Contributing to an HSA is easy enough for those whose with an employer that offers an HDHP plan – just select your payroll deduction and your employer takes care of the rest. But, what if you don’t have a health plan through an employer? Can you contribute to an HSA outside of an employer plan if you are self-employed or your employer doesn’t offer health insurance? And can you still deduct your HSA contributions?
I was confronted with that question by a reader, Melissa, in a post comment a while back:
Does anyone have any information or advice on an individual contributing to an HSA that is not tied to an employer? My employer does not offer benefits or a sponsored HSA. I opened up an HSA this year, but am unsure if I can still contribute to this tax-free (via payroll deduction) if the plan is not “employer sponsored.” I know that I can contribute from my checking/savings account, but I feel that this defeats the purpose.
That’s a great question. Before I answer, let me first say that HSAs offer outstanding tax benefits and are a great option for everyone to save money on health care costs (and they can even be used like an IRA for non-medical expenses at retirement age). If you don’t have one, you should consider a plan that will allow you to do so. Let’s dig in further…
Can you Contribute to an HSA Outside of an Employer Plan?
Yes. If you are self-employed or your employer does not offer a health plan, you can contribute to an HSA. However, typical HSA eligibility rules still apply. You must have HDHP coverage in order to contribute to an HSA and meet the following eligibility requirements:
- You must be covered under a HDHP, on the first day of the month.
- You have no other health insurance coverage (excluding vision, dental, disability, accident, long-term care) and are not covered by another plan (e.g. spouses employer plan).
- You are not enrolled in Medicare.
- You cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
HSA-eligible HDHP plans will typically clearly state that they are “HSA eligible”.
Healthcare.gov Plan HSA Contributions
Since you are buying your health insurance separate from your employer, you will likely be buying it on a state public exchange or on healthcare.gov (if your state does not have its own exchange).
If you want to contribute to an HSA, you’ll have to find a health plan that is HDHP-compliant (see my HDHP article for more info). To find an HDHP that is eligible for HSA contributions when shopping for plans on healthcare.gov, select:
Then, you will see the option to choose HSA-eligible plans:
Most HSA eligible plans are at the “bronze” level, but a few “silver” level plans are HSA eligible as well.
Can you Set up Payroll Deductions for a non-employer HDHP?
It is possible, but highly unlikely that your employer has a partnership with an HSA-provider to execute HSA payroll deductions if they do not offer a health plan. So the answer to this question is almost always “no”.
Are HSA Contributions Outside of an Employer Tax Deductible?
Contributing to an HSA outside of payroll does not defeat the purpose – non-payroll HSA contributions are still tax deductible. In other words, the same tax benefits apply (outside of FICA), it’s just that they won’t be 100% realized until you complete your tax return.
If you do contribute to an HSA on your own, it may be wise to adjust your tax withholding on Form W-4 with your employer downward, so that less taxes are withheld over the course of the year and you don’t end up with an inflated refund.
How to Deduct HSA Contributions
Note that you do not have to itemize your tax deductions in order to deduct your HSA contributions – you can deduct and claim the standard deduction. HSA contributions are considered as an “above the line” deduction, meaning that the deduction for HSA contributions is used in determining adjusted gross income.
For more on HSA contributions and their tax implications, check out the HSA section of IRS publication 969.
When can you Make HSA Contributions?
The HSA contribution deadline is the same date as the tax deadline (typically April 15th of the year following the tax year you are contributing for). Contributions don’t have to be equally distributed – you can do it all in one lump sum. In this regard, HSAs are identical to IRAs.
How Much can I Contribute to an HSA if I Didn’t have an HDHP Until Later in the Year?
Here’s a little-known HSA fact: under the “last-month rule”, if you are an eligible individual on the first day of the last month of your tax year (December 1 for most taxpayers), you are considered an eligible individual for the entire year. You are treated as having the same HDHP coverage for the entire year as you had on the first day of the last month and can contribute up to the full maximum HSA contribution.
Can you Front-Load HSA Contributions?
You can front-load your HSA contributions, but you may not want to unless you are confident you will have your HDHP for the entire year, otherwise, it can create a bit of a mess having to claw back your contributions to avoid taxes and penalty.
How much can you Contribute to an HSA that is Not Tied to an Employer?
The normal maximum HSA contribution rules still apply (and vary based on your tax filing status).
Where to Get a Non-Employer HSA:
One nice benefit of having an HSA that is not associated with your employer is that you get to choose the HSA administrator versus being captive to your employer’s (some of them are really bad). Here’s a list of the best HSA accounts that I have found. Even if you have an HSA through an employer, you can create another HSA at any time and transfer funds between any 2 HSAs at any time (even from your employer-sponsored HSA to your own). Most employer HSAs are not great – so I’d recommend it.