Why you should consider an HSA now
Health Savings Accounts ("HSAs") have been around since 2003; however, based on my observations, these types of accounts are not widely used. With the focus on health insurance the past few years, now is a good time to consider the use of an HSA. If you qualify to contribute to an HSA and have the cash flow, they are a really great tax saving and investment vehicle.
What is an HSA?
An HSA is a type of account that you contribute funds to just like an individual retirement account ("IRA"). Many people are not eligible to make tax deductible contributions to an IRA because of income limitations, participation in employer sponsored plans, etc. Those people can consider an HSA as an alternative. An HSA is one way to reduce your taxes, save for retirement, and save for medical expenses at the same time. When you make a contribution to an HSA, a subtraction from adjusted gross income can be claimed on your tax return. This reduces your adjusted gross income and ultimately the amount of tax you owe. Once the funds are in the HSA, they can be invested or left in cash and are available to pay for medical expenses.
In addition, medical expenses usually do not provide much tax benefit as a normal tax deduction. By contributing to an HSA and using those funds for medical expenses, you are able to indirectly deduct your medical expenses.
Who Can Qualify:
The first qualification is that you must be covered by a “high deductible health plan” or “HDHP”. High deductible is defined as a deductible of at least $2,600 per year for a family or $1,300 for a single person. In general, as long as you are enrolled in an HDHP and eligible for an HSA as of the first day of the last month of your tax year (December 1st for most taxpayers), then you are considered enrolled in an HDHP for the entire year.
The second qualification is that you cannot be enrolled in Medicare. If you are enrolled in Medicare, you are not eligible to contribute to an HSA. However, if you already have funds in an HSA, you can continue to use these funds.
The third requirement is that you cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
The fourth requirement is that you have no other health coverage (such as a flexible spending account or “FSA”) except what is permitted. See IRS website for further information on this.
Distributions from the HSA often occur as medical expenses. The custodian of the HSA will usually give the HSA owner a debit card to use at medical service providers. Distributions and payments from an HSA are not taxable if they are used for qualifying medical expenses. Qualifying medical expenses are those that generally qualify for a tax deduction as a medical expense such as prescriptions, co-pays, hospital and doctor expenses, etc. Only certain types of insurance payments are allowed as qualifying distributions, so be sure to look into this further if you are planning to use the HSA for payment of health insurance premiums.
If the HSA funds are not eventually used for medical expenses, the account is allowed to accumulate and grow tax free. Once the account holder reaches age 65, the funds can be withdrawn for non-medical purposes without being subject to a withdrawal penalty. Prior to age 65, non-medical distributions will be subject to a 20% penalty. After age 65, funds withdrawn for non-medical purposes will be subject to income tax on the growth of the investments.
HSA contributions are subject to annual limitations. The annual contribution for a family in 2017 is limited to $6,750. The 2017 annual contribution for a single person is limited to $3,400. Those age 55 or older can contribute an extra $1,000.
Where can you setup an HSA?
Many local banks as well as online banks have the ability to establish a health savings account for you. As with anything, you should compare the different banks to determine which one is best for you. In addition, your health insurance provider may provide the ability for you to establish an HSA.
HSAs are a great vehicle for saving taxes on your medical expenses and possibly saving for retirement at the same time. If you are eligible and can afford to put the money into an HSA, then a health savings account is something for you to seriously consider.