Collectively, workers may have lost an estimated $1 billion in their health care flexible spending accounts last year.
However, depending on your employer’s rules for those FSAs, which allow workers to save money before taxes to pay for qualified health expenses, you may have bypassed being part of that group — at least for now.
While 23% of companies that offer health care FSAs are sticking to a use-it-or-lose-it approach as of Dec. 31, the rest either offer a grace period to spend remaining funds or allow you to carry a limited amount into the next year, according to the Benefits Research Institute employees.
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However, if you are allowed to carry over funds from 2022, the limit is $570. And if you get a grace period, it can be up to 2.5 months, which would mean a new deadline of March 15 for spending money.
However, some employees end up losing despite these delays.
Among workers who are allowed to transfer money, 49% end up losing all or part of the money, according to the institute. For those with a grace period, that share is 37%. In addition, 48% with the traditional deadline of December 31 also lose money.
Last year, individuals could contribute as much as $2,850 toward their health care. The limit for 2023 is $3,050.
See the FSA rules at your workplace
It is common for workers not to know what their employer’s FSA rules are. If you’re not sure, check with your company’s human resources department, said Jake Spiegel, a research associate at the institute.
Alternatively, you can check your online FSA portal (if your company has one) for information. There should also be a phone number (for customer service) on the back of your FSA debit card that you can call.
Ways to spend your FSA balance
If you find you only have a few months to spend your remaining 2022 funds and aren’t sure how to use them, keep in mind that the list of eligible expenses that qualify for FSA money is longer than it used to be, due to Congressional action in 2020.
For starters, over-the-counter drugs no longer need a prescription to qualify. This includes things like cold medicine, anti-inflammatory medicine, and allergy medicine.
In addition, menstrual care products are now acceptable, as well as items that have become relevant during the pandemic: home tests for Covid, masks, hand sanitizers and other personal protective equipment used in the fight against the virus.
“Think about what kinds of over-the-counter drugs or other things you can buy that you would buy anyway,” Spiegel said. “It can help people reduce some of their balance.”
Other products that qualify include sunscreen, thermometers, eye care products, baby monitors and pregnancy tests. FSAstore.com has a list of eligible items if you’re not sure if something would qualify.
Keep in mind that the IRS doesn’t allow hoarding, which generally means you can’t buy more products at one time than you can use in that tax year. The specifics, however, are determined by the FSA administrators.