2016 Thrift Savings Plan Contribution Limits

Thrift Savings Plan officials recently release the 2016 Thrift Savings Plan Contribution Limits, as stated by the TSP. Thrift Savings Plan contribution limits are calculated on an annual basis based on cost of living indexes and can change based on rules set by the IRS.

There is no change to the TSP contribution limits in 2016. The limits for employee deferrals or for catch-up contributions continue to be $18,000 and $6,000, respectively. (Catch-up contributions are only available to persons aged 50 and up).

Thrift Savings Plan Contribution LimitsThe following chart displays the 2016 Thrift Savings Plan contribution limits, with notes about each type of contribution. The combined maximum one can contribute, including all agency matching contributions or contributions from special pay and bonuses, is $53,000 ($59,000 for those who are eligible for catch-up contributions).

2016 Thrift Savings Plan Contribution Limits

2016 Thrift Savings Plan Limits
Max Contribution Notes
Elective Deferral Limit* $18,000 Elective deferral contributions only apply to regular employee contributions that are made in before-tax (i.e., tax-deferred) dollars. For members of the uniformed services, this includes all tax-deferred contributions from taxable basic pay, incentive pay, special pay, and bonus pay.
Max Annual Addition Limit $53,000 An additional limit imposed on the total amount of all contributions made on behalf of an employee in a calendar year. Uniformed service members become subject to this limit when tax-exempt contributions are made to their TSP accounts. This limit includes employee contributions (both tax-deferred and tax-exempt), Agency Automatic (1%), and Agency Matching Contributions.
Catch-up Contribution Limit $6,000 The maximum amount of catch-up contributions that can be contributed in a given year by participants age 50 and older. It is separate from the elective deferral and annual addition limit imposed on regular employee contributions.

Historic Thrift Savings Plan Contribution Limits

Year Annual Contribution Limit Max Catch-Up Contribution Limit Annual Addition Limit Annual Addition Limit w/ Catch-Up
2007 $15,500 $5,000 $46,000 $51,000
2008 $15,500 $5,000 $46,000 $51,000
2009 $16,500 $5,500 $49,000 $54,500
2010 $16,500 $5,500 $49,000 $54,500
2011 $16,500 $5,500 $49,000 $54,500
2012 $17,000 $5,500 $50,000 $55,500
2013 $17,500 $5,500 $51,000 $56,500
2014 $17,500 $5,500 $52,000 $57,500
2015 $18,000 $6,000 $53,000 $59,000
2016 $18,000 $6,000 $53,000 $59,000

Types of Thrift Savings Plan Contributions

There are two types of TSP contributions:

  • Regular employee contributions (including automatic enrollment contributions)
  • Catch-up contributions (for participants age 50 or older)

Regular contributions. Eligible TSP participants can begin making regular employee contributions at any time. These contributions are made from basic pay before taxes are withheld. Your contribution will remain in place until you elect to stop or change the contribution amount, reach the contribution limit, or take a Thrift Savings Plan financial hardship withdrawal.

Catch-up contributions. Catch-up contributions are only available to those age 50 and above. To make catch-up contributions, you must first contribute the maximum amount of regular employee contributions, for the year, the elect to make catch-up contributions. Your catch-up contributions will stop automatically when you reach the contribution limit or at the end of the calendar year. You will need to elect to make  catch-up contributions each calendar year.

Uniformed Services TSP Contributions

The Thrift Savings Plan is available to all military members. Military members are eligible to contribute any whole percentage of basic pay, as long as the annual total of the tax-deferred investment doesn’t exceed the maximum contribution limit. Military members also have the option of contributing any portion of their incentive pay, bonuses, or special pay so long as they contribute a portion of their basic pay.

Roth TSP Contributions for TSP members. Roth Thrift Savings Plan contributions are limited to the $18,000 elective deferral limit. All additional contributions toward the Annual Additions Limit must be made into a Traditional TSP account, even if the contributions come from tax-exempt pay.

