CSRS offset and buying back time


Q: I am a civilian federal employee who started with the government in September 1986. Is it true that no retirement deductions were taken until Jan. 1, 1989? If this is true, how can I get credit for the two-plus years during which no deductions were taken?

A: If you were hired into a position that required deductions from your pay, you would have been covered by Civil Service Retirement Offset (CSRS and Social Security) for the months preceding Jan. 1, 1987, when the Federal Employees Retirement System went online. Your CSRS Offset time would have been converted to FERS time and, because the deduction amounts were the same, the move would have been a financial wash.

If, on the other hand, you were hired into a position from which retirement deductions weren’t taken from your pay, to get credit for any period of service up through Dec. 31, 1988, you would have to make a deposit to the retirement system for that time, plus accrued interest. As a rule, any nondeduction service performed on or after Jan. 1, 1989, isn’t considered creditable service and no deposit for it can be made.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com.


  1. Can i buy back civil service time in 1886-1987 & usps casual and transitional position time in 1991-1993? I’d like to add that time toward my retirement (hope and pray)
    I already bought my 3 years military time back. My usps time is 26 years including army time.

    • When you say “civil service time,” what do you mean? Who did you work for? Was it full-time or part-time?

  2. My wife has 16 years as a Congressional aide and stop working in the 90’s when we had children. Now at 63 can she buy 4 years and draw her retirement at 65?

    • First, she can’t “buy” service. Second, she may not need to. If she didn’t ask for a refund of her retirement contributions when she left, she is already entitled to an annuity based on her Congressional service.

  3. As Reg said, if she didn’t request a Refund of her Retirement contributions, she can already file for a Deferred Retirement. At age 62, she could file for Deferred Retirement with as little as 5 years of service. If she were CSRS or CSRS-Offset (started before 1983), she needs to download OPM Form 1496-A from OPM’s website at: https://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/opm1496a.pdf and fill it out and send to the address on the form. If she were FERS, she needs to download Form RI92-19, complete and send to the address on the form: https://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/ri92-19.pdf

    If you are unsure as to whether she asked for a Refund of her Retirement contributions, I would have her complete the appropriate form and send it in. OPM will let you know whether she is entitled to a retirement annuity.

    • Thanks for pitching in and providing specific information about the forms to use. Further, as you said, even if former employee is in doubt, she shouldn’t hesitate to apply for that benefit.

  4. Kevin Kavanagh on

    I was hired in Oct ‘83 and resigned in Apr.1991. In 1994 I took my retirement out of the system, thinking I would not be returning back to federal service. I was rehired in Dec 05, and mistakenly placed back in the CSRS Offset vice FERS. I only found this out recently when I went to apply for retirement. I am now being told that I have 7 years of noncreditable service. I know I have a choice under FERCCA to chose which system I want to retire under. Is there anyway to buy back my full time?

    Thank You

    • By law you are free to chose to stay in CSRS Offset or to convert to FERS. Your agency is required to assist you in reviewing the options available and the out-of-pocket cost to you, if any.

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