In December 2014, the landmark Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act became law allowing people with disabilities to open tax-free savings accounts that do not jeopardize eligibility for critical government supports.
The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2013 (S. 313/HR 647) was introduced in the 113th Congress on February 13, 2013, by a bipartisan, bicameral set of Congressional champions including Senators Robert Casey, Jr., (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), and Representatives Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Pete Sessions (R-TX). On December 3, 2014, the ABLE Act passed in the US House of Representatives (404-17). Two weeks later, on December 16, the US Senate voted to pass the ABLE Act as a part of the Tax Extenders package. On Friday, December 19, 2014, President Obama signed the Tax Extenders package, making the ABLE Act the law of the land.
The ABLE Act amends Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code of 1986 to create tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. The bill aims to ease financial strains faced by individuals with disabilities by making tax-free savings accounts available to cover qualified expenses such as education, housing and transportation. The bill supplements, but does not supplant, benefits provided through private insurances, the Medicaid program, the supplemental security income program, the beneficiary’s employment and other sources.
An ABLE account may fund a variety of essential expenses for individuals including medical and dental care, education, community based supports, employment training, assistive technology, housing and transportation. The ABLE Act provides individuals with disabilities the same types of flexible savings tools that all other Americans have through college savings accounts, health savings accounts and individual retirement accounts. It eliminates barriers to work and saving by preventing dollars saved through ABLE accounts from counting against an individual’s eligibility for any federal benefits program. The legislation also contains a Medicaid pay-back provision when the beneficiary passes away.
Following the passage of ABLE at the federal level, many states moved quickly to pass their own ABLE bills authorizing establishment of state ABLE programs. In December 2015, Congress made a technical fix to the federal ABLE law to eliminate the prior state residency requirement, which now allows ABLE accounts to be opened in any state by individuals with Down syndrome and their families. The first state ABLE programs were launched in June 2016 in Ohio, Tennessee and Nebraska. To learn more about implementation of ABLE in the states, click the State Able Programs toggle section below.
In addition, on March 17, 2016, three bills were introduced at the federal level to make improvements to the federal ABLE Act. NDSS supports the passage of all three bills.
More details about the ABLE Act are provided in this 17-minute video, ABLE Questions Answered. The video was made in January 2016 and features NDSS President Sara Weir and JP Kennedy Fellow David Egan.
What is the ABLE Act?
The Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (PL 113-295) added Section 529A to the federal tax code to enable eligible individuals with disabilities to save money in a tax-exempt account that may be used for qualified disability expenses while still keeping their eligibility for federal public benefits. This law has been heralded as one of the most significant pieces of disability legislation since the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was the result of nearly a decade-long cross-disability grassroots effort that originated with a group of parents of children with Down syndrome who recognized the unfairness of not being able to save funds in their child’s name for fear of losing benefits. The ABLE Act was supported by 381 out of 435 US Representatives and 78 out of 100 US Senators – 85%of the entire US Congress.
What is an ABLE account?
An ABLE account is a tax-advantaged savings account that qualified individuals with disabilities may open as a result of the passage of the ABLE Act of 2014 and subsequent enactment of state ABLE laws. Contributions to ABLE accounts are made on an after-tax basis. Earnings from ABLE funds grow tax-deferred and are tax-free if used for qualified disability expenses. Contributions to the account may be made by any person (the account beneficiary, an employer, family and friends) and may or may not be tax deductible depending on the specifics of the state ABLE law. Funds in the account may be used for many different types of expenses. The beneficiary is the owner of the account, but legal guardianship and powers of attorney will permit others to control ABLE funds in the event that the beneficiary is unwilling or unable to manage the account.
Why the need for ABLE accounts?
Individuals with disabilities can only have $2,000 in assets at any given time in order to remain eligible for many federal means-tested benefits programs which provide much-needed supports, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Under ABLE, eligible individuals and families will be allowed to establish ABLE savings accounts that will not affect their eligibility for SSI (up to $100,000), Medicaid and other public benefits. ABLE accounts provide a mechanism to essentially increase this $2,000 asset limitation so that individuals with disabilities and their families can save money for their future and to improve their quality of life.
Who is eligible to open an ABLE account?
An individual must meet two requirements to be eligible for an ABLE account: an age requirement and a severity of disability determination. The onset of symptoms of the person’s disability must have occurred before age 26. Additionally, the disabled individual must have “marked and severe functional limitations” (essentially, a Social Security definition of disability). An individual whose disability occurred prior to age 26 and is already receiving SSI and/or SSDI is automatically eligible to establish an ABLE account. Those who are not recipients of SSI and/or SSDI but still meet the age of onset disability requirement will be eligible to open an ABLE account upon obtaining a disability certification from their physician.
What is a disability certification and how do you get one?
Depending upon the state ABLE program’s procedures, the disability certification may be a form that a physician fills out or the ABLE program may simply require a letter from the physician providing certain information (such as the nature of the disability and date of onset). When a person opens an ABLE account, they do not need to submit a certification of eligibility at that time. Rather, they will certify (under penalty of perjury) that they are indeed eligible and have obtained some type of physician’s note. The ABLE account owner keeps this certification in his or her own files and will only need to produce it if audited or eligibility is otherwise questioned.
Are there limits to how much money can be put in an ABLE account?