Tax free combat zone contributions. Military members serving in tax-free combat zones are allowed to contribute up to $53,000. This total includes regular deferred contributions, tax-exempt combat zone contributions and special pay and bonuses.

Note regarding catch-up contributions and tax free pay: Military members who are receiving tax-exempt pay while serving in an eligible combat zone must make catch-up contributions into a Roth Thrift Savings Plan account.

TSP Federal Agency Contribution Chart

FERS Employees receive an automatic 1% contribution from the federal government, then a 100% match for the first 3% they contribute, followed by an additional 0.5%  match for the next 2% the contribute, bringing the maximum agency contribution to 5%. Federal employees can contribute as high of a percentage of their salary as they wish, so long as they don’t exceed total contribution limits, including the catch-up limits allowed for those age 50 and above.

The following chart can be used by Federal Employees to determine the total amount of their contributions including agency match.

TSP Agency Contribution Chart

TSP Agency Contribution Chart

Other notes about TSP contributions

The following information should help you determine how to allocate your TSP contributions:

  • Contributing by percentage of pay. If you elect to contribute a percentage of pay to the TSP and the amount is more than your remaining salary after mandatory deductions (e.g. Federal income tax, state taxes, TSP loan payments, etc.) and other voluntary deductions that are processed before TSP contributions, then the resulting pay will be the amount withheld and contributed to your TSP account.
  • Contributing by dollar amount. If you designate a whole dollar amount that is greater than your remaining salary, then no employee contributions will be made for that pay period, and if you are FERS you will not receive Agency Matching Contributions for that pay period. If this occurs, you will need to lower your contribution level by electing to contribute either a lower percentage or dollar amount. No TSP contributions will be withheld from your pay until your new election is effective. Neither the new election or any matching contributions will be applied retroactively.
  • Automatic contributions. The Thrift Savings Plan recently began Automatic TSP Contributions for New Employees.
  • Roth TSP. The Roth TSP account is on it’s way and should be here within a year. Here is more information about the Roth Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

The Thrift Savings Plan is a great opportunity to save money for retirement and you should take advantage of it if you are eligible to participate. You can read more about the contribution rules at the TSP page.

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Date published: February 13, 2014. Last updated: November 17, 2015.

Article by

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.


  1. Mike says

    Ryan – why does DFAS refuse to let deployed members earning more than the tax free base pay cap make deferred contributions – DFAS insists the first dollars of TSP contributions come from tax free pay! Only if you elect like 100% TSP deduction can I get to my taxable pay!

    This seems anti-service member as some of us are trying to lower our AGI so we can enjoy certain deductions and credits.

    • says

      Mike, I’m not 100% certain, but I believe there are rules regarding how contributions are made, and in which order they come from your pay. I recommend contacting someone at DFAS or the TSP.

  2. David says

    Do you know if the TSP allows military members to make contributions for the previous tax year before the tax deadline as other retirement account types do? For instance, I do not currently have a TSP but am interested in opening one and contributing a lump sum for 2011 contributions in order to reduce my 2011 taxable income while also investing.

  3. Adrienne says

    I want to change my TSP to roll over into a ROTH or IRA while I am in a tax free zone. I was told I could do this online. However, how do they know I am actually in a tax free zone?

    • says

      Adrienne, the Roth TSP hasn’t officially been released yet, so you can’t change it over while you are deployed. However, since you will be in a tax free zone, your contributions will be from tax exempt pay, which will automatically be tracked by the Thrift Savings Plan and your tax free TSP contributions will show up at the bottom of your statements. These tax free contributions are similar to the Roth, as they can be withdrawn without paying taxes when you are in retirement. However, it is only the contributions which can be withdrawn tax free, and not the earnings from those contributions.

