INFORMATION ABOUT TAX-FREE SAVING ACCOUNTS FOR DISABLED INDIVIDUALS

The Stephen Beck, Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) became law on December 19, 2014.  The law aims to ease financial strains faced by individuals with disabilities by making tax-free saving accounts available to cover qualified disability expenses.

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IMPORTANT FACTS TO KNOW ABOUT THE ABLE ACT:

  • The designated beneficiary of an ABLE account is the eligible individual who owns the ABLE account.  He or she must be:
    • eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on disability or blindness that began before age 26;
    • entitled to disability insurance benefits (DIB), childhood disability benefits (CDB), or disabled widow’s or widower’s benefits (DWB) based on disability or blindness that began before age 26; or
    • someone who has certified, or whose parent or guardian has certified that he or she met the criteria for a disability certification before age 26.
  • An eligible individual may have only one ABLE account.
  • A contribution is the deposit of funds into an ABLE account.  Any person may contribute to an ABLE account for an eligible beneficiary.  Contributions for an ABLE account may not exceed the annual gift tax exemption ($14,000 in 2017).
    • A distribution is the withdrawal from an ABLE account.  Distributions are only to or for the benefit of the designated beneficiary. 
    • A person with signature authority can establish and control an ABLE account for a designated beneficiary who is a minor child or is otherwise incapable of managing the account.
  • Qualified disability expenses (QDE) are expenses made for the benefit of the designated beneficiary and related to his or her disability, including, but not limited to:
    • Education;
    • Housing;
    • Transportation;
    • Employment training and support;
    • Assistive technology and related services;
    • Health;
    • Prevention and wellness;
    • Financial management and administrative services;
    • Legal fees;
    • Expenses for ABLE account oversight and monitoring;
    • Funeral and burial; and,
    • Basic living expenses.
  • Earnings on an ABLE account and distributions from the account for qualified medical expenses do not count as taxable income.
  • A rollover is the distribution of all or some of the funds from one ABLE account to the ABLE account of a member of the original designated beneficiary's family.

TREATMENT OF ABLE UNDER FEDERAL MEANS-TESTED PROGRAMS:

SSI Program

Disregard the first $100,000. Only assets above $100,000 count as a resource. If an ABLE balance exceeds $100,000 by an amount that causes the recipient to exceed the SSI resource limit --whether alone or with other resources, suspend the SSI payment until the countable resources are below the allowable limit.

Medicaid Program

A beneficiary’s Medicaid continues when an SSI recipient’s ABLE account exceeds $100,000 by an amount that causes the recipient to exceed the SSI resource limit--whether alone or with other resources. The recipient retains eligibility for Medical Assistance (Medicaid) without a time limit as long as he or she remains otherwise eligible.

Medicaid Payback Provision

Assets remaining in an ABLE account upon the death of a beneficiary must be used to reimburse the state for Medicaid payments it made on behalf of the beneficiary.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What is an ABLE account?

An ABLE account is a tax-advantaged account, similar to a Section 529 qualified tuition program (QTP). The States administer ABLE accounts established for the benefit of the individual. The designated beneficiary is also the owner of the account.

2. Who is eligible for an ABLE account?

An individual who is blind or disabled, with a medical disability that began before the age of 26 is eligible for an ABLE account.

3. How many ABLE accounts may I have?

Eligible individuals are limited to one ABLE account.

4. Who can contribute to an ABLE account?

Any person can contribute to an ABLE account. (The Internal Revenue Code defines a person as an individual, trust, estate, partnership, association, company, or corporation.)

5. How much can a person contribute to an ABLE account?

The IRS limits the total contributions to the annual gift tax exemption (e.g., the 2017 limit is $14,000). States will set a maximum allowed for ABLE account balances.

6. Will ABLE account balances count towards the SSI statutory resource limit?

An ABLE account excludes the first $100,000 as a resource for SSI purposes.

7. What happens if an SSI recipient has excess resources held in an ABLE account?

The SSI recipient’s benefits suspend without a time limit, but are not terminated. The individual would remain eligible for Medicaid while in suspense.

8. Are ABLE accounts transferrable?

ABLE accounts are transferrable to family members who are also qualified individuals.

9. What distributions do ABLE accounts allow and what is their impact on SSI benefits?

Some qualifying distributions are education, housing, transportation, employment support, assistive technology, health and wellness. Qualifying distributions from an ABLE account, for reasons other than housing, would not generally affect SSI eligibility or payment amount.

10. How are distributions for housing expenses treated for SSI purposes?

Distributions from an ABLE account for the purpose of housing expenses may be a countable resource if retained beyond the month of receipt.

11. How does SSI treat non-qualified distributions?

Non-qualified distributions from an ABLE account may be a countable resource if retained beyond the month of receipt.

12. What happens upon the death of an ABLE account beneficiary?

Any State can file a claim against the ABLE account for reimbursement of any medical assistance paid on behalf of the account beneficiary after establishment of the ABLE account.

13. Do individuals have to provide proof of disability?

The individual signs a certification that indicates a physician’s diagnosis is available for the IRS or the ABLE program if requested to satisfy the disability certification requirement.

14. Do I have to open my ABLE account in my home state?

ABLE account participants may open an account in any participating state they choose.

OTHER USEFUL LINKS

SSA Program Operations Manual System (POMS): https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0501130740

Federal Rule - Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM): https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/06/22/2015-15280/guidance-under-section-529a-qualified-able-programs#h-20

ABLE National Resource Center: http://ablenrc.org/

Center for Medicare and Medicaid ABLE Medicaid Director Letter: https://www.medicaid.gov/federal-policy-guidance/downloads/smd17002.pdf


THIS INFORMATION IS GENERAL.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CALL 1–800–772–1213 (TTY 1–800–325–0778),
VISIT OUR WEBSITE (www.ssa.gov) ON THE INTERNET,
OR CONTACT YOUR LOCAL SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE.