A Commuter Benefits Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is an employer-sponsored account that allows participants to set aside pre-tax funds to pay for qualified mass transit and parking expenses associated with their work commute. There are two Commuter Benefit accounts: transportation and parking. Each of these accounts may receive a monthly contribution limit of $300, starting in 2023.
What to know about this account
- You must have funds in a commuter benefits account before using
- Any unused funds in a transportation and/or parking account will be lost at the end of the plan year
- Adjustments to a contribution can be made at any time; termination included
- You can manage this account online at www.NueSynergy.com or via the NueSynergy smart mobile app
Questions to consider
Why should I enroll in a Commuter Benefits account?
This account is ideal if you expect to incur commuter expenses that won’t be reimbursed by another plan. Money contributed to a Commuter Benefits account is free from federal and state taxes and remains tax-free when spent on eligible expenses.
What expenses are eligible for this account?
This all depends on which commuter account you plan on choosing. For a transportation account, expenses such as transit passes, tokens, fare cards, vouchers or items entitling you to ride a mass vehicle are eligible. For a parking account, eligible expenses consist of parking expenses incurred at/near place of work and out-of-pocket parking fees for parking meters and lots.
How do I use my Commuter Benefits FSA to pay for eligible expenses?
You can either use the NueSynergy smart debit card or pay your personal funds and submit a claim reimbursement.
The IRS has released an information letter responding to an inquiry from a qualified transportation plan participant whose employer decided to let him work from home permanently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To avoid losing compensation reduction amounts he had previously set aside for parking, the participant asked whether his unused compensation reductions could be transferred to a health FSA under a cafeteria plan.
The letter explains that unused compensation reduction amounts under an employer’s qualified transportation plan can be carried over to subsequent periods under the plan and used for future commuting expenses, so long as the employee does not receive benefits that exceed the maximum excludable amount in any month. But cash refunds are not permitted, even to employees whose compensation reduction amounts exceed their need for qualified transportation fringe benefits. Furthermore, the Code prohibits cafeteria plans from offering qualified transportation fringe benefits, and IRS rules do not permit unused compensation reduction amounts under a qualified transportation plan to be transferred to a health FSA under a cafeteria plan. The letter also notes that COVID-19-related relief for FSAs gives employers the discretion to amend their cafeteria plans to permit midyear health FSA election changes for plan years ending in 2021.
EBIA Comment: The qualified transportation rules have proven sufficiently flexible to handle most situations resulting from the COVID-19 emergency. Most employers permit benefit election changes at least monthly, and plans can allow current participants to carry over unused balances indefinitely. Compensation reductions set aside for one qualified transportation benefit (e.g., parking) can even be used for a different transportation benefit (e.g., transit) if the plan permits and the maximum monthly benefit is not exceeded. But—as this participant’s request to transfer parking compensation reductions to a health FSA suggests—those options are not always sufficient. Because some risk of loss due to changing circumstances is unavoidable, employers should clearly articulate that risk to employees before they make compensation reduction elections.
Source: Thomson Reuters