403b Tax-Sheltered Annuity

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Navigating the path to a secure retirement can be daunting, with various financial instruments at your disposal. Among these, the 403b annuity, also known as a tax-sheltered annuity, is a powerful tool in the arsenal of those eligible. In this guide, we will delve deep into 403b annuities, highlighting their pros and cons and offering practical advice on leveraging these tools for retirement.

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What is a 403b Annuity?

At its core, a 403b annuity is a retirement plan available to certain employees of public schools, tax-exempt organizations, and ministers. This plan, named after its section in the Internal Revenue Code, enables you to contribute a part of your salary towards retirement on a pre-tax basis. You’ll see a reduced taxable income now and only pay taxes when you withdraw the funds in retirement.

Example: The 403b annuity, also called a tax-sheltered annuity, is a retirement plan made available to employees of public schools, tax-exempt organizations, and certain ministers. For example, if you’re a teacher in a public school, you can allocate a part of your salary towards a 403b annuity. This contribution is made pre-tax, reducing your current taxable income. You’ll pay taxes only when you withdraw these funds after retirement.

Tsa Account

Are Annuities Allowed in 403b?

Absolutely! The 403b plan was initially designed as an annuity contract. Today, it’s also evolved to encompass mutual funds. So, participants in a 403b plan can choose to invest their money in annuities through an insurance company or mutual funds.


The Downsides of 403b Plans

Like all financial products, 403b annuities have drawbacks. Here are a few:

  • Limited Investment Choices: Compared to 401ks, 403b plans offer fewer investment options, often restricted to annuities and a limited selection of mutual funds.
  • Surrender Charges: If you have an annuity contract and decide to withdraw your money early or transfer it to another investment, you may face surrender charges.
  • High Fees: For annuity contracts, 403b plans can have higher administrative and management fees than other retirement saving options.
Tax-Sheltered Annuity

Avoiding Taxes on a 403b Withdrawal

The question of how to avoid paying taxes on a 403b withdrawal is often asked. Since 403b contributions are made pre-tax, the money is taxable when withdrawn. However, there are strategies to minimize the tax burden. One way is by making strategic withdrawals that keep you within a lower tax bracket. Another method involves rolling your 403b to a Roth IRA after retirement. Though you pay taxes on the rollover amount, future withdrawals from the Roth IRA are tax-free.

Helpful Tool: 403b Withdrawal Calculator

Cashing Out 403b After Leaving a Job

If you’re considering cashing out your 403b after leaving a job, think twice. While it’s an option, it comes with a significant tax liability. If you’re under 59.5 years, you’ll incur a 10% early withdrawal penalty. A wiser move may be rolling over your 403b to an IRA or your new employer’s plan if allowed.

Example: If you decide to cash out your 403b after leaving a job, you could face a hefty tax bill. For example, if Ms. Johnson leaves her teaching position and decides to cash out her 403b annuity, she must pay income tax on the withdrawn amount. Moreover, if she’s under 59.5, an additional 10% early withdrawal penalty will apply.

403b Withdrawal Comparison

The table below compares using an annuity to distribute your income by systematically withdrawing from Retirement plans or through financial advisors.

Withdrawal Percentage5.20% – 6.55%4%4%4%
Can Income Increase?YesYesYesYes
Can Income Decrease?NoYesYesYes
How Long Will Money Last?Lifetime30 Years+30 Years+30 Years+
Annual Fees0 – 1.50%1% – 4%1% – 4%1% – 4%
Death BenefitAccount BalanceAccount BalanceAccount BalanceAccount Balance

Example: A 60-year-old retiree starts withdrawing immediately from their $1 million portfolio, they would receive:

Retiring with a 403b Plan

When you retire with a 403b, you’ll start withdrawing the money, which will be taxed as ordinary income. The IRS requires you to start taking minimum distributions by April 1 of the year after you turn 73.

