Flexible Spending Account Spending Spree
Last year, when you opted into your Flexible Spending Account at work, did you overestimate your spending needs? I haven't done the childcare FSA, but I have opted into the health care FSA for years. It makes a lot of sense for me. It pulled money before taxes for me to spend on health care expenses not covered by insurance -- like co-pays, over-the-counter medications, dental work.
This keeps me from having to add up the health expenses and hope they are enough to deduct at the end of the year for taxes. Usually, that isn't enough to meet the tax deduction for health care expenses. (Thank goodness!) I overestimate though. I think "This will be the year I will get all the dental work done!" "What if I get really sick?" The past two years have been particularly troubling -- leaving me to scramble lest I lose the money that was withheld. Flexible spending accounts are "use it or lose it."
In most cases, this is at the end of the calendar year. In some, your employer will allow a few extra months to spend the rest of your FSA withholding. If you leave a job (voluntarily or not), you must use ALL of your FSA money by the last day of employment.
Last year, I had a good amount left in November. I went to the dentist and spent what I could there. (And she had a list for the new year that I knew I had to withhold a ton in order to get done.) I still had about 300.00 left.
My employer had issued a handy dandy "FSA Credit Card" which made paying for items easier.
In December, I refilled every prescription med I could. I bought fiber, band-aids, over-the-counter pain relievers, yeast infection medications, and somehow we managed to spend it all but 8 cents.
This year, I left my job in September. I realized the week before the clause about using it all before the last day of employment. EEEK! I had over 1K left. I went to the dentist (again) and dropped about $450. Then we went to the pharmacy. We got heating pads, fiber, band aids, first aid items, over-the-counter pain relievers, allergy medicines, refilled prescriptions, bought enough yeast infection medicine for the whole family of women for a year (Merry Christmas Michelle! A stocking full of Monistat!; a big expense when you are a college student prone to yeast infections), bought UTI and Yeast Infection test kits. I got a flu shot. (And was VERY glad when girl child came home with the flu and everyone else got it but m -- I mean, not that they had it, but that I didn't get it.)
It took two drug stores, enough cross-checking with the approved list of FSA items online via the phone to get a captcha on Google to make sure we weren't auto-requesting, and a lot of tired bizarre stress my last night at my old job -- but we spent it. Now, we are ready for the apocalypse in over-the-counter FSA covered items.
- Check your FSA leftover amount before heading out -- including things that might not have "cleared."
- Check the list of approved FSA items from YOUR insurance company before going out. Not all items are covered from year to year and they change. For example: vitamins and anti-diarrhea meds were covered in the past but weren't this year on my plan, but other people could get these covered.
- Ask the pharmacist for help. The pharmacist at our second drug store had a lot of good ideas.
- Don't forget that dental expenses, co-pays, and eye doctors count.
- You can get a general idea of allowable expenses here in IRS Publication 502, but again check with your employer's insurance company about the specifics.
- ALWAYS save your receipts. The FSA issuers tend to ask for documentation at odd times and for the strangest items. (Doctor co-pays, prescriptions refilled via the insurance company prescription service, etc)