Oregon ABLE Savings Plan is now live. For a full FAQ specific to the plan, go to http://oregonablesavings.com/faqs/.
What is an ABLE account?
ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families. ABLE accounts allow individuals with disabilities to save for future disability-related expenses without the assets counting against their federal and state benefits’ asset limits. ABLE accounts were created as a result of the passage of the national Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act) of 2014 and Oregon Senate Bill 777.
Why the need for ABLE accounts?
Millions of individuals with disabilities and their families depend on a wide variety of public benefits for income, health care, food and housing assistance. Eligibility for these public benefits (which include SSI, SNAP, Medicaid, etc.) require a person has less than $2,000 in cash savings, retirement funds and other items of significant value. Savings up to $100,000 in ABLE accounts will not affect an individual’s eligibility for SSI benefits and up to $310,000 for other public benefits such as Medicaid.
Am I eligible for an ABLE account?
The ABLE Act limits eligibility to individuals with significant disabilities that occurred before the age of 26. If you meet this age criteria and are also receiving benefits already under SSI and/or SSDI, you are automatically eligible to establish an ABLE account. If you are not a recipient of SSI and/or SSDI, but still meet the age of onset disability requirement, you could still be eligible to open an ABLE account if you meet the Social Security Administration’s definition and criteria regarding significant functional limitations and receive a letter of certification from a licensed physician. You need not be under the age of 26 to be eligible for an ABLE account.
Are there limits to how much money can be put in an ABLE account?
The total annual contribution by all participating individuals, including family and friends, for a single tax year is $14,000. The amount is tied to the gift tax limit and may be adjusted periodically to account for inflation. The total limit over time that can be deposited in an Oregon ABLE Savings Plan account is currently set at $310,000. The first $100,000 in an ABLE account is exempted from the SSI $2,000 resource limit. If and when an ABLE account exceeds $100,000, the beneficiary’s SSI cash benefit would be suspended until such time as the account falls back below $100,000. It is important to note that while the beneficiary’s eligibility for the SSI cash benefit is suspended, this has no effect on their ability to receive or be eligible to receive medical assistance through Medicaid.
Are there tax advantages to ABLE accounts?
Yes. Investment earnings grow tax deferred and qualified disability expense distributions come out federally tax free. In addition to federal tax benefits, there are state tax benefits for Oregonians. Contributions to ABLE accounts with beneficiaries under the age of 21 are deductible for Oregon income tax purposes up to annual limits that are indexed annually for inflation. For 2016, the deduction is $4,620 for taxpayers filing jointly and $2,310 for single filers.
Which expenses are allowed by ABLE accounts?
A “qualified disability expense” means any expense related to the eligible individual’s blindness or disability which are made for the benefit of the individual who is the designated beneficiary, including the following expenses: education; housing, transportation; employment training and support; assistive technology and personal support services; health; prevention and wellness; financial management and administrative services; legal fees; expenses for oversight and monitoring; funeral and burial expenses; and other expenses.
Can I have more than one ABLE account?
No. The ABLE Act limits the opportunity to one ABLE account per eligible individual.
Will the Oregon ABLE Savings Plan offer options to invest the savings contributed to an ABLE account?
The Oregon ABLE Savings Plan offers 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. Account contributors or designated beneficiaries are limited, by the ABLE Act, to change the way their money is invested in the account up to two times per year.
How is an ABLE account different than a special needs or pooled trust?
An ABLE Account will provide more choice and control for the beneficiary and family. Cost of establishing an account will be considerably less than either a Special Needs Trust (SNT) or Pooled Income Trust. With an ABLE account, account owners will have the ability to control their funds. Determining which option is the most appropriate will depend upon individual circumstances. For many families, the ABLE account will be a significant and viable option in addition to, rather than instead of, a Trust program.