Unions - Tax Savings Accounts

Columbia University offers several tax savings accounts, including the Healthcare and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)s and the Transit/Parking Reimbursement Program (T/PRP) account. Using these tax savings accounts could save you hundreds of dollars on eligible healthcare, dependent care, transit and/or parking expenses.

Flexible Spending Accounts 

Flexible Spending Accounts allow you to contribute pre-tax money to reimburse yourself for eligible healthcare and dependent day care expenses. You must enroll within 31 days of hire or a Qualified Life Status Change and you must also re-enroll each year during Benefits Open Enrollment to take advantage of FSAs.

You can enroll in the Healthcare FSA, Dependent Care FSA and the Transit/Parking Reimbursement Program (T/PRP) even if you do not enroll in Columbia University medical coverage Columbia University offers two types of FSAs that are administered by UHC:

  • Healthcare FSA for eligible healthcare expenses, including medical, prescription drug or dental copays and deductibles, as well as vision or hearing services. For a list of eligible expenses, please visit www.myuhc.com or IRS Publication 502. 
  • Dependent Care FSA for eligible child or adult day care expenses for your dependents, such as licensed day care centers and nursery schools, beforeschool or after-school programs and home attendants. Note: for dependents’ health-related expenses, use the Healthcare FSA.

How FSAs Work

FSAs allow you to set aside pre-tax money to reimburse yourself for eligible expenses. Since your FSA contributions reduce your gross taxable income, you pay lower taxes and take home more money.
If you elect an FSA, you contribute to it in equal installments two pay periods per month throughout the calendar year. 
You cannot change your election amount during the calendar year unless you have a Qualified Life Status Change. Please refer to “Making Changes to Your Benefits” for more details.
If your medical expenses exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income and you itemize deductions, you may be better off deducting your expenses from your income tax rather than using either the Healthcare FSA or the HSA. You may want to consult with a tax adviser or financial professional to determine which works best for you.

Also, you may use the Dependent Care FSA, the federal tax credit or a combination of both for your eligible dependent care expenses. Your choice will depend on your family income and the number of dependents you have in eligible day care programs. Generally, if your family’s adjusted gross income exceeds $40,000, you may save more in taxes using the Dependent Care FSA. You can also go to the IRS website or consult your tax adviser or financial professional.


Health Care Spending Card

After you elect the FSA, UHC will send two Health Care Spending Cards in your name to your home mailing address. These cards are linked to any Healthcare and Dependent Care FSA accounts you elect.
When you incur an eligible healthcare or dependent care expense, such as prescription drugs or office visit copays, you can use your Health Care Spending Card to pay for the expense at participating locations.
If you do not use your card at the time of purchase, keep your receipt(s). You may need to submit an out-of-network medical claim to UHC so you can 1) be reimbursed for the out-of-pocket expense from your FSA; and/or 2) to substantiate your expenses with UHC if you are manually filing a claim.

Convenient Automatic Reimbursement

If you are enrolled in a Columbia-provided medical and/or dental plan, you will be automatically reimbursed for most medical, prescription, vision and dental out-ofpocket expenses. This convenient automated feature processes medical, dental, vision and prescription drug claims—and then automatically sends Healthcare FSA participants reimbursement checks for their out-of-pocket costs if those claims were submitted to the Columbia University health plans.
Opting out of automatic reimbursement: If you prefer to manage your FSA funds and choose which expenses are reimbursed, you can opt out of the claim autorollover at any time by logging in to www.myuhc.com. If you opt out, you will need to file reimbursement claims online or manually with UHC.  

Forfeiture Rule

The IRS has strict rules regarding FSAs. It is important to estimate your expenses carefully, incur your expenses by December 31 and make sure that your claims for the calendar year are received by the FSA administrator (UHC) no later than March 31 of the following year. A balance of up to $500 in your Healthcare FSA can be rolled over to the next plan year if you do not enroll in an HSA. However, any money left in your Dependent Care FSA will be forfeited.
ImportantImportant! If you leave the University or become ineligible for benefits, you can only be reimbursed for expenses incurred prior to your employment end date or the date you become ineligible for benefits. Any remaining funds would be forfeited.

