ABLE Plan for North Dakota

An Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) savings account is for individuals with disabilities and their families. It is similar to a 529 college savings plan. Earnings grow tax free when saved for a variety of qualified expenses.

This is an important step for people with disabilities who often depend on public programs for residential, vocational and healthcare. In order to access these supports prior to ABLE, individuals could save no more than $2,000. Saving through an ABLE account allows individuals with qualified disabilities to save up to $15,000 annually to supplement other federal and state programs without impacting the individual’s ability to receive local, state or federal means tested aid.

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Since the passage of the federal ABLE Act, changes were made to allow individuals to open an account anywhere in the United States. With this new option, Bank of North Dakota (BND) assessed the administrative fees that would need to be covered by a relatively small population and determined that the residents would have lower expenses if they accessed other states’ plans. BND is available as a resource to answer questions about the ABLE Act and will provide a list of resources and state plans (https://nast.org/able/).

Social Security Administration releases update including new qualified expenses: The purchase of food is now considered a qualified expense. Use this link for more information: https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/getting-the-most-out-of-your-able-38199/

North Dakota account owners may roll over 529 plans to ABLE plans, up to the ABLE annual contribution limit. States may need to expand the definition of qualified withdrawals to include rollovers into ABLE plans. Without a change to the definition, such rollovers could be categorized as nonqualified withdrawals.

Download this form to assist with tracking your ABLE account deposits and withdrawals.

If you require this information in another format, please email bnd@nd.gov or call 701.328.5882.

An individual with significant disabilities that meets established criteria is eligible for one ABLE account. The account may be opened at any age but the disability must have an age of onset before the age of 26 and the disability must still exist at the time the ABLE account is opened.

  • If the individual is receiving SSI and/or SSDI and meets the age criteria, that individual qualifies.
  • If not receiving SSI and/or SSDI, the individual must meet Social Security’s definition and criteria regarding significant functional limitations and may be asked to provide certification from a licensed physician.

If you require this information in another format, please email bnd@nd.gov or call 701.328.5882.

The total annual contributions, regardless of the number of contributors, for a single tax year is $15,000. For individuals with disabilities who are recipients of SSI, the ABLE Act sets some further limitations. Account balances up to and including $100,000 will be disregarded for purposes of determining eligibility to receive resource-based federal benefits.

When the total account balance meets a Plan’s maximum balance limit, additional contributions into an ABLE account will not be accepted. The asset balance can continue to grow beyond the limit. Each state sets its own maximum balance limit.

Individuals earning income from employment who do not participate in their employer’s retirement plan can make ABLE contributions above the $15,000 annual cap from their own income, up to the Federal Poverty Level which is currently $12,060 for a single individual. All contributions above the $15,000 must come from earned income. Beneficiaries contributing to the account are also eligible for the Saver’s Credit through January 1, 2026. Click here to learn more.

The funds in an ABLE account can be withdrawn to be used for a “qualified disability expense.”  In fact, some of the states are offering a debit card option to make withdrawals easier.  A ‘qualified disability expense’ is any expense that results from living a life with disabilities to include education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management and administrative services and other expenses which help improve health, independence and/or quality of life. The purchase of food is now considered a non-house related expense.

Be aware that for those receiving SSI benefits who take a Qualified Disability Expense from an ABLE account (other than for housing), the withdrawal will not be included in the account owner’s resources if it is retained beyond the month received. If the withdrawal is unspent, the ABLE account must remain open and the use of the withdrawal must be identified or benefits could be impacted. Withdrawals from the ABLE account to pay for housing-related expenses MUST be spent within the month of the withdrawal. If the housing expense is paid after the month of the withdrawal, it may be included as part of the account owner’s income and could impact benefits.

North Dakota residents who qualify are encouraged to review the following plans and select the one which is most appealing and advantageous for them.

Shop for a state plan through the National Resource Center. You can search the different options offered by other states and compare three state programs. 

The National ABLE Alliance is a partnership of states dedicated to providing the disability community with an ABLE investment product that offers multiple financial options at low cost and includes Minnesota, Montana and Iowa plans.

Law Protecting State & Local Means Tested Aid became effective August 1, 2017.

The following state means tested aid programs identified by the Department of Human Services will not have aid impacted if an individual opens an ABLE account. This list is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all local, state or federal means tested programs that are protected in ABLE plans.

  • Service Payments to Elderly and Disabled (SPED) and Expanded SPED.
  • Aid to the Blind Remedial Care
  • Autism Voucher
  • Substance Use Disorder Voucher
  • Personal Needs Allowance for Individuals receiving SSI and receiving services in a long-term care setting
  • Children’s Special Health Services

What is an ABLE account?

An ABLE or, “Achieving a Better Life Experience” account is a tax-advantaged account in which eligible individuals can save and invest money to help pay for the expenses that come with living with a disability, while protecting their federal and state means-tested benefits.

What is the federal law that made ABLE accounts possible?

The Stephen Beck, Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act became law on December 19, 2014. The law aims to increase financial independence and improve quality of life while easing financial hardship faced by many individuals with disabilities and their families.

Who is eligible to own an ABLE account?

