FSA Friday - 4/27/18 - Summer camp with a dependent care FSA? Yes, it's eligible!

Depending on where you live in the U.S., spring sure took its time getting here. But at our offices in New York City, this week represented 2018's first real taste of warmer weather. (We hope...)

We don't spend a lot of time covering dependent care FSAs on these pages, but summer is always a good time to see if this account is right for your family. Why? Because summer day camp is an eligible expense for dependent care FSA holders!

It seems strange to be thinking about cookouts and and camp songs on a site built around health and financial wellness, but the dependent care FSA is a great way for people to set aside tax-free money toward any relevant care costs -- including daycare and camp. And it looks like the warm weather has the media thinking about these things, too, based on the headlined below.

Camps and Schools: Affording Summer Camp - Marilyn Campbell, Connection Newspapers

A recent study by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, global policy firm, shows that voluntary summer programs like daycamp have a significant, positive impact on low-income students during a time when they fall behind their wealthier peers both academically and socially.

Their research also shows that children benefit from learning social and behavioral skills in different settings with new peers.

The problem comes from accessibility and cost. Many parents looking for assistance during the summer may not realize there are programs available to them to offset these expenses. The article suggests parents check to see if a camp participates in U.S. government assistance programs, as well as dependent care FSAs, which are eligible to cover day camps (overnight and sleepaway camps do not apply).

There may still be time to make this happen for the 2018 summer season. But if you miss out now, this is the perfect time to start planning for summer day camp expenses for 2019. And the next article discusses just that...

Open enrollment is a great time to think about summer camp - Kelli B. Grant, CNBC

Once we started thinking about how planning is key to maximizing our FSAs, we were reminded of a great piece from last year's open enrollment season, in which the author highlighted how a little foresight at open enrollment can offer a huge win come summer camp season.

While you might not be thinking about s'mores when holiday music is already being played in stores, there are some significant savings to be had the following year.

If you already have a dependent care FSA, you're likely aware you can set aside up to $5,000 in tax-free funds for child care expenses for 2018 (as long as the child is under 13 and both parents are either gainfully employed or seeking gainful employment). But if you were saving for summer expenses, chances are you needed to make that decision at open enrollment the previous year.

Camp and other summer child-care costs can be a big line item for working parents. Though prices vary, summer day camp programs accredited by the American Camp Association average $314 per week. Using a dependent care FSA can help parents save an average of 30% on these services, while also reducing your overall tax burden.

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