What Is a Flexible Spending Account?

Wondering about what is a flexible spending account? A flexible spending account, also known as a flexible spending arrangement, is one of several tax-advantaged bank accounts that result in payroll tax savings. Read more to get to know how FSAs work.

A flexible spending account, or FSA, is a tax-free account that allows you to pay for essential healthcare expenses not covered, or only partially covered by your employer’s medical, dental, or vision insurance policies.

Employees choose how much money they wish to put into their flexible spending account on a pre-tax basis within the limits set by their employer. Using pre-tax cash to pay for medical bills not covered by health insurance can save you anywhere from 25 percent to 40 percent, depending on your income and available discounts.

How does a flexible spending account work?

Flexible spending accounts are used to pay for non-covered items. A flexible spending account’s money does not roll over from year to year, unlike a health savings account. The funds, on the other hand, are tax-free.

A medical flexible spending account and a dependent flexible spending account are the two types of flexible spending accounts. Both forms of FSAs cover certain items and are intended to assist consumers.

Dependent flexible spending accounts, on the other hand, can be perplexing and difficult to understand. Medical expenses that are not covered by insurance are covered by a medical spending account. Co-payments, premiums, prescription and over-the-counter medicines, dental and vision care, and anything else labeled as a qualified purchase all fall under this category.

The distinction between health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts is drawn here. One can withdraw funds from a health savings account at any time for any reason and for any purpose, including non-medical expenses.

A dependent FSA is a type of flexible spending account that can be used to help pay for the care of dependents. Children under the age of 13 and adults beyond the age of 65 are considered dependents. You must reside with your dependents in order to spend money from a dependent spending account on them.

This implies that you would not be able to utilize the funds to support your parents or grandparents if they live in another state. The funds can be used for daycare, including adult daycare for any senior individuals who live with you.

A dependent flexible spending account is designed to help deal with the costs of caring for someone while you are at work. The maximum amount that can be put into a dependent flexible spending account is $5000.

Because medical FSAs are tax-free, most people choose them. Dependent FSA, on the other hand, can obstruct the filing of taxes at the start of the next year. They have the power to reduce dependents’ tax credits on tax forms. Nonetheless, they have the potential to be beneficial. Both a medical and a dependent flexible spending account are possible. It is not possible to move funds from or into either account.

Advantages and disadvantages of FSAs

Many people nowadays are more concerned with their health than with everything else. They are more selective in their food choices as a result of the fact that most ailments nowadays are linked to a man’s lifestyle.

Some people, on the other hand, follow a work-home pattern in order to avoid any accidents that may occur while they are outside of their homes. However, unforeseen events do occur from time to time, and having a health spending account is the greatest option available.

You can have a typical health insurance plan that you pay monthly for, and your employer may cover some or all of the costs. There are some criteria and limitations with typical health insurance plans.

For example, there are some standards that must be met in order to be considered eligible. A qualified applicant must be under the age of 65 and have health insurance with a high deductible. The plan should just be your insurance coverage; if you have other health insurance plans, you will not meet their standards.

Tips on using a flexible spending account

Some people are more susceptible to certain ailments than others. They can not seem to get their immune systems to work with certain diseases. These illnesses strike at predetermined times for some people, and when they engage in specified activities for others.

Some people become ill when flying in a plane, and because flying may be inevitable for them, they may become ill frequently. This leads to a continuous drug habit that can drain your bank account. Even though the medications or pills are affordable, the annual cost of them may be surprising.

Using an FSA to purchase medications from your local pharmacy may no longer be simple. Before the FSA will reimburse you, you must have a doctor’s prescription. However, in order to receive compensation, it is not a terrible idea to go to your doctor’s office and obtain a prescription for your sickness. Additionally, the FSA funds can be used to cover your co-pay for clinic visits.

The flexible spending account system has a unique tax structure that allows us to spend more money on healthcare. That is the exact reverse of what everyone has been clamoring for, from patients to legislators.

It was Set up as a benefit program for employees. A flexible spending account can be extremely beneficial, but it must be funded with the appropriate quantity of funds. If you put too much money into it, you can end up with a lot more money in the account than you need for healthcare, and if you do not use it before the end of the year or after the IRS’s grace period, you might lose it all.

This is what happens to people when the year draws to a close when they start looking for ways to spend some of the money they have been saving all year. Physicians’ schedules may be looked for.

This is unquestionably a bad idea. It implies you will wind up spending money you do not have on things you do not actually need just to use up your savings. It is not that the flexible spending account is a bad idea; in fact, it might help people save a lot of money. However, you must be cautious and prudent while putting money into the account and spending on FSA eligible therapies as an individual.

