What Are Flexible Spending Accounts?

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What is a Flexible Spending Account?

An FSA, also called a Flexible Spending Arrangement, is a savings account that you can use to pay for certain out-of-pocket medical expenses. There are a few types of FSAs, such as dependent care FSAs and limited purpose FSAs, which can be used for different purposes and have different rules.

In this article, we’ll focus on FSAs that can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses.

Why are FSAs attractive savings options?

The amount you contribute is tax-free, which means you’ll save money on certain medical expenses.

Who is eligible for an FSA?

Typically, to get an FSA, your employer has to offer an FSA through your health plan. FSAs are not available with a marketplace plan.

How can you use the money in your FSA?

You can use the money in your FSA to pay for qualified medical expenses like copayments, prescriptions, dental visits and eyeglasses.

Since March 2020 (when Congress passed the CARES Act in response to Covid-19):

  • FSA funds could be used to buy qualified over-the-counter medications without getting a prescription from your doctor.
  • Qualified medical expenses now include tampons and pads as well as some other feminine products.

If you have any questions about FSA eligible expenses, contact your FSA servicer, health insurer and/or human resources department for more information.

How do FSAs work?

First, you have to fund it. If you choose a healthcare plan with an FSA, you decide how much money you’ll want to contribute for the year. You don’t have to contribute all the money up front. Instead, your employer will deposit money to your FSA throughout the year (i.e., every time you get paid).

In 2024, you could contribute up to $3,200 to an FSA ($3,050 for 2023).

Here are two ways you could use your FSA money to cover expenses:

  • Your insurer may give you an FSA debit card that you can use when you’ve got a qualified medical expense.
  • You may also choose to submit documentation to your FSA administrator for reimbursement.

In both instances, it’s probably a good idea to hang on to receipts just in case your provider wants to confirm the money you’ve used was applied to FSA-eligble expenses.

Generally speaking,  you have to use the money in an FSA within the given plan year. But depending on your employer, you may have the option to carry over a certain amount to use in the following year. Some employers may also offer a grace period of up to 2 ½ extra months to use the money in your FSA. 

Be aware that employers are not required to offer either of these options, so check in with your employer’s benefits department to see what options may be available to you.

Good to know: It’s a good idea to plan ahead on how you want to spend your FSA dollars. At the end of the plan year or grace period, any unused FSA dollars will be forfeited.

When is the money in your FSA available to use?

The amount you pledge to put into your FSA is ready to use even if the money hasn’t been pulled from your paycheck. So for example, if you said you wanted to contribute the full amount into your FSA for the plan year, that money is yours to spend when your coverage goes into effect.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional tax advice. Individuals should consult their own tax advisor for matters specific to their own taxes. This article was prepared by and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs, but does not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions. Goldman Sachs Bank USA and Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC are not providing any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other recommendations in this article. Information and opinions expressed in this article are as of the date of this material only and subject to change without notice. Information contained in this article does not constitute the provision of investment advice by Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC or any of their affiliates. Neither Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC nor any of their affiliates makes any representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the statements of any information contained in this document and any liability therefore is expressly disclaimed.