December 15, 2017

Quick Answer #4 – What is the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience Act?

qa-4-imageQuick Answer

The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, or ABLE Act, was signed into law by President Obama in December 2014.  The ABLE Act amends Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to create tax-exempt investment accounts for individuals with disabilities (Section 529A accounts).

The intent of the ABLE Act is to encourage and assist individuals and families in saving private funds to be used in support of individuals with disabilities in maintaining health, independence, and quality of life.

The new federal law authorizes each state to establish and maintain an ABLE program. The 529A account first became available in Florida in July 2016 after Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience Act on May 21, 2015. Currently Florida is one of five states with ABLE programs that are actively open for enrollment. The others are Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, and Tennessee.

General Rules

  • The individual with a disability must be a Florida resident at the time of applying for a 529A account.
  • The individual must have developed significant disabilities before turning 26 years old.
  • The individual does not have to be under the age of 26 to qualify as long there are records, which prove the onset of the disability before age 26.
  • An individual who meets the age of onset disability criteria, and is already receiving benefits under Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), is automatically eligible to establish a 529A account.
  • An individual who is not currently receiving SSI and/or SSDI, but meets the age of onset disability criteria may still be eligible to open a 529A account. In this case, the individual must meet Social Security’s definition and criteria regarding significant functional limitations and obtain a letter of certification from a licensed physician.
  • Up to $14,000 per year (adjusted for inflation) can be contributed to a 529A account.
  • The total limit over time that could be made to a 529A account will be subject to the individual state and their limit for education-related 529 savings accounts. Currently in Florida, additional contributions are not allowed once the account balance reaches $418,000.

Benefits

  • Individuals with disabilities, and their families, can put money away for qualified disability expenses on an after-tax basis. The money in a 529A account grows tax-free and withdrawals are tax-free when used for qualified disability expenses.
  • Examples of qualified disability expenses include health care, education, housing, transportation, legal fees, financial management, assistive technology, personal support services, oversight and monitoring, funeral and burial expenses, and other expenses approved by treasury regulations.
  • The funds contained in or withdrawn from a 529A account do not generally affect eligibility for government benefits such as SSI or Medicaid.
  • For SSI, up to $100,000 in a 529A account is not a countable resource.
  • Contributions are not considered income and anyone can contribute to an individual’s 529A account (the total of all contributions cannot exceed $14,000 per year).

Where to Find Additional Information