QUESTION: Our company sponsors a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) in conjunction with employee HSAs. Can the medical expenses of our employees’ adult children who otherwise qualify for tax-free coverage under the HDHP be reimbursed tax-free from the employees’ HSAs?
ANSWER: Not necessarily—it depends on whether the adult children qualify as tax dependents under the HSA rules. As group health plans, HDHPs that provide dependent coverage of children must make the coverage available until a child turns age 26. (The age 26 mandate does not generally apply to HSAs because they are not group health plans.) The income exclusion for employer-provided health coverage includes employees’ children who are under age 27 as of the end of the taxable year, regardless of whether those children qualify as tax dependents. But similar provisions do not appear in the HSA tax-free reimbursement rules. Instead, whether an adult child’s medical expenses can be reimbursed tax-free from a parent’s HSA depends on whether the child qualifies as a tax dependent for HSA distribution purposes—i.e., whether the adult child is a qualifying child (for example, due to disability) or a qualifying relative (where the parent provides over one-half of the child’s support). Distributions from a parent’s HSA that reimburse a nondependent adult child’s medical expenses are taxable and may be subject to an additional 20% tax.
Thus, the medical expenses of some adult children who are enrolled as dependents in your company’s HDHP will not qualify for tax-free reimbursement from the employee-parent’s HSA. It is possible, however, that these children may be HSA-eligible themselves. If they cannot be claimed as tax dependents and they meet the other HSA eligibility requirements, they could open HSAs of their own.
For more information, see EBIA’s Consumer-Driven Health Care manual at Sections IX.B (“An Individual Who Can Be Claimed as a Tax Dependent Is Not HSA Eligible”), XII.L (“Tax Treatment of HSA Contributions”), and XV.C (“What Is an HSA-Qualified Medical Expense?”). See also EBIA’s Group Health Plan Mandates manual at Section VII.B.4.c (“Special Issues for HSAs”) and EBIA’s Health Care Reform manual at Section XI.C.3 (“Special Issues for HSAs”).
Contributing Editors: EBIA Staff.