by Don Ingwerson
Here is another update from the Committee on Publication Federal Office – this time on health savings accounts or HSA. To read this on the original site, click here: Health savings accounts (HSA)s. I hope you find this information helpful!
What are HSAs?
Health savings accounts (HSAs) are custodial accounts that can be set up through financial institutions such as banks and credit unions, either directly by an individual or through an employer-sponsored plan. HSAs provide tax benefits to an individual for setting aside money to pay for current and future health care expenses. Tax laws only allow establishment of and contribution to an HSA when the account holder has health coverage through an HSA-compatible health plan (also sometimes referred to as a “high-deductible”, “self-directed”, or “catastrophic” health insurance plan).* Those kinds of plans usually have lower monthly premiums than other health plans do—because the annual deductibles are higher. The motivation behind the HSA-compatible plan is to encourage saving (or investing) of money that would otherwise be spent on health insurance premiums, to give the account holder more discretion in how those dollars are used to pay for immediate or future out-of pocket health care needs.
Who can set up an HSA?
Generally speaking, if you are covered by an HSA-compatible health plan, you can set up an HSA. You are not eligible to establish an HSA if you are eligible for Medicare or have health coverage through a non-HSA-compatible health plan.
Contributions to an HSA
Contributions to the HSA can only be made when the account holder has health coverage through an HSA-compatible health plan. The IRS sets annual contribution limits, and contributions can come from a variety of sources, including account holders, employers, family members, and even from a limited one-time roll-over of IRA funds. These contributions are not taxed, nor are distributions (provided they are used for qualifying health care expenses). Once the account beneficiary turns 65, distributions may be used, tax-free, for any purpose. However, if HSA funds are used for non-qualifying expenses before age 65, regular income tax must be paid on that money and there is a penalty for early withdrawal.
HSAs and Christian Science care
The determination of what health/medical expenses can be legally paid for by an HSA is governed by Section 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code, which defines “medical expense” for purposes of income tax deduction to include amounts paid “for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body.”
Accordingly, over the years, payments made by individuals to Christian Science practitioners, Christian Science nurses, and Christian Science nursing facilities that relate to the healing of physical or mental conditions generally have been treated as tax-deductible under Section 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code. This is consistent with IRS regulations interpreting this section, which approve expenses for “treatments affecting any portion of the body” and for the “prevention or alleviation of a physical or mental defect or illness”, including “hospital” and “nursing services” and “other diagnostic and healing services”. While this would not likely extend to expenses unrelated to a health condition, there appears to be great flexibility for coverage of expenses that directly relate to healing of a physical or mental condition.
However, you should not construe this as individual legal advice. Your eligibility to establish and contribute to an HSA, as well as the eligibility of specific health/medical expenses, should be discussed with an attorney, tax advisor, or benefits consultant that is qualified to advise you under your particular tax circumstances.
*Please note that some high-deductible coverage is compatible for using in conjunction with a health savings account (HSA) and some is not. If you are interested in pairing a high-deductible health plan with an HSA, you will want to verify that the coverage is an HSA-compatible health plan. It should reference “HSA” somewhere in the plan name or description, but you should also verify that in writing with the insurance carrier.