, then consider this unique opportunity to boost your TSP savings with “catch-up contributions.”


What are catch-up contributions?

Catch-up contributions allow you to save more in your TSP account than the maximum amount allowed by the IRS through regular contributions. You can make your first catch-up contribution starting in January of the year you turn 50. Your catch-up contributions come from basic pay through payroll deductions and you can designate them as traditional (pretax) and/or Roth (after-tax).

Who is eligible to make catch-up contributions?

In addition to meeting the age requirement, you must be:

• an active federal employee and in pay status; and

• making regular contributions to a civilian or uniformed services TSP account (or both), and/or an equivalent employer plan that will equal the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 2018 maximum elective deferral limit of $18,500.

You must be on track to reach the full elective deferral limit by the end of the year while you’re simultaneously making catch-up contributions. You must make a separate election for catch-up contributions.

How much can I contribute to the TSP?

Once you have determined you are eligible, you can make catch-up contributions up to the IRC catch-up contribution limit of $6,000 for 2018. Because catch-up contributions are in addition to your regular contributions, they do not count against the IRC elective deferral limit or the total IRC annual addition limit for the year.

Will I receive any matching contributions on my catch-up contributions?

No. There are no matching contributions on catch-up contributions.

When can I make a catch-up contribution?

Once you become eligible, you can make your election at any time. It will become effective the first full pay period after your agency or service receives it. The election will only be valid through the end of the calendar year in which it is made. This means that you will have to make a new catchup contribution election each year.

Do special rules or conditions apply to uniformed services participants?

Yes, there are some special rules:

• You cannot use incentive or special pay (including bonus pay) to make catch-up contributions.

• If you are receiving tax-exempt pay while serving in a combat zone, your traditional (pretax) catch-up contributions will stop. Only Roth catch-up contributions are allowed from tax-exempt pay.

• If you have both civilian and uniformed services accounts and are contributing the maximum amount of regular contributions, you can also make catch-up contributions to both accounts. The total in catch-up contributions for the two accounts must not exceed the catch-up contribution limit for the year. If you exceed the maximum limit for catch-up contributions, the TSP will refund the excess amount, plus earnings, from your uniformed services account first, no later than April 15 of the following year.

How do I get started?

1. Read the Catch-Up Contributions fact sheet on and watch the Catch-Up Contributions video on to learn more.

2. Make catch-up contributions using your agency’s or service’s payroll system. If that option isn’t available to you, complete and submit Form TSP-1-C, Catch- Up Contribution Election, or TSP‑U‑1-C if you are a member of the uniformed services.

3. For more information, call the ThriftLine at 1-877- 968-3778 and press option 3 to speak to a Participant Service Representative.

Read more on TSP Catch Up Contributions at