The Saver's Credit

In 2001 Congress passed the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA). One of its provisions provides tax credits to low income households that choose to put money in certain retirement savings vehicles.

The following pages consist of

1)  A Description of the Saver’s Credit --- a three-page question and answer explanation intended for employers and employees who want to know all the related details.

2)  Notice to Employees Regarding Saver’s Credit --- a two-page notice, drafted by the federal government, to explain the rules to employees.

There is no legal requirement that the notice be given to employees.  However, we encourage employers and others in the retirement services community to give out the notice (and the chart if it fits your circumstances) in order to promote retirement savings by eligible employees.

The IRS has issued Form 8880 for individuals to calculate the amount of their tax credit as they prepare their personal tax returns.

Saver’s credits worth just over $1 billion were claimed on more than 6.1 million income tax returns in 2010.  The saver’s credit can increase your refund or reduce the tax owed.

DESCRIPTION OF THE SAVER'S CREDIT (2018)

From IRS Announcement 2001-106, updated for indexed amounts

This announcement describes the new "saver's credit," an income tax credit that is available to eligible taxpayers who contribute to a retirement plan or IRA. This announcement includes a sample notice that employers can give to employees explaining the credit.

 Q-1: What is the saver's credit?

 A-1: The saver's credit is a nonrefundable income tax credit for certain taxpayers with adjusted gross income that does not exceed $63,000. It is equal to a specified percentage of certain employee contributions made to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or of certain individual or spousal contributions to an individual retirement arrangement (IRA) for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2001. The saver's credit is contained in section 25B of the Internal Revenue Code, which was added by section 618 of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001.

 

Q-2: Who is eligible for the saver's credit?

A-2: Taxpayers who are age 18 or over before the end of their taxable year, other than full-time students or persons claimed as dependents on another taxpayer's return, are eligible for the credit. For this purpose, students include individuals who, during some part of each of five months during the year, are (a) enrolled at a school that has a regular teaching staff, course of study, and regularly enrolled body of students in attendance, or (b) taking an on-farm training course given by such a school or a state, county, or local government. A student is a full-time student if he or she is enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time.
 

Q-3: What is the maximum annual contribution eligible for the saver's credit?

A-3: $2,000 per year.

Q-4: Is the amount of the annual contribution eligible for the saver's credit ever reduced?

A-4: Yes. The amount of any contribution eligible for the saver's credit is reduced by the amount of any taxable distribution received by the taxpayer (or by the taxpayer's spouse if the taxpayer filed jointly with that spouse both for the year during which a distribution was made and the year for which the credit is taken) from any plan described in A-5 below during the testing period. The testing period consists of the year for which the credit is claimed, the period after the end of that year and before the due date (with extensions) for filing the taxpayer's return for that year, and the two taxable years that precede the year for which the credit is claimed. In the case of a distribution from a Roth IRA, this reduction applies to any such distribution, whether or  not  taxable, that is  not  rolled over. An  amount does not count as  a distribution for purposes of the reduction rule if the distribution is a return of a contribution to an IRA (including a Roth IRA) made for the tax year and (1) the distribution is made before the due date (including extensions) of the individual's tax return for that year, (2) no deduction is taken with respect to the contribution, and (3) the distribution includes any income attributable to the contribution.

For example, if an individual contributes $3,000 to a 401(k) plan during 2018, but had taken a $500 IRA withdrawal during that year and a $900 IRA withdrawal during the preceding calendar year and neither of these withdrawals was rolled over, the amount of that individual's 2018 plan contribution eligible for the credit is $1,600 ($3,000 - $500 - $900), instead of the $2,000 that would have been eligible for the credit if no withdrawals had been taken.

 

Q-5: What types of contributions are eligible for the saver's credit?

