2021 vs 2020 Health Savings Accounts (HSA) Contribution Limits and Tax Rules For High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP)

This article was last updated on April 19

[Updated with latest 2021 HSA limits] Based on the latest IRS guidance, here are the latest Health Savings Account (HSA) limits. Following the trend in recent years, the amount individuals and families can contribute to these tax advantaged health savings account will see a modest increase in the coming year. For 2021 the HSA contribution limits rose to $3,600 for those on self-only high deductible plans and $7,200 for those on family coverage plans. This represents a 1.5% increase or $50 for self-only coverage and $100 for family coverage compared to last year.

2021 limits2020 limits2019 limits
HSA annual contribution limitsIndividual Limit – $3,600
Family Limit – $7,200
Individual Limit – $3,550
Family Limit – $7,100
Individual Limit – $3,500
Family Limit – $7,000
HSA catch-up contributions $1,000 if 55 or older $1,000 if 55 or older $1,000 if 55 or older
Minimum annual deductible Individual coverage – $1,400
Family coverage – $2,800
Individual coverage – $1,400
Family coverage – $2,800
Individual coverage – $1,350
Family coverage – $2,700
Maximum out-of-pocket expensesIndividual coverage – $7,000
Family coverage – $14,000
Individual coverage – $6,900
Family coverage – $13,800
Individual coverage – $6,750
Family coverage – $13,500

Given the rising cost of health care and the tax benefits of these accounts I highly recommend you contribute to one of these plans if your employer offers this option. They make a great tax effective investment option because they essentially work like a 401K or IRA where contributions and investment gains are tax free. And given most HSA accounts now allow you to choose how you invest (self-direct) the funds in those accounts, you can pick some high growth options to maximize your longer term returns.

My story: I started investing in a HSA account around 6 years ago and put 50% of my funds into Apple and Microsoft and the rest into a Vanguard Index fund. The account, thanks to rising stock markets over the last decade, has returned nearly 33% on average and I have around $50,000 in assets despite having to take the maximum out of pocket withdrawal in a couple of years. Another example of the power of compounding.

How Health Savings Accounts Work

Over the years, Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs, have provided a great way for individuals and families to cover the cost of medical and health care expenses that would otherwise not have been covered by their health insurance plan. Essentially Health Savings Accounts are tax advantaged medical savings accounts that you own. They work like 401K or IRA plans in essence, except that they are to be used for health related expenses. The funds that you contribute to an HSA are contributed on a pre-tax basis; that is they are not subject to federal taxes when you deposit them.

Similar to IRA accounts, you can contribute to your HSA account during any calendar year, through April 15th of the following calendar year. Contribution limits are indexed to inflation every year and set by the IRS every year. The latest annual contribution limits are shown in the table above. If an individual account holder or the owner of a family HSA is age 55 or older, an additional “catch-up” contribution of $1,000 is also allowed.

These Health Savings Accounts, working in conjunction with a high deductible health insurance plans (HDHP), allowing the account holder to deposit and invest funds that can be withdrawn and used for any number of different qualified health care related expenses. The minimum annual deductibles for a HDHP are shown in the table above for self-only coverage and family coverage. This is the minimum deductible amount set on HDHP plans that employees have to cover with their HSA or personal funds. The maximum out-of-pocket limit (what you would have to pay) for HDHPs has also been provided in the table above.

In addition, any funds in your Health Savings Account that are not used during the calendar year, can be rolled over into the following year. Therefore, if funds are not used and they continue to roll over, the balance in your HSA account can grow significantly over time. This is a key advantage over the standard Flexible spending accounts (FSA),  where you have to spend your contributions in the year/period you make them or lose the funds forever.

How to Choose the Right HSA

Prior to opening your Health Savings Account, you must decide on your high deductible health care plan with a private health care provider or via your employer. But, before funding your HSA, it is important to do some research on the actual account you will be depositing your funds into. This is because not all Health Savings Accounts are alike.

First, there are many entities that offer accounts through which to fund your HSA. These include banks, credit unions, insurance companies, and other approved companies. And, similar to bank and brokerage accounts, there could be a wide array of different interest rates, fees, and requirements within your HSA account.

In addition, make sure that you read the small print to be aware of any possible hidden account fees or charges to liquidate funds. Also, know if there is a minimum balance required in your account, and if so, how much.

