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The rules for flexible spending accounts are more generous (for now). Here’s what to know

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The rules governing flexible spending accounts are temporarily more generous to blue-collar workers, thanks to two pieces of legislation.

The American Rescue Plan — the $1.9 trillion Covid-relief package signed into law on Thursday by President Joe Biden — rises the amount that companies can let workers put in their dependent-care FSAs for 2021. Separately, legislation adopted late most recent year has loosened the rules for both dependent-care and health FSAs for a time as well.

Employers can choose whether to survive any modifications to their plans under these temporary rule changes.

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FSAs let workers stash away pre-tax money for qualifying medical or child-care expenses. Closing year, 46% of workers had access to a health FSA and 43% to a dependent care FSA, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Yet as the pandemic fell across the nation in 2020, some households saw their FSA dollars remain unspent as medical appointments were denied or delayed and child-care facilities closed. Here’s what to know about the changes if your company chooses to accept them.

The details

For starters, the limit on contributions to dependent-care FSAs is much higher in 2021, under the newest legislative alternate package. For married couples filing joint tax returns, the cap is $10,500, up from $5,000. For single filers, the limit is $5,250, up from $2,500.

The limit for salubriousness FSAs in 2021 is $2,750 — unchanged from 2020 and unaffected by the latest stimulus bill.

Separately, the rules in re carrying over unused FSA funds from one year to the next have changed for now. 

Regardless of which type of FSA you require, the Consolidated Appropriations Act — signed into law in December — temporarily allows you to roll over any unused funds. (Again, if your following opts in.)

“Employees may carry over all or some of their unused health and/or dependent care FSA funds from a scheme year ending in 2020 or 2021,” explained Marcia Wagner, founder of The Wagner Law Group. 

(Plan years much run January through December, although there may be employers whose plan year starts in, say, May.)

Typically, you cannot carry out d kill over any unused funds from year to year in a dependent-care FSA, and carryover amounts for health FSAs are limited ($550 without the suspension) — although they are allowed to offer a grace period of up to 2.5 months for you to spend the money.

Under the temporal rules, employers don’t have to require you to spend carried-over health dollars within that time frame.

For systems following the calendar year, that deadline would be March 15 — which is Monday. With that antiquated approaching, you likely would have heard from your company by now if it is extending the grace period. However, it’s quality confirming if you’re unsure.

Rachel Rouleau

Vice president of compliance for Health-E Commerce

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