This information reflects the laws governing GARS. Your specific benefits are based on the laws in effect on your last day of employment. To apply for benefits, you must complete a GARS retirement application. After you begin receiving benefits, you must notify GARS if you change your name or address. All GARS records are maintained according to your GARS-issued member ID or Social Security number.
First Retirement Annuity Payment
GARS processes your first annuity payment after receiving your pension application and other required information. We make every effort to process your first annuity payment as soon as possible, but the normal processing time can range from six to eight weeks following your last day of service. Processing time for members who have reciprocal service in another retirement system may take longer since GARS must receive information from the other systems to process the claim.
The Comptroller's Office will mail your first annuity payment directly to your home. You will also receive a pension approval letter containing important information about your retirement annuity and a fact sheet explaining the taxation of your annuity.
Future Retirement Annuity Payments
Future annuity payments are mailed on the 19th of each month. If the 19th is on a weekend or holiday; otherwise they are mailed on the last working day before the 19th.
Direct Deposit (Electronic Funds Transfer)
You can elect to have your monthly benefit electronically deposited directly into your bank account by completing a Direct Deposit Agreement for Benefit Payments. This form is part of the retirement packet and must be completed by your financial institution.
Future payments are deposited into your bank account on the 19th of each month. You can securely view your monthly earnings statement through the GARS Member Services website. To view your account information, you may register through our website at srs.illinois.gov. You can also download the direct deposit form on our website.
Taxation of Your Retirement Annuity
Illinois law exempts all GARS benefits from state income tax, but your benefits are subject to federal income tax. If you have other income that is subject to Illinois state income tax, you can elect to withhold state tax by completing the Annuitant Request for State Tax form found on our website. GARS is unable to withhold for any other state except Illinois.
A W-4P form is included in your retirement packet and on our website. The W-4P lets you elect not to have taxes withheld, or to designate the amount of tax to withhold from your annuity. If the W-4P is not completed, GARS will withhold taxes at the rate of married with three exemptions.
The Office of the Comptroller is required to issue a 1099-R by January 31 of each year, and it will be mailed to the address on file with GARS. If you move in December and do not notify GARS of your new address, your 1099-R will be returned to GARS as undeliverable. GARS recommends that you always put a forwarding order on file with the U.S. Post Office when you change your address to avoid not receiving your mail. The 1099-R provides the total annuity amount you received for the past year, the portion that is taxable, and any federal or Illinois state income tax withheld. This tax form is required to file your federal taxes. Requests for duplicates can be ordered on February 15th of each year.
Annual Pension Increases
Tier 2 retirees receive an increase in their pensions on the January 1 or July 1, whichever occurs first, following their first full year of retirement or attainment of age 67, whichever is later. The increase will be 3% or the annual unadjusted percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index-U, whichever is less, and is compounded on the previous year’s annuity. Pension increases are not limited by the maximum retirement benefit.
Taxation of Survivor Contribution Refunds
If you contributed to the survivor annuity provision and do not have an eligible spouse, you can elect to take a refund of those contributions prior to retirement. Survivor contribution refunds are subject to a 20% automatic federal income tax withholding unless rolled over to a qualified plan.
The Office of the Comptroller will issue a 1099-R by January 31 of the year following your refund. The form shows the amount of the lump sum distribution, the portion that is taxable and any federal tax withheld.
Returning to Employment
It is your responsibility to notify GARS immediately of your re-employment to avoid an overpayment of benefit. If you return to employment in the private sector, or in the public sector outside of state government, your GARS benefit will not be affected.
If you retired under the Reciprocal Act and receive a pension from more than one Illinois public retirement system, you must notify all retirement systems involved. Each reciprocal system has specific rules to determine if retirees are eligible to receive pension benefits during re-employment. Each system will determine if you are eligible to continue receiving your pension during reemployment.
As a Tier 2 retiree, your GARS benefit will be suspended if:
- You become a full-time participant in GARS.
- You become a full-time participant in any Illinois reciprocal retirement system.
- You retired using the Reciprocal Act and exceed the post retirement employment limits in a reciprocal system from which you are receiving retirement benefits.
Retired members who return to a GARS-covered position have an option to:
- Repay pension benefits already received. After your subsequent retirement, your pension benefit will be recalculated as if you had not previously retired. This may benefit you if your salary upon re-entry is higher than what was used for your previous retirement.
- Upon returning to service, you will resume contributions to GARS and accrue additional service credit. Upon subsequent retirement, you will be entitled to a retirement benefit consisting of the amount of your original pension, plus the amount of additional service credit earned during your return to service. However, the total pension cannot exceed the total maximum applicable at the date of your last retirement.
If you are reemployed in a position covered by GARS, your GARS pension benefit is suspended. You will make contributions to GARS while you are employed, and you will earn additional credited service for this period of employment. After returning to retirement, you must re-apply for your pension.
Increases for Retirees
You will receive a cost of living increase on January 1 or July 1 (whichever occurs first) after you turn age 67 and have received pension benefits for at least one full year.
Future increases of 3% or the annual unadjusted percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index-U, whichever is less, will occur in the same month each year thereafter. The annual increase is compounded on your previous year’s annuity. Future increases are not limited by the 60% maximum.