Can a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) be used for a gym membership?

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A:

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) typically does not allow funds from a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to be used for membership dues for health clubs or gyms. However, the IRS allows FSA funds to be used for paying separate fees charged by gyms and health clubs for specific activities prescribed by doctors.

Qualified Medical Expenses

The IRS issued Publication 502, which defines qualified medical expenses as those indicated in the FSA plan that would typically qualify for deduction as medical and dental expenses. The IRS does not consider nonprescription medicines, except for insulin, as qualified medical expenses. All qualified medical expenses must require a doctor's prescription.

The IRS does not allow FSA funds to be used for paying health insurance premiums and long-term care coverage. Also, the IRS considers gym membership a general health cost a person does not have to necessarily incur to treat a specific medical condition. However, in rare circumstances, a doctor may issue a medical note advising an FSA beneficiary to enroll in a gym to treat his specific condition. In this case, FSA funds may be used to pay for a gym membership. Also, special group exercises or fees paid for classes in a gym that are prescribed by a doctor to treat specific diseases may be considered qualified medical expenses.

Flexible Spending Accounts

Employees use FSAs to set money aside to cover various qualified medical expenses. FSAs are typically funded through salary reduction agreements with employers, and contributions to FSAs are exempt from employment and federal income taxes. Also, employers may choose to contribute to FSAs.

Beneficiaries of FSAs must generally spend the money by the end of a calendar year, otherwise the funds are lost. However, certain plans allow employees to have a grace period or carryover. Distributions from FSAs are typically tax-free if they are used for qualified medical expenses.


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