spending

Tap Your Flexible Spending Account Before You Head to the Beach

On the list of eligible items: sunscreen, lip balm and prescription sunglasses.

Question: Can I really use tax-free money from my flexible spending account for sunscreen?

Answer: Yes, you can use tax-free money from your FSA for sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher and several other items you may need if you’re traveling to the beach this summer.

You can also use the tax-free money for lip balm with sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, bandages, first-aid kits, contact lens solution, reading glasses and several other over-the-counter items without a prescription. (You need a prescription to use FSA money for some over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers, motion sickness medication and allergy medicine.) You can also use the money for prescription sunglasses, prescription glasses and contact lenses. For a list of eligible items and which items require a prescription or doctor’s letter of necessity, see FSAstore.com, a website that exclusively sells FSA- and HSA-eligible products.

Many FSAs have debit cards that you can use to buy eligible items with money directly from your account. Or you can buy the items and then submit the receipts (and a prescription or prescription number, or a doctor’s letter, if required) to be reimbursed by your FSA. Ask your administrator for its procedures.

You can also use money tax-free from a health savings account for these expenses, but that’s usually not as good an idea because HSAs don’t have use-it-or-lose-it rules, and it’s better to use other cash for eligible expenses and keep the money growing in the account for future bills. But hold on to your receipts for eligible expenses, which you can use to make tax-free withdrawals from your HSA at any time – even years in the future. There is no time limit for withdrawing money tax-free from an HSA for eligible expenses you incurred after you opened the account.

For more information about FSAs and HSAs, see HSA vs. FSA: Which Is Better for You? Also see our FAQs About Health Savings Accounts.

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