Uniformed Services Thrift Saving Plan (TSP)

  1. References
    • National Defense Authorization Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-65, § 661 - 663, 113 Stat. 512 (1999).
    • Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001, Pub. L. No. 106-398, § 661, 114 Stat. 1654 (2000).
    • 5 U.S.C. Chapter 84 (§§ 8431 – 8440e; 8471 –8479).
    • 5 C.F.R. §§ 1600 – 1690.
    • 37 U.S.C. § 211.
    • Thrift Savings Plan home page
    • Uniformed Services Participation in the TSP, Questions and Answers
    • Military Pay and Benefits
    • Major Vivian C. Shafer, The New Military Thrift Savings Plan: Worth Consideration, Army Law., Sept. 2000, at 1.
    • Major Vivian C. Shafer, Choosing Between the High-Three and the Redux Military Retirement Programs: Thrift Savings Plan Participation a Valuable Option, Army Law., Sept. 2000, at 18.
  2. Introduction
    • The need for a savings program for service members.
      • Service members (1.4 million) constitute the largest workforce in the U.S. not covered by an employer-sponsored, tax-advantaged payroll savings plan. Over 182,000 service members leave the service each year without any employer-sponsored retirement benefits. (Undelivered report to Congress by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Force Management Policy, subject: A Report to Congress Concerning the Proposal for a Uniformed Services Thrift Savings Plan (Dec. 17, 1997)). Comparison to civilian sector. Enhance recruiting.
      • Relationship between savings opportunities and retention.

      The services’ and the military associations’ positions regarding an employer-sponsored, tax-advantaged payroll savings plan.