It is worth noting that the flexible spending account regularly reimburses clients for charges that are not covered by traditional healthcare plans. Alternative medicine and acupuncture are two examples. Mileage is another FSA-covered expense for medical treatment.

One can enquire about such perks by contacting the HR department at the FSA office and then adding up your visits to the doctor and pharmacy. It may not be a lot of money for some folks, but it can go a long way toward zeroing out their FSA accounts and avoiding year-end losses.

Strategies for saving flexible spending account dollars

Employees are asked to determine how much of each paycheck they would like to allocate to their FSA during an employer open enrollment period. The amount they choose will be a fixed sum deducted from each paycheck throughout the course of the year. The only time you will be able to adjust the amount is if anything important happens in your life such as marriage or birth of a child.

Despite the fact that the money will be deducted from a paycheck throughout the year, the complete yearly amount will be accessible for expenditure on the first day of the new benefits period.

Most FSA programs will ask you to decide how much money you want to set aside each year for medical expenses, health insurance premiums, and dependent care. The amount deducted per paycheck will be calculated by multiplying the annual amount by the number of pay periods in the year. The amount spent on health insurance premiums is maybe the bare minimum that everyone should put into their flexible spending account.

Given that fewer than 20 percent of employers cover the complete individual premium, an employee’s out-of-pocket premium cost is likely to be covered by pre-tax dollars through an FSA. It is almost a no-brainer to pay your premiums with an FSA, and it is generally done automatically by your employer even before you have to start making decisions about your FSA withhold.

After that, it makes sense for most people to use their FSA to cover at least a portion of their deductible. For example, if your yearly deductible is $250, you might as well pay it with FSA dollars. It does not take much of a medical or dental operation to wipe out a deductible like that. It gets difficult once you have covered your premiums and deductible with pre-tax FSA funds.

Finally, some people will use their FSA to pay for dependent care. Pre-tax FSA funds can be used to pay for the care of a kid under the age of 13 or a dependent adult who is unable to care for himself up to $5,000 per year. There are some limitations, such as dependent care must allow you to work or look for a job, and if your child is in a daycare, it must meet certain criteria.

Eligible and ineligible things in FSA

The IRS standards that regulate the eligibility of reimbursable flexible spending account products are complicated at times, and we understand that. BASIC, as flex administrators, ensures that your FSA plan complies with these regulations.

Eligible items that are often forgotten

Expenses for mileage or public transit to and from the office

The fact that mileage or transportation charges to see a doctor or dentist are acceptable expenses surprises the majority of flex plan participants. The plan participant’s car mileage, as well as any subway or bus passes used to get to and from the appointment, are eligible for reimbursement.

Procedures in orthodontics

Orthodontic procedures might be perplexing as well. The simplest way to claim orthodontia charges is to send in a copy of your orthodontist’s documentation, as well as a copy of your contract, for easy reference.

Medications available over-the-counter

Over-the-counter drugs are generally considered qualifying expenses. Some people are not qualified for the program. The rule for over-the-counter medications is that they must be used to treat a medical problem. Tylenol, Sudafed, and other over-the-counter medications are examples.

Services provided by chiropractors

Chiropractic services are covered by medicare, though the claim and reimbursement procedure can be time-consuming. Many chiropractic services are prepaid, and reimbursements can only be made after the services have been received, not before.

If you paid in advance for chiropractic services, the reimbursement is based on the fair market value of the service performed at that particular visit to the chiropractor. Make sure you get a copy of your bill that shows the value of the service performed on that particular visit so you can get the right amount of money back.

Ineligible items that are often misunderstood


Some flex plan members are also astonished to learn that necessities like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, face wash, deodorant, and the like are not acceptable expenses. The most often requested products that are not eligible for reimbursement are toiletries.

Procedures in dentistry

Teeth whitening is one of the few procedures performed by a dentist that is not eligible for reimbursement.

Vitamins and other supplements

Vitamins and other supplements for general health are usually not accepted. A doctor must indicate in a letter what the patient’s medical problem is and what specific vitamins are consumed to treat it in order for vitamins to be claimed as an allowable cost. The doctor can then prescribe the vitamins, which can be claimed as a tax deduction. Multivitamins are never covered by insurance because they merely support overall health rather than treating a specific ailment.

Flexible spending account rules

The tax code is full of fascinating sub-sections that can be utilized to create tax-advantageous circumstances for those who know where to look. The coding that gives rise to the notion known as the flexible spending account has gained popularity in recent years. Let’s take a closer look.

