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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
X Separately listed fees (on a provider statement) for recreational/camp activities or supplies for day camp are not eligible. Examples include but are not limited to: field trips and camp shirts.
Adult daycare
X The cost of adult daycare is eligible for reimbursement if the following conditions are met: 1) The expenses must be for a qualifying person. See IRS publication 503 for guidelines. 2) Expenses cannot be for medical care. 3) The qualifying person must regularly spend at least eight hours each day in the participant’s home. 4) The care cannot be provided by an immediate family member or tax dependent of the participant.
After-school Care
X The cost of after-school care (care after the end of the school day) is eligible for reimbursement. The primary purpose must be for care of the child and not for education.
Agency fee (required to obtain care)
X When the expense is required to obtain the care, and if the qualifying person has actually received that care, indirect expenses are eligible for reimbursement. Indirect amounts are incidental to the care of the person but are not optional. Note: You must submit the indirect expense along with the expense for the actual care, with your request for reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: agency fees, application fees, registration fees, hold-the-spot or placement fees and deposits.
Application fee (required to obtain care)
X When the expense is required to obtain the care, and if the qualifying person has actually received that care, indirect expenses are eligible for reimbursement. Indirect amounts are incidental to the care of the person but are not optional. Note: You must submit the indirect expense along with the expense for the actual care, with your request for reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: agency fees, application fees, registration fees, hold-the-spot or placement fees and deposits.
Assisted living
X The cost of assisted living is not eligible for reimbursement.
Au pair (expenses for durable goods)
X Durable goods (for ex., furniture) for the au pair's use are not eligible for reimbursement.
Au pair (transporting costs for business trip)
X Transporting costs for au pair/nanny and child to accompany the participant on a business related trip are not eligible expenses.
Au pair (transporting costs into country)
X Transporting costs of an au pair/nanny into the country or to your home are not eligible.
Au pair fees
X Amounts paid to an au pair are eligible for reimbursement. 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.
Babysitter (work-related care)
X The cost of a babysitter, whether in or out of the home, is eligible for reimbursement.. 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, the care cannot be provided by an immediate family member or tax dependent of the participant.
Background check fee (for Au pair)
X Amounts paid to an au pair are eligible for reimbursement. 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.
Background check fee (not required to obtain care)
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 eligible for reimbursement. For example: Let's say you pay to run a background check on a potential provider but the check is voluntary and not required by an agency. Note: Activity and/or supply fees that are listed separately on a provider statement are not eligible.
Before-school care
X The cost of before-school care (care before the start of the school day) is eligible for reimbursement. The primary purpose must be for care of the child and not for education.
Boarding school
X The cost of boarding school is not eligible for reimbursement.
Camp activities
X Separately listed fees (on a provider statement) for recreational/camp activities or supplies for day camp are not eligible. Examples include but are not limited to: field trips and camp shirts.
Camp, day
X The cost of day camp, including specialized day camp is eligible for reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: soccer camp, computer camp, dance camp.
Camp, overnight
X The cost of overnight camp is not eligible for reimbursement, even when the daytime portion is broken out.
Care at night (allowing you to work)
X The cost of care at night while the parent is working is eligible for reimbursement.
Care during a layoff or strike (actively looking for work)
X The cost of care while the participant or participant’s spouse is actively looking for work is eligible for reimbursement, 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: Refer to IRS Publication 503, Earned Income Test for more information.
Care during a layoff or strike (not looking for work)
X The cost of care while the participant is on strike or has been laid off (participant is not gainfully employed) is not eligible for reimbursement, if they are not looking for work. 
Care during a short, temporary absence from work
X If the dependent care 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 eligible for reimbursement. 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.
Care for disabled person (medical expenses)
X Medical expenses for disabled eligible person are not eligible dependent care FSA expenses.
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 eligible for reimbursement.
Care when participant or 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 eligible for reimbursement. Note: The qualifying person (receiving the custodial care) 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 eligible for reimbursement, 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: Refer to IRS Publication 503, Earned Income Test for more information.
