2020 Maximum HSA Contribution Limits – How Much Can You Save for Your Medical Expenses?

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hsa contribution limits
Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs, are growing in popularity among people who need affordable health insurance and among employers looking to save on health insurance costs. HSAs have many benefits beyond cost savings. Let’s dive in and take a look at what exactly is a health savings account, the HSA contribution limits for each calendar…

Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs, are growing in popularity among people who need affordable health insurance and among employers looking to save on health insurance costs.

HSAs have many benefits beyond cost savings. Let’s dive in and take a look at what exactly is a health savings account, the HSA contribution limits for each calendar year, how HSAs are one of the most flexible financial accounts you can open, and why it’s a good idea to max out your annual HSA contributions.

What is a Health Savings Account?

hsa contribution limits

Health Savings Accounts are a type of tax-advantaged savings account explicitly for health care spending. Contributions are tax-deductible in the year they are made, and grow tax-free. Withdrawals are tax-free when used for qualified medical expenses.

In essence, a Health Savings Account is very similar to a combination of a Traditional IRA (tax deduction when you contribute) and a Roth IRA (no taxes on qualified withdrawals for medical expenses).

This is a huge benefit!

Health Savings Account Eligibility

To be eligible for an HSA, you need to participate in a qualifying High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) for health insurance.

A plan may qualify as an HDHP if the deductibles are $1,400 per year or higher for individuals, or $2,800 per year or higher for a family plan. These deductibles are typically higher than average, hence the name, High-Deductible Health Plan.

High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) also limit the deductible amounts and out-of-pocket expenses. For 2020, these limits are $6,900 for self-coverage only and up to $13,800 for family coverage.

Advantages of HDHPs

Many people choose these health insurance plans because they typically have lower monthly premiums due to the high deductible. Many employers offer these HDHP plans for the same reasons.

The goal of the higher deductibles is to save costs for everyone, incentivize policyholders to become smarter with their healthcare spending and give you the option of setting aside money pre-tax to pay for healthcare.

On the flip side, you need to have sufficient funds to pay your portion of the deductible. So only choose an HDHP if you have some money set aside in an emergency fund or cash savings.

Tax Advantages of Health Savings Accounts

You can set aside pre-tax income in an HSA for use specifically on health spending. HSAs are often compared to and confused with Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs).

The two are similar in that you set aside pre-tax income for health costs, but FSAs have a serious downside that HSAs do not. With an FSA, if you do not spend the funds in your account by the end of the year, you forfeit the remaining balance to the plan administrator.

With a Health Savings Account, you never lose the funds. You could set aside money this year in an HSA and use it 40 years from now. Some people pay for their health care out of pocket, and use their HSAs to save for retirement. And as long as the funds are used for healthcare spending, you won’t pay any tax on the withdrawals.

2020 HSA Contribution Limits

How much money can you set aside for future healthcare spending with an HSA?

The maximum annual contribution is dependent upon whether you are on an individual or family plan. The 2020 maximum HSA contribution limit is $3,550 per year for an individual, while families can contribute $7,100. This is an increase of $50 and $100 for individual and family plans, respectively, over the 2019 contribution limits.

There is also a catch-up contribution limit of $1,000 for those who are age 55 or older (note: catchup contributions for retirement accounts start at age 50).

Here is a list of contribution limits from recent years, including the HSA contribution limits from 2010 – 2020:

Tax YearIndividualFamily Catch-Up Contributions
(age 55 and over)
2020$3,550$7,100$1,000
2019$3,500$7,000$1,000
2018$3,450$6,900$1,000
2017$3,400$6,750$1,000
2016$3,350$6,750$1,000
2015$3,350$6,650$1,000
2014$3,300$6,550$1,000
2013$3,250$6,450$1,000
2012$3,100$6,250$1,000
2011$3,050$6,150$1,000
2010$3,050$6,150$1,000

What Happens If I Contribute Too Much to an HSA?

If you are contributing funds to your HSA automatically through payroll deductions, it should be virtually impossible for you to contribute too much to your Health Savings Account.

However, it is possible to over-contribute by making deposits outside of the payroll system or through error.

