Tag Archives: Taxes

Using HSA Funds Once You Turn 65 Years Old

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Penalty on Non Qualified Withdrawals

Health Savings Accounts are generally required to be spent on qualified medical expenses. Contributions you make have great tax advantages based on the assumption that you will use them for their intended purpose, which is medical care for you and your family. Deviating from properly spending the funds can result in taxes due, as well as a 20% penalty. You can read about options for cashing out your HSA, but there aren’t many ways around getting money out without paying that 20% penalty.

That all changes once you reach the age of 65 years old. Besides being eligible for Medicare (which can affect your HSA eligibility), at age 65 your HSA no longer penalizes you for taking funds out of it. This is a huge advantage is your HSA becomes much more flexible and can be spent on anything, not just qualified medical expenses. This is one reason why HSA’s are a great retirement vehicle. While always avoiding tax on medical purchases, the HSA basically converts into a 401(k) or IRA (invest pre-tax, pay taxes later) at the time you turn 65. Conveniently, this is right around retirement time, so your HSA has served you like an IRA with a great medical option on it. As you will see, some distributions after age 65 will still incur a tax, but all distributions will avoid the 20% penalty. Per IRS Form 969:

Additional tax. There is an additional 20% tax on the part of your distributions not used for qualified medical expenses. However, there is no additional tax on distributions made after the date you are disabled, reach age 65, or die.

Using HSA funds for Qualified Medical Expenses at 65

Even after reaching 65, your Health Savings Account is still the best way to pay for medical, dental, or vision care for you and your family. This is because the triple-tax advantage still exists for the HSA: pre tax funds, no tax on earnings, and no tax for medical expenses. That means that any medical care you receive after age 65 is still paid for tax free using your HSA. You should remember this and guard those HSA dollars to avoid paying the tax man more than is needed.

For this reason alone, it may make sense not to use the HSA for things other than qualified medical expenses. As you will see, while you won’t be penalized on those “other” distributions, you will still be taxed, and in turn you forfeit the ability to spend those funds tax-free on medical care. Of course, even after age 65 you can still contribute to an HSA, but at that point you may not be on an HSA eligible plan or may have begun Medicare coverage, which prevents you from contributing. So once the genie is out of the bottle and the HSA funds are gone, it may be tough to get them back in and regain tax free medical spending. The point is to protect those HSA funds since they have the special ability to pay for medical care tax free, and we know that medical spending increases as we get older.

Using HSA funds for anything at 65

Above we mention the way to play this by the book, let’s talk about the fun way to use HSA funds. Once you turn 65, you can withdraw funds from your HSA without penalty. This means you can spend them on retirement, vacations, gifts for your family, fine wine and leather-bound books, or whatever you want. Any time before age 65 doing so would incur a steep 20% penalty on this “incorrect” usage of HSA funds, but in your golden years you can spend freely and enjoy the high life with your HSA. You no longer need to spend your HSA dollars only on qualified medical expenses.

After 65, HSA funds can be spent on things other than qualified medical expenses, but these amounts are added to income, which creates a tax liability.

The only downside is that you will still owe tax on these distributions from your HSA. Any funds you pull from your HSA for non qualified medical expenses will be added to income and taxed, but I argue this makes sense given the tax history of the contribution. You were able to contribute tax-free, your earnings grew tax free, and your funds need to be spent on medical expenses to continue to be tax free. Since you are not spending them on medical expenses, they are added to income like they should have been the year you made the contribution. However, at this point you have enjoyed the advantage of tax free investment growth compounded over many years.

In addition, delaying HSA distributions until this time is beneficial as your tax rate is likely lower in retirement. This results in less of a tax hit than it would have had you been taxed at the time of contribution, likely years ago. For example, at the peak of your career your marginal tax rate may have been 30%. But in retirement, you may be in a 15% tax bracket, so you have effectively arbitraged the tax system and saved yourself significant money.

