QUESTION: How does the annual limit on health FSA salary reductions apply when employees join our company midyear and elect to participate in our health FSA? Does a reduced limit apply to new employees who were participating in their former employers’ health FSAs earlier in the year?

ANSWER: In general, and unless the plan provides otherwise, employees hired midyear may elect to make salary reductions of up to the annual limit, just like employees who are employed for the full plan year. (The limit is indexed for inflation—for $2023 it is $3,050.) Employees who participate in more than one employer’s health FSA during a plan year may make salary reductions of up to the annual limit under each employer’s health FSA unless the employers are treated as a single employer under the Code’s controlled group or affiliated service group rules. (These rules treat two or more employers as a single employer if there is sufficient common ownership or a combination of joint ownership and common activity.) Thus, your company need not apply a reduced limit to a midyear hire who was participating in an unrelated employer’s health FSA before joining your company. Likewise, an employee who works for your company and another unrelated employer at the same time could make salary reductions of up to the annual limit under your company’s health FSA and any health FSA sponsored by the other employer. But if your company and the other employer are members of a controlled group or affiliated service group, then a single limit applies, and the employee’s salary reductions to the two health FSAs must be aggregated.

Of course, employees should minimize their risk of loss by basing their elections on a careful estimate of the eligible medical expenses they expect to incur during their period of coverage. (Grace periods and carryovers are plan design choices employers may make that can also minimize risk of loss for employees.) Employers, too, may wish to minimize their risk of loss by limiting annual health FSA salary reductions to an amount lower than the limit. Note that nonelective employer contributions to a health FSA (e.g., matching or seed contributions, or flex credits) generally do not count toward the limit. However, if employees may elect to receive the employer contributions in cash or as a taxable benefit, then the contributions will be treated as salary reductions and will count toward the limit if contributed to the health FSA.

Source: Thomson Reuters

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