    • Expansion of the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) to service members.
      • National Defense Authorization Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-65, § 661 - 663, 113 Stat. 512 (1999). Original requirement for offsetting legislation.
      • Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001, Pub. L. No. 106-398, § 661, 114 Stat. 1654 (2000), amending §663 National Defense Authorization Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-65.
  3. The Thrift Savings Plan (tsp). 5 U.S.C. Chapter 84; 5 C.F.R. §§ 1600 – 1690
    • Purpose and Nature of the TSP.
      • The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a retirement savings and investment plan for Federal employees. Congress established the TSP in the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act of 1986. The purpose of the TSP is to provide retirement income. It offers Federal employees the same type of savings and tax benefits that many private corporations offer their employees under so-called ''401(k)'' plans. TSP had over 2.5 million participants as of April 2000. The Internal Revenue Code, in 26 U.S.C. § 7701(j), states that the TSP is to be treated as a trust qualified under 26 U.S.C. § 401(a) which is exempt from taxation under 26 U.S.C. § 501(a).
      • Service members’ participation in the TSP will not interfere with the military retirement program.
        • Participation in the TSP is optional and not automatic. Service members must sign up to participate in the TSP. Service members contribute to the TSP from their own pay on a pre-tax basis, and the amount contributed and the earnings belong to service member even if the service member does not serve the 20 years ordinarily necessary to receive military retired pay. Military retired pay is a defined benefit program. This means that the benefit received from the military retirement system is based on years of service and the rank held at the time of retirement, rather than on the amount of the service members contributions and earnings.
        • The TSP, on the other hand, is a defined contribution plan. The balance in a service members TSP account will depend on how much the service member contributed to the account during years in the service and the earnings on those contributions.
    • Organization and administration of the TSP.
      • Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board oversees operations of the TSP. 5 U.S.C. § 8472(f). Advice on administration and investment policies by an advisory council. 5 U.S.C. § 8473(e). Military member on advisory council (the Executive Director of the Armed Forces Tax Council). The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board currently contracts with Barclays Global Investors (BGI) to manage investment funds.
      • The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) plays an important role in enrolling the service member in the TSP, establishing an account, and transmitting the service members personal information (e.g., name, address) and contributions to the record keeper. The TSP record keeper is the National Finance Center (NFC) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which serves in that capacity under contract with the Board.
        • The service member will submit the Election Form (TSP-U-1) to enroll in the TSP. The service’s payroll office will report to the record keeper the dollar amount of contributions to the account each pay period. Form TSP-U-1 is used to start, change, or stop TSP contributions. Form TSP-U-3, Designation of Beneficiary, is used to designate a TSP beneficiary or beneficiaries.
          • Complete the form and mail to the TSP Service Office at the National Finance Center. Members are not required to file Form TSP-U-3. If a member does not have a valid Form TSP-U-3 on file with the TSP, the member’s account will be distributed after the member’s death according to the statutory order of precedence delineated on the back of Form TSP-U-3. 5 U.S.C. § 8424(d). Mentioning a TSP account in a will has no effect on the disposition of the member’s account after the member’s death. Member’s may, however, use Form TSP-U-3 to designate an estate or a trust to receive all, or a portion of, their TSP accounts.
          • If a member wishes to change or cancel a beneficiary designation, the member must submit another Form TSP-U-3 to the TSP record keeper. Members should keep this in mind whenever their personal situation changes (e.g., as a result of marriage, birth or adoption of a child, or divorce).
        • Service members should review the leave and earnings statement (LES) each month and a semiannual TSP participant statement to ensure that the military provides the TSP record keeper with correct and up-to-date information about contributions.
        • If a service member has questions about a TSP account or if personal information is incorrect, the service member should contact the office in each branch service that is responsible for administering the TSP. Each service is responsible for correcting errors in personal information and contribution (and loan payment) amounts.
  4. Features & benefits of the tsp:
    • Generally, service members will participate under the same rules and receive the same benefits as civilian TSP participants. However, the contribution rules are different for uniformed service members, and the TSP record keeper must therefore maintain separate data bases for civilian and uniformed services participants’ accounts.
    • Consequently, two separate accounts will be maintained for participants who are both Federal civilian employees and uniformed services members (i.e., reservists).
    • Eligibility
      • Service members on active duty, and Members of the Ready Reserve or National Guard in any pay status. 37 U.S.C. § 211.
      • Uniformed services retirees cannot contribute to the TSP.
    • Enrollment
      • Service members will be able to sign up to participate in the TSP during a special enrollment period, known as an open season, beginning on October 9, 2001, and ending on January 31, 2002. Contributions to the TSP based on the sign-up will begin to be deducted from paychecks the first week of January 2002. Members who do not enroll during the special open season will have two "open seasons" per year to enroll thereafter. Eligible employees can sign up to contribute to the TSP only during the two open seasons held each year: May 15 - July 31 and November 15 - January 31. Elections, however, cannot be made effective before the last month of the open season. Only one election can be made each open season. New members of the uniformed services will have 60 days after joining the service to enroll in the TSP; thereafter, they may enroll during the semiannual open seasons.
      • All new federal employees (including service members) may roll-over in the TSP funds private-sector 401(k) plans, profit sharing, and similar retirement-savings plans. However, this does not allow for rollovers from regular or Roth IRAs.
    • What if a service member has two TSP accounts (civilian and uniformed services)?
