Gettry Marcus CPA, P.C., a Leading Tax and Business Valuation Firm, Discusses an IRS Decision to Ease the Use-Or-Lose Rule for Health Flexible Spending Arrangements

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Gettry Marcus, a leading accounting, tax, consulting and business valuation firm with offices in Long Island and New York, discusses the implications of the IRS’s decision to ease the use-or-lose rule for health flexible spending arrangements.

Leading tax, accounting and forensic accounting firm Gettry Marcus CPA, P.C., comments on health flexible spending arrangements (health FSAs). Health FSAs are popular savings vehicles for medical expenses, but their use has been held back by a strict use-or-lose rule. The IRS recently announced a significant change to encourage more employers to offer health FSAs and boost enrollment. At the plan sponsor's option, employees participating in health FSAs will be able to carry over, instead of forfeiting, up to $500 of unused funds remaining at year-end.

Health expenses

Health FSAs are designed to reimburse participants for certain health care expenditures, typically expenses that qualify for the medical and dental expense deduction. Medical supplies, such as eye glasses and bandages, are usually treated as qualified expenses. However, nonprescription medicines (other than insulin) are not considered qualified medical expenses.

Health FSAs are often funded through voluntary salary reduction agreements with the participant's employer under a cafeteria plan. In that case, they are very taxpayer-friendly because no federal employment or federal income taxes are deducted from the employee's contribution. The employer may also contribute to a health FSA. However, there are special rules which govern employer contributions.

Typically, participants designate at the beginning of the year the amount they want to contribute to their health FSA and these amounts are deducted from their pay. For 2014, an employee's salary reduction contributions cannot exceed $2,500. The $2,500 cap is very important because cafeteria plans that do not limit health FSA contributions to $2,500 are not treated as cafeteria plans, and all benefits offered under the plan are included in the participants' gross income.

Use-or-lose rule

As mentioned, the use-or-lose rule is a drawback to health FSAs. Unused amounts remaining in the health FSA at year-end are forfeited. Employers are not allowed to refund any unused funds in a health FSA. Critics of the use-or-lose rule argue that it has discouraged participation in health FSAs because many employees do not want to risk forfeiting unused funds. Often, participants have to scramble at year-end to use their health FSA dollars.

Grace period option

A few years ago, the IRS modified the use-or-lose rule. The IRS allowed cafeteria plans to adopt a grace period. Participants can use amounts remaining in a health FSA at year-end for up to an additional two months and 15 days. This grace period is optional. Employers are not required to offer the grace period, although many do.

To learn about additional options, visit the Gettry Marcus tax update page.

Gettry Marcus CPA, P.C. is a Top 200 firm nationally with offices in Woodbury, Long Island and New York City. We provide accounting, tax, and consulting services to commercial businesses, high net worth individuals and various industries which include Real Estate and Health Care. We have one of the premier and most credentialed Business Valuation, Litigation and Forensic Accounting Groups in the New York Area. Our experience in diverse industries and a highly talented and experienced professional staff gives us the ability to share valuable insights into our clients’ businesses, to better understand their goals and problems and to help them attain the vision they have for their company.

Gettry Marcus is "Always Looking Deeper" to build value for our clients. Visit the Gettry Marcus tax page here.

Media inquiries: Contact Fayellen Dietchweiler at 516-364-3390 ext. 225 or at fdietchweiler(at)gettrymarcus(dot)com.

If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.

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Scott Darrohn
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Fayellen Dietchweiler
Gettry Marcus
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