      After you separate from the military, you will be able to decide what to do with your TSP, including leaving it in the TSP, rolling it into a civilian TSP or a 401k plan, or rolling it into an IRA. If you choose to roll your TSP into an IRA, then you can leave your regular contributions in a Traditional IRA, and roll your tax-exempt contributions into a Roth IRA.

  4. mikel says

    Ryan i have a question can i contribute the whole 30,000 dollars (redux) to TSP ? without penalty with the IRS for tax purposes? let me know, because i am planning to get the redux and invest it to TSP .

  5. Dan says


    Great website!

    As the military rolls out the Roth TSP, can the $49,000 earned in a combat zone, be contributed to the ROTH TSP for each calendar year?

    Thanks again!

  6. says

    Mikel – TSP is limited to payroll deductions only so REDUX payment is a no go – IRA (up to annual limit) and rest in ROTH would seem a possible course to me.

  7. JD says


    Great info on the TSP…. Question regarding a military bonus…

    I will shortly be receiving the USAF Pilot Bonus. I would like to make the most of the bonus, while also trying to minimize the tax against it. It’s a $25K bonus. I’ve thought of making a lump sum contribution to the TSP for the year with $17K of the $25K. Does that mean that only $8K will be taxable?

    I appreciate your help and all the info you’ve provided on your blog.


    • says

      JD, My understanding is that you can contribute up to $17,000 of your base pay to the TSP, but you can contribute up to a total of $50,000 (source) when you add other funds such as bonuses and retention pay (source).

      Regarding contributing from retention pay and bonuses: You can also contribute from 1 to 100 percent of any incentive pay, special pay, or bonus pay — as long as you also elect to contribute from your basic pay. (This quote is directly from the TSP website (second source link above).

      To contribute your retention bonus, you need to also contribute form your base pay. So I recommend setting that up ASAP, even if it is only 1%.

      You can contribute the entire $25,000 to the TSP if you want, but you don’t have to.

      As for taxes, the amount you contribute will generally be exempt from federal taxes, but you will still have to pay the FICA and Medicare taxes, which is usually around 8% or so (see note by Nords on this thread).

      So you would pay FICA and Medicare on any contributions, but you would not pay any Federal taxes on those contributions.

      Any funds you take now would be taxed at their normal rates (FICA, Medicare, and state / federal).

      If you receive the bonus in a tax free zone, then your entire bonus may be tax exempt. This has very nice long term potential.

  8. matt says

    Can an eligible military member who is also eligible for a 401(k) through a second employer contribute and max out both (which happens to be the same limit of $17,500 + $5500 catch up) or does the max of the two combined need to not exceed the annual limit? Thank you!

    • says

      Matt, The TSP and 401k plans are under the same umbrella and share a max contribution limit. You can contribute up to $17,500 + $5,500 catch-up contributions across both accounts. Note: this only applies to your personal contributions. The max including all employer matching, bonus contributions, and other contributions is $51,000.

      It’s a good idea to plan your contributions accordingly, so you don’t contribute too much. I would recommend starting with the plan that has a company or agency match if you have one, that way you get any free money available to you. Then contribute to the plan that offers the best available investments with the remaining funds.

      Best of luck, and thanks for your service.

  9. Nate says

    Thank you for all your information. I have a basic question. I understand that you can contribute $51,000 in TSP while deployed and that $17,500 of that can be put into Roth. Here are my questions.

    1. Does that mean that while deployed, I can $17,500 in Roth TSP and $33,500 in traditioanl TSP?

    2. Will this $33,500 in TSP also reduce my taxable income ON TOP of the tax free salary during deployment.

    3. When I return from deployment, if I contribute $51,000K while deployed, can I still contribute more to TSP. In other words, is $51K my total for the year, or is it $51K while deployed and then another $17500 when I get back?

    Thanks a bunch and keep up the strong work!


