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The Basics of HSAs

A Health Savings Account is an alternative to traditional health insurance. It is a savings product that offers a different way for consumers to pay for their health care. HSAs enable you to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.

You must be covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) to be able to take advantage of HSAs. An HDHP generally costs less than what traditional health care coverage costs, so the money that you save on insurance can therefore be put into the Health Savings Account.

You own and you control the money in your HSA. Decisions on how to spend the money are made by you without relying on a third party or a health insurer.

You must have an HDHP if you want to open an HSA. Sometimes referred to as a “catastrophic” health insurance plan, an HDHP is an inexpensive health insurance plan that generally doesn't pay for the first several thousand dollars of health care expenses (i.e., your “deductible”) but will generally cover you after that. Of course, your HSA is available to help you pay for the expenses your plan does not cover.

HSA Eligibility

To be eligible for a Health Savings Account, an individual must be covered by an HSA-qualified High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and must not be covered by other health insurance that is not an HDHP. Certain types of insurance are not considered “health insurance” (see below) and will not jeopardize your eligibility for an HSA.

You are only allowed to have automobile, dental, vision, disability and long-term care insurance at the same time as an HDHP. You may also have coverage for a specific disease or illness as long as it pays a specific dollar amount when the policy is triggered. Wellness programs offered by your employer are also permitted if they do not pay significant medical benefits.

No, the policy does not have to be in your name. As long as you have coverage under the HDHP policy, you can be eligible for an HSA (assuming you meet the other eligibility requirements for contributing to an HSA). You can still be eligible for an HSA even if the policy is in your spouse's name.

No, you cannot establish and contribute to an HSA unless you have coverage under a HDHP.

You can have both types of accounts, but only under certain circumstances. General Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs) will probably make you ineligible for an HSA. If your employer offers a “limited purpose” (limited to dental, vision or preventive care) or “post-deductible” (pay for medical expenses after the plan deductible is met) FSA, then you can still be eligible for an HSA.

No, you cannot have an HSA if your spouse's FSA or HRA can pay for any of your medical expenses before your HDHP deductible is met.

Yes, if you have coverage under an HDHP. You do not need earned income from employment. The money can come from your own personal savings, income from dividends, unemployment or welfare benefits, etc.

There are no income limits that affect HSA eligibility. However, if you do not file a federal income tax return, you may not receive all the tax benefits that HSAs offer.

No, you cannot establish separate accounts for your dependent children, including children who can legally be claimed as a dependent on your tax return.

Contributing to an HSA

No, you can contribute in a lump sum or in any amounts or frequency you wish. However, your account trustee/custodian (bank, credit union, insurer, etc.) can impose minimum deposit and balance requirements.

Your eligibility to contribute to an HSA is determined by the effective date of your HDHP coverage. Your annual contribution depends your HDHP coverage. If you are not covered on December 1, your contribution depends on the number of months of HDHP coverage you have had during the year (technically, the months where you have HDHP coverage on the first day of the month). If you are covered on December 1, you are treated as an eligible individual for the entire year. However, if you cease to be eligible during the following year, the excess over the pro-rated contribution is included in income and subject to a 20% additional tax. The amount you can contribute is not determined by the date you establish your account. However, medical expenses incurred before the date your HSA is established cannot be reimbursed from the account.

Contributions to HSAs can be made by you, your employer or both. All contributions are aggregated to determine whether you have contributed the maximum allowed. If your employer contributes some of the money, you can make up the difference.

Yes, your personal contributions offer you an “above-the-line” deduction. An "above-the-line" deduction allows you to reduce your taxable income by the amount you contribute to your HSA. You do not have to itemize your deductions to benefit. Contributions can also be made to your HSA by others (e.g., relatives). However, you receive the benefit of the tax deduction.

If your employer makes a contribution to your HSA, the contribution is not taxable to you the employee (excluded from income).

If your employer offers a “salary reduction” plan (also known as a “Section 125 plan” or “cafeteria plan”), you (the employee) can make contributions to your HSA on a pre-tax basis (i.e., before income taxes and FICA taxes). If you do, you cannot also take the “above-the-line” deduction on your personal income taxes for the amount contributed through the 125 plan.

You may be able to claim the medical expense deduction even if you contribute to an HSA. However, you cannot include any contribution to the HSA or any distribution from the HSA, including distributions taken for non-medical expenses, in the calculation for claiming the itemized deduction for medical expenses.

Yes, individuals 55 and older who are covered by an HDHP can make additional catch-up contributions each year until they enroll in Medicare.

If you had HDHP coverage for the full year, you can make the full catch-up contribution regardless of when your 55th birthday falls during the year. If you did not have HDHP coverage for the full year, you must pro-rate your “catch-up” contribution for the number of full months you were “eligible” (i.e., had HDHP coverage). However, if you are covered on December 1, you are treated as an eligible individual for the entire year and get the full contribution.

