This year, I decided to take advantage of a benefit that work offers: the Health Care Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA). Basically, you set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for certain otherwise non-reimbursed medical costs which you pay for out of your HCFSA account instead of using after-tax dollars. Without going into detail about taxes, the short explanation is that it’s always better to spend pre-tax dollars than after-tax dollars, so the HCFSA is good, in general.
The trick with the HCFSA is that you have to decide, up front at the start of the year, how much money to put into the account. This isn’t so bad if you already know what your yearly medical costs are, because you know approximately how much you spend. When I enrolled, I didn’t really have a good feel for how much we would be spending this year, so I estimated as best I could. The snag about the HCFSA is that at the end of the year, whatever funds haven’t been spent are forfeited! Yes, it’s “use it or lose it” so it’s important to avoid over-estimating, but under-estimating means not taking full advantage of the tax benefit the HCFSA affords you.
Today, I called to get the remaining balance in the account and it’s just shy of $770. I do have some medical expenses that I can file reimbursements for through the HCFSA which should be around $700, but what do I do about the remaining balance? Should I go and buy a ton of over-the-counter medicines and file for reimbursement to flatten out the account?
Do you have a HCFSA? What do you do at the end of the year with funds that are left in it? Is it better to just under-estimate to ensure there’s never a surplus in the account which you might forfeit when you haven’t spent it?