      • If a service member has both a civilian TSP account and an uniformed services TSP account, they will be treated separately for most purposes. This means, for example, that if the service member wants to move money among investment funds, the service member must submit two interfund transfer requests, one for each account.
      • However, the accounts will be combined for the Internal Revenue Code’s elective deferral limit on contributions (discussed below) and in determining the amount you are eligible to borrow from the TSP.
    • Contributions
      • Service members’ payroll office will deduct contributions from military pay each month based on the election and will remit these contributions to the TSP. Service members cannot send a check to the TSP; once the service member receives their pay, they cannot contribute any of it to the TSP. If a service member wants to contribute all or part of a bonus to a uniformed services TSP account, that contribution must be deducted by the payroll office and remitted to the TSP at the time the bonus is paid to the service member. Members use Form TSP-U-1 to show how much they want to contribute (percentage) each pay period from each category of pay. Members who are contributing may elect to change the amount they are contributing during a TSP open season. A member may terminate his or her contributions at any time by submitting Form TSP-U-1 to the uniformed service office that is responsible for the TSP. Under the implementing legislation, service members could contribute up to 5% of their basic pay per pay period. 5 U.S.C. § 8440e. (See below for schedule of increases).
        • Basic pay means basic pay earned for active duty under 37 U.S.C. § 204, and
        • Compensation paid to members of the Ready Reserve (to include National Guard) received under 37 U.S.C. § 206. This includes drill pay for inactive duty for training (IDT).
      • The Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.) limits the amount of income an employee may elect to defer under all cash or deferred arrangements (e.g., the TSP or a 401(k) plan). I.R.C. § 402(g).
        • For calendar year 2001, contributions to TSPs from any pay source or combination of sources are limited to $10,500. 2002: $11,000 2003: $12,000 2004: $13,000 2005: $14,000 2006: $15,000
        • The limit does not apply to tax-exempt contributions. See later section on Combat Zone. I.R.C. § 415(c).
      • Recent amendments regarding maximum contributions to TSPs from basic pay per pay period:
        • May – December 2001: Maximum contribution is 6%. 2002: Maximum contribution is 7%. 2003: Maximum contribution is 8%. 2004: Maximum contribution is 9%. 2005: Maximum contribution is 10%.
        • By 2006, the only limit will be the maximum contribution limit as specified in the Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C. § 402(g)).
      • Ready Reservists’ contributions.
        • Ready Reservist and National Guard can contribute up to the same percentage limitation of active duty of the compensation they receive per pay period. Members of the Ready Reserve called to active duty for a period of more than 30 days, and members leaving active duty and entering the Ready Reserve, may make TSP contribution elections within 60 days of the change in duty status. The member’s service must make the election effective the first pay period after the election is received. Estimates project the average reservist could contribute about $200 a year to a TSP account. A member of the Ready Reserve or National Guard that has Uniformed Services TSP account and a civilian TSP account (or another qualified employer plan described under sections 401(k), 403(b), or 408(k) of the Internal Revenue Code) cannot have total contributions from all of the plans that exceed the Internal Revenue Code's elective deferral limit ($11,000 for 2002). If a service member also participates in a Section 457 plan (Deferred Compensation Plans of State and Local Governments and Tax-Exempt Organizations), a special limit applies--contributions to all plans are limited to $8,500 in 2001. The service member should consult with their private-sector plan administrator concerning any limitation on the amount that can be contributed to a TSP account.
        • Service members contributions are subject to another Internal Revenue Code section (I.R.C. § 415(c)) which limits contributions to the TSP and other qualified plans to $40,000, or 25 percent of uniformed services compensation, whichever is less. For service members that are a reservist and a Federal civilian employee, the 25 percent limitation applies to combined reservist and civilian compensation.
      • Additional sources of contributions.
        • A member who is contributing to the TSP from basic pay may also make contributions from 1% to 100% of any incentive and special pay.
          • Incentive and special pay as defined in 37 U.S.C., Chapter 5.
          • Special pay / incentive pay includes: sea duty, diving, submarine pay, medical and dental officer pay, proficiency pay, hazardous duty pay, hardship duty pay, career sea pay, imminent danger pay, accrued leave payment, foreign duty pay, continuation pay, flight duty, and Aviation Career Incentive Pay. ("Continuation pay" includes JAGC Continuation Pay).
        • Service members can also contribute any part of money received as bonuses for enlistment and reenlistment (1% to 100%). 37 U.S. C, Chapter 5.
        • Result: As of January 2002, service members can contribute up to the 7% of basic pay per pay period and may also contribute any part of the additional sources listed above as long as any combination of sources does not annually exceed $11,000. To contribute from special pay, incentive pay, or bonuses, the service member must be contributing from basic pay.
        • Service members that do not elect to contribute during the initial open season can only join the TSP during a subsequent semiannual open season.
        • Consequently, if a service member anticipates receiving a large bonus (such as a reenlistment bonus or continuation pay) and want to contribute all or part of it to the TSP, the service member must start contributions from basic pay before receiving the bonus.
      • Combat Zone or Qualified Hazardous Duty Area Exclusion.
        • If a service member serves in a combat zone, special rules apply. Because all or a part of pay earned during a month served in a combat zone is tax exempt, the service member does not receive the benefit of tax deferral when contributing it to the TSP. As a consequence, contributions from tax-exempt pay are not subject to the Internal Revenue Code’s elective deferral limit. (However, these contributions do count against the Internal Revenue Code’s section 415(c) limits.)
        • Regardless of the tax treatment of pay, the service member still cannot contribute more than 7 percent (for 2002) of basic pay each month. Although contributions from pay subject to the combat zone tax exclusion will not be taxable to the service member when withdrawn, any earnings attributable to those contributions will be taxable at that time.
      • Special retention initiative. 37 U.S.C. § 211(d).
