Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are tax-advantaged individual savings accounts designed specifically to pay for the medical expenses of individuals who are enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs).
As long as HSA funds are used to pay for qualified medical expenses, account owners will not pay income tax on the amount withdrawn.
The funds in these accounts are similar to any normal investment account, with the account owner fully owning all contributions, even if they are made by an employer, and being able to invest the funds into various investment options the financial custodian offers, which will typically be a range of mutual or index funds.
High-Deductible Health Plans
High-deductible health plans offer lower premiums than traditional health insurance plans, with the trade-off being much higher deductibles (the amount that the insured person must pay before the insurance company will begin covering part or all of the cost of the medical treatment or item) than traditional health insurance plans.
For 2018, the minimum health plan deductible to qualify as an HDHP is $1,350 for single tax filers and $2,700 for joint tax filers ($1,300 and $2,600, respectively, for 2017). The other requirement is the maximum out-of-pocket expenses the plan allows, which for 2018 is $6,650 for single filers and $13,300 for joint filers ($6,550 and $13,100, respectively, for 2017).
These limits apply to the plan's in-network costs; there are no specific limits defined for out-of-network costs and coverage.
The Triple Tax Advantage
Contributions to HSAs are tax-advantaged at three levels:
1.) The amount of the contribution is tax-deferred, meaning it is deducted from account owner's income tax return and not subject to income tax until it is withdrawn
2) Withdrawals used for qualified medical expenses are never taxed,
3) Investment gains within the account are also never taxed, as long as they are also used for qualified medical expenses.
These are three powerful benefits that exceed the advantages offered by many other tax-advantaged accounts.
HSA Contribution and Income Limits
The IRS announced on May 4, 2018 that they are retroactively changing the 2018 contribution limits back to $6,900 after retroactively reducing them in March. The chart has been updated to reflect the change.
2018 Contribution Limit
Employer + Employee
Catch up contribution (Age 55 and up)
There are no income limits to be eligible to contribute to an HSA although you do need to enroll through your employer and have a high-deductible health insurance plan in order to qualify.
Contributions are also 100% tax deductible at all income levels.
For those who are already using an HDHP and expect to have a significant amount of qualified medical expenses, the benefits of avoiding income tax on these expenses far outweighs to effort to set up an HSA and incur the annual management fees that the financial custodian may charge.
Combined with the fact that there are no income limits or phase-outs to qualifying for HSAs, this can be a valuable tax-advantaged strategy for anyone with an HDHP.
Are you eligible to contribute to an HSA? If so, are you taking advantage of the triple tax advantage?