Watch for Penalties

When you take distributions from your HSA to use for qualified medical expenses, these distributions are excludable from your taxable gross income. This is true even if you are not eligible to make contributions your HSA.

However, if you take any distributions from your Health Savings Account that are not considered qualified medical expenses, then these distributions are includable in your gross income. And, if you are under the age of 65, you will also be subject to an additional 10% tax as a penalty.

Is a HDHP and HSA account right for me?

With the growing popularity of HDHP/HSA accounts for employers and employees many people are facing this question. Employers like and encourage employees towards these plans because they generally face a lower overall cost for providing employee coverage. While employees, especially the healthy ones like HDHP because it allows them to minimize their monthly premiums – 20 to 80% of traditional PPO plans in a lot of cases. So if you or your family expect low to minimal health care or medical expenses in the coming year then a HDHP with HSA is by far the best option for you. If you do have medical issues and expect many doctor visits then a PPO plan may be better. The best thing is to compare the two options on a spreadsheet and do the math on figuring which is the best one for you and your family.

Health Savings Accounts provide a great way for individuals and families to pay medical expenses that are otherwise not covered. These expenses could include costs for preventive and wellness related programs that could potentially save you from future illnesses and other health related issues.

4 thoughts on “2021 vs 2020 Health Savings Accounts (HSA) Contribution Limits and Tax Rules For High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP)

  1. Good summary of HSA’s from WSJ and why they offer good tax benefits……

    Make a triple play: For many people, the next order of business should be to fund a health savings account, or HSA, if one is available, says Mr. Ritter. This is a triple-tax-advantaged medical reimbursement account. Contributions reduce your taxable income, money in the account grows tax-deferred, and distributions for qualified health-care expenses are tax-free.

    Your contributions, plus any from your employer—employers put on average $600 per employee into HSAs—can total up to $3,350 (for individuals) or $6,650 (for families) in 2015. If you’re 55 or older (and not yet enrolled in Medicare) you can put in an additional $1,000. If you can pay some out-of-pocket medical expenses with other funds, you can effectively turn the account into a medical IRA.

    Money not spent in one year can be rolled over to the next, and you can take your account with you if you change jobs or retire. If you don’t need the money for medical care in retirement, you can spend it on anything you like, paying only regular income tax on the distributions. (Before age 65 you’d typically owe income tax and a 20% penalty on distributions used for nonmedical expenses.)

    To participate in an HSA, you must be enrolled in a health plan with an annual deductible of at least $1,300 (for individual coverage) or $2,600 (for family coverage) for 2015.

    For a growing number of employees, a high-deductible plan coupled with an HSA—sometimes called an “account-based” or “consumer-directed” plan—will be their only health-plan option in 2015. Others with a choice of plans will need to decide whether the account-based variety is right for them.

    A few guidelines: Consider your past and future health-care needs. Account-based plans often work well for those with scant medical expenses, but in some cases their premiums are low enough—and the tax benefits of HSAs high enough—that even someone who spends a lot on health care should consider them. Most states follow the federal tax treatment of HSAs. Some plans allow you to invest in stocks and bonds. A point of reference on expenses: One low-cost HSA administrator offers Vanguard-only funds with an average expense ratio of 0.21%.

  2. what is an MSA?? why are not FSA’s like this….because HSA seem like they are only for high income individuals

  3. One other HSA benefit — unless it has changed under the new plan — is that after age 65 the money can be used tax-free to pay for medical insurance.

  4. Other Recent HSA Changes Under the HOPE Act, to consider:

    >> Larger Contributions for Non-Highly Compensated Employees: Employers are permitted to make larger contributions to the HSAs of non-highly compensated employees than to the HSAs of highly compensated employees without violating the employer comparable contribution requirement.
    >> One-Time Rollover from FSA or HRA: Employees are allowed to complete a one-time rollover from their health flexible spending arrangements or health reimbursement arrangements to their HSAs.
    >> Maximum Contribution if Eligible During the Last Month: Individuals are permitted to contribute the maximum annual amount to their HSAs as long as they are eligible individuals during the last month of the taxable year.
    >> One-Time Rollover from IRA: Individuals are permitted to complete a one-time rollover from their individual retirement accounts to their HSAs.

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