Pretax flexible spending accounts can help you save money, especially now that the use-it-or-lose-it rule has changed.
You may be missing out on a money-saving perk at work: a flexible spending account. Today’s FSA is more user-friendly than it used to be.
FSAs allow workers to set aside a pretax portion of their paycheck for eligible health care expenses, like eye or dental care, fertility treatments and other medical expenses that your health insurance doesn’t cover.
Many Americans shied away from FSAs in the past because of the use-it-or-lose-it policy, which required that you forfeit any money left in your FSA at year’s end. Then the U.S. Treasury Department revised the policy late last year. Now employees can roll over up to $500 of unspent FSA money.
Some employers made the change right away, but adoption was limited because the rule was announced after open enrollment was already underway at many workplaces. More employers are expected to adopt the carry-over for 2015, which means their workers will be made aware of it this fall. “Every indication is that most are choosing to offer the rollover opportunity,” said Robert Natt, executive chairman of Alegeus Technologies, which provides payment systems for employers and benefits administrators that offer various tax-favored accounts.
Review your insurance benefit information during open enrollment this fall to see if your employer offers an FSA and has adopted the new rollover policy.
Only about 33 million U.S. workers have an FSA, Reuters said. The policy change could boost those numbers.
“Employers with an FSA who adopted the rollover provision this year saw a 17 percent increase in the number of employees signing up for FSAs, and a 17 percent increase in the total dollar amount of the contributions elected into the FSAs,” Forbes said.
It makes sense. Forbes wrote:
With a health care FSA, the money you put in is pretax salary deferral, so assuming you pay combined 40 percent state and federal tax rate, you’re saving 40 percent off health care expenses funded through the account. That’s $200 off if you put in (and spend down) $500. You can put in up to $2,500 a year, potentially saving $1,000 a year off health care expenses.
If your employer does adopt a rollover FSA, Natt’s advice is to put in a minimum of $500 because there’s no risk that you’ll lose that money.
I’ve worked for only one employer who offered an FSA. I used it and I loved it. It was nice to have pretax money available for vision and dental visits that weren’t covered by my insurance. I never had an issue using all the money before year’s end.
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