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Can an Employer Require Me to Pay Back Flex Dollars When I Leave Their Employment?

Flexible spending accounts are pretax accounts that can be used for qualified medical purchases. Many employers offer these as a benefit to their employees to assist in the financial management of their family health care throughout the year. At the beginning of each calendar year you will "pledge" a certain amount of income to your plan and the service provider your employer has chosen to administer the program will make that amount available to you immediately.

Leftover Funds

Use it or lose it, that's what the IRS says in regards to any leftover funds at the end of the calendar year in an individual's FSA account. There is a grace period of 2 1/2 months where you could submit for reimbursement any eligible medical expenses from the previous calendar year, however. For example, if you have $300 in your account at the end of the year, you can spend that $300 on eyeglasses in January and get reimbursed by the funds that you did not spend for the previous year. You will have to pay out of pocket and request reimbursement, as any credit cards that are tied to that account will only be able to be used for current year pledges. If by the middle of March you have not used all the funds from the previous year, you will forfeit those funds to your employer.

Leaving a Company

Leaving your company mid-year can put you in two situations regarding your FSA account: spending more of your pledge than you have actually contributed (leaving a negative balance), or spending less than you have contributed (leaving a positive balance). If you leave your company and have not spent all of your contributions, you will forfeit those contributions to your former employer. Publication 969 of the IRS internal code states that companies are not able to refund any funds that are forfeited by an employee in an FSA account. The IRS treats the FSA account similar to a health insurance plan. The company will most likely utilize this money to offset the cost of other individuals who spend more money than they have contributed before leaving the company.There is no law that a company has the ability to collect against any claims that were greater than the amount of funds contributed during the year.

Pledging Intelligently

Deciding to utilize an FSA is a decision that needs to be taken seriously. The decision to utilize an FSA can be a tool that can be used to lower your income tax bill and help ensure that you have the funds available for routine and unexpected health care events. Because of the provision that you will lose any funds that you do not utilize, a health care activity prediction based on potential health situations for the upcoming year needs to be taken. This would entail a clear review of your current health care plan costs, including co-pays, prescription plan, and any other costs that you are able to plan for based on family planning and family history.

Lower Income Taxes Using FSA

Knowing tax brackets and where you fall within those also can be helpful. In many cases, people who fall on the borderline for income brackets can save money by utilizing the FSA to get them into a lower tax bracket, thus potentially saving a significant amount of money. Since most households will spend a certain amount of money on out-of-pocket expenses for health care, utilizing an FSA could save you even more money. Depending on your family size and filing situation, moving into a lower tax bracket may make a family eligible for additional benefits and a required lower percentage of tax due to the federal government.



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