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Common Eligible Dependent Care Expenses

With a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can receive reimbursement of eligible, work-related dependent care expenses using pre-tax dollars. The care must be for a qualifying person so that you can work. You must incur the expense for you to receive reimbursement. This means you must have received the care, not just paid for it, before you can request reimbursement. If you’re married, both you and your spouse must be working. If your spouse is not working, he or she must be a full time student, actively looking for work or incapable of self-care.

Note: A spending account has limitations and may have certain exclusions. The information here is general and is for informational purposes only. Please refer to your plan documents for information specific to your plan.


Qualifying Person

You can only use the Dependent Care FSA to receive reimbursement for the cost of care of a qualifying person. A qualifying person includes:

  • Your dependent child under the age of 13
  • Your spouse or dependent who is physically or mentally unable to care for him or herself


Note: If your child did not live with you for more than half the year, please refer to IRS Publication 503. There you will find the Qualifying Person Test to help you determine if your child meets this definition. For care outside of your home (for ex., a day care center, an adult care center, etc.), your qualifying person must spend at least eight hours per day in your home.

Eligible Dependent Care

These are some examples of eligible dependent care expenses. For a more thorough list of eligible expenses, please refer to the list of Common Eligible and Ineligible Dependent Care Expenses below.

  • Dependent (day) care center – a facility that provides care in compliance with state and local laws
  • Education – includes nursery school, pre-school, and before- and after-school care for children in grade kindergarten and higher*
  • Care inside the home – the care provider cannot be the FSA participant’s child who is under the age of 19 or anyone that the FSA participant can claim as a tax dependent

* Tuition for kindergarten or higher is not an eligible expense.

Dependent Care FSA Reimbursement Limit

There is a limit to the amount of money that you can receive from a Dependent Care FSA during the calendar year. Generally, the reimbursements may not exceed the lesser of:

  1. The total amount of care expenses for the year
  2. Your earned income
  3. If married, your spouse’s earned income
  4. $5,000 ($2,500 if married filing separate returns)

This means that the most you can be reimbursed from a Dependent Care FSA is limited to the earned income of the lower paid spouse, up to $5,000, or the cost of care – whichever is lowest. Refer to IRS Publication 503 for a full explanation on earned income.


IRS Publication 503

You can find more information online. From your account at PayFlex, click on the Resource Center tab. Scroll down to IRS Resources. Click on the link for Dependent Care Expenses – IRS Publication 503. You can then read more about Publication 503.

You can also go to the Internal Revenue Service website, at www.irs.gov. Click on Forms and Pubs. Click on CURRENT Forms & Pubs. In the Find box, type in 503 and click on the Find button. Click on the Pub 503 link.

Publication 503 will give you information on qualifying persons, eligible expenses and the dependent care tax credit. The rules for the Dependent Care FSA are based on this tax credit, though there are differences between it and your employer’s FSA plan. Please read this information carefully. Note: You cannot receive reimbursement from an FSA and take the tax credit for the same expense.


Common Eligible and Ineligible Dependent Care Expenses

The list provided here includes eligible and ineligible dependent care expenses. You can search for a specific item or service. Press CTRL and F at the same time on your keyboard. Then type the item or service you’re looking for and press “Enter.”

