No one needs to remind business owners that the cost of employee health care benefits keeps going up. One way to provide some of these benefits is through an employer-sponsored Health Savings Account (HSA). For eligible individuals, an HSA offers a tax-advantaged way to set aside funds (or have their employers do so) to meet future medical needs. Here are the key tax benefits:
- Contributions that participants make to an HSA are pre-tax, within limits.
- Contributions that employers make are deductible for the business.
- Earnings on the funds in an HSA are not taxable, so the money can accumulate tax-free year after year.
- Distributions from HSAs to cover qualified medical expenses are tax free.
- Employers don’t have to pay payroll taxes on HSA contributions made by employees through payroll deductions.
Eligibility and 2023 contribution limits
To be eligible for an HSA, an individual must be covered by a “high deductible health plan.” For 2023, a “high deductible health plan” will be one with an annual deductible of at least $1,500 for self-only coverage, or at least $3,000 for family coverage. (These amounts in 2022 were $1,400 and $2,800, respectively.) For self-only coverage, the 2023 limit on deductible contributions will be $3,850 (up from $3,650 in 2022). For family coverage, the 2023 limit on deductible contributions will be $7,750 (up from $7,300 in 2022). Additionally, annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits for 2023 will not be able to exceed $7,500 for self-only coverage or $15,000 for family coverage (up from $7,050 and $14,100, respectively, in 2022).
An individual (and the individual’s covered spouse, as well) who has reached age 55 before the close of the tax year (and is an eligible HSA contributor) may make additional “catch-up” contributions for 2023 of up to $1,000 (unchanged from the 2022 amount).
If an employer contributes to the HSA of an eligible individual, the employer’s contribution is treated as employer-provided coverage for medical expenses under an accident or health plan. The contributions are, generally, excludable from an employee’s gross income up to the deduction limitation (exception: contributions made on behalf of more than 2% shareholders must be added to gross wages, subject to income tax only). Funds can be built up for years because there is no “use-it-or-lose-it” provision. An employer that decides to make contributions on its employees’ behalf must generally make comparable contributions to the HSAs of all comparable participating employees for that calendar year. If the employer doesn’t make comparable contributions, the employer is subject to a 35% tax on the aggregate amount contributed by the employer to HSAs for that period.
HSA withdrawals (or distributions) can be made to pay for qualified medical expenses, which generally means expenses that would qualify for the medical expense itemized deduction. Among these expenses are doctors’ visits, prescriptions, chiropractic care and premiums for long-term care insurance.
If funds are withdrawn from the HSA for other reasons, the withdrawal is taxable. Additionally, an extra 20% penalty will apply to the withdrawal, unless it is made after reaching age 65, or in the event of death or disability.
HSAs offer a flexible option for providing health care coverage and they may be an attractive benefit for your business. However, the rules are somewhat complex. Contact us if you have questions or would like to discuss offering HSAs to your employees.