Benefits

AZ ABLE

What is AZ ABLE?

AZ ABLE is a new state-run financial savings program for eligible people with disabilities who live in Arizona.

AZ ABLE permits and helps eligible people with disabilities who live in Arizona to open tax-advantaged savings accounts in which funds are exempt from (not counted against) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid asset limits and earnings are exempt (not counted as) taxable federal income so long as the money is used for disability-related qualified expenses.

The rules that established and now govern ABLE accounts are codified in Section 529A of the Internal Revenue Code, which was enacted by the federal ABLE Act of 2014. Arizona enacted its version of the ABLE Act in 2016 and AZ ABLE itself became operational in March of 2018.

“ABLE” stands for “Achieving Better Life Experience.”

What is the purpose of an ABLE account?

ABLE accounts are designed to help eligible people with disabilities maintain and improve their health, independence, and quality of life by permitting them to contribute to financial savings accounts which will not held against them in eligibility tests for public benefits such as SSI and Medicaid which ordinarily limit benefits to individuals who have less than $2,000 in cash savings and retirement funds.

AZ ABLE exists to help eligible people with disabilities handle the extra and significant costs involved in living with a disability by allowing them and/or their families to establish ABLE accounts which for the most part will not affect their eligibility for SSI, Medicaid, and other means-tested public benefits such as SNAP and AHCCCS.

What sorts of expenses qualify as disability-related expenses?

A long list of expenses qualify as disability-related expenses, including expenses connected to each of the following: 

  • basic living
  • housing (e.g. rent/mortgage/purchase price/property taxes/utilities)
  • transportation
  • health & wellness (e.g. health insurance premiums/medical equipment/therapy/personal assistance/long-term support)
  • assistive technology
  • education (e.g. tuition from preschool through college/books/supplies)
  • employment training & support
  • financial management & other administrative services (including oversight of an ABLE account)
  • legal fees
  • funeral & burial

Expenses qualify as disability-related expenses if each of the following are true:

  • the owner of the ABLE account incurred the expense at a time when they were considered an eligible individual
  • the expense relates to their disability; and
  • the expense helps them to maintain or improve their health, independence, and/or quality of life

The owner of the ABLE account and/or their Authorized Legal Representative (ALR) should be sure to keep good records of (including receipts for) all expenditures which may qualify.

As a general rule, funds withdrawn from an ABLE account in order to pay for a qualified housing-related expense should be spent within the same calendar month in which they were withdrawn.

If funds from an ABLE account are used to pay for non-qualified expenses, then the owner of the ABLE account will be required to pay regular income taxes, plus a 10% additional tax, on a portion of those funds. In addition, the funds that were used to pay for non-qualified expenses may counted against the owner of the ABLE account for the purpose of determining their continuing eligibility for means-tested public benefits.

Who is eligible to open an ABLE account?ignificant disabilities whose disability began before they turned 26 years of age are eligible to open an ABLE account. (A person may be older than 26 when they open an account – what matters is the age at which their disability began.)

Individuals who meet the age-onset criteria and are already receiving SSI and/or SSDI benefits are automatically qualified to open an ABLE account. Individuals who meet the age-onset criteria but are not already receiving SSI and/or SSDI benefits may be eligible to open an ABLE account if they meet the Social Security Administration’s criteria regarding significant functional limitations and obtain a letter of certification from a licensed physician.

The account may be opened by the eligible individual (the “Beneficiary”) or by an Authorized Legal Representative (ALR) who acts on their behalf, such as a parent, a guardian, or a person with a power of attorney.

How much money is needed to open an ABLE account?

Eligible individuals may open an ABLE account with as little as $50, which is the minimum starting balance. Future deposits may be as little as $1.

Who may contribute to an ABLE account?

Anyone may contribute funds to an eligible individual’s ABLE account.

How much may a person invest in an ABLE account?

The amount that may be placed into an ABLE account is generally capped at $15,000 per year as of 2018. However, beneficiaries who are employed may have the ability to contribute up to $27,060 per year under the federal ABLE to Work Act of 2017.

The overall amount in an ABLE account is exempted from the $2,000 individual resource limit for SSI benefits up to $100,000. (If the amount in an ABLE account exceeds $100,000, then the beneficiary’s SSI cash benefit will be suspended until the amount in the ABLE account falls back below $100,000.)

Eligibility for Medicaid benefits is not impacted by the amount in an ABLE account. However, upon the death of the beneficiary, any amount remaining in an ABLE account will be used to reimburse the state for Medicaid payments it made on behalf of the beneficiary.

May a person have more than one ABLE account?

No. Eligible individuals are limited to a single ABLE account.

How does someone open an ABLE account?

To open an ABLE account in Arizona, your may visit AZ ABLE online at https://az-able.com or call 1 (800) 439-1653 for more information. No trip to a bank, credit union, or other financial institution is required.

Resources and further reading

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

Arizona Department of Economic Security – “AZ Able”: https://az-able.com

Arizona Department of Economic Security – “AZ ABLE: Achieving Better Life Experience” : https://des.az.gov/services/disabilities/developmental-disabilities/az-able-achieving-better-life-experience

Disability Benefits 101 – “Building Your Assets and Wealth: The Details”: https://az.db101.org/az/situations/workandbenefits/assets/program.able.htm 

United States Social Security Administration: “Spotlight on Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act”: https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-able.html

Topics

Did you learn something? - 0 votes
00

%

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

Privacy Policy | Terms of Use

feedback