Expense Type
Eligible Ineligible Description
Activity fee
See Indirect expenses.
Adult daycare
X The cost of adult daycare is reimbursable, if the following conditions are met: 1)The person must be a qualifying person for the FSA participant;  2)Expenses cannot be attributable to medical care; and 3)The qualifying person must regularly spend at least eight hours each day in the participant’s home. Also see Convalescent home; In-home care; and Relative, amounts paid to.
After-school Care
X The cost of after-school care (i.e., following the end of the school day) is reimbursable. The primary purpose must be for care of the child and not for education. Also see Before-school care; Tuition, kindergarten or higher; and Tuition, preschool or nursery, Indirect fees.
Agency fee
See Indirect expenses.
Application fee
See Indirect expenses.
Assisted living
See Convalescent home and Elder care.
Au pair
X Amounts paid to an au pair are reimbursable.  This includes contract fees, background fees, up-front fees as long as the agency requires them and the Au pair has been hired. Note: Prepaid fees are pro-rated through out the contract period. Also see Employment taxes; Indirect expenses; Nanny; and Room and board.
X Durable goods (for ex., furniture, etc.) for the au pair's use are not reimbursable.
X Transporting costs for au pair/nanny and child to accompany the participant on a business related trip are not eligible expenses.
X Transporting costs of an au pair/nanny into the country or to your home are not eligible.
Babysitter
X The cost of a babysitter, whether in or out of the home, is reimbursable. Note: The cost of the babysitter must be for work-related care and not for personal reasons such as while participant and spouse go out to dinner or a movie. Also see In-home care; and Relative, amounts paid to.   
Background check fee
See Au pair; Indirect expenses
Before-school care
X The cost of before-school care (care before the start of the school day) is reimbursable. The primary purpose must be for care of the child and not for education. Also see After-school care; Tuition, kindergarten or higher; and Tuition, preschool or nursery, Indirect fees.
Boarding school
See Tuition, kindergarten or higher.
Camp activities
X Separately stated activity fees for day camp are not reimbursable. Examples include but are not limited to field trips, camp shirts, etc. Also see Indirect Fees; Clothing.
Camp, day
X The cost of day camp, including specialized day camp (for ex., soccer camp, computer camp, etc.) is reimbursable.  Also see Camp activities; and Recreation fees.
Camp, overnight
X The cost of overnight camp is not reimbursable, even when the daytime portion is broken out. Overnight camp is not considered an eligible expense by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 
Care at night
See Nighttime care.
Care during a layoff or strike
X The cost of care while the participant is on strike or has been laid off (participant is not gainfully employed) is not reimbursable.  If actively seeking employment, see Care while looking for work. 
Care during a short, temporary absence from work
X If the FSA participant must pay for dependent care expenses on a periodic basis (for ex., weekly or monthly) and the absence is short and temporary, the cost of care for a period that includes the absence and the work days is reimbursable.  Note: The determination of an absence as short and temporary is based on the facts and circumstances of each person’s situation.
Care for disabled person
X The cost of care for eligible disabled individual who is incapable of self care and in order for participant and spouse, if applicable, to work are reimbursable.
X Medical expenses for disabled eligible person are not reimburseable under the Dependent Care FSA.
Care when one parent works days and other parent works nights
X If spouses work separate shifts, the cost of care during the hours one spouse works and the other sleeps are reimburseable.
Care when participant/ participant’s spouse is employed part-time
X For part-time employment, expenses must be allocated between days worked and days not worked. Note: If payment for care is on a weekly or longer basis (i.e., must pay for care for days worked and days not worked), the cost does not have to be allocated.
Care while living in a foreign country
X For U.S. citizens working abroad and who are eligible to participate in a dependent care FSA, the cost of care is reimbursable. NOTE: The qualifying person (receiving the custodial care) must The qualifying person must be a U.S. citizen or national or a resident of the U.S., Mexico or Canada.
Care while looking for work
X The cost of care while the participant or participant’s spouse is actively looking for work is reimbursable, if the following conditions are met: 1) The person looking for work must have earned income for the year; 2) If married, the other spouse must be gainfully employed, looking for work, a full-time student or mentally or physically incapable of self-care. Note: Please refer to IRS Publication 503, Earned Income Test.
Care while on family, personal or medical leave
X Generally, the cost of care while the participant is on leave is not reimbursable.  Note: Individual facts and circumstances must be reviewed as other factors (for ex., one spouse being gainfully employed while the other spouse is mentally or physically incapable of self-care) may qualify the expense for reimbursement. 
Care while participant/ participant’s spouse is working at self-employment
X The cost of care while the participant or participant’s spouse is self-employed with net earned income is reimbursable.  Note: Self-employed persons are not eligible to participate in a flexible spending account (FSA).  However, a person participating in an FSA through his or her employer may also be self-employed (separately from his or her employer relationship). Please refer to IRS Publication 503, Earned Income Test.
Care while performing volunteer work
X The cost of care while the participant or participant's spouse is performing volunteer work is not reimbursable.
Care while spouse sleeps
See Care when one parent works days and other parent works nights.
Child care placement fees
See Indirect expenses.
Child daycare
X The cost of child daycare is reimbursable.
Child of FSA participant, amounts paid to
See Relative, amounts paid to.
Clothing