        • Service Secretaries are authorized to form contracts with service members who agree to serve for six years on active duty in critical specialties. In exchange for members’ services, the Secretaries can contribute to the service members TSP accounts each pay period the members contribute.
        • The contribution by the Service Secretaries is limited to making monthly contributions that match members’ contributions from their basic pay and not from special pay or incentive payments.
      • Additional contributions possible for REDUX participants.
        • Service members with fifteen years of service that entered the service after 01 August 1986 have the option to take a $30,000 career-status bonus if they agree to serve an additional five-year period and remain under the Redux retirement system. If service members do not take this option, they will retire under the pre-1986 retirement system (High-Three).
        • Redux participants can choose to contribute a portion of their bonus to their TSP accounts within the Internal Revenue Code limitations. ($11,000 per year for 2002).
      • Tax advantages.
        • The money that participants invest in the TSP comes from pre-tax dollars and reduces their current taxable income; investments and earning are not taxed until they are withdrawn. I.R.C. § 401. The immediate benefit is the reduction of income tax liability of the service member.
        • Generally, the amount distributed from a TSP account will be included in income in the year it is withdrawn from the account. I.R.C. § 402(a). Exception for percentage equal to Combat Zone contributions.
      • Investment options available in the TSP.
        • Investment Funds:
          • Government Securities Fund or "G Fund." Fixed Income Index Fund or "F Fund." Common Stock Index Investment Fund or "C Fund." Small Capitalization Stock Index Investment Fund or "S Fund."
          • International Stock Index Investment Fund or "I Fund."
        • All of the funds, except the for the government securities fund, are essentially indexed mutual funds. The funds vary in their holdings, risk of investment, and rates of return. As a new participant, the TSP will invest contributions in the G Fund until the service member submits a "contribution allocation" to the TSP record keeper.
          • Contribution allocation means the apportionment of a member’s future contributions among the TSP investment funds. Once a TSP account is established (i.e., upon receipt of your first contribution), the TSP will send the service member an introductory letter and a Personal Identification Number (PIN). After the service member receives a PIN, he/she will be able to make a contribution allocation (Form TSP-U-50) to invest future contributions in any of the five investment funds using the TSP Web site, www.tsp.gov, or the ThriftLine (504-255-8777).
          • A contribution allocation remains in effect until the member makes a different allocation. A contribution allocation does not affect the investment of the money already in a member’s account. Members may make contribution allocations at any time.
        • To change the investment of an existing account balance, the service member must request an interfund transfer. The interfund transfer will move some or all of an existing balance among the five funds. An interfund transfer is different from a contribution allocation because the interfund transfer involves only money that is already in an account. It does not change the way future contributions will be allocated to the five funds.
        • Once an account is established, the service member will be able to move some or all of their existing account balances among the five TSP funds by requesting an interfund transfer on the TSP Web site or the ThriftLine.
          • Service members may also make interfund transfer requests by mailing an Investment Allocation Form (TSP-U-50) to the TSP Service Office. Requests must be received by the TSP record keeper by the 15th of each month (or the next business day if the 15th is a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday) in order for the request to become effective at the end of that month.
          • Members may make one interfund transfer per month. The TSP record keeper processes interfund transfer requests monthly, effective as of the end of the month.
      • Low investment costs, average rates from .146% to .16%.
      • Loan program.
        • Participants can borrow money from their TSP account for residential purchases and other general purposes without incurring tax penalties or liabilities. 5 C.F.R. § 1655.2; I.R.C. § 72(p).
        • Interest on the loan will be charged at the "G Fund" rate. However, the TSP borrower pays the interest on their loans into their own TSP accounts. 5 C.F.R. § 1655.9.
      • Portable benefits.
        • TSP allows service members to take their retirement savings with them when they transition to civilian employment.
        • TSP participants leaving federal service may leave their savings in their TSP account or "roll" it into an IRA or other retirement program and continue to defer taxes. I.R.C. § 402(c).
      • Withdrawal options.
        • Withdrawal during federal service.
          • Restrictions apply to early withdrawals. I.R.C. § 72(t). Age-based withdrawals allow participants who are at least 59 ½ to withdraw their savings or roll them over into another retirement vehicle. The amount withdrawn will be treated as income and is subject to mandatory tax withholding of twenty percent. I.R.C. § 3405(c). The amount rolled over to another retirement program or IRA avoids the current taxation of the distribution. I.R.C. § 402(c). Participants can withdraw money from their TSP accounts for financial hardship; medical expenses; sudden property loss due to fire, storm, or other casualties; and legal costs associated with separation or divorce. 5 C.F.R. § 1650.31. Although these exceptions for early withdrawal avoid early withdrawal penalties, the amount withdrawn will still be included as income by the member in the year withdrawn.
          • When a service member takes an in-service withdrawal, the money cannot be returned or repaid to the account, so the service member permanently depletes retirement savings and future earnings on the amount withdrawn. In addition, any contributions a service member is making to the TSP will be automatically terminated for six months after each financial hardship withdrawal. Thus, before taking an in-service withdrawal, the service member should evaluate options to see if a TSP loan would be more beneficial.
        • Withdrawal when leaving federal service.
          • Participants leaving federal service can keep their retirement savings in the TSP account or roll them over into IRAs or other eligible retirement vehicles. Generally, withdrawals (with no rollover) by service members would be ill advised because of the tax consequences. A 10% tax penalty is assessed on savings withdrawn by participants under 55 years old when they separate or retire and who are not age 59 ½ upon receipt of the monies. I.R.C. § 72(t).
          • Withdrawals can be made in a single lump sum, life annuity payment, or a series of monthly payments. 5 C.F.R. § 1650.