Consider transferring your 403b into an IRA annuity with a guaranteed lifetime income rider for a more secure and efficient retirement. This strategy ensures a steady flow of income throughout your retirement years and provides a safety net against the risk of depleting your savings.

403B Tax-Sheltered Annuity

The 403b Annuity vs. 401k

While 403b plans and 401ks are similar in many ways – both tax-deferred retirement plans – they cater to different types of employees. Private, for-profit companies offer a 401k, while a 403b is available to employees of non-profit organizations, public schools, and certain ministers. Investment choices are usually more limited in a 403b plan than in a 401k. On the other hand, some 403b plans offer an additional ‘catch-up’ contribution option for those with 15 years of service, something not typically found in 401k plans.

Next Steps

It’s important to consider all your options and decide what best aligns with your long-term financial goals. Whether you’re contemplating cashing out your 403b after leaving a job or are weighing the difference between a 403b and a 401k, a knowledgeable financial advisor can provide personalized advice for your situation. Remember, the journey to a comfortable retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. Making informed decisions now will ensure you reap the benefits in your golden years.

Tax-Sheltered Annuity (Tsa) And 403B Retirement Plans

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a 403b, and how does it work?

A 403b is a retirement savings plan designed for employees of public schools, non-profit organizations, and certain religious institutions. It allows participants to contribute pre-tax income into an account, which grows tax-deferred until withdrawal. Like a 401k, a tax-sheltered annuity offers various investment options, such as mutual funds or annuity contracts, helping employees build their retirement nest egg. Many employers also provide matching contributions, further enhancing the plan’s benefits.

What is a tax-sheltered annuity?

Tax-sheltered annuities (TSAs) are retirement savings plans that let employees of non-profit organizations, public schools, and certain religious institutions save for their later years by contributing pre-tax income. This allows funds to accumulate tax-deferred over time, providing long-accumulating advantages designed to boost future financial security. TSAs can be found in 403b plans which provide similar benefits as 401k accounts but are purposely tailored for the needs of specific employee groups.

Are 403b contributions subject to FICA?

Yes, contributions to a 403b retirement plan are subject to FICA taxes. This means employer and employee contributions are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes. The current tax rate for FICA is 7.65%, with 6.2% of the rate going toward Social Security and 1.45% toward Medicare taxes. Contributions to a tax-sheltered annuity can be made pre-tax or after-tax, depending on the particular plan’s rules.

Does TSA have a pension?

Yes, a tax-sheltered annuity (TSA) can have a pension. Pension payments from a TSA are typically based on the amount of money contributed to the plan and any employer contributions or other benefits provided. It is important to note that pension payments from a TSA are taxable, and taxes must be paid when they are received.

How does a 403b work when you retire?

When you retire from a 403b plan, the money saved in the account can be used to provide income during Retirement. Depending on the type of plan, distributions may begin as soon as you retire, or they may begin later, such as when you reach a certain age. When distributions are taken from the plan, income taxes are due on the money withdrawn. The taxes payable will depend on federal and state tax rates at the withdrawal time.

How much tax do you pay on 403b withdrawal?

The taxes payable on a 403b withdrawal will vary depending on the tax rates at the withdrawal time. Additionally, you may be subject to an IRS early withdrawal penalty if you take any money out before you reach age 59 1/2.

Are 403b contributions subject to social security taxes?

No, contributions to a 403b plan are not subject to Social Security taxes. However, any money withdrawn from the plan at Retirement is taxable as ordinary income.

How are contributions to a tax-sheltered annuity treated about taxation?

Contributions to a Tax-Sheltered Annuity (TSA) are made pre-taxed and taxed when withdrawn in retirement. This means that contributions are not taxed currently, and the growth on the contributions is tax-deferred until withdrawal. However, when the funds are withdrawn, they are taxed as ordinary income at the taxpayer’s current tax rate.

What is a TSA retirement plan?

