Turn Your Medical Expenses Into a $7,300 Tax Break
Even if you have health insurance, medical bills can really deplete your savings after you pay your premiums, deductibles, copays, and any other out-of-pocket expenses that you may accumulate during the year. It can all add up very quickly.
But health bills are unavoidable because you never know when your health may take a turn for the worse, and your health is one of those expenses that you really can’t afford to put off.
Luckily, in certain scenarios, you can make your medical bills work for you, including certain tax advantages. Here’s one way you might be able to turn these medical annoyances into as much as a $7,300 tax break.
Get a health savings account
In late 2003, lawmakers passed the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act, which created health savings accounts (HSAs). HSAs are bank accounts specifically designated for healthcare expenses. They also come with a nice tax advantage because funds you deposit into these accounts are not taxed and can therefore reduce your overall annual tax liability.
However, there are very specific conditions laid out for someone to qualify for an HSA. You must be in a high deductible health plan (HDHP), which the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines as a plan with at least a $1,400 deductible for self-coverage or $2,800 for family coverage. Deductibles are the amount you will pay for healthcare services annually before your insurance starts to pay the bills.
Additionally, the IRS also requires that your HDHP has a maximum annual deductible and other out-of-pocket-expenses limit of $7,050 for individuals or $14,100 for family coverage. This is the total amount you spend on deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance for services provided in your insurer’s network.
Be careful on this one because some plans can have a higher maximum than what is allowed for an HSA. For instance, this year the maximum out-of-pocket cap for plans purchased on health exchanges is $8,700.
Once you figure out whether or not you qualify for an HSA, it’s very easy to open one up because many financial institutions offer these types of accounts. Then you can simply load money into the account and use it to pay for qualifying healthcare expenses. An HSA can cover many types of expenses, but a few common ones are dental treatment, co-pays for doctor office visits, prescription drugs, and physical therapy.
Keep in mind, however, that once funds are in your HSA, you need to use them for qualified medical expenses. For any withdrawals not used on a qualified medical expense, you will not only have to pay income taxes but also an additional 20% penalty tax. Once you are 65, you can withdraw funds for any reason without the additional 20% penalty.
How to get that tax break
Once you have determined that your HDHP qualifies for an HSA and set up an account, you can contribute as much as $3,650 annually as an individual and as much as $7,300 if you have a family HDHP plan. This money will reduce your tax liability.
It’s also a great idea to contribute to your HSA even when you don’t have medical expenses because then you will be prepared for if and when you eventually do, and you can invest the money until you need it.
But if you don’t have enough savings to comfortably contribute the maximum each year, then you probably shouldn’t because of the penalties you could incur for withdrawing funds that aren’t for qualified medical expenses.
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