TurboTax / Tax Calculators & Tips / All Tax Guides / Health Care / Flexible Spending Accounts: A Once-A-Year Tax Break

Flexible Spending Accounts: A Once-A-Year Tax Break

Updated for Tax Year 2016


OVERVIEW

No health insurance policy covers everything, so that's where Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) come in. FSAs are basically bank accounts reserved to pay for your out-of-pocket health care costs. Of course, anyone can put aside money to cover health expenses, but what makes an FSA special is that you don't have to pay taxes on the money you put into it.


Flexible spending account basics

Heart shape with arms

An FSA is only available as part of an employee benefit package, so if your company offers FSAs, taking advantage of it could prove to be very rewarding. These accounts allow you to use pretax dollars to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses.

You can use the money to pay for medical copayments and deductibles, as well as certain other covered medical and dental expenses. For example, you can use FSA funds to buy:

  • Prescription medications
  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Medical supplies like bandages
  • Medical equipment like crutches and blood-testing kits

Funding a flexible spending account

Get your FSA started by enrolling with your employer's benefits office and determining how much you want to put into the fund. The maximum amount you can put into an FSA in 2016 is $2,550.

When you participate in this benefit, your employer deducts an amount from your paycheck every month to fund your FSA. Generally, the enrollment does not continue automatically from one year to the next, so remember to re-up if you want to continue this benefit.

Tax savings for flexible spending accounts

Since the money used to fund your FSA is pretax — taken from your paycheck before taxes are deducted — you save whatever percentage you would have paid on that money in federal taxes.

Let's say that you earn $50,000 a year. If you sign up for the FSA benefit and contribute $2,000 into an FSA account, if you tax rate is 30%, you would have a benefit of $600.

Use it or lose it

On the other hand, you don't want to think of the FSA as a savings account. It is a medical benefit intended to finance your annual out-of-pocket medical expenses. You may lose whatever amount is left unspent in the account at the end of the year.

The use-it-or-lose-it rule is not carved in stone, however. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers employers the option to allow employees until March 15 of the following year to use FSA funds from the previous year.

It also permits employers to let their employees rollover up to $500 in unspent FSA money into the following year. These are not rules, but options available to employers, so check your company's policies.

Get every deduction you deserve

TurboTax Deluxe searches more than 350 tax deductions and credits so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

For only $54.99$34.99*
Start for Free

Looking for more information?

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.


Security is built into everything we do
Here's how
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • TURBOTAX ONLINE/MOBILE

  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Free 1040EZ/1040A + Free State offer only available with TurboTax Federal Free Edition; Offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Savings and price comparisons based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • QuickBooks Bonus Offer with TurboTax Self-Employed: File your 2016 federal return with TurboTax Self-Employed by 4/18/17 and receive a complimentary subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 4/30/18 at no additional cost. After you file your taxes, you must activate your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription by 7/15/2017 by logging into QuickBooks Self-Employed via mobile app or at https://selfemployed.intuit.com/login. Once activated, you will have access to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 4/30/2018.
    Offer valid only for new QuickBooks Self-Employed customers.
    • When you use TurboTax Self-Employed to file your 2017 taxes, you will have the option to renew your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription. If you do not file with TurboTax Self-Employed by 4/30/2018, your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription will automatically renew on 5/1/2018 for another year at the then-current annual subscription rate. You may cancel your subscription at any time from within the QuickBooks Self-Employed billing section.
  • Pays for itself: In order to pay for the price of TurboTax Self-Employed, you will need at least $600 in deductible business expenses. This calculation is based on the self-employment tax income rate for tax year 2016.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and data rates apply to download and use mobile app.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • TurboTax Expert Help, Tax Advice and SmartLook: Included with Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed (via phone or SmartLook); not included with Federal Free Edition. Feature availability varies by device. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.
  • CompleteCheck: Covered under the TurboTax accurate calculations and maximum refund guarantees.
  • TurboTax Self-Employed Expense Finder: Available only in TurboTax Self-Employed. Not available for people with certain types of expenses and tax situations including paying contractors or employees, home office or vehicle actuals, inventory, self employed health insurance or retirement, asset depreciation, sale of property or vehicles, and farm income. Some financial institutions limit the timeframe for which historical transactions may be imported by ExpenseFinder. ExpenseFinder expected late January (late February for mobile app).
  • TURBOTAX CD/DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE

  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice. This benefit is available with TurboTax Federal products except TurboTax Business.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support vary by time of year.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice via phone is included with Premier and Home & Business; fees apply for Basic and Deluxe customers. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2015 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2011 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.