10 answers

FSA Account for Daycare Expenses

I'm interested in beginning a FSA account to cover childcare expenses but am not entirely sure how it works. If anyone out there uses one and can provide an overview and if it's greatly beneficial - any input is appreciated.

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Wow - thanks so much for all of the very helpful comments!! Guess I should consult w/ a tax advisor to see which would benefit us the most.

Thanks again!

More Answers

I love my flexible spending account! With today's economy, our budget is pretty maxed out, so getting reimbursed along the way helps me make ends meet. Plus, it does drop you down into a lower tax bracket, which at the end of the year is a plus. For those who don't need to rely on the reimbursement to make ends meet, you can wait to claim your reimbursement at the end of the year, for example, at Christmas time, or a co-worker of mine claimed it at the end of the year and put it into a college saving account (after 4 years, it amounted to 20K !)

We have one and love it! We feel like we get our money back when we make a huge purchase (ie eye exaime and glasses) although it was our money to begin with. We set aside how much fsa money we will need for the year and that money comes out pre taxed and we use it for ALL things we do medical! We also used to use it when we had daycare expense. Great thing to have in our opinion. Helps you save the money you need for all those doc visits, eye examines and medicines. Great program!!

It's a great way to cover the expense HOWEVER the reason I did not do it is that come tax time you WILL NOT be allowed to use your daycare as an expense write off. Now I am a single mother of one and I rely on being able to claim that 6k to get a larger return. Something to think about....

Definitely seek the advice of a professional. One thing I did want to point out is that while yes you can claim your dependent expenses at tax time, you may only claim up to $3000. If you participate in an FSA, you can contribute up to $5000 - so you get a little more.

I participate in my company's FSA plan, and have yet to have any problems with reimbursements or waiting for the service month to end before receiving my reimbursement. I think it may depend on the rules of each particular provider. We use Flores, and they provide reimbursements for what has been paid regardless of the service time - so long as it is within the plan year.

I love FSA. Deferring $5000 of my annual income DOES make a difference. My current annual childcare expenses run nearly $8000. I suspect with two in childcare, you could benefit.

You can submit your expense once the service has occurred (this is different from medical FSA), but you are only reimbursed based on what you've contributed up until that point. Example, I max out my plan so around $200 is deducted from every check. My monthly expenses are $635. I submit a claim for the TOTAL amount at the end of the month and the reimbursement pulls from that total amount...not just the $400 a month that I contributed, so I don't even have to put in a claim form every month. I get three paychecks or so out of every claim. You are sort of "behind" as the month of service has to complete before you can claim reimbursement, but it can easily be overcome with a little planning.

I get reimbursed very quickly as we have direct deposit...I get the funds either the same day as my paycheck or the following Monday.

To be honest, it is also a bit of a budgeting tool. What you do don't see, you can't spend.

Keep in mind that if you use private care, your care-provider will have to supply either their EIN or SSN for verification. So, if they are not claiming their childcare income, you may have some difficulty (or create some difficulty).

My company's FSA for childcare is very simple to use. I pick a set amount of money to come out of my paycheck every pay period and it goes into an account and waits for me to use it. I pay for the daycare costs and send the agency that our FSA is through the receipt and then they send me a check for that amount. Some FSAs are set up to be used like checks where you'll get a check book sent to you from the agency and you write checks to the daycare directly from your account. Either way it lowers the amount of taxes that are taken out of you check so you save a little money that way.
Please be warned though, if you don't use all the money in your FSA by the end of the fiscal year then you loose everything that's left in it.

Hi M.,

I use an FSA account and love it.

What I do is pay my daughter's pre-school tuition each month and then fax a copy of the standard form from our FSA, plus the pre-school receipt, to the FSA provider.

When I get paid, the FSA folks deposit $400-something (can't remember the exact number at the moment) into my bank account. Essentially, you are reimbursing yourself with the FSA provider as middleman. But you're reimbursing yourself with pre-tax dollars, so you're reducing your taxable income by, I believe, $5,000/year if you contribute the maximum. FSA's only reimburse up to $5,000/year, but, hey, every little bit helps, right?

I think the FSA provider is pretty key. My employer uses an outfit called Flores, based in Charlotte, N.C., and I have found them to be excellent. Very fast and responsive. So, you might check with employer, if you haven't already, about which company they use and ask other employees who have accounts if they're getting reimbursed quickly and generally like or don't like the way it's working.

Hope this helps.

Hi M., FSA account is a great program. I used it the entire time my children were in daycare and daycamp. They are 8 and 9 years old now :( How the program works is, you will pledge an amount for the entire year. For example, $3000 and they will deduct $125.00 from your paycheck every pay period. Once you have deposited money in the FSA account you can turn in receipts from your daycare to get reimbursed for the amount you have paid. Basically, you are reimbursing yourself from the $3000 that will accumulate in the FSA account. I know with my company, the money has to be in the account in order to get reimbursed. For example, if you turn in a receipt for $150 and you have only accumulated $100 in that account, they will only cut you a check for the $100 until more money is deposited into the FSA account. You can turn in receipts as often as you would like. Remember, you have to use the $3000 up by the end of the year or you will lose it. Hope I did not confuse you!! Hope this helps!!

I havn't read your other responses so you might already have this. FSA is a great program but it does have a downfall. The way it works is you agree to contribute so much on a before tax basis, which lowers your taxable income. As you contribute for the dependent care spending account you submit claims & the money is reimbursed to you. I'm not sure what the amount is now but it used to be $5000 for individual or $2500 for you & your spouse. The downfall is to be careful how much you decide to contribute. If you don't use it you lose it so try to estimate as close as possible or you could lose your money.

The benefits of a FSA account is to reduce your taxable income. However, you're allowed to claim child care expenses in your tax reporting at the end of the year. I guess you'd have to see if the reduction in taxable salary is more beneficial to you than claiming the deduction during tax season. (i.e. Does the reduction knock your taxable salary to a lower tax bracket?) Another thing to note - if you don't use it - YOU LOSE IT. No refunds of unused money in your FSA.

Basically, you calculate what it would cost you on an annual basis for child care, divide that by the number of pay checks you receive and have that number deducted from your check each pay period. With my account, I would have to pay the child care provider up front as I usually do, submit a claim and wait for a reimbursement check.

I personally found it a pain to constantly submit claim forms, wait for reimbursement and essentially struggle with the child care cost being taken out of my monthly budget twice until the refund check came in. I did that all last year (2008) and this year (2009), I'll just take the deduction at tax season.

My 2 cents - hope it helps.

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