Purchasing Service Credit

Steps

  • Review Options
  • Contact SURS
  • Receive Cost – 60-90 Day After Receipt of All Necessary Information
  • Purchase Eligible Credit (If Desired)

Resources

 

Review Options

Service credit is one of the most important factors in determining eligibility for, and the amount of, your SURS benefits.  You earn service credit based upon the length of your SURS participation.  Review the following matrix to determine if you may qualify for service credit in addition to your regular SURS employment.   

With the exception of Repay Refunds, Retirement Savings Plan (RSP) members must be actively employed to be eligible to purchase service credit.

Purchase Matrix
  Definition Purchase Eligibility/Requirements Additional Information
Leave of Absence A period of time during which you were absent from SURS-covered employment or worked fewer hours.  Your employer must approve your time away from work.
  • The leave percentage must be greater than 50%.
  • Must fulfill return to work requirements: Must return from leave to a position of at least the same percent time as when leave began.  Return to work after leave, must be for at least 8 months or a period of time equal to the length of the leave, whichever is less. 
  • Limited to paying for three years of leave in any 10-year period.
  • The leave must be reported to SURS by your employer.
  • You receive full service credit for Worker’s Compensation leaves, for the first 60 days of a Disability leave, and while receiving Disability benefit payments from SURS.  These types of leaves cannot be purchased
  • For a leave without pay, you will receive no earnings or service credit for the period of the leave unless you submit payment for the forfeited contributions.
  • For a leave with pay, you will continue to earn service credit.  You will receive full earnings credit for a Sabbatical leave but may not receive full earnings credit for other types of paid leave.   If you wish to obtain full earnings credit (non-Sabbatical leaves), you must make payment for the forfeited contributions.
Military Leave of Absence Service with the U.S. military that interrupts your SURS-covered employment.
  • Discharge type must be other than dishonorable.
  • The payment period is limited to 3 times the length of the leave or 5 years, whichever is less.
  • SURS must receive a copy of your DD-214 or other applicable active duty military paperwork.
  • The leave must be reported to SURS by your employer.
Upon receipt of your discharge papers, SURS will grant service credit for the period of the eligible military leave if you were not dishonorably discharged; however, you may still wish to make up the forfeited earnings and contributions.
Military Service Active duty service with the U.S. military that occurred prior to your SURS-covered employment.
  • Discharge type must be other than dishonorable.
  • Must have been active duty military service.
  • No more than 2.0 years of military service may be purchased.
  • SURS must receive a copy of your DD-214 or other active duty discharge papers.

 

Cannot be used toward the 5.0 year requirement to receive employer matching funds in a Portable or Retirement Savings Plan separation refund.
Other Public Employment (OPE)
  • Employment with any public school, college or university of any state, territory, dependency, or possession of the U.S.

  • If your SURS-covered employment began prior to 09/01/1974, you may also purchase employment with the U.S. government
  • Must have 5.0 years of eligible service following the period of OPE.
  • Must be prior to a period of SURS-covered employment.
  • In most cases, the OPE must have been full-time employment.
  • For this period of employment, you cannot qualify for a retirement pension or other benefits based on employer contributions from another retirement system (excluding Social Security).
  • SURS must receive a completed Other Public Employment Affidavit.

Cannot be used toward the minimum vesting requirements of 5 years and 8 years for Tier I members or 10 years for Tier II members.

 

Prior Service Work with a SURS-covered employer during which you did not or were not eligible to contribute to SURS.
  • Must have been employed with a SURS-covered employer at 50% time or greater OR at 100% time if your SURS termination date is prior to 09/05/1975
  • Must be prior to a period of SURS-covered employment.
  • SURS must receive verification of the exact dates and percentages of employment from the applicable employer.

 

 

Repay Refund Repayment of a prior SURS separation refund. You must earn 2.0 years of service credit with SURS or an eligible state of Illinois Reciprocal System following the date the original refund was paid by SURS.
  • Repayment of a refund re-establishes your prior certification and termination dates as well as any benefits you may be entitled to based upon those dates.
  • You are not required to repay the refund to use the refunded certification date toward Tier I eligibility (certification prior to 01/01/2011).