If you discover you have contributed too much to your HSA, you must take action to avoid paying penalties to the IRS.

The fix is quite simple: you must remove the excess amount contributed, plus any interest earned on that amount, and pay tax on both before April 15th of the following year. (You can contribute to this year’s HSA through April 15 of next year.) You received a tax break by putting the money into your HSA pre-tax, but since you contributed too much, you technically should have paid tax on the original income.

Failure to remove the excess contribution by the April 15th deadline and withdrawing the funds at a later date will result in a 6% excise tax when you do withdraw the funds. Additionally, if you leave the funds in your account indefinitely, each year you must pay the 6% tax.

However, there is one way to get out of having to remove the contribution and paying tax: leave the contribution in, but avoid the 6% excise tax by lowering the next year’s contribution by the amount of the over-contribution.

For example, an individual with an HSA contribution limit of $3,550 per year would have been guilty of contributing $100 too much if they contributed $3,650 this year.

They could avoid paying the 6% excise tax by only contributing $3,450 next year (the $3,550 contribution limit minus $100). If they contributed the full $3,550 next year, they would then be forced to pay the 6% tax on the original $100 over-contribution.

Can You Contribute if You Aren’t Eligible for the Entire Year? Pro-Rated Contribution Rules Explained

Rarely do you start a new job on January 1st or end it on December 31st. When you gain and lose access to a high deductible health plan will impact your availability to contribute to an HSA.

If you are not active in an HDHP for the entire year, your situation is a gray area.

Here is what the IRS says in one of its instruction manuals:

The last-month rule allows eligible individuals to make a full contribution for the year even if they were not a qualified individual for the entire year. They can make the total contribution for the year if:

  • They are eligible individuals on the first day of last month of their taxable year. For most people, this would be December 1, and
  • They remain qualified individuals during the testing period. The testing period runs from December 1 of the current year through December 31 of the following year (for calendar taxpayers).
  • If the taxpayer does not qualify to contribute the full amount for the year, the contribution is determined by using the sum of the monthly contribution limits rule.

OR

  • Sum of the monthly contribution limits rule (use Limitation Chart and Worksheet in Form 8889 Instructions). This is the amount determined separately for each month based on eligibility and HDHP coverage on the first day of each month plus catch-up contributions. For this purpose, the monthly limit is 1/12 of the annual contribution limit, as calculated on the Limitation Chart and worksheet.

In other words, you can contribute the full amount if you are eligible as of Dec 1, of the calendar year. However, you may owe back taxes if you do not remain eligible from January 1 – December 31 of the following year.

You can avoid tax problems with your HSA by pro-rating contributions. Divide your contribution limit by 12 to get your monthly contribution limit.

For individuals, it is $295.83 and for families $591.66 (both numbers represent the 2020 tax year; apply the current tax year to your situation).

Each month that you had at least one day active in an HDHP counts as a full month for your contribution limit. Then multiply the number of months you were active in the health plan by your monthly contribution limit.

For example, an individual that started a new job and gained access to an HDHP on March 12th and maintained HDHP coverage through December 31st would have ten months of pro-rated contribution availability.

They could contribute $295.83 x 10 = $2,958.30 for the year. If they contributed the full amount of $3,550, they would need to take the steps listed above to avoid penalties for over-contributing to their HSA.

IRS Publication 969 has more info about HSA qualifications, contribution limits, distribution rules, and more.

Benefits of Maxing Out Your HSA Account Each Year

There are numerous advantages to having an HSA. There is the immediate tax benefit in the year you make your contribution.

And since your savings never expire, you can save the funds in your HSA or a linked investment account, and let your savings and investments grow over time. This can be a brilliant investment strategy:

Using Your HSA as a Super Retirement Account

Health Savings Accounts combine the best of the Traditional IRA and Roth IRA. Contributions are tax-deductible in the year they are made (like a Traditional IRA). The earnings and withdrawals are tax-free if used for a qualifying medical expense (like a Roth IRA, when used for retirement).

There are no age limits when using your HSA funds for a qualifying medical expense. So you can let your money ride until needed. Or just let it grow and pay your medical costs out of pocket.

