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If you have a flexible spending account (FSA)⁠—and there are two kinds: one for health and medical expenses and one for dependent care expenses—the end of the year means you’re most likely under pressure to use the funds or lose them. Your company might offer you a carryover of $550 or a grace period of 2.5 months in which to use up your leftover funds, but it cannot offer both.

If you have an FSA for dependent care in addition to one for health and medical, be aware that you can only spend each fund in its category. With careful planning, you can calculate your dependent care expenses and make sure you don’t have any extra funds in that FSA. If you do, you can only spend them on dependent care.

Key Takeaways

  • You don’t pay taxes on FSA funds.
  • offers FSA-approved products for sale.
  • A dependent care FSA can pay for summer day camp. 
  • All FSA funds must be spent within a specific window of time.

Your FSA and How to Spend Leftover Cash

Before time runs out, make it a priority to spend those FSA funds before they’re gone forever. Start by contacting your FSA provider and finding out how much is left in your account.

If you have both FSAs for dependents and health and medical, be aware that you can only spend each fund in its category.

According to IRS Publication 969, you can only spend FSA money on “qualified medical expenses.” Generally, services you receive that involve a healthcare professional qualify, but others do too. If you need help coming up with ideas, maybe a few of these will help.

  1. Breast pump and supplies: Pregnant and planning to nurse? Buy it now. You can also spend FSA funds on a dependent who needs one. 
  2. Eye exam: You’re supposed to get an eye exam annually. Call today, as people just like you will scramble to get an appointment before the end of the year.
  3. Eyeglasses: Along with an eye exam comes a prescription for glasses. There’s nothing like a fresh pair to change up your look a little. Don’t need new glasses? How about a pair of prescription sunglasses?
  4. Contact lenses: Anybody who wears contacts knows that a few months of lenses can eat up an FSA balance in no time. Lens fluid isn’t cheap, either.
  5. Chiropractor: Expenses are eligible, but you should be careful. Some chiropractors ask that you prepay for services. Remember that only treatments you have already received are eligible for reimbursement. You can’t prepay for future services just to use up your balance. 
  6. Dental treatment: If you’ve put off that dental exam, filling, or a root canal, you now have the perfect incentive. However, cosmetic procedures, such as teeth whitening, are not covered.
  7. Dependent care: If you’ve paid for expenses related to the care of anybody who qualifies as a dependent, it’s reimbursable through your dependent care FSA (these expenses don’t qualify for reimbursement from a health and medical FSA, however).
  8. Diabetic supplies: Blood sugar monitors, test strips, and any diagnostic testing supplies are eligible, and that includes testing for health problems other than diabetes as well.
  9. First-aid supplies: It’s hard to have enough Band-Aids, wraps, and all of those other items we use throughout the year, especially if there are children in the house. 
  10. Birth control pills: Call your doctor and ask for a prescription for a 90-day supply.
  11. Menstrual care products: As of Dec. 31, 2019, menstrual care products such as maxi pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and undergarments are covered. Stock up for the year and forget about running to the store once a month.
  12. Sunscreen: This summer’s supply has probably run out—or timed out if you have a drawer full of old tubes. Refreshing your stock is covered by your healthcare FSA. Keep in mind that to be eligible for reimbursement, sunscreen must be SPF 15 or higher and protect against both UV-A and UV-B radiation. Sunburn treatments like aloe vera also count.
  13. Lodging: If you incurred any lodging or housing expenses because of medical treatments, they’re covered. That also includes meals.
  14. Medical conferences: If you attended a conference related to an illness that you, your spouse, or a primary dependent has, it’s allowable. However, lodging and meals are not.
  15. Medical remodeling: If you will need to modify your home due to the medical condition of somebody living with you or somebody soon to move in, those expenses are reimbursable through your FSA. That could include installing a ramp, widening doorways, installing railings, modifying stairways, and more.
  16. Mileage: Yes, you can claim mileage to and from medical appointments. In addition, you can use your dependent care FSA to pay for mileage to and from covered care if the mileage is incurred by a care provider (for example, a nanny driving your child to preschool is covered, but you as a parent doing it is not).
  17. Over-the-counter medication: As long as the drug treats a medical condition, you’re safe. If the purpose is cosmetic, though, probably not. Most toiletries, for example, won’t count. And only some vitamins do (prenatal vitamins are covered).
  18. Vehicle modification: If you need to modify your car to make it accessible for somebody with a disability, it qualifies as an FSA expense.
  19. Special education: If a doctor orders any special education, including tutoring or schools that provide special services, they’re covered.
  20. Weight-loss programs: Many weight-loss programs are covered as long as they treat a condition diagnosed by a physician. Unfortunately, your FSA won’t cover the latest and greatest weight-loss fad.

The IRS issued a statement notifying taxpayers that at-home COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment such as face masks and hand sanitizer are both considered eligible medical expenses that can be paid or reimbursed under FSAs.

The Bottom Line

During the year, you probably spent more than you thought on expenses that fall under the rules of your FSA. If you can’t document those expenses, you may not have to try to spend money on things you don’t necessarily need right now.

What Is an FSA?

A flexible spending account or FSA is an employer-sponsored fund that covers allowable expenses that support your health. FSAs may come with debit cards to access funds or employees may be reimbursed from their FSA for qualified expenses purchased with their own funds.

How Much Can I Have in My FSA?

In 2021, employees can contribute $2,750 to their FSA. Because FSA funds are taken from your paycheck, these funds lower your taxable income, which can save money on federal taxes.

Can I Roll Over My FSA From Year to Year?

All monies in an FSA should be spent by the end of the calendar year. However, some users may roll $550 over to the next year if they are unable to spend it. Alternatively, they may have a 2.5-month grace period to use the funds, but they can’t do both. Check your plan to see if this is possible. If you can’t use the money or the grace period, the money in the account defaults to your employer’s account.