 

Contact SURS (If Applicable)

If you think you may qualify for additional service, contact SURS as early in your career as possible.  SURS will help you determine how to verify any additional service for which you may be eligible and help you understand how this service may increase your retirement benefit. 

  • Dial Toll Free:  800-275-7877
  • Dial Direct:  217-378-8800
Read the Following Information

Average Processing Time is currently 60-90 days from the receipt of all information.

If, after reviewing the applicable documentation, SURS determines you do not meet the eligibility requirements to purchase service credit; you will receive a letter.

You are not obligated to purchase any eligible additional service credit. 

All purchases must be completed prior to your effective retirement date.

The IRS has ruled that interest on the purchase calculations is not deductible for income tax purposes.

Delays in Receiving the Cost:  The cost for any eligible service credit will be processed upon receipt of all required information.  There are several reasons why a purchase cost may not be processed within the average processing time.  The following are the most common:

  • Receipt of employer information:   SURS may require information from your SURS-covered employer.  Their response time affects the processing time required to process the purchase cost.  If the information reported by your employer is inconsistent with the information SURS has on file, SURS will contact the employer for clarification.
  • Response from member:  If SURS requests additional information or paperwork from you, it must be submitted before the purchase cost can be calculated.

Response from reciprocal system:   If you have service with one of the other State of Illinois reciprocal systems, SURS may need to request information from that system.

Purchase Eligible Credit (If Desired)

Once you receive the purchase cost remittance forms, you must decide whether you wish to purchase the service credit.  Prior Service, Other Public Employment (OPE), and Military Service may be purchased in one-year increments with payments for fractions of a year of credit made with the last payment.  Military Leaves may be paid in whole or in part.  Repay Refunds and Non-Military Leaves of Absence must be purchased in their entirety.

If you are in the Traditional or Portable plans, you may use the online benefit estimator to determine the effect of the purchase on your retirement benefit.   The Online Estimator is available through the SURS website. Go to www.surs.org and click on Member Login.

If you are in the Retirement Savings Plan, the total cost of your purchase will be added to your account value but you will receive no state match.  Each fund provider offers an online estimator:

Service Providers

Payment Methods:

  • After-tax Payment:  You may make the purchase with after-tax (personal) funds or with funds from a ROTH IRA.
  • Before-tax Payment:  If you have funds in a 401(a) Qualified Plan, Traditional IRA, 401(k), 403(b) Tax Sheltered Annuity, or a Governmental 457 Plan, you may be able to roll those funds to SURS for the purchase of service credit.  If you are in the Retirement Savings Plan, you cannot roll funds from an in-service 403(b) or 457 plan.  If the rollover funds are not sufficient to complete the purchase, you may pay for the remaining balance with after-tax funds.
  • Installment Contract (if eligible):  If you meet the eligibility criteria, you may elect to make the purchase via payroll deductions through your SURS-covered employer.  
Other Important Information

Cost Calculation

Leave of Absence

The employee contributions forfeited during the leave based on your salary at the leave begin date.  If your leave occurred in the past, you may also be required to pay interest.

Military Leave of Absence

The employee contributions forfeited during the military leave.  No interest is charged.

Military Service

The full-time salary equivalent at your SURS certification date multiplied by a combined employee and employer contribution rate, plus compounded interest.

Other Public Employment (OPE)

The full-time equivalent salary at your SURS certification date multiplied by the applicable contribution rate, plus compounded interest.

Prior Service

The cost is calculated on a per-day basis using the full-time equivalent salary at your SURS certification date multiplied by the applicable contribution rate, plus compounded interest.

Repay Refund

  • Traditional and Portable Plan:  the amount of the original refund plus compounded interest.
  • Retirement Savings Plan:  the amount of the original refund.