What if you want to use your HSA for non-qualifying medical expenses? If used for anything other than a qualifying medical expense, you will pay taxes and a 20% early withdrawal penalty (early withdrawal penalties for retirement accounts are 10%).

However, the rules change a little bit once you turn age 65. Once you reach age 65, the current tax rules allow you to make non-qualifying withdrawals from your HSA with the same tax rules as a Traditional IRA.

So you would pay taxes on the withdrawals, but you would not pay any penalties. This flexibility makes your HSA one of the most powerful financial tools in your toolbox.

Benefits of Long-Term HSA Ownership

I maximized my HSA contributions each year I was eligible to contribute to an HSA. We decided to take advantage of the investment opportunities through the HSA, so we elected to pay our medical costs out of pocket and invest our HSA funds.

My health insurance plan has since changed, and I am no longer eligible to contribute to an HSA plan. However, I am not required to remove those funds until I decide to use them for medical expenses, or I decide I wish to withdraw the funds for other purposes.

Since the funds are invested, I’d like to let them compound as long as possible. If we have a major medical expense, I can elect to pay for them with our HSA savings.

And if we are lucky and don’t have any expenses we can’t pay out of our cash flow or savings; then I will have a large investment account I can tap into when I reach retirement age. I’m hoping for the latter!

Where to Open an HSA Investment Account

The first thing you need to do is qualify for an HSA with a compatible High Deductible Health Care Plan. Check with your employer if you have an employer-sponsored health care plan.

If not, then you may be able to purchase a qualifying HDHP on the ACA exchanges. You can also find one through a health insurance company such as eHealthInsurance (this is where I always found our health care plans after I became self-employed).

Once you have a qualifying health care plan, you can shop around for different banks or investment accounts that offer HSAs. I wrote an article about the process of opening an HSA account, which bank I chose, and why.

I decided to open my HSA account with HSA Bank, in part because they have easy access, low fees, and they make it very easy to invest your funds through a brokerage. The fees can be waived if you maintain a certain minimum in your account.

HSA Bank offers two investment options. I chose to invest with TD Ameritrade, because of their excellent reputation and access to several hundred fee-free ETFs for trading.

So I’ve never paid anything to make a stock purchase at TD Ameritrade because I invested in ETFs that didn’t have any associated trading costs.

Another place you can open an HSA is Lively.

Lively was founded on the belief that no one should have to sacrifice their physical wellbeing for their financial wellbeing. Because of this conviction, the team at Lively has created an exciting and innovative product.

Conclusion

Health Savings Accounts are one of the most flexible financial accounts you can open. If you are eligible to open an HSA, I recommend maxing out your contributions each year.

And if you can swing it, try to pay your medical expenses out of pocket. This will allow your HSA contributions to grow tax-free indefinitely, allowing you to increase your net worth.



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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. Dividend Driven says

    So far I like the HSA and I’m using it as another saving vehicle long term. Last year was my first year maxing out an HSA. I will continue to max it out annually. I invest the money above the required $2,000 that must remain in cash. I like the tax advantages of it and hope in retirement more and more items qualify to use the funds if needed.

  2. S Hayenne says

    What is the corrective action to making an ineligible contribution due to ineligible health plan? (not an excess contribution situation). What is the penalty? Can I just withdraw the money? What if the money was put in an investment account? Does that interest need to be paid back?

    • Ryan Guina says

      You should contact your HSA provider – they should have a procedure for withdrawing the amount. You will have to pay taxes on the interest. But I’m not sure if there will be any penalties if you correct the action before you file taxes. A good accountant or tax professional should be able to help you here. And this is a situation when it will be worth hiring professional help when filing your taxes – doing this right the first time could possibly save you more than the cost of hiring a professional!

  3. Lynda McGinnis says

    Is it better to choose a health insurance plan compatible with HSA and pay higher premium? Or better to lower the monthly premium and not have HSA compatible account?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Lynda, each individual needs to run the math to determine which option is better for their needs. What I have done in the past is built out a quick spreadsheet that includes each plan name, monthly premiums, out of pocket max, and other details. Then I ran several scenarios based on estimated medical expenses. Running these types of calculations shows you how much you may possibly have to spend if you need to use the service. You can make these estimates easier if you have known medical needs, or if you can use previous years’ expenses as estimates for future needs.