A-5: Salary reduction contributions to the following arrangements are eligible for the credit: a 401(k) plan (including a SIMPLE 401(k)), a section 403(b) annuity, an eligible deferred compensation plan of a state or local government (a "governmental 457 plan"), a SIMPLE IRA plan, or a salary reduction SEP. The saver's credit is also available for voluntary after-tax employee contributions to a tax-qualified retirement plan or section 403(b) annuity. For purposes of the credit, an employee contribution will be "voluntary" as long as it is not required as a condition of employment. Finally, the saver's credit is available for contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA.

An amount contributed to an individual's IRA is not a contribution eligible for the saver's credit if (1) the amount is distributed to the individual before the due date (including extensions) of the individual's tax return for the year for which the contribution was made, (2) no deduction is taken with respect to the contribution, and (3) the distribution includes any income attributable to the contribution.

 

Q-6: What is the saver's credit rate?

A-6: The saver's credit rate is based on the taxpayer's adjusted gross income for the taxable year for which the credit is claimed, as follows:

Adjusted Gross Income (for calendar year 2018)

Married filing jointly Head of household All other filers Credit
$0-$38,000 $0-$28,750 $0-$19,000 50% of contribution
$38,001-$41,000 $28,551-$30,750 $19,001-$20,500 20% of contribution
$41,001-$63,000 $30,751-$47,250 $20,501-$31,500 10% of contribution
Over $63,000 Over $47,250 Over $31,500 Credit not available


For example, a taxpayer whose filing status is single with adjusted gross income of $17,750 may be entitled to a credit equal to 50% of his or her contributions (up to $2,000 of contributions) to a plan described in A-5 above. Q-7: Does the saver's credit affect an eligible individual's entitlement to any deduction or exclusion that would otherwise apply to the contribution?A-7: No. Eligible individuals entitled to deduct IRA contributions or to exclude plan contributions from gross income will be able to deduct or exclude those amounts and also claim the saver's credit.

 

Q-8: Can a taxpayer use the saver's credit to offset both an alternative minimum tax liability and a regular income tax liability?

A-8: Yes.
 

Q-9: For married taxpayers filing jointly, do contributions by or for either or both spouses give rise to the saver's credit?

A-9: Yes, contributions by or for either or both spouses, up to $2,000 per year for each spouse, can give rise to the saver's credit.

 

Q-10: Are salary reduction and after-tax employee contributions that are eligible for the saver's credit taken into account in the ADP and ACP nondiscrimination tests of sections 401(k) and (m) of the Internal Revenue Code?

A-10: Yes. Salary reduction contributions to a 401(k) plan, whether or not those contributions give rise to the saver's credit, are taken into account in the nondiscrimination test for salary reduction contributions (the ADP test) for plans subject to that test. Also, voluntary after-tax employee contributions to a qualified plan, whether or not those contributions give rise to the saver's credit, are taken into account in the nondiscrimination test for employee after-tax contributions (the ACP test) for plans subject to that test.

 

Q-11: Can an individual claim the saver's credit for an amount contributed to a plan pursuant to automatic enrollment?

A-11: Yes. Any amount that is treated as an elective contribution on behalf of an eligible individual to an employer plan described in A-5 above can give rise to the saver's credit.

 

Q-12: Can an individual take a projected saver's credit into account in figuring the allowable number of withholding allowances on Form W-4?

A-12: Yes. For information on converting credits into withholding allowances, see IRS Publication 919, "How Do I Adjust My Withholding?"

 

Q-13: Is there a sample notice that employers can use to help explain the saver's credit to employees?

A-13: Yes. Employers are encouraged to tell their employees about the credit. Employers can inform employees in any way they choose, including use of the notice set out below.

 

NOTICE  TO  EMPLOYEES  REGARDING  SAVER'S  CREDIT

 This notice explains how you may be able to pay less tax by contributing to an employer-sponsored plan (the "Plan") or to an individual retirement arrangement ("IRA").  Plans covered by this rule are 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, salary reduction SEPs, SIMPLEs, and 457 plans.