A Tax-Sheltered Annuity (TSA) is a type of retirement plan offered to certain employees, such as teachers and nonprofit workers. Contributions are made pre-tax and grow tax-deferred until withdrawal when they are taxed as ordinary income.

Who is eligible for a tax-sheltered annuity?

Eligibility for a Tax-Sheltered Annuity (TSA) is typically limited to employees of tax-exempt organizations, such as public schools, colleges, and universities, and specific nonprofit organizations, such as teachers, professors, and staff members. In some cases, ministers and employees of specific state and local government organizations may also be eligible.

What is the difference between a 401k and a 403b?

The primary difference between a 401k and a 403b is the number of eligible employers. Private-sector employers offer a 401k, while a 403b is designed for employees of public schools, non-profit organizations, and certain religious institutions. Both plans allow pre-tax contributions, tax-deferred growth, and employer matching. However, 403b plans may have fewer investment options and lower administrative fees than 401k plans due to the non-profit nature of their sponsoring organizations.

What are the disadvantages of a 403b?

Disadvantages include limited investment options compared to 401k plans, as they often focus on annuity contracts and a smaller range of mutual funds. In addition, early withdrawals before age 59½ may incur a 10% penalty and be subject to income tax. Additionally, 403b plans may have less flexibility regarding employer contributions and vesting schedules. Finally, participants must take required minimum distributions (RMDs) starting at age 73, potentially impacting tax planning in retirement.

Is a 403b better than a 401k?

Whether a 403b is better than a 401k depends on individual circumstances and employer offerings. Both plans provide pre-tax contributions, tax-deferred growth, and possible employer matching. However, 403b plans may have fewer investment options and are limited to employees of public schools, non-profit organizations, and certain religious institutions. Meanwhile, 401k plans are available to private-sector employees and often have a broader range of investment choices.

What are the benefits of a 403b?

Benefits include pre-tax contributions, reduced taxable income, and lowered current tax liability. In addition, the plan offers tax-deferred growth, allowing investments to compound over time without incurring taxes until withdrawal. Many employers provide matching contributions, further boosting retirement savings. A 403b plan is specifically designed for employees of public schools, non-profit organizations, and certain religious institutions, catering to their unique needs. Finally, catch-up contributions are available for participants aged 50 or older.

Is a 403b like a pension?

A 403b is not a pension but a defined contribution retirement plan. Unlike a pension, which guarantees a specific income in retirement based on factors like years of service and salary, a 403b allows employees to contribute pre-tax income into an account with various investment options. The retirement income from a tax-sheltered annuity depends on the performance of the investments and the amount contributed. Pensions, also known as defined-benefit plans, offer more predictable income in retirement.

Can contributing to a 403b plan reduce my income tax liability?

Yes, contributing to a 403b plan can reduce your income tax liability by lowering your taxable income, which can decrease the taxes you owe.

Can employees of a tax-exempt organization contribute to a 403b plan?

Yes, employees of tax-exempt organizations can contribute to a 403b plan, a retirement savings plan for employees of specific tax-exempt organizations and public schools.

Are there any age limits for employee contributions for a 403b plan?

No, there are no age limits for employee contributions to a 403b plan. As long as the employee is still working, they can continue contributing to the plan.

Can employees deduct their contributions to a 403b plan from their pay income tax?

Yes, employees can deduct their contributions to a 403b plan from their pay income tax, reducing their taxable income and lowering their tax liability.

Who is normally considered to be the owner of a 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity?

The owner of a 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity is typically the employee who participates in the plan. A 403(b) plan is a retirement savings plan for employees of certain public schools, tax-exempt organizations, and ministers, allowing them to contribute pre-tax dollars, which can grow tax-deferred until withdrawal.

*Disclosure: Some of the links in this guide may be affiliate links. I may receive a commission at no cost to you if you purchase a policy. It helps us keep the lights on!

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

The Annuity Expert is an online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning or find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates for you. 

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