Thursday, October 31, 2013

Modification of “Use-or-Lose” Rule For Health Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs)

In a significant modification of the nearly 30-year-old “use it or lose it” rule, employers will be allowed to modify flexible spending accounts to permit employees to carry over to the following year up to $500 in unused account balances, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service said today.  

However, the Treasury Department did attach a condition to the easing of the use it or lose it rule.

Employers will have a choice of either allowing employees to carryover up to $500 or offering the 2½-month grace period that is currently offered, but not both.   

To utilize the new carryover option permitted under this notice, a §125 cafeteria plan offering a health FSA must be amended to set forth the carryover provision. The amendment must be adopted on or before the last day of the plan year from which amounts may be carried over and may be effective retroactively to the first day of that plan year, provided that the §125 cafeteria plan operates in accordance with the guidance under the notice and informs participants of the carryover provision, and provided further that a plan may be amended to adopt the carryover provision for a plan year that begins in 2013 at any time on or before the last day of the plan year.   

A § 125 cafeteria plan that incorporates a carryover provision may not also provide for a grace period in the plan year to which unused amounts may be carried over. Accordingly, if, pursuant to the carryover provision, a plan permits amounts that were unused in a plan year to be carried over to the following plan year, the plan is not permitted to provide for a grace period that occurs in that following plan year. 

For example, a calendar year plan permitting a carryover to 2015 of unused 2014 health FSA amounts (as determined at the end of the run-out period in early 2015) would not be permitted to have a grace period in 2015, but would be permitted to have had a grace period during the first 2 1⁄2 months of 2014. 

Link to the regulations