Obamacare May Cause Flexible Spending Accounts to “Vanish”

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Posted by John Kartch on Friday, August 28th, 2015, 3:36 PM PERMALINK

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama repeatedly made a “firm pledge” against “any form of tax increase” on any American making less than $250,000:

“I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.” [Video]

“If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.” [Transcript] [Video]

But his promise was shattered when he signed Obamacare into law. Of its 20 new or higher taxes, at least seven directly raise taxes on Americans making less than $250,000 per year. Most of the middle class tax hikes were scheduled to take effect after 2012, once the President was safely re-elected. Among these taxes is Obamacare’s Flexible Spending Account tax which took effect in 2013.

And now, according to an industry analyst quoted by Politico tax reporter Brian Faler, FSAs will be “one of the first things to go” thanks to Obamacare’s final impending tax hike: 2018’s “Cadillac Tax” on comprehensive health insurance plans. Below is an excerpt from Faler’s Politico piece titled “Flexible spending accounts may vanish as result of Cadillac tax”:

A popular middle-class tax benefit could become one of the first casualties of the Affordable Care Act’s so-called Cadillac tax, potentially affecting millions of voters.

Flexible spending accounts, which allow people to save tax free for everything from doctor’s co-pays to eyeglasses, may vanish in coming years as companies scramble to avoid the law’s 40 percent levy on pricey health care benefits.

“They’ll be one of the first things to go,” said Richard Stover, a health care actuary and principal at Buck Consultants, an employee benefits consulting firm. “It’s a death knell for them. If the Cadillac tax doesn’t change, FSAs will go away very quickly.”

That is likely to come as a big surprise to middle-class voters who may be only vaguely aware of the Cadillac tax, and inflame what is already a growing debate over one of Obamacare’s most important and controversial cost-saving provisions.

There are an estimated 30 - 35 million Americans who use a pre-tax FSA at work to pay for their family’s basic medical needs. They already face an Obamacare-imposed cap of $2,500. (Before Obamacare, the accounts were unlimited under federal law, though employers were allowed to set a cap.) The tax was designed to squeeze $13 billion of tax money from Americans over its first ten years. Parents socking away money to pay for braces for their kids find themselves quickly hitting the new cap, meaning they have to pony up some or all of the cost with after-tax dollars. And now they face the Cadillac Tax and its potential impact on their FSAs. Conveniently for President Obama and his middle class tax pledge, he will be long out of office when things hit the fan.

 

Photo Credit: Shaun Murphy, https://www.flickr.com/photos/rabsda/

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