Accounting for Distributions after 65 on Form 8889

Regardless of what you spend your HSA funds on, you will need to account for it each year with the IRS. This is done with HSA Form 8889 and specifically takes place in Part II – Distributions. We will examine two scenarios and how to account for them.

If you are 65 or older and use your HSA to purchase qualified medical expenses, your Form 8889 activity will look the same as if you were not 65. Specifically, you will call out the distribution, and classify it as being spent on qualified medical spending.

The following was prepared quickly using EasyForm8889.com

Age 65 HSA distributions for qualified medical expenses

If you are 65 or older and you use you distribute from your HSA for something other than medical expenses, the treatment is a bit different. In this case, you call out the distribution amount but enter $0 for the amount spent on qualified medical expenses on Line 15. This will lead to taxable distribution on Line 16. However, there is a checkbox on 17a that you check for distributions over age 65, and line 17b backs these out from the 20% penalty.

Age 65 distribution for retirment

This way, the amount is added back to taxable income but the penalty is avoided.

Note: if you need help accounting for your HSA distributions at age 65, please consider using my service EasyForm8889.com to complete Form 8889. It asks simple questions in a straightforward way and will generate your HSA tax forms in 10 minutes. It is fast and painless, no matter how complicated your HSA situation.

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Contributing to HSA’s with a Cafeteria Plan

What are Cafeteria Plans

To understand Cafeteria Plans and HSA’s, it helps to understand the mechanisms for contributing funds to your Health Savings Account. There are four different ways to contribute to an HSA, all of which count towards your yearly contribution limit:

  1. Your employer contributes their money to your HSA. In this case, your employer gifts you funds directly into your Health Savings Account during the tax year. This is by far the best way to fund an HSA since the money is free and being given to you. Employer contributions count towards your yearly contribution limit but they are yours to spend as you like.
  2. You contribute after tax money to your HSA. This usually occurs by depositing cash or transferring funds between your bank account and your Health Savings Account. You have likely paid taxes on these funds (via payroll) so HSA tax Form 8889 helps you account for them and refund those taxes paid.
  3. You contribute from your IRA or Roth IRA. This is called a Qualified Funding Distribution and moves money from one tax advantaged investment account to your HSA. Do note that these contributions contain a Testing Period,
    requiring you to maintain HSA insurance.
  4. Your employer withholds your earnings pre-tax and contributes them to the HSA. This is an example of a what is called a cafeteria plan. These funds are yours (since they are being paid to you and are no longer your employer’s) and are a part of your paycheck. The employer is just enabling the contribution for you through their payroll system.

Cafeteria Plans are not unique to HSA’s; in fact, it is a general term used to describe pre-tax contributions made by your employer. They can be established for a variety of employee related savings or expenses.

A Cafeteria Plan is a reimbursement plan governed by IRS Section 125 which allows employees to contribute a certain amount of their gross income to a designated account or accounts before taxes are calculated.

Benefits of HSA Cafeteria Plans

There are numerous benefits of cafeteria plans that not only make your life easier, but actually end up saving money. Besides all of the advantages of savings in an HSA, here are some additional benefits that contributing via a Cafeteria Plan provides:

  • You pay less taxes. You read this right, Cafeteria Plans reduce the amount of taxes you pay. This is because payroll tax is not the only tax you pay each paycheck. In addition, you pay into other programs such as Medicare, Social Security, and any state taxes that are taken from your earnings. When you file Form 8889 as part of your tax return, you will only be credited for the income tax that was paid. The other taxes stay with Uncle Sam. Using a cafeteria plan allows you to make these contributions before all these payroll taxes hit it, allowing you to keep a larger slice of your earnings.
  • Disciplined savings. One of the hardest things about saving is actually putting aside the money to save. There is always something that comes up or something tempting you as a “more fun” use of the money. Saving via a Cafeteria Plan eliminates this because you automate your savings plan and the money is taken pre-tax. It never even hits your checking account as it goes straight to the HSA, preventing you from spending it and making sure you make your contribution.
  • Easier transactions. I never had the luxury of a cafeteria plan so each month I had to initiate a transfer to my bank to make the contribution. Having this taken care of for you reduces the amount of work you have to do and transfers you make with your money.