Care while on family, personal or medical leave
X Generally, the cost of care while the participant is on leave is not eligible for reimbursement. 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 or 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 eligible for reimbursement. 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). Refer to IRS Publication 503, Earned Income Test for more information.
Care while performing volunteer work
X The cost of care while the participant or participant's spouse is performing volunteer work is not eligible for reimbursement.
Care while spouse sleeps and the other works
X If spouses work separate shifts, the cost of care during the hours one spouse works and the other sleeps are eligible for reimbursement.
Child care placement fees (required to obtain care)
X When the expense is required to obtain the care, and if the qualifying person has actually received that care, indirect expenses are eligible for reimbursement. Indirect amounts are incidental to the care of the person but are not optional. Note: You must submit the indirect expense along with the expense for the actual care, with your request for reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: agency fees, application fees, registration fees, hold-the-spot or placement fees and deposits.
Child daycare
X The cost of child daycare is eligible for reimbursement. However, the care must be for a qualifying person (child under age 13 and someone that spends at least eight hours each day in the participant's home). The care cannot be provided by an immediate family member or tax dependent of the participant.
Child of dependent care FSA participant (amounts paid to)
X Amounts paid to a child of the dependent care FSA participant is not eligible for reimbursement.
Clothing
X Clothing items are generally not eligible for reimbursement.
Custodial care expenses (for child or eldercare)
X The cost of custodial care for children under age 13 and adults incapable of self-care is eligible for reimbursement.
Day camp 
X The cost of day camp, including specialized day camp is eligible for reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: soccer camp, computer camp, dance camp.
Daycare center
X The cost of daycare is eligible for reimbursement if the following conditions are met: 1) The expenses must be for a qualifying person. See IRS publication 503 for guidelines. 2) Expenses cannot be for medical care. 3) The qualifying person must regularly spend at least eight hours each day in the participant’s home. 4) The care cannot be provided by an immediate family member or tax dependent of the participant.
Daycare, adult
X The cost of adult daycare is eligible for reimbursement if the following conditions are met: 1) The expenses must be for a qualifying person. See IRS publication 503 for guidelines. 2) Expenses cannot be for medical care. 3) The qualifying person must regularly spend at least eight hours each day in the participant’s home. 4) The care cannot be provided by an immediate family member or tax dependent pf the participant.
Daycare, child
X The cost of child daycare is eligible for reimbursement. However, the care must be for a qualifying person (child under age 13 and someone that spends at least eight hours each day in the participant's home). The care cannot be provided by an immediate family member or tax dependent of the participant.
Dependent care center
X The cost of daycare is eligible for reimbursement if the following conditions are met: 1) The expenses must be for a qualifying person. See IRS publication 503 for guidelines. 2) Expenses cannot be for medical care. 3) The qualifying person must regularly spend at least eight hours each day in the participant’s home. 4) The care cannot be provided by an immediate family member or tax dependent of the participant.
Deposit (required to obtain care)
X When the expense is required to obtain the care, and if the qualifying person has actually received that care, indirect expenses are eligible for reimbursement. Indirect amounts are incidental to the care of the person but are not optional. Note: You must submit the indirect expense along with the expense for the actual care, with your request for reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: agency fees, application fees, registration fees, hold-the-spot or placement fees and deposits.
Diaper fees
X Expenses itemized for diapers and charged by the provider are not eligible for reimbursement.
Education (tuition for Kindergarten or higher)
X The cost of tuition for Kindergarten or higher-level education is not eligible for reimbursement.
Education (tuition for nursery school/preschool)
X The cost of nursery school, preschool and Pre-K is eligible for reimbursement.
Elder care
X The cost of adult/elder daycare is eligible for reimbursement if the following conditions are met: 1) The expenses must be for a qualifying person. See IRS publication 503 for guidelines. 2) Expenses cannot be for medical care. 3) The qualifying person must regularly spend at least eight hours each day in the participant’s home. 4) The care cannot be provided by an immediate family member or tax dependent of the participant.
Emergency daycare
X The cost of emergency daycare is eligible for reimbursement.
Employer-provided on-site daycare
X The cost of on-site daycare is eligible for reimbursement. If the payment for care is payroll deducted, the cost is still eligible.