Yes. The total annual contributions by all participating individuals, including the beneficiary himself, family and friends, is $14,000 (the federal gift tax exclusion). The total limit of contributions that could be made to an ABLE account over time is tied to the individual state’s maximum amount for regular 529 accounts (typically around $350,000). The first $100,000 in ABLE accounts will be exempted from the SSI $2,000 individual resource limit. After $100,000, the beneficiary’s SSI will be suspended (but not terminated), though Medicaid benefits will continue regardless of ABLE funds.
How do assets in ABLE accounts affect eligibility for SSI and Medicaid?
Up to $100,000 in ABLE account funds, these benefits are not affected. When an ABLE account exceeds $100,000, the beneficiary will be suspended – but not terminated – from eligibility for SSI benefits and will no longer receive that monthly income. This suspension will be indefinite and the SSI benefits will be reactivated after the beneficiary spends down the account to under $100,000. Medicaid eligibility will remain intact, even if the ABLE account exceeds $100,000.
How do assets in ABLE accounts affect eligibility for other means-tested benefits programs?
The US Treasury Department has issued interim guidance on some critical issues but has not yet issued its final guidance. The Social Security Administration has issued final guidance in the form of POMS. The Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services has not yet released guidance on ABLE. We are also still waiting for final guidance to be issued by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as ABLE relates to housing benefits, and the US Department of Education (ED) on how ABLE relates to financial aid. The Food and Nutrition Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published a final rule that confirms that funds held in ABLE accounts may not be considered when determining eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Most states have included in their ABLE bills language to exclude ABLE assets from determinations of eligibility for state and local means-tested programs. While the intent of the federal ABLE law is to exclude ABLE accounts from eligibility determinations for means-tested benefits, individuals who depend upon these benefits are urged to proceed with caution until final guidance is issued by the relevant agencies.
What happens to funds in an ABLE account when the beneficiary dies?
The federal law authorizes state Medicaid agencies to become a creditor and seek reimbursement for the Medicaid services a beneficiary has received since she opened the ABLE account. It is up to the individual state Medicaid agencies whether or not to seek reimbursement from ABLE accounts. Even if they do pursue claims, all outstanding qualified disability expenses will be given priority over the Medicaid claims. The remainder of assets in an ABLE account will go to the beneficiary’s estate.
For what expenditures can the money in an ABLE account be used?
Funds in ABLE accounts must be used for “qualified disability expenses”. A qualified disability expense means any expense incurred by the beneficiary as a result of living with a disability. These include education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, healthcare expenses, financial management and administrative services and other expenses to enhance the beneficiary’s quality of life.
Will ABLE account beneficiaries need approval before spending the money in their accounts?
No. In November 2015, the Treasury Department issued guidance indicating that states do not have to scrutinize or approve expenditures. However, beneficiaries will be required to maintain documentation to prove that their expenses are qualified if they are audited.
How will ABLE account beneficiaries access the funds in their ABLE accounts?
This will vary from program to program. Options will include using debit cards, setting up direct pay to service providers and/or having ABLE funds direct deposited into another related bank account.
Do individuals have to open ABLE accounts in their state of residence?
No. The original federal ABLE law required individuals to open ABLE accounts in their home state, which meant that each state legislature was required to pass a state ABLE law in order to make ABLE accounts available to residents of all 50 states. However, the US Congress amended ABLE in December 2015 as part of the Tax Extenders Package and eliminated this state residency requirement. Therefore, an individual may open an ABLE account in any state that offers a nationwide ABLE program.
Are ABLE accounts currently available?
Yes. Click here to see the list of state ABLE programs that have launched and those that are in development, including links to their websites. You do not have to wait for your state to launch an ABLE program to open an ABLE account. Each individual state ABLE program will have different investment choices, costs and fee structures, and we encourage potential account holders to carefully consider which ABLE program will best meet their needs.
Where do I get information about various state ABLE programs?
Many states have already created websites to provide information about their ABLE program development (the list and links to the programs can be found below in the State ABLE Programs tab). We recommend signing up for e-mail updates from the individual ABLE program websites so that you will receive notice when the accounts become available.
Where do you go to open an ABLE account?
Most states will provide online applications for ABLE accounts, or families may work with a financial advisor to open an account under certain programs.
Can an individual have more than one ABLE account, and what happens if the beneficiary wants to switch to another state’s ABLE program?
Under the federal ABLE Act, an eligible individual may only have one ABLE account at a time. However, it is possible to switch ABLE programs by transferring the account from one state to another (there may be some fees involved).
Can an ABLE account be transferred to another individual?
An ABLE account may only be transferred to a family member (sibling, half-sibling or step-sibling) who is also an eligible individual.
Can a regular 529 account be rolled over into an ABLE account?
No, not under current law. However, advocates are working to amend the federal ABLE Act to allow for these types of rollovers.
Will states offer options to invest the savings contributed to an ABLE account?
Like state 529 college savings plans, states will offer qualified individuals and families multiple options to establish ABLE accounts with varied investment strategies. Each individual and family will need to project possible future needs and costs over time, and to assess their risk tolerance for possible future investment strategies to grow their savings. An ABLE account beneficiary may re-direct these funds twice in a calendar year if her needs or preferences change.
How is an ABLE account different than a special needs or pooled trust?