If you are presented the option for contributing to an HSA via cafeteria plan you should definitely consider it, based on the benefits above. Their main drawback is decreased flexibility in changing HSA contributions, since they are happening automatically from your paycheck. For example, it may take time to adjust your HSA contribution amount during the year. There may be a lockout period, a delay before it takes effect, and you at least have to talk to HR to make the change. You should evaluate how your specific payroll plan handles changes to HSA contributions via a cafeteria plan and assess whether that is suitable to your needs before signing up.

Reporting Cafeteria Plan Contributions on Form 8889

The biggest mistake people make with Cafeteria Plan contributions and filing HSA tax Form 8889 is putting them on Line 2. Line 2 is where contributions you personally made (#2 above) are totaled and used to reduce your taxable income. This has the effect of making your contributions tax free. You can see that by adding Cafeteria Plan contributions to this line, you are “double dipping” because you never paid taxes on those contributions to begin with. Line 2 has a disclaimer that calls this out:

Do not include employer contribuitons, contributions made through a cafeteria plan, or rollovers in Line 2 (see instructions)

Form 8889 Line 2

Due to the IRS’ confusing wording, most people don’t even know they are contributing through a cafeteria plan or what one is. Thus, they end up making a mistake on Form 8889 and potentially receiving a call from the IRS.

The correct place to put contributions made through a cafeteria plan is on Line 9 of Form 8889, which is called “Employer Contributions”. This makes sense because, in our discussion above, we saw how cafeteria plan contributions look a lot like employer contributions. There is no taxes being paid on both of these contributions, it is just a matter of whose money is being contributed. Again, the IRS doesn’t help us with Form 8889 because they describe the line as “Employer contributions made to your HSA for 2017”.

Form 8889 Line 9

If you look into the Form 8889 instructions, you can see that this is the exact spot where Cafeteria Plan contributions should go:

Form 8889 Line 9 Instructions

Doing so will ensure the amount that travels over to your 1040 form is the correct amount to deduct.


Note: if you need help with cafeteria plan contributions on Form 8889, please consider using my service EasyForm8889.com. It asks you simple questions and fills out Form 8889 perfectly for you in about 10 minutes.

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How to Make a Non Qualified Withdrawal from your HSA

This question was submitted by HSA Edge reader Felicia. Feel free to submit your question today to evan@hsaedge.com.

I would like to withdraw money from my HSA as a non qualified withdrawal. How do I do this?

Doing a non qualified withdrawal from an HSA is dangerously simple – all you have to do is take the money out. There are no forms during the distribution that declare whether it is qualified or not. Instead, this will be settled at tax time when you file Form 8889. It will ask how much money was withdrawn from your HSA, and how much of that was used to pay for qualified medical expenses. The difference is taxed and penalized as a taxable (non qualified) HSA distribution.

Here is an example of a non qualified withdrawal for 2016 created by EasyForm8889.com:


In your case as in the above example, the amount withdrawn and the amount spent on qualified medical expenses do not equal. Thus, those are non qualified distributions and that amount is added to income and penalized. However, paying taxes and penalty may be worth it to get access to the funds.

There are some exceptions to paying the penalty – namely reaching age 65, becoming disabled, or dying – but those don’t often apply.

Of course, I would advise that you try to get this money out penalty free, so recommend my article Can You Cash Out An HSA. There are a few methods you can use to get funds out, but most involve incurring some sort of medical expense to disburse the funds. However, thinking creatively can help bridge this gap. For example, are there things you are spending money on that are actually qualified medical expenses? Or, are there any qualified medical expenses in your near future (e.g. glasses, doctor’s visits, procedures) that you can pull forward to at least get access to the HSA funds?


Note: If you need to account for non-qualified withdrawals on Form 8889, please consider my service EasyForm8889.com. It asks you simple questions and fills out Form 8889 correctly for you in about 10 minutes.

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