Dear Liz: The hospital where I work was bought out by another hospital last summer. I was in a flexible savings account at that time with my workplace. I had to enroll in a second FSA through the new medical facility.
Trying to keep these two separate FSA accounts was not easy. I thought by March 31 of this year, my 2021 FSA accounts were spent. However, I recently found out I still had $700 left in one of my FSA accounts. I contacted the organization, pleading my case in regards to the midyear takeover and the difficulty of trying to keep two FSA accounts straight. No luck! Do I have any recourse?
Answer: The rules about spending FSA money were loosened after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but it’s possible your employer didn’t opt in to those changes.
Medical FSAs, which allow employees to put aside pretax money to pay qualified healthcare expenses, have “use it or lose it” provisions that require the money to be spent within certain time frames. Normally, the deadline is Dec. 31, but employers can offer a grace period that extends the cutoff to March 15 of the following year, or allow employees to roll over a few hundred dollars ($550 in 2021 and $570 for 2022).
The federal Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 gave employers the option of extending their spending deadlines by up to a year, or allowing their workers to roll over all the funds left in their FSAs in 2020 and 2021. Employers weren’t required to make these changes, which have since expired.
If your employer didn’t change its rules, it may not be too late, said Nitasha Kadam, a tax analyst for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Plans can be amended retroactively to provide this relief. But the deadline is fast approaching — changes for the 2021 plan year would have to be made by Dec. 31, 2022. It’s worth asking about, although your case might be stronger if you can find co-workers in the same boat.
In any case, this is a timely reminder for other people who have money left in their FSAs: Check the deadlines, and make sure you spend the money before it’s gone forever.
Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner, is a personal finance columnist for Nerd Wallet. Questions may be sent to her at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at asklizweston.com.