An ABLE account may provide more choice and control for the beneficiary and family as the funds can be used for a broad list of expenses and can be withdrawn quickly without prior approval. The cost of establishing an ABLE account is considerably less than either a Special Needs Trust (SNT) or Pooled Income Trust because an attorney is not needed to open an ABLE account, no trustee is necessary and the administrative fees are relatively low. While funds in SNTs and ABLE accounts are both disregarded for means-tested benefits like Medicaid and SSI, income from ABLE accounts is tax-free while SNTs are taxed at high rates. ABLE accounts also have disadvantages, such as the annual contribution limit, which is currently only $14,000. Determining which option is the most appropriate will depend upon individual circumstances. For many families, the ABLE account will be a savings mechanism used in addition to, rather than instead of, establishing a trust.
How is an ABLE account different from a 529 savings account?
ABLE accounts and 529 savings accounts both provide a tax-advantaged way to save for future expenses, but the funds in the accounts are for different purposes. Funds in regular 529 accounts must be used for qualified higher education expenses. ABLE accounts must be used for qualified disability expenses, which broadly include items like transportation, job training, health care and anything else intended to enhance the disabled individual’s quality of life. Unlike funds in 529 accounts, funds in ABLE accounts up to $100,000 do not affect an individual’s eligibility for SSI, Medicaid and other public benefits programs.
What possible changes to ABLE are being considered by the US Congress?
ABLE is a game-changing law for many individuals with disabilities and their families, but it can be improved upon in many ways. On March 17, 2016, three bills (the ABLE to Work Act, ABLE Financial Planning Act and ABLE Age Adjustment Act) were introduced in the 114th Congress to amend ABLE. The bills did not pass during the 114th Congress but were reintroduced in the 115th Congress on April 4, 2017. Details about these bills are provided here. NDSS and other disability advocates will continue to fight to broaden access to ABLE accounts and to increase the amount of funds that can be saved in these accounts.
On March 17, 2016, members of the US House of Representatives and US Senate introduced three bills to enhance the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014. The bills did not pass during the 114th Congress but, on April 4, 2017, they were reintroduced in the 115th Congress. The bills were introduced in the House by Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) and, in the Senate, by Richard Burr (R-NC), Bob Casey (D-PA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). The three bills are described below.
The ABLE to Work Act (S. 818/H.R. 1896) would incentivize employment by allowing ABLE beneficiaries who work and earn income, but do not participate in an employer’s retirement plan, to save additional amounts in their 529A (ABLE) accounts up to the federal poverty level (currently $12,060) in addition to the $14,000 annual maximum contribution. Beneficiaries would also be eligible for the Saver’s Credit, an existing federal tax credit that low and middle-income individuals can currently claim when they make contributions to a retirement account.
The ABLE Financial Planning Act (S. 816/H.R. 1897) would protect against life-changing events by allowing ABLE beneficiaries to roll over regular 529 accounts to 529A (ABLE) accounts up to the annual maximum contribution. This bill would be particularly helpful for families who set up 529 accounts before receiving a child’s diagnosis, or for teenagers who incur life-changing events that render them unable to go to college and use their 529 funds for their original purpose.
The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 817/H.R. 1874) would improve the equitable treatment of people with disabilities by raising the age of onset of disability from 26 to 46, which would allow more individuals who become disabled later in life to take advantage of the benefits of ABLE accounts.
In the 114th Congress, two of the bills – the ABLE to Work Act and the ABLE Financial Planning Act – advanced through the Senate Finance Committee and were scored as “negligible,” thereby not requiring an offset. By contrast, the ABLE Age Adjustment Act received a $2 billion score, which was deemed unworkable and the bill did not advance.
NDSS supports these bills aimed at making ABLE accounts more effective in promoting financial independence and more accessible to a wider population of the disability community.
Ask your Senators and Representative to cosponsor these bills. Advocates are encouraged to send their Members of Congress this one-pager, which provides details about the bills and about how to cosponsor them.
Senators interested in cosponsoring should contact Natasha Hickman with Senator Richard Burr at Natasha_Hickman@burr.senate.gov or Livia Shmavonian with Senator Bob Casey at Livia_Shmavonian@casey.senate.gov
Representatives interested in cosponsoring should contact Megan Perez with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers at Megan.Perez@mail.house.gov or Jacqueline Usyk with Rep. Tony Cárdenas at Jacqueline.Usyk@mail.house.gov
The federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act authorizes the states to develop their own ABLE programs and offer ABLE accounts to qualified beneficiaries. States have moved quickly to pass ABLE laws, several have launched programs and many others are developing their ABLE programs.
See the below drop down to see a list of states that have created webpages regarding their ABLE programs, including states that have launched their programs.
Below are the states that are currently working on ABLE bills or that have enacted ABLE legislation:
* Indicates a state that has enacted ABLE legislation
- *Alabama (S.B. 226) – Signed into law by Governor on 6/9/15
- *Alaska (HB 188) – Signed into law by Governor on 8/6/16
- *Arizona (HB 2388) – Signed into law by Governor on 5/12/16
- *Arkansas (HB 1239) – Signed into law by Governor on 4/8/15
- *California (AB 449/ SB 324) – Signed in law on 10/11/15. AB 1553, which cleans up the enacted ABLE legislation, was signed into law on 9/13/16. SB 218, introduced on 2/1/17, would prohibit the state, upon death of the beneficiary, from seeking distribution of any amount remaining in an ABLE account for any amount of medical assistance paid under the state’s Medicaid plan. AB 384, introduced on 2/9/17, would provide technical fixes to the California ABLE bill and expand the program nationwide.
