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Health Savings Accounts: A Shot in the Arm for Taxpayers

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New York City, NY – As the November 1 start date for the 2019 healthcare open enrollment period inches closer, individuals concerned about the high cost of medical care should be looking closely at health savings accounts (HSAs), if the option is offered by their employers. HSAs may be just the shot in the arm taxpayers can use to inoculate themselves against ever-escalating medical costs, according to Marcum Financial Services LLC (MFS), an affiliate of Marcum LLP.

"HSAs are the trifecta of the investing world. Contributions are tax-deductible, earnings are tax-deferred, and distributions for qualified medical expenses are tax-free," said Steven Brett, president of Marcum Financial Services and branch manager of Raymond James Financial Services.

HSAs are not new – they were created by the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 – but they are a misunderstood and significantly overlooked benefit that can cover major medical expenses now and in retirement, while potentially growing triple tax-free.

How HSAs Work

HSAs are used in conjunction with high deductible health plans (HDHP).  Instead of opting for a low deductible plan, which commands higher premiums in exchange for lower out-of-pocket medical costs, HSA owners select a health plan with a higher deductible in exchange for lower premiums now. The dollars not being spent on higher premiums are deposited into the HSA, where they grow tax-free as earnings compound, and can be accessed at any time for qualified medical expenses. 

"You can use your account to pay for current qualified medical expenses or let it grow for future medical needs. This makes HSAs an attractive option both for younger individuals with low current healthcare expenses and for older employees wanting a hedge against catastrophic illness or other significant medical costs in later years," said Tim Neuville, a senior director in the Private Client Group at MFS and RJFS financial advisor. "Depending on how much you contribute and when you start the account, an HSA can make the difference between financial hardship and financial security in retirement."

Annual contributions to HSA accounts can be made up to a maximum of $3450 for individuals and $6900 for families in 2018.  An additional $1000 "catch up" contribution is permitted for individuals over 55. Employers or family members may also contribute to an employee's account, tax-free, up to the annual limitation.

Withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are tax-free without exception and, starting at age 65, may be made for any reason without penalty (withdrawals for uses other than qualified medical expenses will be subject to income tax).

HSAs are also portable, so accounts travel with their owners if they switch employers or stop working. There are no required minimum distributions (RMDs), and any unused balance can be passed on to a spouse, who may continue to use it with the same tax benefits intact.

"The tax deduction for HSA contributions becomes even more compelling in view of the new higher standard deduction under the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, since fewer people will be itemizing on their federal returns. It is a very attractive tax benefit," Mr. Neuville said.

About Marcum Financial Services
Marcum Financial Services LLC is an independent investment and wealth management practice providing professional advice, risk management, and investment services. Marcum Financial Services is a member of the Marcum Group of companies. Securities are offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services are offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. Marcum Financial Services, Marcum Group, and Marcum LLP are not registered broker/dealers and are independent of Raymond James Financial Services.

 
 
 
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