Should I 'Catch Up' My Tax Saving Plan (TSP) Contributions?


Boost Your Retirement Fund

If you’re an active participant in the TSP and you are over age 50, you may want to consider the unique opportunity to boost your TSP savings with ‘Catch-Up Contributions.’

So, 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 TSP ‘Catch-Up Contributions’ starting in January of the year you turn 50. This strategy may enable you to have a larger retirement fund. This will help you live the retirement lifestyle you desire.

  • Your catch-up contributions come from basic pay through payroll deductions and you can designate them as traditional (pre-tax) or Roth (after-tax) …or both.

Who is eligible to make ‘Catch-Up Contributions’?
Of course, you must meet the age requirement,

  • You must also be an active federal employee and in pay status

  • You must be 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. The limit is $19,000 for 2019.

  • 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.

How much in ‘Catch-Up Contributions’ can I contribute to my 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 and 2019.

REAL IMPORTANT:  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 Contributions’?
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.


The "Catch Up" process is much easier now!  Get Details Here

Do special rules or conditions apply to uniformed services participants?
Yes, there are some special rules for Marines, Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard, The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps:

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

  2. If you are receiving tax-exempt pay while serving in a combat zone, your traditional (pre-tax) catch-up contributions will stop.

  3. Only Roth catch-up contributions are allowed from tax-exempt pay.


REAL IMPORTANT:  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.


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

  • 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

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

Other Resources:
TSP Website: | ThriftLine: 1-877-968-3778 | Outside the U.S. and Canada: 404-233-4400 | TDD: 1-877-847-4385