  5. Spousal rights with respect to tsp accounts
    • Members of the uniformed services are subject to the same spousal rights rules as are civilian FERS participants. This means that a spouse must consent, in writing, to all loans and in-service withdrawals. In addition, if a service member makes a post-separation withdrawal, the spouse has a right to a specified form of joint annuity (i.e., no cash refund, 50% survivor benefit, level payments). If the service member does not want this type of annuity, the spouse must waive his or her right to it in writing.
    • For more information on spouses’ rights under the TSP, see the Appendix.
  6. Should service members use the tsp?
    • Basic questions.
      • Can a service member contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and the TSP in the same year?
        • Yes. Participation in the TSP does not affect a service member’s ability to contribute to an IRA.
        • However, because service members are covered by the uniformed services retirement plan, the ability to make tax-deductible contributions to an IRA depends upon the service members income and that of a spouse.
      • Which savings instrument(s) should he use? How does the TSP compare to IRAs and regular savings/investment accounts? If the service members’ funds are limited, how should he prioritize his investments?
      • How does the TSP fit in with an overall estate plan?
    • Comparison of the TSP and Roth IRA.
      • TSP: Tax deferral in year of contribution and on the earnings, but taxable upon distribution.
      • Roth IRA: No immediate tax deferral in year of contribution, but earnings and qualified distributions are tax-free.
    • The TSP as a factor in the choice of military retirement programs.
      • Service members trying to decide between military retirement programs will need to determine which program will provide them with the greatest value.
      • A significant factor is a service member’s plans for investing his Redux career-status bonus.
  7. Recommendations
    • Advice for active duty service members regarding retirement funds.
      • Basic financial planning a prerequisite. Maximum use of Roth IRAs. Investing in the TSP after maximizing investments (contributions) in Roth IRAs.
      • However, for some service members that do not have "financial discipline" an argument could be made for immediate TSP contributions before making contributions to a Roth IRA (contributions coming directly out of monthly paycheck – out of sight out of mind).
    • Advice for active duty service members regarding Redux (considering the TSP).
      • Which program produces the greater future economic value: High-Three or Redux? (See Major Vivian C. Shafer, Choosing Between the High-Three and the Redux Military Retirement Programs: Thrift Savings Plan Participation a Valuable Option, Army Law., Sept. 2000, at 18 for complete assumptions and calculations.)
        • Enlisted service members.
          • Assume financial discipline and allocation of bonus ($30,000) as follows: $10,500 TSP, $16,380 taxable investment, and $3,120 for Federal income tax. Redux plan is generally the best choice.
          • However, if enlisted service member invest less than $8,000 in the TSP account, the High-Three has a greater value.
        • Officer personnel.
          • Choice is more complex.
          • The service member will obtain greater values with Redux, but higher investment amounts and greater time periods are required.
        • Department of Defense Retirement Calculator (http://pay2000.dtic.mil/)listed under "Retirement Choices").
          • Calculates the difference between High-Three and Redux.
          • Allows service member to make some assumptions regarding their particular retirement circumstances.
          • Beware: The software designers assumed High-Three retirees would invest the difference between their pay and that of a Redux retirees’ pay. High-Three service members receive at least fifty percent of their base pay; while Redux retirees receive a minimum of forty percent. Users cannot remove the investment portion of the High-Three program as they can with the Redux option. They must assume they will invest ten percent of their base pay. Without being able to remove this investment portion, the DOD Retirement Calculator usually produces greater future economic values for the High Three option.
      • Redux will generally produce higher values provided the service member invests significant amounts of their bonuses.
  8. Conclusion
    • Spouses' Rights Under the Thrift Savings Plan
    • What are spouses' rights under the TSP?
      • The law gives certain rights to your spouse (including a separated spouse). The TSP must take these rights into consideration when you withdraw or borrow from your account. The TSP will take action to prosecute any participant who denies (or attempts to deny) his or her spouse these rights by, for example, not stating marital status correctly at the time the request is made, forging the spouse's signature, or falsifying the spouse's address.
      • Borrowing from your TSP account -- If you are a married FERS participant, you must obtain the consent of your spouse before you can receive a TSP loan, regardless of the amount of the loan. Your spouse's consent does not make him or her a co-signer of your loan or obligate your spouse to repay your loan. If you are a married CSRS participant, the TSP must notify your spouse before your loan is approved.
      • Making an in-service withdrawal -- FERS participants must obtain their spouse's consent to an in-service withdrawal, regardless of the amount, before the withdrawal can be approved. Spouses of CSRS participants will be notified, regardless of the amount.
      • Making a withdrawal after you separate -- Spouses' rights provisions apply only to accounts that are more than $3,500. If you are a married FERS participant, your spouse must waive his or her right to a survivor annuity if you choose a withdrawal method other than a joint life annuity with your spouse, with 50 percent survivor benefit, level payments, and no cash refund feature. If your spouse does not waive his or her rights to the prescribed annuity, you cannot withdraw your account by any other method. If you do not elect the prescribed annuity or obtain your spouse's waiver by the date on which you are required to withdraw, the TSP must purchase a joint and survivor annuity for you and your spouse with your TSP account. See ''How long can I leave my money in the TSP?''If you are a married CSRS participant, the TSP must notify your spouse before you withdraw your account.
    • Are there any exceptions to the spouses' rights requirements?
      • Under certain circumstances an exception may be granted to the spouses' rights requirements. To apply for an exception, complete Form TSP-16, Exception to Spousal Requirements, and submit it with the required documentation to the TSP Service Office at the address on the form. You can get Form TSP-16 from your personnel office.
      • The following chart summarizes the TSP spousal requirements and exceptions.