If you make contributions to the Plan or to an IRA, you may be eligible for a tax credit, called the "saver's credit." This credit could reduce the federal income tax you pay dollar-for-dollar. The amount of the credit you can get is based on the contributions you make and your credit rate. The credit rate can be as low as 10% or as high as 50%, depending on your adjusted gross income -- the lower your income, the higher the credit rate. The credit rate also depends on your filing status. See the tables at the end of this notice to determine your credit rate.

The maximum contribution taken into account for the credit for an individual is $2,000. If you are married filing jointly, the maximum contribution taken into account for the credit is $2,000 each for you and your spouse.

The credit is available to you if you:

  • are 18 or older,
  • are not a full-time student,
  • are not claimed as a dependent on someone else's return, and
  • have adjusted gross income (shown on your tax return for the year of the credit) that

does not exceed:

                    $63,000 if you are married filing jointly,

                    $47,250 if you are a head of household with a qualifying person, or

                    $31,500 if you are single or married filing separately.

Example: Susan and John are married and file their federal income tax return jointly. For 2018, their adjusted gross income would have been $36,000 if they had not made any retirement contributions. During 2018, Susan elected to have $2,000 contributed pre-tax to her employer's 401(k) plan. John made a deductible contribution of $2,000 to an IRA for 2018. As a result of these contributions, their 2018 adjusted gross income is $32,000. If their Federal income tax would have been $3,000 (after applying any other credits to which they are entitled) without having made any retirement contributions, then their federal income tax as a result of making the $4,000 retirement contributions will be only $400 after application of the saver's credit and other tax benefits for the retirement contributions. (The federal marginal tax rate is 15% in this example.)  Thus, by saving $4,000 for their retirement, Susan and John have also reduced their taxes by $2,600 (equal to 15% of $4,000 plus two times 50% of $2,000).

The annual contribution eligible for the credit may have to be reduced by any taxable distributions from a retirement plan or IRA that you or your spouse receive during the year you claim the credit, during the two preceding years, or during the period after the end of the year for which you claim the credit and before the due date for filing your return for that year. A distribution from a Roth IRA that is not rolled over is taken into account for this reduction, even if the distribution is not taxable. After these reductions, the maximum annual contribution eligible for the credit per person is $2,000.

 

Example: Mark's adjusted gross income for 2018 is low enough for him to be eligible for the credit that year and he defers $3,000 of his pay to his employer's 401(k) plan during 2018. During 2018, Mark took a $400 hardship withdrawal from his employer's plan and during 2018 he takes an $800 IRA withdrawal. Mark's 2018 saver's credit will be based on contributions of $1,800 ($3,000 - $400 - $800).

The amount of your saver's credit will not change the amount of your refundable tax credits. A refundable tax credit, such as the earned income credit or the refundable amount of your child tax credit, is an amount that you would receive as a refund even if you did not otherwise owe any taxes.

The amount of your saver's credit in any year cannot exceed the amount of tax that you would otherwise pay (not counting any refundable credits or the adoption credit) in any year. If your tax liability is reduced to zero because of other nonrefundable credits, such as the Hope Scholarship Credit, then you will not be entitled to the saver's credit.

 

CREDIT RATES

The saver's credit rate is based on the taxpayer's adjusted gross income for the taxable year for which the credit is claimed, as follows:

Adjusted Gross Income (for calendar year 2018)

Married filing jointly Head of household All other filers Credit
$0-$38,000 $0-$28,750 $0-$19,000 50% of contribution
$38,001-$41,000 $28,551-$30,750 $19,001-$20,500 20% of contribution
$41,001-$63,000 $30,751-$47,250 $20,501-$31,500 10% of contribution
Over $63,000 Over $47,250 Over $31,500 Credit not available

 

Note:  You cannot get the Savers Credit by filing Form 1040-EZ.  You must file either

  • Form 1040; or
  • Form 1040A; or
  • Form 1040NR for non-resident aliens.

 

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