Eligibility Regarding Same-Sex Domestic Partners 

IRS regulations do not allow you to use FSA funds for expenses incurred by or on behalf of same-sex domestic partners, or their children, unless they qualify as your legal tax dependents.

You are covered under a Columbia-provided medical plan:

1. Go to myuhc.com and click on “Register Now.” Your health plan ID card includes information you will need to register, or you can register using your Social Security Number and date of birth.

2. Click on “View Account Balances,” then select “Flexible Spending Account(s).”

Don’t Have a Health Plan with UHC? 
You do not need to be a member of a Columbia health plan to participate in an FSA. To manage your FSA expenses, you can register using your Social Security Number and date of birth. Under group/account number, enter “902784.”


Healthcare FSA

The current IRS limit for the Healthcare FSA is $2,650.* You can elect between $120 and $2,650* in this account to cover out-of-pocket eligible healthcare expenses for yourself, your spouse and your children, even if you do not elect to cover them under Columbia University benefits plans.

If you are hired after the beginning of the year, you can elect to contribute the maximum contribution limit ($2,650*) provided you have not contributed during the year to an FSA with Columbia University. If you are married, your spouse may also contribute $2,650* to an FSA sponsored by his/her employer. The full annual election amount is available for claim reimbursement as of your account’s effective date. You may elect a Healthcare FSA even if you are enrolled in Medicare.

Note: To be eligible to participate in the Healthcare FSA, children must be your dependents for income tax purposes.


* IRS limits are subject to change.

Dependent Care FSA

The Dependent Care FSA helps you pay the cost of dependent day care services for an adult or child because you work or attend school. If you are married, your spouse must also work or go to school while you are at work in order to qualify for this coverage. You can contribute up to $5,000* to a Dependent Care FSA. If you are married, the IRS has several guidelines that might affect how much you can deposit:

  • If your spouse also has a Dependent Care FSA at work and you file a joint tax return – your combined deposits cannot exceed $5,000.
  • If you are married and file separate income taxes – the most you can contribute is $2,500.

You can be reimbursed for the cost of services provided for:

  • Dependent children under the age of 13. If your child will turn 13 during the year, you can submit claims only for expenses incurred up to the child’s birthday. You may be eligible to un-enroll from the Dependent Care FSA once your child reaches age 13 as part of a “Change in Dependent Care Cost.”
  • Other dependents, including a parent, spouse or spouse’s child who is physically or mentally unable to care for himself or herself.


Your reimbursement for dependent care cannot exceed the balance in your account at the time of your claim. If the money in your account is insufficient to pay your claim, the balance will be paid later as your pre-tax payroll contributions accumulate in your account. When you incur an eligible dependent care expense, you can use your Health Care Spending Card to pay for the expense at participating locations. The card will only accept expenses up to the balance in your account at the time of use.

* IRS limits are subject to change.

Important! If you leave the University or become ineligible for benefits, you can only be reimbursed for expenses incurred prior to your employment end date or the date you become ineligible for benefits. Any remaining funds would be forfeited. 


Child Care Benefit (Members of Local 100)

Eligible members of Local 100 can elect to receive up to a $2,000 contribution from Columbia to a Dependent Care FSA. If you elect this benefit during the year, you will receive a prorated portion of the benefit.
To be eligible for this benefit, you must meet all of the eligibility criteria below:
  • Be a full-time, benefits-eligible member of Local 100 with an Annual Benefits Salary of less than or equal to $125,000*
  • Have a dependent child under the age of five and not yet attending kindergarten who:
    • Has been verified by the Columbia Benefits Service Center as an eligible dependent; and
    • Meets the IRS definition of a tax dependent
  • Elect to participate in the Child Care Benefit as a new hire, during the annual Open Enrollment period or if you experience a Qualified Life Status Change
There is a limit of a single benefit per family regardless of the number of eligible children, and regardless of whether both parents are eligible members of Local 100.
Members of Local 100 who receive the Child Care Benefit can also contribute personal pre-tax payroll contributions to their Dependent Care FSA. The total contributions between the Dependent Care FSA and the Child Care Benefit cannot exceed the $5,000 annual maximum.
* IRS limits are subject to change.