Faculty Handbook

Tax Sheltered Annuity Program (TSA) Guidelines

What is a Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA) 403(b) Plan?

Tax-Sheltered Annuity (TSA), is a technical Internal Revenue Code (IRC) term and is governed by the section of the IRC 403(b) commonly referred to as a 403(b) plan. Employees of non-profit 501(c) tax-exempt organizations, higher education and public schools are eligible to tax defer income under this plan for additional retirement savings.

Why is it Called Tax Deferred?

Your voluntary contributions to a TSA reduce your taxable income (wages) for both state and federal taxes. Contributions must be made through your employer. TSA contributions do not affect Social Security taxes or reported wages for Social Security. The liability for taxes on the deferred amount and any interest accrued is postponed until the money is taken as income, usually at retirement time. This deferred taxable income plan should not be confused with tax exempt.

Who is Eligible to Participate in the 403(b) Plan?

IRC non-discrimination rules state that an employer offering a tax-sheltered annuity plan to a group of employees must offer this program to all employees with some exceptions. Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) offers participation to all employees with the exception of those under the Federal work-study program, student workers, tutors, and non-student workers. Adjunct faculty are eligible to participate in addition to traditional hourly/wage employees.

What are the Advantages of a TSA Program?

Participation in a TSA program will reduce your taxes immediately. Every dollar you defer to your TSA is not subject to ordinary income tax withholding. So, by participating in the plan you will generally pay less federal and state income tax. The example shown in the following table assumes a single employee with one withholding exemption. In addition, full time faculty and full time classified employees that participates in the TSA program is eligible for an employer cash match (401a) up to $480.00 per year. Maximum cash matches may change in accordance with legislation.

What are the Disadvantages?

Monies deferred to a TSA account are intended for additional retirement income. Therefore, access to those funds is restricted prior to retirement. In addition, even when conditions for early withdrawal are met, there is a significant tax liability for the monies withdrawn.

Power of Tax Deferral (Single)
  Without TSA With TSA
Gross Semi-Monthly Income $1,500.00 $1,500.00
Pre-Tax Contribution (403b) NONE $150.00
Federal Withholding Tax $249.82 $207.82
Combined OASDI & HI (FICA) $114.75 $114.75
SIT (State) $67.61 $58.99
Take Home Pay $1,067.82 $968.44

Results: You deferred $150.00 to the TSA, but your take-home pay is only reduced by $99.38 because of lower taxes for FIT and SIT.

Highlights of the Program
  • Contributions from your salary are made on a pre-tax basis and accumulate on a tax-deferred basis.
  • Immediate 100% vesting is available on all your contributions.
  • Loan provisions enable you to borrow against your account balance.
  • You have a wide choice of investment options.
What Will The Difference Be In My W-2?

At the end of the calendar year, your W-2 will show your adjusted wages for tax reporting purposes. A separate box on the W-2 will show the total calendar year deferral amount coded as 403(b) money. NOTE: You have the benefit of lower taxes up front all year long because for each pay period taxes were computed on the salary rate minus the amount of the TSA.

How Much Can I Defer To A TSA Plan?

There are specific limitations on the amount of money you may set aside in a calendar year. The limitations are imposed by sections of the IRC; 403(b) and 403(*b), 7, 415, and 402(g). Alternative limits are available to employees of educational institutions and permit those who qualify to exceed the general limit on deferrals. Generally, you may defer as much as $17,000 per calendar year ($22,500 if over age 50), on a before-tax basis. Under section 402(g) of the Code, employees with 15 or more years of service with the same employer limited by the cap may be eligible to exceed the $17,000. This is called “catch up” provision. This provision allows eligible employees to defer an additional $3,000 over a five-year period.

What is the Minimum Deferral Amount?

The vendors differ in what they require as a minimum amount. Contact Human Resources to determine the minimum deferral amount to receive the full employer cash match.

May I Change My Deferral Amount?

Once you decide to participate and agree to the amount to be deferred each pay period, you may change the deferral amount during the (calendar) year.