Employment taxes
X When the caregiver is an employee of the dependent care FSA participant, federal employment taxes (FICA, FUTA) and similar state payroll taxes are eligible for reimbursement (as it relates to providing care).
Extended daycare/program
X The cost of extended daycare/program is eligible for reimbursement. The primary purpose must be for care of the child and not for education.
FICA and FUTA taxes of care provider
X When the caregiver is an employee of the dependent care FSA participant, federal employment taxes (FICA, FUTA) and similar state payroll taxes are eligible for reimbursement (as it relates to providing care).
Field trips
X Separately listed fees (on a provider statement) for recreational/camp activities or supplies for day camp are not eligible. Examples include but are not limited to: field trips and camp shirts.
Food
X Separately listed fees (on a provider statement) for food are not eligible for reimbursement.
Hold the spot fee
X When the expense is required to obtain the care, and if the qualifying person has actually received that care, indirect expenses are eligible for reimbursement. Indirect amounts are incidental to the care of the person but are not optional. Note: You must submit the indirect expense along with the expense for the actual care, with your request for reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: agency fees, application fees, registration fees, hold-the-spot or placement fees and deposits.
Household services
X The cost of household services including but not limited to: housecleaning, housekeeper, chauffeur, maid, cook, security system, etc. are not eligible for reimbursement. 
Household services (if same person provides care)
X If the person providing care to the qualifying person, also provides household services, the amounts paid for care are eligible expenses. Note: The main reason for the person to be in the home is to provide care for the qualifying person.
Indirect expenses (forfeited)
X Fees that are forfeited (for ex., the participant selects a different caregiver) are not reimbursable.
Indirect expenses (not required to obtain care)
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: Let's say you pay to run a background check on a potential provider but the check is voluntary and not required by an agency. Note: Activity and/or supply fees that are listed separately on a provider statement are not eligible.
Indirect expenses (required to obtain care)
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.
In-home care 
X The cost of in-home care is eligible for reimbursement. It must be for a qualifying person and for work-related care.
Kindergarten (tuition)
X The cost of tuition for Kindergarten or higher-level education is not eligible for reimbursement.
Late fees (for late payment)
X Fee paid for late payment of the childcare bill is not reimbursable.
Late fees (for late pick up)
X Fees for late pickup due to the participant or participant’s spouse’s work schedule (or other work-related reason) are reimbursable.
Long term care expenses
X Long term care expenses are not eligible for reimbursement.
Looking for work (cost of care)
X The cost of care while the participant or participant’s spouse is actively looking for work is eligible for reimbursement, 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: Refer to IRS Publication 503, Earned Income Test for more information.
Maid
X The cost of household services including but not limited to: housecleaning, housekeeper, chauffeur, maid, cook, security system, etc. are not eligible for reimbursement. 
Nanny (amounts paid to)
X Amounts paid to a nanny are eligible for reimbursement.
Nanny (expenses for durable goods)
X Durable goods (for ex., furniture) for the nanny’s use are not eligible for reimbursement.
Nighttime care (allowing you to work)
X The cost of care at night while the parent is working is eligible for reimbursement.
Nursery school (tuition)
X The cost of nursery school, preschool and Pre-K is eligible for reimbursement.
On-site daycare, employer-provided
X The cost of on-site daycare is eligible for reimbursement. If the payment for care is payroll deducted, the cost is still eligible.
Overnight camp
X The cost of overnight camp is not eligible for reimbursement, even when the daytime portion is broken out.
Placement fees (required to obtain care)
X When the expense is required to obtain the care, and if the qualifying person has actually received that care, indirect expenses are eligible for reimbursement. Indirect amounts are incidental to the care of the person but are not optional. Note: You must submit the indirect expense along with the expense for the actual care, with your request for reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: agency fees, application fees, registration fees, hold-the-spot or placement fees and deposits.
Prepaid fees
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 eligible for reimbursement. For example, let's say you pay to run a background check on a potential provider but the check is voluntary and not required by an agency. Note: Activity and/or supply fees that are listed separately on a provider statement are not eligible.
Preschool (tuition)
X The cost of nursery school, preschool and Pre-K is eligible for reimbursement.