Cafeteria strategy

A125 plan is referred to as a cafeteria plan in the industry. The 125 refers to a tax code section. Although the subject can be complicated, the tax legislation essentially permits businesses to set up a plan with a variety of advantages that employees can take advantage of before taxes. Employees are only allowed to select a small number of benefits from a bigger menu. It is a little choosing what to eat while waiting in line at a cafeteria, which is where the cafeteria plan got its name.

Flexible spending account

A flexible spending account is an account that an employee is provided as part of their employer’s cafeteria plan. The employee might choose to have a portion of their pre-tax compensation deducted from each paycheck and placed into the account.

In exchange, the funds can be used to cover specific expenses that the employee anticipates incurring over the year. Medical services are by far the most typical expense. Individuals with families, on the other hand, can attribute money to expenses such as child care and other incidents.

Odd end of year rule

Because of what happens at the end of each fiscal year, the flexible spending account is an uncommon bird among financial tools. Any funds remaining in the account are forfeited. This means that the employee must carefully plan out their planned spending for the year and contribute only what is required to support them.

It is a complicated computation that, in my opinion, serves no justifiable function. Nonetheless, because this is how the account operates, employees have been advised to keep a close eye on the magnitude of their contributions.

Practical rules

To prevent breaching the technical rules, as with any financial plan or gadget, there are practical guidelines that must be understood and followed. It is the same with the flexible spending account. The following are a few important ones to be aware of:

Expense timing

An employee must claim expenses for the account during the one-year period allowed in the account. If the plan includes a run-out period which is typically one to two months, the employee can also make claims for the preceding eligible year at that time.

Sole funding source

An employee’s flexible spending account expenses can only be paid for with money from that account. Any claim to the flexible spending account must be refused if other money, such as the employee’s personal savings, is used.

A flexible spending account, of course, is subject to a slew of other regulations. The precise ones, on the other hand, are frequently defined by the specific language of an employer’s cafeteria plan. To get the most out of your flexible spending account, you should speak with your company’s human resources department to learn about the specific criteria of your plan.

Medical weight loss services and FSAs

Because the member can pay the plan with pre-tax cash, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), also known as Healthcare Flexible Spending Accounts or Medical Reimbursement plans, offer tax benefits. Consider health and wellness services if this is your case and you’re wondering what to do with the remaining funds in your flexible spending account before they expire.

Many wellness clinics accept flex-pay cards and even allow you to pay for programs in advance. This is a fantastic way to use the remaining amount in your flex-pay account while also receiving a lifelong benefit that will help you improve not only your weight but your overall health.

High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and osteoarthritis are some of the most frequent health conditions associated with obesity. As a physician-supervised medical weight loss clinic, we’ve noticed that after losing weight, our patients require less medical attention. The good news is that most obesity-related health problems can be reversed by losing weight.

Do something wonderful for yourself: exercise more, eat better, and if you can’t lose weight on your own, get expert assistance at a local medical weight reduction clinic. Consider the following when looking for a trustworthy clinic:

  • Ask questions
  • Be informed
  • Get references from other patients
  • Learn about the costs
  • And learn about ongoing support


When you contribute to a flexible spending account, you are putting money aside before taxes to pay for out-of-pocket medical bills. Pre-federal tax, pre-social security tax, pre-medicare tax, and, in most circumstances, even pre-state tax, money is set away. And, while you are saving all this money, you would not have to worry about keeping track of anything, no recordkeeping, no need to file your tax return since your company will handle all of the paperwork. Using an FSA is now easier than ever. Technology advancements and rule and regulation refinement have resulted in modifications that have substantially simplified the use of these accounts. The ability of debit cards to allow point-of-service access has improved. You may now not only access your dollars at the point of service, but you also do not have to bother about documenting every transaction. Technology is working behind the scenes to ensure that your purchase qualifies for reimbursement. In addition to this technology, many administrators offer websites that provide all you need to manage your account efficiently. Forms, account information, reference materials, and tools all work together to make your experience as simple and enjoyable as possible.

Charles Bains

Charles Bains

Charles Bains started his insurance career as a marketing intern before pounding the pavement as a commercial lines agent in Orlando, FL. As an industry journalist, his articles have appeared in a variety of trade publications. His insurance television career, short-lived but glorious, once saw him serve as the expert adviser on an insurance-themed infomercial (yes, you read that correctly). Having recently worked for various organizations, coupled with his broader insurance knowledge, Charles is able to understand our client’s needs and guide them accordingly. He is a gem for Insurance Noon as his wide area of expertise and experience have been beneficial in conducting further researches to come up with solutions and writing them in a manner which is easy for everyone including beginners to comprehend.