- *Colorado (HB 1359) – Signed into law by Governor on 6/3/15
- *Connecticut (HB 6738) – Signed into law by Governor on 6/19/15. SB 350, introduced in January 2017, would allow a state tax deduction for contributions to ABLE accounts.
- *Delaware (HB 60 with HA 1) – Signed into law by Governor on 6/10/15
- *District of Columbia (B21-0252) – Signed into law on a temporary basis by Mayor on 10/16/15. DC secured Congressional approval of its permanent ABLE legislation on 2/2/16.
- *Florida (CS/SB 642/644/646) – Signed into law by Governor on 5/21/15
- *Georgia (HB 768) – Signed into law by Governor on 5/3/16
- *Hawaii (HB 119 HD2 SD1 CD1) – Signed into law by Governor on 7/2/15
- Idaho (HB 41) – Signed into law by the Governor on March 20, 2017
- *Illinois (SB 1383) – Signed into law by Governor on 7/27/15. SB 2268, an ABLE clean up bill, was signed by the Governor on 7/15/16. The clean up bill changes the state bill to allow residents of other states to participate in the Illinois ABLE program; also allows opening of ABLE accounts with IRS interim guidance rather than final regulations.
- *Indiana (SB 11) – Signed into law by Governor on 3/21/16
- *Iowa (SF 505) – ABLE was added to a Health and Human Services Appropriations bill, which was signed into law by the Governor on 7/2/15
- *Kansas (HB 2216) – Signed into law by Governor on 4/15/15
- *Kentucky (SB 179) – Signed into law by Governor on 4/5/16. Excludes ABLE accounts for purpose of determining eligibility for means-tested programs. Also, establishes work group to determine plan for ABLE accounts and to submit report by 12/31/16.
- *Louisiana (HB 598) – The ABLE Act passed on 5/16/14 as Act 93 of the 2014 Regular Session (HB 833). This was prior to the federal passage of the ABLE act in December 2014. HB 598 was filed on 4/3/15 to amend Act 93; it was signed into law by the Governor on 7/1/15.
- *Maine (LD 1421 (HP 967)) – Requires the Treasurer to study options for participating in ABLE and to report back to the legislature by 1/15/17. Became law on 3/6/16.
- *Maryland (HB 431) – The passage of SB 761in 2015 established an ABLE Task Force; see December 2015 Maryland ABLE Task Force Final Report. An ABLE bill based on the Task Force report (HB 431) was signed into law on 4/12/16.
- *Massachusetts ( 226, Acts of 2014) – Signed into law by Governor on 8/5/14, prior to federal passage of ABLE. H 3753/ H 4402 were introduced to revise the pre-federal legislation.
- *Michigan (HB 4542, HB 4543, HB 4544and SB 360) – Signed into law by Governor on 10/28/15
- *Minnesota (SF 1458) – ABLE attached to omnibus health and human services appropriations bill – Signed into law by Governor on 5/22/15
- *Mississippi (SB 2311) – Signed into law by Governor on 3/20/17
- *Missouri (SB 174) – Signed into law by Governor on 6/29/15
- *Montana (SB 399) – Signed into law by Governor on 5/5/15
- *Nebraska (LB 591) – Signed into law by Governor on 5/27/15. LB 776, which amends details of the Nebraska ABLE law, was signed into law by Governor on 3/9/16
- *Nevada (SB 419) – Signed into law by Governor on 5/29/15
- *New Hampshire (SB 265) – Signed into law by Governor on 3/16/16
- *New Jersey (S 2770– Specify 2014-15 session and type in bill number to see info) – Signed into law by Governor on 1/11/16
- *New Mexico (HB 61) – Signed into law by Governor on 3/3/16
- *New York (S 4472-D/ A 7767-B) – Identical bills were signed into law by Governor on 12/22/15. A 9171-A / S 8101, identical bills introduced in 2016, were signed by the Governor on 7/21/16, making technical changes to the ABLE law and repealing the state tax deduction for contributions.
- *North Carolina (H 556) – Signed into law by Governor on 8/11/15
- *North Dakota (HB 1373) – Signed into law by Governor on 4/1/15 – North Dakota is not establishing its own ABLE program but providing information to residents who wish to open an account in another state. SB 2124, signed into law on 3/22/17, ensures that funds saved through an ABLE account are not considered when determining eligibility for local or state means-tested programs.
- *Ohio (HB 155) – Signed into law by Governor on 7/16/15. On 5/25/16, HB 483passed adding a personal income tax deduction for contributions to ABLE accounts.
- *Oklahoma (HB 2821) – Signed into law by Governor on 6/6/16
- *Oregon (SB 777 D) – Signed into law by Governor on 8/12/15
- *Pennsylvania (SB 879) – Signed into law by Governor on 4/18/16
- *Rhode Island (HB 5564 Sub A / SB 465 Sub A– Type in bill numbers to see info) – Signed into law by Governor on 7/9/15
- *South Carolina (H 3768) – Signed into law by Governor on 4/29/16
- *South Dakota (HB 1224) – Makes ABLE accounts available to SD residents through partnerships with other states – Signed into law by Govenor on 3/11/16
- *Tennessee (HB 999 / SB 1162) – Signed into law by Governor on 5/18/15
- *Texas (SB 1664) – Signed into law by Governor on 6/19/15. Another bill, SB 377, introduced in December 2016 would enable Texas to participate with a consortium of states to offer ABLE accounts.
