Columbia University offers several tax savings accounts, including the Healthcare and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) to help you save. No matter which medical plan option you choose (or if you choose not to enroll in Columbia University medical coverage), you can enroll in the Dependent Care FSA.
- If you enroll in the 80, 90 or 100 Choice Plus plan or choose to have no medical coverage through the University: You can enroll in a Healthcare FSA.
- If you enroll in the HDHP: You can enroll in an HSA or the Healthcare FSA, but not both.
- If you choose not to enroll in Columbia University medical coverage, you can still enroll in a Healthcare FSA.
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.
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.
You can enroll in the Transit/Parking Reimbursement Program (T/PRP) and Healthcare and Dependent Care FSA programs even if you do not enroll in a Columbia University medical plan.
How FSAs Work
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
Convenient Automatic Reimbursement
Eligibility Regarding Same-Sex Domestic Partners
If 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 Flexible Spending Account (FSA) vs.|
Health Savings Account (HSA)
|Feature||Health Care FSA||HSA |
(only available with HDHP)
|Pre-tax contributions||Yes||Yes, if you are not enrolled in Medicare*|
|Unused funds roll over from year-to-year||Yes, up to $500**||Yes,full amount|
Investment options with taxfree earnings
Tax-free withdrawal for eligible expenses
|Can use for eligible healthcare and dental expenses||Yes||Yes|
Portable – can take it with you when you leave Columbia
Can be used to pay for retiree medical expenses
Annual elected amount available at beginning of year
|Can contribute if in HDHP||Yes, if you are not enrolled in the HSA||Yes|
* If you enroll in Medicare, you cannot make new contributions to the HSA; however, you can use any accumulated HSA funds to pay for eligible medical expenses.
** In the FSA, you must incur claims or expenses by December 31 each year or any balance over $500 will be forfeited. Balances of $500 or less will roll over to the next calendar year if you remain a benefits eligible employee at Columbia University.
Important! The IRS does not permit you to elect both a Healthcare FSA and an HSA. If your spouse has one of the two—for example, through another employer—you cannot elect another type of tax-savings vehicle. This rule does not apply to domestic partners because the IRS does not allow the use of either account for the expenses of a domestic partner. If you have a balance of $500 or less rolled over from your Healthcare FSA from 2017, you will automatically be enrolled in a Healthcare FSA in 2018. However, if you would like to contribute the maximum allowable amount in 2018, you must enroll in the Healthcare FSA during Open Enrollment.
Dependent Care FSA
- 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.
- If your prior year W-2 earnings exceed $120,000 – Columbia Benefits may contact you to inform you whether your contributions must be capped as a result of mandatory IRS testing.
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.
For additional information, see eligible dependent care providers.
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.
Child Care Benefit
- Be a full-time, benefits-eligible Officer 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 Officers.
Officers who receive the Child Care Benefit can also contribute personal pretax 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.