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If you have recently retired from the federal government and have funds in your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), it’s essential to understand the various withdrawal options available to you and the associated tax implications. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the different ways to access your TSP money and break down the key tax considerations for the distribution options.

Understanding TSP Withdrawal Options

When it comes to accessing your TSP funds after leaving federal service, you have three primary withdrawal options:

  1. Installment Payments: This option allows you to receive regular payments at a frequency of your choice – monthly, quarterly, or annually. The minimum duration for installment payments is one year, and you will continue to receive payments until you stop them, or your account balance reaches zero. You can set the installment payment as a fixed dollar amount or based on IRS life expectancy.
  2. Single Distribution: With this choice, you can take a one-time distribution of your entire TSP balance or opt for partial payments. Partial distributions must be at least $1,000, and there is no limit on the number of partial withdrawals you can take. However, the TSP will not process more than one distribution in any 30-day period.
  3. Life Annuity: The least common option involves using all or a portion of your TSP funds to purchase a life annuity. The federal government currently contracts with MetLife for its annuity program. Choosing the life annuity option means giving up control of your money in exchange for guaranteed lifetime monthly payments. Once purchased, the annuity is no longer part of your TSP account, and you cannot change or cancel the purchase.

Flexibility in TSP Withdrawals

If you have both traditional and Roth funds in your TSP, you can specify the source of the distribution – traditional balance, Roth balance, or a combination of both. However, it’s important to note that you cannot select specific investment funds to withdraw from; all withdrawals are deducted proportionally from each of your investment funds.

Tax Implications of TSP Withdrawals

It’s crucial to be aware of the tax implications associated with each withdrawal option. Whether you choose installment payments, a single distribution, or a life annuity, understanding the tax withholding requirements and potential taxes on your TSP distributions is essential for effective financial planning.

The tax treatment of your TSP withdrawals is influenced by the source of the funds, the distribution method, and the expected duration of the distribution payments. Here are the key points to consider:

  • Roth distributions may be tax-free if they are qualified (age 59.5 or older and at least five years since the first Roth contribution).
  • For traditional TSP funds, federal income tax is typically withheld upon withdrawal.
  • A full or partial single distribution and fixed-dollar payments expected to last less than 10 years are subject to a mandatory 20% federal income tax withholding. If the distribution is due to required minimum distributions (RMDs), the withholding is 10%.
  • Installment payments expected to last 10 years or more, as well as payments based on life expectancy, are subject to federal tax withholding as if you are married with three dependents. You have the option to increase, decrease, or waive the withholding on these longer-term payout options.

Tax Reporting for TSP Withdrawals

The TSP will report all your withdrawals and distributions to the IRS and your state tax agency, if applicable. You will receive a Form 1099-R, which will include your gross distributions and the taxable portion of those distributions. The form is typically mailed out near the end of January, but you can also access it through your TSP account. The TSP does not withhold for state or local income tax, so you will need to account for these taxes when planning and filing your taxes.


As you navigate the process of accessing your TSP funds post-separation, being well-informed about the available withdrawal options and their tax implications is paramount. By understanding the potential tax obligations linked to each distribution method, you can make informed decisions about managing your TSP funds effectively.

We hope you enjoyed this blog post about TSP Withdrawals. If you have any questions or concerns about federal benefits or retirement planning, connect with us. Here are a couple of ways that we can help:

  • Book a free 45-minute consultation with a Fedway Financial Advisor.
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Jerel Harvey

Jerel Harvey

Jerel Harvey is the Founder and Managing Principal of Fedway Financial, an advisory firm that provides financial planning, investment management, and benefits training to the federal workforce.

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