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Analyze your benefits

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Flexible spending accounts slash taxes

Admit it: You probably spend more time comparison shopping online than reviewing your annual benefits enrollment materials.
That’s a big mistake because the money you could save by choosing the right employee benefits package probably far exceeds any savings you could get on a big-screen TV.
For example, many people don’t sign up for an extremely valuable benefit – flexible spending accounts (FSAs).
If your employer offers them, FSAs let you pay for eligible out-of-pocket health care and/or dependent care expenses on a pre-tax basis – that is, before federal, state and Social Security taxes are deducted from your paycheck.
Using an FSA to cover expenses you would have paid for anyway reduces your taxable income by that amount, which in turn lowers your taxes.
Here’s how it works: Say you earn $40,000 a year and are in a 25 percent tax bracket.
If you contribute $1,000 to the health care FSA and $3,000 for dependent care, your taxable income would be $36,000 – about a $1,000 reduction in federal taxes alone, depending on your marital status, withholding deductions and other factors.
(Use the calculator at www.dinkytown.net/java/Payroll125.html to evaluate your situation.)


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