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Your Take: The FSA Loophole

What’s the FSA loophole [3] you ask? First, an FSA is a Flexible Spending Account and it’s an account where you can deposit funds pre-tax, they’re deducted from your paycheck. You can only use those funds to pay for qualified medical expenses. A qualified medical expenses can be anything from co-pays to prescription and over the counter medications. The only downside to the FSA is that you must spend all the funds within the plan year or they expire. Allocate too much and you find yourself wasting it on over the counter drugs you hadn’t planned on buying; allocate too little and you lose out on some of the tax benefits.

There is a loophole in the system though. Once you determine your FSA balance for the year, you can begin immediately spending it and be reimbursed. The amount you allocate is deducted from your paycheck each month so you could conceivably spend your entire year’s allocation before you even pay for it. If you were to leave your job, you wouldn’t have to pay the negative balance, between the amount spent and how much you’ve contributed, on your FSA. That’s the FSA loophole.

I’ve heard stories of people paying for entire operations (think: $$$$$) through underfunded FSAs prior to quitting their job. The idea behind the program is that the shortfalls are balanced out by the expired overages, though I wonder if they’re designed to handle extreme cases.

What do you think of this loophole? Have you ever taken advantage of this loophole? Do you think it should be closed off? If so, how? Have you heard of people paying for thousands of dollars in elective operations this way?

(Photo: dan4th [4])