Spouses' Rights





Spouse is entitled to a joint life annuity with 50% survivor benefit, level payments, and no cash refund feature unless he or she waives this right.

Whereabouts unknown or exceptional circumstances


TSP must notify spouse of the participant's election before withdrawal.

Whereabouts unknown


Spouse must give written consent to the loan.

Whereabouts unknown or exceptional circumstances


TSP must notify spouse of the participant's loan application.

Whereabouts unknown

* Spouses' rights related to in-service withdrawals are similar to the loan requirements, and require FERS spouse consent and CSRS spouse notice regardless of the amount of the loan or in-service withdrawal. Spouses' rights apply to withdrawals after separation from service if the participant's account balance is $3,500 or more.

Note: The criteria for a claim on the basis of exceptional circumstances are strict. The fact that there is a separation agreement, a prenuptial agreement, a protective or restraining order, or a divorce petition does not in itself support a claim of exceptional circumstances. For more information on establishing an exception to the spouses' rights requirements, see Form TSP-16.

How does a court order affect my account?

In addition to the above spouses' rights provisions, your TSP account is subject to certain matrimonial court orders. These are court decrees of divorce, annulment, or legal separation, or the terms of court - approved property settlements incident to any court decree of divorce, annulment, or legal separation. In order to be considered qualifying and thus enforceable against the TSP, the order must meet the requirements stated in Board regulations (found at 5 C.F.R. Part 1653, Subpart A). Your account is also subject to the enforcement of your legal obligations to make alimony and child support payments, and to satisfy judgments against you for child abuse.If the TSP receives a document which purports to be a qualifying order or legal process for the enforcement of back payment of alimony or child support, your account will be frozen for loans and withdrawals. In order to authorize payment from your account, a qualifying court order must clearly identify your TSP account, and must express the award to your spouse, former spouse, or other party in such a way that the amount can be definitively calculated.

To find out more about court orders, ask your personnel office for the TSP booklet Information About Court Orders and the notice ''Tax Treatment of Thrift Savings Plan Payments Made Under Qualifying Orders.''