Flexible Spending Account Grace Period

As 2006 comes to the end, one year-end move suggested by many personal finance articles is to spend whatever you still have in your flexible spending account (FSA) before December 31st due to the use-it-or-lose-it rule. However, IRS allows up to two and a half months of grace period into the new year for the spendings still be qualified for the reimbursement. According to IRS Notice 2005-42

A cafeteria plan document may, at the employer’s option, be amended to provide for a grace period immediately following the end of each plan year. The grace period must apply to all participants in the cafeteria plan. Expenses for qualified benefits incurred during the grace period may be paid or reimbursed from benefits or contributions remaining unused at the end of the immediately preceding plan year. The grace period must not extend beyond the fifteenth day of the third calendar month after the end of the immediately preceding plan year to which it relates (i.e., "the 2 and 1/2 month rule"). If a cafeteria plan document is amended to include a grace period, a participant who has unused benefits or contributions relating to a particular qualified benefit from the immediately preceding plan year, and who incurs expenses for that same qualified benefit during the grace period, may be paid or reimbursed for those expenses from the unused benefits or contributions as if the expenses had been incurred in the immediately preceding plan year. The effect of the grace period is that the participant may have as long as 14 months and 15 days (the 12 months in the current cafeteria plan year plus the grace period) to use the benefits or contributions for a plan year before those amounts are "forfeited" under the "use-it-or-lose-it" rule.

But the grace period is only an option not a mandate to the employer. Therefore, you have to check with your employer to see whether they have the grace period or not. If they do, you have ten extra weeks to empty your FSA account. Otherwise, you only have two more weeks.

Use it or lose it!

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