Can I Stop my Contribution and Resume at a Later Date?

YES. Elective contributions may be suspended at any time; however, to resume your contribution a new Salary Reduction Agreement must be completed. Your contributions already on deposit will continue to participate in the appropriate fund(s) based on allocations you have made. You must contact your TSA provider any time you wish to change allocations.

What Are My Investment Options?

You may direct your contributions into any one or combination of investment options offered by your chosen vendor. Investment options include both fixed accounts and variable accounts, with a wide range of investment options. Your vendor representative is available to discuss your options and to provide additional information about allocating contributions, transferring between funds, vendor charges and other questions you may have.

What Are My Vendor Options?

You may choose from one of the four VWCC vendors that VWCC has a formal Plan Document and Information Sharing Agreement established: Ameriprise Financial, AXA Equitable, TIAA-CREF, and VALIC. You must contact Human Resources and complete a new Salary Reduction Agreement form to change vendors. Other community colleges may not have agreements with the same vendors; therefore, upon transferring to another community college you may need to change vendors and roll over your existing account to the new vendor.

What Are Surrender Charges?

Your vendor may impose surrender charges when a withdrawal is requested. This is an area where the vendors differ. Participants should ask pertinent questions of the vendor regarding all administrative fees including transfer and surrender fees before enrolling.

Can I Borrow From My Account?

You may borrow from your TSA account under certain circumstances without having to pay income tax or IRC penalties. The loan must be paid back according to the loan schedule arranged by your vendor. Your vendor representative can provide further information.

How Will I Know How Much is in my TSA Account?

Your vendor will provide you with Quarterly Account statements that will show:

  • Account summary showing all transactions including deposits and withdrawals
  • Interest accrued (interest is deferred from taxes as well)
  • Applicable expense charges
  • Current interest rates
  • Variable units purchased and the applicable unit value
  • Many vendors have on-line account availability through their secure website
Am I Restricted in Accessing my TSA Account?

Yes. Monies deferred to a TSA account are intended for retirement income. Therefore, the availability of these funds prior to retirement is restricted. Federal legislation in the Tax Reform Act of 1986 restricts withdrawals of monies deferred after January 1989 unless one of the following events occurs:

  • Reached age 59 -1/2
  • Separation from service
  • Total disability or death
  • Unforeseen financial hardship
  • And other events as established by regulations

A 10% Federal tax penalty may apply to withdrawals made prior to reaching age 59 1/2.

What Happens if I Terminate Employment?

  • You may withdraw your cash, subject to IRS regulations.
  • You may leave the money to accumulate for future use.
  • You may transfer your account balance if your new employer has a tax-deferred annuity plan and the new plan accepts transfers.
  • You may roll your money over to an IRA rollover account following IRS guidelines.

What Are My Options at Retirement?

  • You may choose to leave your money in your account and your funds will continue to participate in the investment earnings on a tax-deferred basis until you elect to withdraw them. Generally, at age 70-1/2, IRS requires that you begin to withdraw a portion of the balance
  • You may annualize your account balance to provide periodic or annual income under a variety of options.
  • You may roll over your account balance to an IRA.
  • You may choose to receive lump-sum payouts of the money in your account.
What Happens to my TSA if I Should Die Prior to Retirement?

Your account balance (valuation as of the date of distribution) is paid to your beneficiary based on IRS distribution regulations.

How Do I Enroll in the TSA Plan?

Contact information can be obtained from the college's Human Resource Office.

Once you have determined the amount you elect to defer, the figure is entered on a Salary Reduction Agreement Form furnished by the vendor and/or Human Resources. This form becomes the payroll deduction authorization. The amount of the annual reduction amount is divided by the number of times paid in the calendar year to determine each pay-period amount (Individual-specific pay periods for wage and adjunct faculty, 18 for 9-month faculty, and 24 for 12-month faculty and classified). TSA deductions are not taken from summer payrolls on 9-month faculty.