- *Utah (SB 292) – Signed into law by Governor on 3/31/15
- *Vermont (S 138) – ABLE passed as part of an economic development bill that was signed into law by the Governor on 6/1/15
- *Virginia (HB 2306/ SB 1404) – Signed into law by Governor on 3/17/2015. HB 1103, which excludes ABLE accounts from eligibility determination for state means-tested programs, was signed into law by Governor on 4/1/16. In addition, Item 3-5.11 of the 2016 Appropriations Act (House Bill 30, Chapter 780), which was signed into law on 5/20/16, established an individual income tax deduction for contributions to ABLE accounts. HB 1492, signed into law on 2/20/17, provides a court with the authority to order support payments to be made to a special needs trust or an ABLE savings trust account in child custody, visitation or child support cases.
- *Washington (HB 2063) – Signed into law by Governor on 5/1/15 creating a work group for purpose of establishing an ABLE program. HB 2323, which establishes an ABLE program, was signed into law on 3/29/16.
- *West Virginia (HB 2902) – Signed into law by Governor on 3/31/15
- *Wisconsin – (SB 21) ABLE was added to the executive budget act of the 2015 legislature, which was signed by the Governor on 7/12/15. AB 731, which repeals the Wisconsin ABLE law but extends tax deduction to out-of-state ABLE accounts, was signed into law on 3/30/16.
Wyoming (HB 105) – Dead bill. Passed House but failed in Senate.
Update on August 9, 2017: NEW YORK LAUNCHES ABLE PROGRAM
The Office of the State Comptroller administers the NY ABLE Program in consultation with specific State agencies and individuals appointed by legislative leaders, as specified in the NY ABLE statute. NY ABLE is an ABLE program designed specifically for New York residents. NY ABLE accounts give earnings the ability to grow tax-deferred, and allow savings to be withdrawn tax-free for qualified expenses
Update on July 1, 2017: IDAHO PASSES HB 41
The state will not open its own ABLE program. The state will provide information and assistance in setting up ABLE accounts in other states and providing information related to financial literacy.
Update on May 10, 2017: MASSACHUSETTS LAUNCHES ABLE PROGRAM
Massachusetts launched its ABLE program, the Attainable Savings Plan, on May 10, 2017. The program is administered by the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) and managed by Fidelity Investments. A total of 21 states have launched ABLE programs to date.
Update on April 4, 2017: FEDERAL ABLE IMPROVEMENT BILLS ARE REINTRODUCED IN THE 115TH CONGRESS
On April 4, 2017, three bills were reintroduced into the 115th Congress to amend the ABLE Act of 2014: the ABLE to Work Act, the ABLE Financial Planning Act and the ABLE Age Adjustment Act. NDSS supports all three bills. Click here for details.
Update on April 3, 2017: PENNSYLVANIA LAUNCHES ABLE PROGRAM
The state of Pennsylvania launched PA ABLE on April 3, 2017.
Update on February 27, 2017: ALABAMA LAUNCHES ABLE PROGRAM
In partnership with Nebraska, Alabama launched the Enable Savings Plan Alabama on February 26, 2017.
Update on February 22, 2017: VERMONT LAUNCHES ABLE PROGRAM
In partnership with Ohio’s STABLE program, Vermont launched the Vermont ABLE program on February 22, 2017. This program is for residents of Vermont only.
Update on January 26, 2017: SIX STATES LAUNCH ABLE PROGRAMS
Congratulations to Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada and North Carolina on the launch of their ABLE programs. These states are participating in the National ABLE Alliance, a partnership of states that have joined together to offer ABLE programs. All of these new programs are open to residents of any states. A total of 16 states have opened ABLE programs to date.
Update on January 6, 2017: USDA ISSUES FINAL RULE EXCLUDING ABLE ACCOUNT FUNDS IN DETERMINING ELIBILITY FOR SNAP
On January 6, 2017, the Food and Nutrition Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a final rule that confirms that funds held in ABLE accounts may not be considered when determining eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is a federally funded, means tested program that provides nutrition assistance to eligible, low income individuals and families. Click here to read the final rule.
Update on December 19, 2016: NDSS ISSUES ABLE 2ND ANNIVERSARY REPORT AND VIRGINIA LAUNCHES ABLE PROGRAM
December 19 marks two years since President Obama signed the landmark Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. On this anniversary, NDSS is pleased to issue an updated anniversary report on ABLE past, present and future. The report includes the status of ABLE at the federal level and in the states and the history of ABLE.
Also on December 19, Virginia launched ABLEnow becoming the tenth state to open an ABLE program.
Update on December 16, 2016: RHODE ISLAND IS NINTH STATE TO LAUNCH AN ABLE PROGRAM
Rhode Island launched RI’s ABLE on December 16, 2016.
Update on December 15, 2016: ALASKA IS EIGHTH STATE TO LAUNCH AN ABLE PROGRAM
Alaska launched the Alaska ABLE Plan on December 15, 2016.
Update on December 13, 2016: LAUNCH OF KENTUCKY ABLE PROGRAM
On December 13, 2016, the state of Kentucky launched its ABLE program, STABLE Kentucky, which is open to state residents only.
Update on December 6, 2016: OREGON LAUNCHES TWO ABLE PROGRAMS
Oregon became the sixth state to launch an ABLE program. On December 6, 2016, Oregon launched the Oregon ABLE Savings Plan for Oregon residents and the ABLE for ALL Savings Plan for residents of any state.
