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What does my cafeteria have to do with taxes?

February 7, 2008

I was clicking along through TaxAct, and it asked if I’d made any contribution to an Health Savings Account (HSA) this year. It instructed me not to include employer contributions or contributions made by my employer through a cafeteria plan. I thought, “why yes, I did make contributions. My salary was reduced by $1500 this year, and it went into my account.” Cafeteria plan? I pictured my workplace cafeteria, and wondered how they were involve in health care. I never ate there, so that probably didn’t apply to me.

Uh….

I later noticed that my $1500 was double counted as a deduction. I looked up “cafeteria plan” and realized that was exactly what my HSA was funded through! Ooops. I had selected my benefits from a “menu” of choices, thus it was a cafeteria plan. Ohhhh, I see! Why don’t they just say what they meant?!? I corrected it, and my refund fell by several hundred dollars. Still, I haven’t received any tax information from my HSA administrator, so I suppose I should wait to file until I get that. Which doesn’t make sense to me, because those distributions were tax free anyway. Why would I even need to report them?

To be honest, I’m not certain I filed my 2006 taxes right with regards to my HSA. I got a lonely form that looked suspiciously like a tax document sometime in March, long after I filed my taxes. I do know that I paid the right amount: Money taken from the account is tax free and my contributions were pre-tax. Simple. I just don’t know if I documented it right.

Also, I moved to California this January and I obviously entered my current address on my tax return. TaxAct helpfully assumed I would need a CA state return in addition to my Iowa one. I had to click through the entire California state return for it to figure out that I didn’t owe any taxes here for 2007, nor do I have to file a return.

Well anyway, I’ll hold off a week on officially filing them, and if nothing shows up from my HSA, I’ll give them a call.

Projected refund is about $1000 total. I owe the state $200 and the federal government owes me $1200. Oh sure I’m giving the government a tax free loan, blah blah blah. Assuming a 5% return in my savings (which isn’t likely these days) I missed out on $50 of interest, which would have been taxed anyway…. And now I have $1000 that I did not spend and can use to replenish the e-fund. It is already back to about $8500, so another thousand will boost it quite close to the 10k goal.

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