The Helps Act
Retired Public Safety
This information applies only to eligible, retired public safety officers (as defined by federal law) who are enrolled in the group health, dental and/or vision plan.
If you are a retired public safety officer enrolled in the retiree group health plan, you may benefit from a tax savings provision, referred to as the HELPS Act.
What is the HELPS Act?
The federal Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) permits eligible retired public safety officers to exclude up to $3,000 of their qualified health insurance premiums from their gross taxable income each year, as long as the premiums are deducted from their retirement benefit. This means your health premium must be deducted from your TCDRS monthly retirement benefits to qualify for the tax savings.
How do I save money?
When you were an active employee, you were able to pay your health insurance premium with pre-tax dollars. HELPS extends this pre-tax benefit into retirement for up to $3,000 in premium cost. Your actual annual tax savings is based on your tax bracket. TCDRS will provide you a letter each year which shows the actual amount of premium not subject to tax. You will report that amount on your federal income tax return each year.
How does the law define a public safety officer?
The federal law defines a public safety officer as someone who retired from a public agency while serving in one of the following official capacities: “As a law enforcement officer involved in crime and juvenile delinquency control or reduction, or enforcement of criminal laws (including juvenile delinquency) also including, but not limited to, the work of police, corrections, probation, parole and judicial officer”; or as a firefighter; or a chaplain of a police or fire department; or as a member of a rescue squad or ambulance crew.” Refer to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document for more information.
Section 1204(9)A of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C, 3796b(8)(A))
Kinds of public safety officers – The following are the different kinds of public safety officers:
- Law enforcement officers;
- Members of rescue squads or ambulance crews; and
- Disaster relief workers.
Law enforcement means enforcement of the criminal laws, including –
- Control or reduction of crime or of juvenile delinquency;
- Prosecution or adjudication of individuals who are alleged or found to have violated such laws;
- Prison security activity; and
- Supervision of individuals on parole or probation for having violated such laws.
Additionally, the public safety officer’s primary function is public safety activity. This means the position has to be an individual who is involved in crime and juvenile delinquency control or reduction, or enforcement of the criminal laws (including juvenile delinquency), only if she/she is an officer of a public agency and, in that capacity, has legal authority and responsibility to arrest, apprehend, prosecute, adjudicate, correct or detain (in a prison or other detention or confinement facility), or supervise (as a parole or probation officer), persons who are alleged or found to have violated the criminal laws, and is recognized by the relevant government to have such authority and responsibility.
Here are a few illustrations of positions at the time of retirement to qualify for the HELPS program.
- Examples of Public Safety Officer positions (assuming all other conditions are met). This is not an all-inclusive list but one based on those positions I am aware of that would qualify.
- Prosecuting attorneys (criminal)
- Judges (criminal)
- Jail detention officers
- Probation/parole officers
- Deputy Sheriff
- Investigator (who is a certified peace oficer at the time of retirement).
- Chaplain (jail)
- Or other positions with the legal authority and responsibility to arrest, apprehend, prosecute, adjudicate, correct or detain (in a detention facility/jail) a person who is alleged or found to have violated criminal law – and is recognized by the County to have that authority or responsibility.
- Examples of positions that would not qualify as Public Safety Officers
- Investigator (who is not a certified peace officer at the time of retirement).
- Court reporters
- Administrative staff
If you meet the eligibility criteria (retired public safety officers (as defined by federal law) who are enrolled in the group health, dental and/or vision plan), please submit the required “Insurance Deduction Authorization for Public Safety Officers” and any required premium payment(s) to the Human Resources/Civil Service Department located at 509 Main St., Dallas, TX 75202. Please review the FAQs for other important information.