Update on November 1, 2016: MICHIGAN IS FIFTH STATE TO LAUNCH AN ABLE PROGRAM
Michigan became the fifth state to open a state ABLE program with the launch of MiABLE on November 1, 2016.
Update on September 27, 2016: TWO FEDERAL ABLE IMPROVEMENT BILLS ARE MOVING FORWARD
NDSS is pleased that two of the federal ABLE improvement bills are advancing this Congress: 1) the ABLE to Work Act (HR 4795/S 2702) that would enable ABLE beneficiaries who work and earn income to save additional amounts in their ABLE accounts, and 2) the ABLE Financial Planning Act (HR 4794/S 2703) that would allow rollovers of 529 accounts to ABLE (529A) accounts. These bills have advanced from the Senate Finance Committee and now head to the Senate floor. NDSS encourages advocates to take action to encourage Members of Congress to cosponsor both the ABLE to Work Act and the ABLE Financial Planning Act.
NDSS is also supportive of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (HR 4813/S 2704), which would raise the age of onset of disability from 26 to 46 enabling individuals who become disabled later in life to open ABLE accounts. This bill has not yet moved in the Senate due to the extremely high score (cost) on the bill, while the scores on both the ABLE to Work Act and the ABLE Financial Planning Act have been deemed tobe negligible. NDSS is working with our Congressional Champions to try to advance the ABLE Age Adjustment Act but the high cost may deter it from moving this session.
Update on July 8, 2016: NDSS RELEASES CHART COMPARING STATE ABLE PROGRAMS
As of July 8, 2016, four states have launched ABLE programs (Florida, Nebraska, Ohio and Tennessee). NDSS has released a chart comparing the details and features of each ABLE program to help self-advocates and families determine which program is best for them.
Update on July 1, 2016: FLORIDA LAUNCHES ABLE PROGRAM FOR FLORIDA RESIDENTS
On July 1, Florida became the fourth state to launch a state ABLE program with the opening of ABLE United. Unlike the new ABLE programs in Ohio, Tennesse and Nebraska, Florida’s program is only open to residents of Florida.
Update on June 30, 2016: NEBRASKA IS THE THIRD STATE TO LAUNCH AN ABLE PROGRAM
Nebraska became the third state to launch a state ABLE program with the launch of the Enable Savings Plan on June 30, 2016.
Update on June 13, 2016: TENNESSEE IS THE SECOND STATE TO LAUNCH AN ABLE PROGRAM
Following the launch of the Ohio ABLE program on June 1, 2016, Tennessee became the second state to launch an ABLE program on June 13. Details about the program are available at AbleTN.gov.
Update on June 1, 2016: OHIO IS FIRST STATE TO LAUNCH AN ABLE PROGRAM
On June 1, 2016, Ohio became the first state in the US to launch an ABLE program. Ohio STABLE accounts are now available to any qualified individual in the US. For information on other state programs that will soon launch, please see the NDSS state ABLE program webpage.
Update on March 17, 2016: INTRODUCTION OF THREE FEDERAL ABLE IMPROVEMENT BILLS
Members of the US House of Representatives and US Senate introduced a package of bills that would enhance the ABLE Act by making accounts more effective in promoting financial independence and more accessible to a wider population of the disability community. Click here for details about the three federal ABLE improvement bills.
Update on February 5, 2016: ABLE IMPLEMENTATION WEBINAR
Follow this link to see slides and a recording from a webinar on February 5, 2016, in which an expert panel discusses the current status of ABLE and what to expect in the next 12 months.
Update February 2016: LAUNCH OF ABLE ALLIANCE FOR FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT
The ABLE Alliance for Financial Empowerment has launched. The new organization was created through the collaboration of national disability groups, policymakers and financial stakeholders committed to supporting individuals with disabilities in their efforts to achieve financial empowerment and economic independence. The Alliance was co-founded by NDSS President Sara Hart Weir and Charles Hammerman, President and CEO of the Disability Opportunity Fund.
Update on December 17, 2015: ABLE STATE RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT ELIMINATED
The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) is pleased to share today’s news that one restriction on ABLE accounts – the state residency requirement – has been eliminated as part of the Tax Extenders package (Section 303) that passed the US House and US Senate today. The state ABLE residency requirement meant that a qualified individual could only open an ABLE account in the state where he or she resides and could not “shop around” to other state ABLE programs. This restriction will be stricken from the ABLE law once President Obama signs the Tax Extenders bill. NDSS believes this is a positive change for individuals with Down syndrome and our families for several reasons:
(1) It will give qualified individuals quicker access to ABLE accounts. You will no longer need to wait for your home state to establish an ABLE program; you will be free to open an account in another state that may launch its program sooner.
(2) It will increase competition in the marketplace. Just like regular 529 college savings plans, there will be a wider array of investment options available to individuals so that they can find the ABLE plan that best suits their needs.
(3) It will spur some states to move more quickly to launch their ABLE programs. States now have incentive to launch their ABLE programs as quickly as possible as the first movers will likely see a flurry of ABLE account openings.
(4) It may cause some states to revisit their ABLE programs and try to “sweeten the deal” by providing additional incentives to stay in-state. More states may offer tax deductions or other incentives to their state residents who opt to open an ABLE account in their home state.
NDSS is working closely with ABLE state administrators, state treasurers and legislators to make sure that this change has the most beneficial impact on the disability community as possible. We will be reviewing all ABLE bills that have been enacted, as well as newly developed ABLE bills, to make sure that this change does not negatively impact our community.
