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The Federal Flexible Benefits Plan (FedFlex) allows eligible employees to pay for benefits with pre-tax dollars. The initial FedFlex benefit, Premium Conversion under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, was implemented in October 2000. Beginning July 2003, FedFlex was enhanced to include a second pre-tax benefit called Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs).
FedFlex offers two FSAs:
Health Care FSA
A Health Care FSA (HCFSA) allows employees to use pre-tax allotments to
pay for certain health care expenses that are not reimbursed by any other source and not claimed on the participant’s income tax return. Employees may elect to contribute a minimum of $250 up to a maximum of $4,000 per plan year.
For more information on which medical expenses may qualify for reimbursement, see IRs Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses [1.28 M]. Expenses not covered by flexible spending accounts include cosmetic surgery, hair transplants, health club dues, funeral expenses and maternity clothes.
Dependent Care FSA
A Dependent Care FSA (DCFSA) allows employees to use pre-tax allotments
to pay for eligible dependent care expenses. The minimum contribution to a Dependent Care FSA is $250 up to a maximum annual reimbursement of $5,000 ($2,500 if the employee is married and filing a separate income tax return).
Eligible dependent care expenses can be found in IRS Publication 503 [1.21 M].
Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code allows employees to pay for certain health and dependent care expenses with pre-tax dollars. As with Premium Conversion, employees may choose to make a voluntary allotment from their salary to their FSA account and participants do not pay employment taxes on these allotments. Employees will not be able to pay for long term care insurance premiums or life insurance premiums with flexible spending account money.
Flexible spending accounts reimburse employees for expenses. Employees who elect to participate set aside an annual amount of salary to be contributed to their FSA. The agency will deduct these contributions from the employees’ pay throughout the plan year and remit them to the FSA administrator, SHPS Inc., for deposit into the employees’ FSA accounts. The accounts do not pay for services up-front. Employees submit receipts to the plan administrator, and they are
reimbursed from their flexible spending account, as they incur eligible expenses.
Employees eligible to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program (even if not currently enrolled) will be able to elect a Healthcare FSA to cover expenses not covered under their FEHB plan. These expenses include deductibles, coinsurance and co-payments, as well as services not generally covered such as dental care and orthodontia.
Federal employees who have a qualified dependent(s) and are other than an intermittent employee whose appointment is limited to six months or less may elect to enroll in the Dependent Care FSA.
If you are an eligible new employee, you will have 60 days (but no later than October 1 of any Plan Year) to make an election to participate in either the HCFSA or DCFSA. If you are hired on or after October 1, you are ineligible to participate in that Plan Year, but can elect an FSA during the annual Open Season. Your election will be official as of midnight on the day you enroll and no changes can be made after that unless you experience a Qualified Status Change, such as a change in family status.
Although Health Care and Dependent Care FSAs provide real tax advantages, they also have important rules and restrictions. Its “use it or lose it” provision makes it very important for employees to estimate eligible expenses for the coming year conservatively and plan contributions carefully. Neither account can be “corrected” after the Plan Year begins.