Recreation fees
X Separately listed fees (on a provider statement) for recreational/camp activities or supplies for day camp are not eligible. Examples include but are not limited to: field trips and camp shirts.
Registration fee (required to obtain care)
X When the expense is required to obtain the care, and if the qualifying person has actually received that care, indirect expenses are eligible for reimbursement. Indirect amounts are incidental to the care of the person but are not optional. Note: You must submit the indirect expense along with the expense for the actual care, with your request for reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: agency fees, application fees, registration fees, hold-the-spot or placement fees and deposits.
Relative (amounts paid to extended family member)
X Generally, amounts paid to a relative (for ex., grandparent, aunt, cousin) to care for a qualifying person are eligible for reimbursement.
Relative (amounts paid to immediate family member/tax dependent)
X Payments made to the following persons are not eligible for reimbursement. ) 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 on their tax return.
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 eligible for reimbursement.
Security system for the home  
X The cost of household services including but not limited to: housecleaning, housekeeper, chauffeur, maid, cook, security system, etc. are not eligible for reimbursement. 
Self-employment
X The cost of care while the participant or participant’s spouse is self-employed with net earned income is eligible for reimbursement. 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). Refer to IRS Publication 503, Earned Income Test for more information.
Sick employee
X If the dependent care 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 eligible for reimbursement. Note: The determination of an absence as short and temporary is based on the facts and circumstances of each person’s situation.
Sick-child facility
X The cost of care at a sick-child facility is eligible for reimbursement.
Snacks
X Separately listed fees (on a provider statement) for snacks are not eligible for reimbursement.
Specialized day camp
X The cost of day camp, including specialized day camp is eligible for reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: soccer camp, computer camp, dance camp.
Specialized daycare
X The cost of specialized daycare is eligible for reimbursement. It must be for a qualifying person and for work-related care.
Sports day camp
X The cost of day camp, including specialized day camp is eligible for reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: soccer camp, computer camp, dance camp.
Sports overnight camp
X The cost of overnight camp is not eligible for reimbursement, even when the daytime portion is broken out.
Spouse of participant (amounts paid to)
X Payments made to the following persons are not eligible for reimbursement. ) 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 on their tax return.
Summer day camp
X The cost of day camp, including specialized day camp is eligible for reimbursement. Examples include but are not limited to: soccer camp, computer camp, dance camp.
Summer overnight camp
X The cost of overnight camp is not eligible for reimbursement, even when the daytime portion is broken out.
Summer school
X The cost of summer school is not eligible for reimbursement.
Supply fees
X Activity and/or supply fees that are listed separately on a provider statement are not eligible.
Taxes 
X When the caregiver is an employee of the dependent care FSA participant, federal employment taxes (FICA, FUTA) and similar state payroll taxes are eligible for reimbursement (as it relates to providing care).
Transportation
X When provided by anyone other than the caregiver, the cost of transporting the qualifying person is not eligible for reimbursement.
Transportation (provided by caregiver)
X When provided by the caregiver, the cost of transporting the qualifying person to and from the care location is eligible for reimbursement.
Travel expenses (provided by caregiver)
X When provided by the caregiver, the cost of transporting the qualifying person to and from the care location is eligible for reimbursement.
Tuition (for Kindergarten or higher)
X The cost of tuition for kindergarten or higher-level education is not eligible for reimbursement.
Tuition (for nursery school or preschool)
X The cost of nursery school, preschool and Pre-K is eligible for reimbursement.
Unemployment (actively looking for work)
X The cost of care while the participant or participant’s spouse is actively looking for work is eligible for reimbursement, 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: Refer to IRS Publication 503, Earned Income Test for more information.
Unemployment (not looking for work)
X The cost of care while the participant is on strike or has been laid off (participant is not gainfully employed) is not eligible for reimbursement, if they are not looking for work. 
Vacation
X If the dependent care 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 eligible for reimbursement. Note: The determination of an absence as short and temporary is based on the facts and circumstances of each person’s situation.
Volunteer work
X The cost of care while the participant or participant's spouse is performing volunteer work is not eligible for reimbursement.
 
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