X Clothing items such as T-shirts, hats, etc. are generally not eligible for reimbursement.
Custodial care
See Convalescent home and Elder care.
Day camp 
See Camp, Day.   
Daycare center
See Adult daycare and Child daycare.
Daycare, adult
See Adult daycare.
Daycare, child
See Child daycare.
Dependent care center
See Adult daycare and Child daycare.
Deposit
See Indirect expenses
Diaper fees
X Expenses itemized for diapers charged by the provider are not reimbursable. See Indirect expenses.
Education 
 See Tuition, kindergarten or higher and Tuition, preschool or nursery school.
Elder care
See also Adult daycare; Convalescent home; In-home care; and Relative, amounts paid to.
Emergency daycare
See Employer provided on–site daycare and Sick-child facility.
Employer-provided on-site daycare
X The cost of on-site daycare is reimbursable, even when the payment for care is payroll deducted. Also see Sick-child facility.
Employment taxes
X When the caregiver is actually an employee of the FSA participant, with respect to providing care, federal employment taxes (FICA, FUTA) and similar state payroll taxes are reimbursable.
Extended daycare/program
See After-school Care; Before school care.
FICA and FUTA taxes of care provider
See Employment taxes.  
Field trips
See Camp activities and Recreation fees.
Food
X Separately-stated fees for meals, snacks and other food are not reimbursable. Also see: Indirect expenses.
Foreign country
See Camp activities and Recreation fees.
Hold the spot fee
See Indirect expenses.
Household services
X The cost of household services including but not limited to housecleaning, housekeeper, chauffeur, maid, cook, security system, etc. are not reimbursable. 
X If the person providing care to a qualifying person also provides household services, the amounts paid for care are reimbursable.  Note: The main reason for the person to be in the home is to provide care for the qualifying person.
Indirect expenses
X When the expense is required to obtain the care, and if the qualifying person has actually received that care, indirect expenses are reimbursable. Indirect amounts are incidental to the care of the person but are not optional. Note: Submit the indirect expense along with the expense for the actual care in order to receive reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: agency fees; application fees; hold-the-spot or placement fees; and deposits.
X When the expense is not required to obtain the care or if the qualifying person has not yet received the care, indirect expenses are not reimbursable. For example: activity fees; you pay to run a background check on a potential provider but the check is voluntary and not required by an agency.
X Fees that are forfeited (for ex., the participant selects a different caregiver) are not reimbursable.
In-home care 
X The cost of in-home care is reimbursable. Also see Au pair; Babysitter; Nanny; Relative, amounts paid to; and Room and board.    
Kindergarten
See Tuition, kindergarten or higher.
Late fees
X Fees for late pickup due to the participant or participant’s spouse’s work schedule (or other work-related reason) are reimbursable.
X Fee paid for late payment of the childcare bill is not reimbursable.
Lessons
X Amounts paid for lessons (for ex., tennis, swimming, piano, karate, horseback riding, basketball, dancing, etc.) are not reimbursable.  Also see Camp activities; and Recreation fees.
Long-term care expenses
See Convalescent home and Elder care.
Looking for work
See Care while looking for work.
Maid
 See Household services.
Meals
See food.
Nanny 
X Amounts paid to a nanny are reimbursable. Also see Au pair and Room and board.
X Durable goods (for ex., furniture, etc.) for the nanny’s use are not reimbursable.
Nighttime care
X The cost of care at night while the parent is working is reimbursable.  See also: Care when one parent works days and other parent works nights.
Nursery school
See Tuition, nursery school or preschool.
Nursing home
See Convalescent home and Elder care.
On-site daycare, employer-provided
 See Employer-provided on-site daycare.
Overnight camp
See Camp, overnight
Placement fees
See Indirect expenses.
Prepaid fees
See Indirect expenses.
Preschool
See Tuition, nursery school or preschool
Recreation fees
Separately-stated fees for recreational activities and supplies are not reimbursable. Also see Camp activities and Lessons.  
Registration fee
See Indirect expenses.
Relative, amounts paid to
X Generally, amounts paid to a relative (for ex., grandparent, aunt, cousin) are reimbursable. Exceptions apply; see further explanation immediately below.
X Payments made to the following persons are not reimbursable: 1) Participant’s spouse; 2) Parent of the qualifying child; 3) Participant’s child, stepchild or eligible foster child under age 19; and 4) Any person who the participant (or participant’s spouse) claims as a dependent.
Room and board
X The additional cost of providing room and board, over the usual household expenditures (e.g., electricity, food, water, etc.), to an au pair, nanny or other caregiver is reimbursable. 
Security system for the home  
See Household services. 
Self-employment
See Care while participant/participant’s spouse is working at self-employment.
Sick employee
See Care during a short, temporary absence from work.
Sick-child facility
X The cost of care at a sick-child facility is reimbursable. Also see Employer-provided on-site daycare.
Snacks
See Food.
Specialized day camp
See Camp, day and Camp, overnight.
Specialized daycare
X The cost of specialized daycare is reimbursable.
Sports camp
See Camp, day and Camp, overnight.
Spouse of participant, amounts paid to
See Relative, amounts paid to.
Summer camp
See Camp, day and Camp, overnight.
Summer school
X The cost of summer school is not reimburseable.
Supply fees
See Indirect fees.
Taxes 
See Employment taxes. 
Travel expenses
See Transportation.
Tuition, kindergarten or higher
X The cost of tuition for kindergarten or higher-level education is not reimbursable. Also see After-school care and Before-school care.
Tuition, nursery school or preschool
X The cost of nursery school or preschool (i.e., pre-kindergarten) is reimbursable. Also see After-school care and Before-school care.
Unemployment
See Care during a layoff or strike and Care while looking for work.  
Vacation
See Care during a short, temporary absence from work.  
Volunteer work
See Care while performing volunteer work.