In order to be eligible to own an ABLE account, a person must be

  • eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on disability or blindness that began before age 26;
  • entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, disability insurance benefits (DIB), childhood disability benefits (CDB), or disabled widow’s or widower’s benefits (DWB) based on disability or blindness that began before age 26; or
  • someone who has documentation, signed by a licensed physician, that he or she meets one or both of above-listed ABLE eligibility criteria.

Do you have to provide proof of disability when opening an ABLE account?

When opening an ABLE account, the eligible person, or the eligible person’s authorized legal representative, certifies that a licensed physician’s diagnosis is available for the IRS or the ABLE program if requested to satisfy the disability certification requirement.  Account owners must recertify their eligibility annually.

Who is the owner and beneficiary of an ABLE account?

The person with the disability is the account owner and the beneficiary of the ABLE account. Therefore, you may see “account owner” and “account beneficiary” used interchangeably when you get information about ABLE accounts.

Do ABLE account balances count toward the SSI statutory resource limit?

The SSA excludes the first $100,000 in person’s ABLE account from being treated as a countable resource for SSI benefits calculations.

What happens if an SSI recipient has more than $100,000 in an ABLE account?

The SSA will disregard the first $100,000 in an ABLE account.  Only assets above $100,000 count as a resource for SSI.  If the ABLE account balance exceeds $100,000 by an amount that causes the SSI recipient to exceed the SSI $2,000 resource limit – either alone or with other resources, SSI benefits will be suspended without a time limit.  However, SSI benefits are not terminated. SSI benefits are reinstated once the assets go below the allowable limit and all other resources do not exceed the $2,000 countable cash resource limit.

Can SSI and SSDI benefits be deposited into the ABLE account?

Yes. ABLE Account Owners who receive SSI and SSDI benefits can have benefits directly deposited into their ABLE account regardless of whether a Rep Payee or the beneficiary manages the benefits.  Additionally, back benefits and excess benefits remaining after the SSI beneficiary’s needs have been met and expenses can be saved in an ABLE account.  ABLE account owners must maintain required reporting to SSA.

Will and ABLE account impact eligibility for Medicaid or Medicaid benefits?

No. ABLE account assets will not impact Medicaid eligibility or benefits. The Medicaid recipient retains eligibility for Medicaid as long as he or she remains otherwise eligible.

Will Medicaid be suspended if the ABLE account exceeds $100,000?

No. Medicaid payments continue even if the ABLE account exceeds $100,000 by an amount that causes the recipient to exceed the SSI resource limit–whether alone or with other resources.

Who may contribute to an ABLE account?

Anyone may contribute to, or deposit funds into, an ABLE account. (The Internal Revenue Code defines a person as an individual, trust, estate, partnership, association, company, or corporation.)

How much may be contributed annually to an ABLE account?

The IRS limits the total contributions from all sources to the annual gift tax exemption.  In 2020, the limit was $15,000.

Can more money be contributed to the ABLE account of a working account owner?

Yes. ABLE account owners who earn income and who are not already participating in an employer-sponsored retirement program, may contribute additional funds to the accounts beyond the annual gift tax exemption limit amount ($15,000 in 2020).  The additional annual contribution amount is equal to the federal poverty level for a one-person household (in your state of residence) or the account owner’s gross wages, whichever is less.

What is a distribution from an ABLE account?

A distribution is the withdrawal from an ABLE account for Qualified Disability Expenses (QDE). Distributions are only to be taken for the benefit of the designated beneficiary and may be withdrawn, tax-free, as long as they are used for QDEs.

What are Qualified Disability Expenses (QDE)?

Qualified Disability Expenses (“QDE”) are any expenses that are incurred as a result of living with a disability and are intended to improve quality of life, health and provide greater independence. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has indicated that the following list of qualified disability expenses is not exhaustive and may be construed broadly to include basic living expenses: education; housing; transportation; training and support; assistive technology; healthcare, prevention and wellness; financial management and administrative services; legal fees; account oversight and monitoring; funeral and burial expenses; basic living expenses.

Do distributions from ABLE accounts impact SSI benefits?

No. Distributions from an ABLE account would not generally affect SSI eligibility or SSI payment amount.

How are ABLE account distributions for housing expenses treated for SSI purposes?

Distributions from an ABLE account for the purpose of monthly housing expenses must be used in the month they are withdrawn, or they may be considered a countable resource for SSI.

How does SSI treat distributions that are not QDE’s?

Distributions from an ABLE account that are not QDE’s may be considered a countable resource.

Who can open an ABLE account?

You can open your account for yourself if you are an eligible individual, at least 18 years of age and have the legal authority to open an account.  Sometimes, the eligible individual does not want to, or does not have the legal authority to act on his/her own behalf. In those cases, an authorized legal representative may open and manage the account on behalf of the account owner. Those who can serve as authorized legal representatives may vary by state.  Consult state plan disclosure documents for more information.

Does the ABLE account have to be opened in the home state of the eligible individual?

No. Eligible persons or their authorized legal representatives may open an account in their own state’s plan or in a state plan that is available to out-of-state residents.  Some state plans are available only to residents of that state.  It is important to look at one’s home state plan first in case there are tax benefits for owning an ABLE account with that plan.

What are the tax benefits of owning an ABLE account?

Earnings on an ABLE account and distributions from the account for QDEs are not taxed.  Some state plans offer additional tax benefits for contributions to the account.

How many ABLE accounts may an account owner have?

You are limited to owning only one ABLE account no matter what plan you enroll in.