Remove Amount Greater than Excess Contribution from HSA

This question was sent in by HSA Edge reader Dale. Feel free to send in your own question.

I was only eligible for an HSA in 2018 for July and switched health plans immediately after my contribution. I contributed $685 which is more than 1/12 of my allowable amount ($371). If I request an Excess Contribution Reversal for the entire $685 + interest, am I allowed to consider my entire $685 as Other Income and just pay income tax on it?

Making and Removing Excess Contributions

Each year, the IRS determines the contribution limit, or maximum amount, one is allowed to contribute to the HSA. However, note that your contribution limit may differ from the IRS limit. Reasons that this may differ are:

Anything above your personally calculated contribution limit is considered an excess contribution. Excess contributions are not good – in effect, you have exceeded the tax deduction afforded you by the IRS. The IRS likes to collect what is due to them, so, understandably, frowns on this.

You can remove excess contributions from your account in the tax year they occur without penalty.

Luckily, there are options to correct Excess Contributions after they occur. This involves removing your excess contribution from your HSA before the tax date of a given year. For most people, this is mid April, though extensions do apply. If excess contributions are not removed, a 6% penalty is due each year for as long as the excess contributions remain in the account. This can add up over time.

You are correct that you can remove the excess contribution for 2018 up until your tax filing deadline (with extension). Per Form 969:


Removing non-Excess Contributions

However, one very important point is that you cannot just remove funds willy nilly from you HSA. In your above example, you contributed $685 compared to your contribution limit of $371. This means you have a $314 excess contribution that can be removed. The whole $685 cannot be removed without penalty.

Any funds removed from your account that are not excess contributions face penalty and tax.

The IRS is firm on the fact that once funds go into the HSA account, they are to be used for medical purposes. Besides excess contribution correction, any removal of funds from the account are considered “Non Qualified Deductions”. Per IRS 696:


Note that the above text “not used for qualified medical expenses” is incredibly broad. It includes any sort of scenario, other than removing excess contributions, where HSA funds are coming out of your HSA and not being spent on qualified medical expenses. This comes up often from readers as they assume they have flexibility to contribute / distribute from the HSA as they see fit. The IRS does not agree, and once the money goes in, it is not easy to just take out. Thus, care and planning should occur for calculating how much to contribute to your HSA during a year.

Calculating Non Qualified Distribution Penalty

Removing funds from the HSA not spent on medical expenses is costly. If this applies to you, see our article “Can You Cash Out An HSA?” for options on getting the money out.

If the penalty is indeed due, you will need to pay both tax and penalty on the amount. This sort of makes sense – the IRS is 1) undoing the tax benefit you got from the initial contribution and 2) penalizing you for not following the rules. This assessment occurs in Part 2 of Form 8889 under “HSA Distributions”. Here is what that section looks like:


As you can see above, assume you have a non qualified or “excess” distribution that came out of your HSA. #1 indicates where your non qualified distribution is added to income and is taxed. #2 indicates where the 20% penalty is calculated and added to your tax bill due.

Overall, it is an expensive way of getting your money out. Plan accordingly.

Note: If you want help calculating your distribution penalties and preparing your HSA tax forms, please consider my service It asks you simple questions and fills out Form 8889 correctly for you in about 10 minutes. - complete HSA Form 8889 in 10 minutes!

Short Term Investment Tax Implications for HSAs

This question was sent in by HSA Edge reader Marc. Feel free to send in your own question.

What is the tax consequence for holding an investment through an HSA brokerage account for a short term? Iknow that HSAs are tax free if you obey the rules of the HSA, so I’m assuming there’s nothing limiting the length of time held in an investment?

Tax Free Growth

You are correct that there is nothing that limits or penalizes investment length in the HSA. As part of the HSA’s triple tax advantage, investments grow tax free. This means that capital gains, either short or long term, are not assessed on any growth in the HSA. Per IRS Form 969:

The interest or other earnings on the assets in the account are tax free

In a non-tax advantaged (regular “brokerage”) account, a tax liability is created when earnings occur from buying and selling a financial instrument. The rate of those capital gains is determined by how long the investment is held. That amount must be aggregated at tax time and paid, with any losses offsetting taxes on gains. This is not the case with an HSA, and this is a benefit to the user in terms of:

  • long term growth
  • tax savings
  • reduced paperwork

Thus, the HSA can be used as a “trading vehicle” without penalty, although the risk of that strategy is up to the account holder to decide.

FYI Fidelity recently started offering HSA’s with no fees and very good investment options.

Note: If you want help filing your HSA tax forms, please consider my service It asks you simple questions and fills out Form 8889 correctly for you in about 10 minutes. - complete HSA Form 8889 in 10 minutes!

Secondary HSA Insurance for Adult Child

This question was sent in by HSA Edge reader Holly. Feel free to send in your own question.

I have an employee (who has Cigna insurance for himself and his family) whose daughter is now employed and has insurance of her own. He would like to leave her on his plan until she turns 26 in October. She would then have her insurance as her primary and dad’s insurance as secondary. Is this allowed?

Parent with Adult Child with Secondary Insurance

Let’s address this from two perspectives: for one, I see no problem for the employee to have his daughter on his health plan. Assuming he has an HDHP, he is eligible to contribute to an HSA using the family contribution limit, even if the daughter has duplicate coverage. He can carry on and has no risk here. This is confirmed by one of my favorite clauses of Form 969:

Self-only HDHP coverage is an HDHP covering only an eligible individual. Family HDHP coverage is an HDHP covering an eligible individual and at least one other individual whether or not that individual is an eligible individual).

Adult Child with Secondary Insurance

As for the daughter, I don’t think anyone is stopping her from having multiple health insurance plans. And it is true that adult children on their parent’s HSA can open their own HSA. That is a great feature and allows them to contribute a lot.

Even if she has HSA eligible insurance, there is a further test. In order to contribute to an HSA, you need to be an eligible individual. Per Form 969:


Notice #2 above. Her “other” coverage, whether it is the primary or secondary, almost certainly does not fall into the exceptions listed in Form 969. Thus, with 2 health insurance plans, she would violate the “Other Health Coverage” provision. She would not be an eligible individual with dual coverage, and would be unable to contribute to the HSA during those months with dual coverage.

Over contribution

Note that contribution limit is pro rata by month. For example, if she enrolls for 3/12 months on 1 insurance plan, she earns 3/12 of the contribution for the year. When she joins that second plan for say the remaining 9/12 months, she doesn’t earn contribution limit for those months. But she would still be able to contribute the 3/12 or 25% of her limit.

If this situation existed in 2018 and she made contributions, she likely over contributed, and has until tax day to remove any excess contributions and get her taxes corrected. If it is a current year situation, she can correct it up until tax day next year.

If she is keen on the HSA I would avoid the 2nd plan.

Note: If you want help calculating your HSA contribution limit and filing your taxes, please consider my service It asks you simple questions and fills out Form 8889 correctly for you in about 10 minutes. - complete HSA Form 8889 in 10 minutes!