Monday, January 30, 2017

Flexible spending

I could rant for a long time about flexible spending.

Excuse me if I misspeak on any of this because it's not something I entirely understand.  So every year, I'm allowed a $5,000 flexible spending account for childcare, which means that $5,000 is taken out of my paycheck before taxes and I can then get this money back in full at the end of the year.

Let me just say that $5,000 is a laughable amount of money for childcare for a family with two working parents.  At the maximum, I was paying $40,000/year to our daycare.  Now I've got two kids in public school, and I STILL pay about $15,000 for afterschool and summer camp.  But fine.  $5,000 is what they allow so I guess I'll take it.

But what I really resent is that every single year they make me fight for it.  Without exception, they have rejected every single one of my initial claims.  This is MY MONEY.  I just am trying to get my own $5,000 that was taken out of my paycheck back.  Do they think if they make it hard enough, that I'll just give up and say I don't want my $5,000?

Examples of why they rejected my claims:

Last year they ignored one page of my receipts.  They looked at the first page, calculated $3,500 in care, then said that was all they would give me.  When I called and said WTF, it turned out that they HAD the other sheet and just decided not to look at it for unknown reasons.  I mean, it was only two pages.  It wasn't like it was 10,000 pages and they missed one page.

This year, when I was filling it out, there was a section that it said you didn't have to fill out if you had receipts.  So I just wrote "see attached" in that part.  Then yesterday morning, I found out I was rejected because I didn't fill out that part.  The part it said not to fill out.

Why?  What's the point of all this?  They're going to give me the money eventually... does it really pay off for them to waste everyone's time?


  1. Kafka, that patron saint of petty bureaucrats, is alive and well.

  2. I stopped doing the flex spending plan and give all of the receipts to my accountant who handles it now with the tax return. So much easier than multiple faxes

  3. "Do they think if they make it hard enough, that I'll just give up and say I don't want my $5,000"
    Yes. Yes they do.
    I remember they used to do something like this with our travel and dues money-- it was a benefit that came with our pay. So it was our money. But they made it harder and harder to access-- both in terms of forms you had to fill out and also trying to find things you could spend it on-- that I gave up on trying to spend it. It was a couple of thousand dollars too... but like to get reimbursement for travel you had to use the hospital's travel agency to book your flights and hotels and... just ugh.
    I never dared to figure out our childcare FSA, since I assumed it would be a similar PITA.

  4. Heh at least you get it back if you don't use it! Our flexible spending accounts is use it or lose it. Our education flexible spending account (tuition only) is max 5k and our medical flexible spending account is max 5k. I spend about 20k in tuition. I wish the max were more but we still have significant tax savings over claiming the education deduction on our taxes. Our plans use National Benefit Services as their claims processor... never had a problem with them yet.

  5. I honestly believe that the claim processors get a piece of everything they deny. Why else would they demand receipts to prove that the money I paid the 'Anesthesia Associates' was for a medical bill?

    1. I have received a demand from my health insurance (my employer) to prove that the services received at our local hospital (also my employer) were for medical purposes. What, you think I racked up that high of a bill at the cafeteria?!?

  6. Typical government worker attitude. Seen it all my life as an accountant for a company who did business in 5 states. They really don't want to do their jobs. They just want the paycheck.

  7. Tax break but if we don't use it we lose it.

  8. I set aside a few hours every month to get all my claims written up for that month (as I can claim monthly). It takes me two hours, before they "centralized" the system it took me 20mins each month.

  9. I'm surprised you can only claim at the end of the year. You should be able to get the money back as soon as you can prove you've spent it. Sure, they want to keep your money and get interest on it, but you should be able to submit a receipt every month after paying your daycare bill.