Spending accounts reduce your taxes by reducing your taxable income. Using these pre-tax accounts can make a significant difference in your take-home pay.

Example #1

The chart below illustrates what would happen if your annual pay is $45,000 and you have to pay $2,000 in health or dependent care expenses not covered by any other benefit plan.

Example After-tax (without account) Pre-tax (with account)
Annual pay
Pre-tax contribution used for expenses
Standard Deduction
- 10,900
- 10,900
- 14,000
- 14,000
Federal income taxes*
- 2,209
- 1,909
Social Security taxes
- 3,443
- 3,290
After-tax payment for expenses
- 2,000
- 0
Take-home pay

Total tax savings from using pre-tax dollars is $453.

*Based on 2008 tax laws. Assumes you are married, file jointly with your spouse, take the standard deductions and four exemptions.

Below is a partial list of many of the medical expenses and items purchased for your personal well-being that are not eligible for payment under a spending account. Any medication used to promote general health such as vitamins and herbal remedies are not eligible as well.

  • Cosmetic surgery or procedures of any kind
  • Health club memberships
  • Supplements prescribed by an alternative provider - e.g., naturopath or acupuncturist
  • Over-the-counter vitamins
  • Over-the-counter medications submitted without a doctor's written prescription (effective January 1, 2011)
  • Chapstick
  • Dietary supplements
  • Herbal remedies

Please refer to the IRS publication 502, "Medical and Dental Expenses" or Section 213d of the Internal Revenue Code as a guide to covered expenses.