Update on December 17, 2015: NDSS ISSUES ABLE ANNIVERSARY REPORT
December 19 marks one year since President Obama signed the historic Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. On this anniversary, NDSS is pleased to issue a report on ABLE past, present and future – The Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act: One Year Later. The report includes the history of ABLE, the status of the federal ABLE Act, the progress of ABLE in the states and next steps for implementation of ABLE. [Note: On December 19, 2016, NDSS issued an updated ABLE 2nd Anniversary Report.]
Update on November 20, 2015: NEW IRS GUIDANCE ON ABLE PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION
Breaking and exciting news, the IRS just announced three changes to the proposed rules for the #ABLEact! NDSS is thrilled with these changes, as they will help make it easier for states to offer and administer ABLE programs. NDSS has been working with the Department of Treasury to advocate for this new guidance. These changes include:
- Categorization of distributions not required: ABLE programs need not include safeguards to determine which distributions are for qualified disability expenses, nor are they required to specifically identify those used for housing expenses. Commenters noted that such a requirement would be unduly burdensome and that, in any case, the eventual use of a distribution may not be known at the time it is made. Designated beneficiaries will still need to categorize distributions when determining their federal income tax obligations.
- Contributors’ TINs not required: ABLE programs will not be required to request the taxpayer identification numbers (TINs) of contributors to the ABLE account at the time when the contributions are made, if the program has a system in place to reject contributions that exceed the annual limits. However, if an excess contribution is deposited into a designated beneficiary’s ABLE account, the program will need to request the contributor’s TIN. For most people, the TIN is their Social Security number (SSN).
- Disability diagnosis certification permitted: Designated beneficiaries can open an ABLE account by certifying, under penalties of perjury, that they meet the qualification standards, including their receipt of a signed physician’s diagnosis if necessary, and that they will retain that diagnosis and provide it to the program or the IRS upon request. This means that eligible individuals with disabilities will not need to provide the written diagnosis when opening the ABLE account, and ABLE programs will not need to receive, retain or evaluate detailed medical records.
The full text of the IRS’ Interim Guidance is available at: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-15-81.pdf
Update on October 14, 2015: NDSS PRESIDENT SARA WEIR AND NDSS BOARD MEMBER SARA WOLFF PROVIDE TESTIMONY TO THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICES ON THE PROPOSED ABLE REGULATIONS
Please click here to read the full testimony from Sara Weir.
Update on September 24, 2015: PANEL PRESENTATION ON THE ABLE ACT IMPLEMENTATION
Click here to see a video of the September 24, 2015, on “The ABLE Act Implementation Tax Advantaged Savings Accounts: New Choices for Families to Create Pathways to a Better Quality of Life – What Does it Mean for You?” presented by the National Disability Institute and ServiceSource.
Update on September 16, 2015: THE NATIONAL DOWN SYNDROME SOCIETY’S (NDSS) FINAL COMMENTS ON THE PROPOSED FEDERAL ABLE REGULATIONS
In June 2015, the Internal Revenue Service issued proposed regulations for the federal ABLE Act. Comments are due by 11:59 pm Eastern time on Monday, September 21, 2015. NDSS is pleased to share our organization’s final comments:
NDSS led the advocacy effort behind the passage of the landmark Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, and has played an active role in the passage of state ABLE bills and ABLE program implementation. Our final comments are a direct result of many months of collaboration among the leadership of NDSS, Autism Speaks and the National Disability Institute (NDI), as well as other stakeholders. Our comments focus on making all state ABLE programs simple to use and accessible for individuals with Down syndrome (and their families), and lessening the administrative burden and ensuring these programs are affordable for state treasurers and 529 administrators who will oversee the state plan implementation and rollout.
TAKE ACTION: NDSS is encouraging all local advocacy organizations and advocates to also submit comments by the September 21st deadline. Your advocacy is needed to ensure ABLE program rules will not place undue burdens on those who open ABLE accounts and states that will oversee the programs. We are providing a sample template here:
http://www.ndss.org/Global/NDSS_ABLE_Proposed_Regs_Comments.pdf (Click here for a Word version.)
Comments may be sent electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=IRS-2015-0030-0001.
For questions or comments, please contact NDSS at email@example.com.
Our organization continues to be committed to ensuring ABLE accounts will be readily available to families in early 2016. We are grateful for your ongoing advocacy and commitment to individuals with Down syndrome and their families.
All my best,
Sara Hart Weir
National Down Syndrome Society
Update on June 19, 2015: IRS ISSUES PROPOSED ABLE ACT REGULATIONS
On June 19, 2015, the U.S. Department of Treasury released the proposed regulations and rules for the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. NDSS is in the process of reviewing the proposed regulations and providing official comments, which are due in 90 days. For more information, please read the IRS’ notification of proposed ABLE regulations.
In March of 2015, the U.S. Department of Treasury issued a notice encouraging states to proceed with passing ABLE bills. (See below.) While many states have passed ABLE bills, they have been anxiously awaiting the issuance of these regulations to help answer ambiguities in the federal law before taking significant steps toward designing their ABLE programs. After these regulations are finalized, we expect to see many states expediting ABLE program development and implementation so that ABLE accounts will become available as early as next year.
Please contact NDSS at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or to offer input on NDSS’ formal comment letter.
