If you are contemplating Lasik surgery to correct your vision, get your qualifying exam the year before, in December, to make sure you are eligible. Then you can deduct the eye exam’s cost for the present year, and “make an accurate election for the next year, so you don’t allocate too much money, and end up in the same boat, scrambling for ways to spend by year’s end,” Luskin said.
Take advantage of the sweet spot
If you have a calendar-year plan, and a 2½-month extension to March 15, 2013, you will be covered by the 2012 and 2013 FSA accounts from Jan. 1 to March 15, 2013. “If you have $200 from last year, and you buy new glasses after the first of the year, it will split itself,” Luskin said. “The first $200 will go to close out the old year. The rest will go to the new year’s account.”
You can also use this to your advantage if you are planning to have an expensive elective procedure. During that 2½-month period, you will have access to the money in both years’ FSA accounts.
Get your check-ups
When was the last time you had a physical? Does your back hurt? Have you been putting off elective surgery? “Give thought to anything that you might have been deferring —– like an eye exam or dental work,” said Santiago Leon, an employee benefits specialist with ACC Insurance Brokers in Miami.
Get your teeth cleaned, or get any dental work that needs done, said Jacqueline Cassaday, benefits specialist at Gunther Yoakley in South Florida. “If you don’t have insurance, a root canal and crown can set you back a couple of thousand dollars.”
If you need new glasses or have been wanting a spare pair, now is the time. “Buy prescription sunglasses; protect your eyes from UV rays and decrease your chance of developing cataracts,” Leon said.
You can get your reading glasses from Walmart or online, as long as they are medically necessary.
You can pick up a pair of orthotics from Sports Authority, as long as something is wrong with your feet, Luskin said. “If you’re a runner and they feel nice, that’s one thing, if you have a podiatrist who says they’re medically necessary, and it’s OK to get them from Sports Authority, then that’s OK,” Luskin said. “Anything that’s potentially a personal item or FSA item needs to have a ‘medically necessary’ form signed.”
If you get a massage for a migraine or carpal tunnel and the massage therapist signs the “medically necessary” form saying you were treated for that, then that’s an FSA expense, Luskin said. “But a massage on a cruise ship? No, I don’t think that would be covered no matter what the reason,” she said.
Another example: “If I fall off my motorcycle and hurt my shoulder, then yes, I can be treated with massage for that, get the proper forms signed, and use that as a FSA expense,” Luskin said.
Just remember that the IRS wants substantiation for cases where it could go either way.
Over the counter drugs
Over the counter drugs now need a prescription to be FSA eligible. Does that mean you need to make a doctor’s appointment to get cough drops? Luskin said this option is more for over the counter drugs that you take for chronic conditions. “If I’m allergic to dogs and need to take Zyrtec every day, I can go to my regular doctor, who I’m seeing anyway, and ask for a medically necessary form,” Luskin said. “Or if I’m in a CVS Minute Clinic for a cold, I ask them for a prescription for cold medicine.”