      In my situation, I went with HSA compatible plans, based on the options available to me at the time. But each person will have different available options, each with its own price point for premiums, out of pocket expenses, etc. So the only way to know is to run the numbers.

  4. DOUGLAS ERNST says

    RE: Catch-Up Contributions – For age over 55, is this used once when an HSA is started or can it be used repeatedly?

    • Ryan Guina says

      The catch-up contributions can be made once per year, so long as you are eligible to contribute to an HSA.

      • Roger Marrero says

        If both married parties are over 55 is one allowed to add $1000 to the 6900 limit for 2018 per party ($8900) or $1000 for both ($7900) even if both parties are over 55?

  5. Daniel S says

    Good information! Whatever you do, do NOT use BenefitWallet. They are the absolute worst. Terrible customer service. Fidelity has a great HSA. Easy to open an account and transfer funds, etc. Obviously great customer service as well.

  6. Matt Lawhorn says

    Should I be able to adjust my contribution amount through my employer? I misjudged the amount of annual contribution by $1000 short of max and would like to correct during the remaining months. Or would this be subject to ‘open enrollment’ period rules?

    Thanks,

    • Ryan Guina says

      Matt, contact your HR department. You should be able to change your contribution amount if you are contributing through payroll deductions. The “open enrollment” period is only for signing up for the health care plan. It shouldn’t cover your contribution amount. Best wishes!

  7. David says

    Hi Ryan,
    I’ve encountered information in various places online which seem to say that if I make a mid-year HSA contribution in Year 1 (example: 2019), I also need to remain HSA eligible in Year 2 (example: 2020) in order to avoid some kind of penalty. I find this confusing, and I have not been able to nail down any clear information about this. I want to max out my HSA in 2019 (yes, I am eligible this year). However, it is likely I will NOT have an HSA-eligible health plan in 2020. I want to make HSA contributions in 2019 (while I am eligible), and I hope to use that money without penalty for medical expenses in 2020.
    Thanks for your feedback!
    David

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello David, I haven’t heard this before. I would ask your plan administrator for more specific information. Also, if you are eligible for part of a calendar year, you can contribute a prorated amount of the annual contribution (just divide the total amount you would otherwise be eligible to contribute for the entire year by the number of months you participate in the plan). Best wishes!

  8. Linda Cerny says

    Can we use my HSA payouts for medical/dental reasons for both me and my husband even though it is my name only? It was offered through my work and my husband didn’t contribute, but we would like to use some of it for his dental issues. Is this acceptable?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Linda, if the HSA is a family account, then yes, you can use it for yourself or anyone in your immediate family. This would include yourself, a spouse, and any dependent children.

  9. Debra says

    I also wanted to know if you can add $2000 for the catch up if two people are over 55. It mentioned it on Lively but I have not seen that anywhere else.

  10. Patrick Hanna says

    I have an unusual situation. My employer’s health plans run from July through June, not January through December. For the plan year 7/1/18 – 6/30/19 I am on an HSA eligible plan that covers my daughter and myself. My wife is on her own non-HSA plan. We contributed the maximum amount for 2019 ($7,000) back in March and have since spent it on eligible medical expenses.

    Beginning July 1, 2019 my employer is going to be offering a plan where my employer pays all deductibles and co-insurance which means that the plan is not HSA eligible. Normally, I would just withdraw the $3,500 from the HSA and pay the taxes on it, but I can’t since that money is already spent. Is there any way I can avoid paying the 10% penalty on the portion that I am not eligible to contribute in 2019?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Patrick, contact your plan administrator or a tax professional. It may be possible to recharacterize the contribution in some way. However, I am not certain what the details would be or if this is possible. A tax professional can provide more specific guidance. Best wishes!

  11. Allen says

    I may only have capital gains income this year, which as I understand it, is not lowered by HSA contributions. So that prompts another question:

    If I make contributions in a year using post-tax money, which mine would be for this year, is it still subject to income taxes if withdrawn later for something other than a medical expense?

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