Update on March 10, 2015: US TREASURY AND IRS GIVE STATES THE GREEN-LIGHT TO ESTABLISH ABLE PROGRAMS PRIOR TO ISSUANCE OF FEDERAL GUIDELINES ON SECTION 529A
The US Treasury and IRS issued a statement encouraging the state formation of ABLE programs prior to the issuance of federal guidelines. Over 50% of all states have already introduced bills in their legislatures to make ABLE 529A programs available to residents as soon as possible. However, some states have expressed hesitancy to enact these programs prior to the issuance of federal guidelines on Section 529A. The statement released by Treasury and the IRS encourages states to proceed with the establishment of ABLE programs and provides assurances that any state programs that do not meet the requirements established by the guidelines will be given “transition relief” to make changes to the ABLE programs, including providing “sufficient time” to make necessary changes.
To read the entire statement from the US Treasury and IRS click here.
The following states have created webpages to provide updates on the status of their ABLE programs. Those marked with an asterisk have launched their ABLE programs. (For details about the state legislation passed to authorize establishment of ABLE programs, click here.)
*Alabama – Launched February 26, 2017
*Alaska – Launched December 15, 2016
California – The California ABLE Act Board has also created a Facebook page to communicate with stakeholders.
*Florida – Launched July 1, 2016 – Open to Florida residents only
*Illinois – Officially launched January 30, 2017
*Iowa – Launched January 26, 2017
*Kansas – Launched January 26, 2017
*Kentucky – Launched on December 13, 2016 – Open to Kentucky residents only
*Massachusetts – Launched May 10, 2017
*Michigan – Launched November 1, 2016
*Minnesota – Launched January 26, 2017
*Missouri – Launched on April 24, 2017 – Open to Missouri residents only
*Nebraska – Launched June 30, 2016
*Nevada – Launched January 26, 2017
New Mexico – New Mexico is not establishing its own ABLE program but providing information to residents who wish to open an ABLE account in another state.
New York – According to the New York ABLE website, enrollment will begin summer 2017.
*North Carolina – Launched January 26, 2017
North Dakota – North Dakota is not establishing its own ABLE program but providing information to residents who wish to open an ABLE account in another state.
*Ohio – Launched June 1, 2016
*Oregon – Two programs launched on December 6, 2016: Oregon ABLE Savings Plan for Oregon residents and ABLE for ALL Savings Plan for residents of any state
*Pennsylvania – Launched on April 3, 2017
*Rhode Island – Launched on December 16, 2016
South Dakota – South Dakota is not establishing its own ABLE program but providing information to residents who wish to open an ABLE account in another state.
*Tennessee – Launched June 13, 2016
*Vermont – Launched February 22, 2017 – Open to Vermont residents only
*Virginia – Launched on December 19, 2016
Wisconsin – Wisconsin is not establishing its own ABLE program but providing information to residents regarding opening an ABLE account in another state.
NDSS has created this chart comparing details and features of the state ABLE programs that have launched. NDSS does not endorse any ABLE program, but provides this information to help potential ABLE account owners determine which program best fits their needs and priorities.
Earnings from ABLE funds grow tax-deferred and are tax-free if used for qualified disability expenses. Contributions to ABLE accounts are made on an after-tax basis. However, some states have passed legislation that allows state tax deductions to their residents for contributions to ABLE accounts. These states include:
Iowa – For 2017, Iowa taxpayers can deduct up to $3,239 in contributions from their adjusted gross income. The maximum deduction increases each year with inflation.
Maryland – Up to $2500 for any taxable year per qualified designated beneficiary may be subtracted from the federal adjusted gross income of a resident to determine Maryland adjusted gross income. Anyone who contributes to the ABLE account may get the deduction.
Michigan – Michigan tax payers who contribute to an ABLE account may get a deduction of up to $5,000 for a single return or $10,000 for a joint return per tax year.
Missouri – Annual contributions made to the ABLE program up to and including $8000 per participating taxpayer, and up to $16,000 for married individuals filing a joint tax return, shall be subtracted in determining Missouri adjusted gross income. The deduction is available to designated beneficiary or, if the designated beneficiary is a minor or has a custodian, the deduction is available to the parent or custodian.
Montana – Up to $3000 for single tax filers. Deduction is available to person who contributes, which must be account owner, account owner’s spouse, or account owner’s parent or stepparent.
Nebraska – Contributions by anyone who files a Nebraska state income tax return are eligible to receive a Nebraska state income tax deduction for their own contributions of up to $10,000 ($5,000 if married, filing separately).
Ohio – Up to $2000.
Oregon – For 2017, contributions to accounts in Oregon for beneficiaries under the age of 21 are tax deductible up to $4,660 for taxpayers filing jointly and $2,330 for single filers.
South Carolina – ABLE bill allows state residents to deduct contributions made to ABLE accounts in or outside of South Carolina up to the limit of maximum contributions allowed to such accounts under Section 529A of the federal Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, including funds transferred to an investment trust account from another qualified plan, as allowable under Section 529A of the federal Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.
Virginia – Up to $2,000 per contributor.
Wisconsin – ABLE bill was repealed but tax deduction extended to out-of-state ABLE accounts for Wisconsin residents. Any amount that is deposited by an account owner or any other person for the taxable year in which the contribution is made into an ABLE account may be subtracted from federal adjusted gross income in the calculation of the taxpayer’s Wisconsin taxes.
One state allows a tax credit:
Utah – A Utah taxpayer who contributes to an ABLE account can claim a 5 percent Utah state income tax credit on his or her annual contribution.