Following the employee’s pay date, the money is sent to Fringe Benefits Management Company (FBMC), who sends the money to the TSA vendor. The monies are allocated according to the investment options selected by you and listed on the form you completed with your chosen vendor. Allocations can be changed at any time using the instructions provided you from the vendor.

Can Adjunct Faculty Participate?

VWCC offers participation in this benefit program to adjunct faculty. However, because of the many variables of adjunct pay, we require that a Salary Reduction Agreement be completed each semester. Adjunct faculty may defer 100% of their gross earnings up to $17,000 ($22,500 if over age 50) per calendar year.

If you have 403(b) deferrals with two employers, you will need to provide that data to your chosen vendor. The 402(g) limit is employee specific and includes tax-deferred income from ALL EMPLOYERS.

Internal Controls

Salary Reduction agreements are initiated by the employee with the vendor and retained in the employee’s personnel file.

If an employee is found to be over-deferring, immediate action will be taken to correct the situation.

The Payroll Office will periodically monitor tax-sheltered annuity deductions, and require employees to immediately adjust contributions, if necessary, to ensure compliance with maximum contribution limits.

Employee Responsibility

Employees are responsible for sheltering no more than that allowed by the IRC. Employees shall be responsible for all excess tax implications and IRS penalties for income sheltered beyond that permitted by the IRC for any taxable year. Employees are responsible for providing the TSA vendor all pertinent information regarding earnings information, previous tax-sheltered income, and qualified retirement plans.

Procedures for Tax Sheltered Annuities - 403(B) Plans


Establish administrative procedures for ensuring compliance with Internal Revenue Code, Section 403(b), Tax Sheltered Annuities.

Notification to Employees
  1. Information regarding the availability of participation in a 403(b) tax sheltered annuity plan and a definition of who is eligible to participate will be published periodically in the college’s Daily Bulletin. Upon request, employees will receive a copy of the VWCC Annuity Program Guidelines (see attached).
  2. The guidelines will be incorporated into the Classified Staff Handbook, and the Faculty Handbook, and discussed in the orientation process. Guidelines will also be included in the Adjunct Faculty Handbook.
  3. Part-time employees and adjunct faculty will be given the guidelines as part of their new employee packet.
Paperwork Requirements
  1. A Salary Reduction Agreement (attached) must be completed by every employee upon making application for participation in a 403(b) plan. A Salary Reduction Agreement must also be completed at the time of any change in the salary reduction amount, to stop the salary reduction, or to change the vendor. Full time faculty and classified employees initially enrolling must also complete a Cash Match Agreement form.
  2. The vendor or employee must send the Salary Reduction Agreement and the Cash Match Agreement to VWCC Human Resources for forwarding to Fringe Benefits Management Corporation (FBMC). Forms must be received by FMBC and/or Human Resources before payroll deductions are implemented.
  3. FBMC sets up the TSA deduction to begin on the next payroll permitted according to their schedule of changes.

Payroll deductions for a tax-sheltered annuity will not begin until the college’s Payroll Office has received authorization from FBMC.

Monitoring of 403(b) Contributions

The college will perform the following internal review process.

  1. The Human Resources Office reviews all Salary Reduction Agreements. Any questionable or excessive amounts will be verified and discussed with the employee and/or vendor. Amounts will not be processed on the payroll until corrections are made to the salary reduction agreement.
  2. The Payroll Office will review Report 857 (CIPPS Annuity Excess Deduction Report) quarterly for all 403(b) participants. Any contributions identified as possibly excessive are reviewed with the employee and appropriate action taken to insure compliance with 403(b) guidelines.
Employee Responsibility

Employees are responsible for sheltering no more than that allowed by the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). Employees shall be responsible for all excess tax implications and IRS penalties for income sheltered beyond that permitted by the IRC for any taxable year. Employees are responsible for providing the TSA carrier all pertinent information regarding earnings information, previous tax-sheltered income, and qualified retirement plans.

For additional information and forms, see the Human Resources section of VW Connect.