    • says

      Hello Nate, Thanks for contacting me. Here are the answers to your questions:

      (1) You can only contribute up to $17,500 of your own funds (salary) into the TSP per year. You can contribute to either the Roth or the Traditional, your choice. Any additional TSP contributions must come from the employer (in this case, the military). Since there is no employer match, the contributions would have to come from things such as special duty pay, reenlistment bonuses, and other special payments you might receive while deployed. These can only go up to the $51,000 limit for the tax year. All employer contributions are automatically classified as Traditional TSP contributions (there is no way to change this).

      (2) No. Your pay is already tax free. You won’t be able to reduce your taxable income more by making Traditional TSP contributions. This is why contributing to the Roth TSP is such a great deal while deployed.

      (3) As stated in the first answer, your max contribution of your own funds is $17,500. The $51,000 limit includes employer contributions. These are the annual maximums and cannot be exceeded.

      If you wish to do further investing, I recommend opening a Roth IRA, then the Savings Deposit Program, followed by non-taxable investments. This article on investing while deployed should be helpful. Thanks for your service!

  10. John says

    Mikel – TSP is restricted to pay-roll reductions only so REDUX transaction is a no go – IRA (up to yearly limit) and relax in ROTH would seem a possible course to me. Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      Your comment is false, John. Military members who choose the Career Sates Bonus as part of the REDUX retirement plan are eligible to contribute 100% of the amount to the Thrift Savings Plan, provided they do not exceed the $52,000 annual contribution limit ($57,500 if over age 50). The annual contribution limit for payroll deductions is $17,500 ($23,000 if over age 50). However, TSP participants can contribute up to $52,000 ($57,500 if over age 50) if they elect to contribute eligible non-payroll compensation such as a reenlistment bonus, Career Status Bonus, or select other forms of income.

      Here is more info: Career Status Bonus Options, and TSP Contribution Limits.

      The idea of contributing to a Roth IRA is always a good one, however that does nothing to address the major tax hit a military member would take by choosing the REDUX option. Long term, the REDUX option is usually not the best long-term financial option unless there is an immediate and pressing need for the CSB. Even choosing to invest 100% of the CSB in the TSP isn’t a guaranteed method of beating the value of the higher pension that comes with the High-3 retirement plan. Most military members would be better off choosing the High-3 retirement plan, while continuing to make additional investments in their Thrift Savings Plan account, or in a Roth IRA.

  11. Patrick Nelson says

    Ryan, Good Morning.
    So for 2015, can I contribute the max of $18K (non-combat pay) to my traditional military TSP, plus another $12K from special pay (Foreign Language Pay) for a total of $30K for the calendar year? Thank you.


  12. Cody says


    I’ve recently started active duty and I have about 10k sitting in my checking account I would like to put into a tsp account. Can I make this lump sum deposit from my checking account into a tsp account?

  13. Chris says

    I’m a reservist with civilian full-time employment. If I contribute $18,000 to my civilian employer’s 401-k program, can I still contribute to TSP?


  14. Mike McKenna says

    1. I now make 5% Roth only contributions to my TSP.
    Is this good enough to receive the 5% matching, or do I need to make the 5% Traditional contributions too?

    2. I want to contribute the full $18,000 in 2015 and this is November.
    How exactly do I make the extra contribution to reach the maximum allowable – is there a form – do I call somebody – do I mail TSP a check?

    • says

      Hello Mike, Thank you for contacting me. To answer your questions 1) The government only offers matching contributions to civil service employees at this time. The new military retirement program will offer matching contributions for all servicemembers who opt into the new program, but that isn’t slated to start until 2018 (and many current military members will be better off under the current retirement system).

      2). TSP contributions are payroll contributions, meaning they must come directly from your pay. You cannot contribute to the TSP in the form of a check. You can contribute almost the full amount of your paycheck, so you may wish to move your contribution amount to 100% of your paycheck for the final month of the year. Note that the December pay period is almost here, so you would need to get your new contribution amount set ASAP for it to take effect in time. I recommend planning your 2016 contributions now so you have a better chance of maxing out your TSP contributions in 2016.

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