Yes, if both spouses are eligible individuals and both spouses have established an HSA in their name. If only one spouse has an HSA in their name, only that spouse can make a “catch-up” contribution.

No, tax filing status does not affect your contribution.

No, self-employed workers may not contribute to an HSA on a pre-tax basis and may not take the amount of their HSA contribution as a deduction for SECA purposes. However, they may contribute to an HSA with after-tax dollars and take the above-the-line deduction.

Using your HSA

HSA funds can pay for any “qualified medical expense,” even if the expense is not covered by your HDHP. If the money from the HSA is used for qualified medical expenses, then the money spent is tax-free.

Unfortunately, we cannot provide a definitive list of “qualified medical expenses.” A partial list is provided in IRS Pub 502 (available at www.irs.gov). There have been thousands of cases involving the many nuances of what constitutes "medical care" for purposes of section 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code. A determination of whether an expense is for "medical care" is based on all the relevant facts and circumstances. To be an expense for medical care, the expense has to be primarily for the prevention or alleviation of a physical or mental defect or illness. The determination often hangs on the word "primarily."

You are responsible for that decision, and therefore should familiarize yourself with what qualified medical expenses are (as partially defined in IRS Publication 502) and also keep your receipts in case you need to defend your expenditures or decisions during an audit.

If the money is used for other than qualified medical expenses, the expenditure will be taxed and, for individuals who are not disabled or over age 65, subject to a 20% tax penalty.

Yes, if you have tax-qualified long-term care insurance. However, the amount considered a qualified medical expense depends on your age. See IRS Publication 502 for the amounts deductible by age.

Once funds are deposited into the HSA, the account can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses tax-free, even if you no longer have HDHP coverage. The funds in your account roll over automatically each year and remain indefinitely until used. There is no time limit on using the funds.

Funds deposited into your HSA remain in your account and automatically roll over from one year to the next. You may continue to use the HSA funds for qualified medical expenses. You are no longer eligible to contribute to an HSA for months that you are not an eligible individual because you are not covered by an HDHP. If you have coverage by an HDHP for less than a year, the annual maximum contribution is reduced. If you made a contribution to your HSA for the year based on a full year's coverage by the HDHP, you will need to withdraw some of the contribution to avoid the tax on excess HSA contributions. If you regain HDHP coverage at a later date, you can begin making contributions to your HSA again.

Yes, the unused balance in a Health Savings Account automatically rolls over year after year. You won't lose your money if you don't spend it within the year.

You can continue to use your account tax-free for out-of-pocket health expenses. When you enroll in Medicare, you can use your account to pay Medicare premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance under any part of Medicare. If you have retiree health benefits through your former employer, you can also use your account to pay for your share of retiree medical insurance premiums. The one expense you cannot use your account for is to purchase a Medicare supplemental insurance or “Medigap” policy.

Once you turn age 65, you can also use your account to pay for things other than medical expenses. If used for other expenses, the amount withdrawn will be taxable as income but will not be subject to any other penalties. Individuals under age 65 who use their accounts for non-medical expenses must pay income tax and a 20% penalty on the amount withdrawn.

No, you cannot reimburse qualified medical expenses incurred before your account is established. We recommend you establish your account as soon as possible.

It is your responsibility to keep track of your deposits and expenditures and keep all of your receipts. If you run out of HSA funds (and therefore need to use your HDHP), you may need to send those receipts to your insurer.

Managing your HSA

No, it is your sole responsibility to keep track of the amounts deposited and spent from your account, just like a normal savings or checking account.

No, you may not borrow against it or pledge the funds in it. For more information on prohibited activities, see Section 4975 of the Internal Revenue Code.

No, you cannot roll the HSA funds over into an IRA. They will stay in the HSA or be rolled into another HSA.

You cannot directly roll funds in a 401(k) or other retirement plan into an HSA. You can withdraw funds from one of these accounts, pay applicable taxes (and penalties) on the amount you withdraw, and then use the remaining funds to make a contribution to your HSA. However, the amount you contribute to your HSA is still limited by the annual contribution limits.

You may make a one-time transfer of IRA funds to an HSA. The amount of the IRA transfer reduces your HSA contribution for the year. If you fail to remain an eligible individual for 12 months after the month of the transfer, the amount of the transfer is included in income and subject to a 20% additional tax.

Yes, if you do so within 60 days of withdrawing the funds from the Archer MSA.

What happens depends on how the HSA is designed. If your spouse is designated as the beneficiary by you, your spouse becomes the owner of the HSA when you die. If you provide that it goes to your estate or other entity, the value of the HSA at death is income to the estate or other entity.

This information is intended as a courtesy, not as tax or legal advice. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information. For tax and/or legal advice, consult your accountant or attorney.

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