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. Individual accounts in a 403(b) plan can be any of the following types.
There are three benefits to contributing to a 403(b) plan.
The first benefit is that you don’t pay income tax on allowable contributions until you begin making withdrawals from the plan, usually after you retire. Allowable contributions to a 403(b) plan are either excluded or deducted from your income. However, if your contributions are made to a Roth contribution program, this benefit doesn’t apply. Instead, you pay income tax on the contributions to the plan but distributions from the plan (if certain requirements are met) are tax free.
Note. Generally, employees must pay social security and Medicare tax on their contributions to a 403(b) plan, including those made under a salary reduction agreement. See chapter 4, Limit on Elective Deferrals , for more information.
- The second benefit is that earnings and gains on amounts in your 403(b) account aren’t taxed until you withdraw them. Earnings and gains on amounts in a Roth contribution program aren’t taxed if your withdrawals are qualified distributions. Otherwise, they are taxed when you withdraw them.
- The third benefit is that you may be eligible to take a credit for elective deferrals contributed to your 403(b) account. See chapter 10, Retirement Savings Contributions Credit (Saver's Credit) , for more information.
You can’t set up your own 403(b) account. Only employers can set up 403(b) accounts. A self-employed minister can’t set up a 403(b) account for his or her benefit. If you are a self-employed minister, only the organization (denomination) with which you are associated can set up an account for your benefit.
Generally, only your employer can make contributions to your 403(b) account. However, some plans will allow you to make after-tax contributions (defined below).
The following types of contributions can be made to 403(b) accounts.
Elective deferrals . These are contributions made under a salary reduction agreement. This agreement allows your employer to withhold money from your paycheck to be contributed directly into a 403(b) account for your benefit. Except for Roth contributions, you don’t pay income tax on these contributions until you withdraw them from the account. If your contributions are Roth contributions, you pay taxes on your contributions but any qualified distributions from your Roth account are tax free.
Nonelective contributions . These are employer contributions that aren’t made under a salary reduction agreement. Nonelective contributions include matching contributions, discretionary contributions, and mandatory contributions made by your employer. You don’t pay income tax on these contributions until you withdraw them from the account.
After-tax contributions . These are contributions (that aren’t Roth contributions) you make with funds that you must include in income on your tax return. A salary payment on which income tax has been withheld is a source of these contributions. If your plan allows you to make after-tax contributions, they aren’t excluded from income and you can’t deduct them on your tax return.
A combination of any of the three contribution types listed above.
Generally, you don’t report contributions to your 403(b) account (except Roth contributions) on your tax return. Your employer will report contributions on your 2017 Form W-2. Elective deferrals will be shown in box 12 with code E for pre-tax amounts and code BB for Roth amounts, and the Retirement plan box will be checked in box 13. If you are a self-employed minister or chaplain, see the discussions next.
There are limits on the amount of contributions that can be made to your 403(b) account each year. If contributions made to your 403(b) account are more than these contribution limits, penalties may apply.
Worksheets are provided in chapter 9 to help you determine the maximum amount that can be contributed to your 403(b) account each year. Chapter 7, Excess Contributions , describes how to prevent excess contributions and how to get an excess contribution corrected.
Throughout this publication, the limit on the amount that can be contributed to your 403(b) account for any year is referred to as your maximum amount contributable (MAC). This chapter:
Introduces the components of your MAC,
Tells you how to figure your MAC, and
Tells you when to figure your MAC.