HSAs Made Easy: Learn the Essentials and Protect Your Savings from Mistakes | Benefits Collaborative

Health savings accounts (HSAs) have become a vital part of many employers’ benefits packages, offering employees a powerful tool to manage healthcare expenses while benefiting from tax advantages. However, managing HSAs goes beyond just facilitating contributions. It also involves understanding and addressing mistakes with distributions that employees might encounter.

This article delves into the basics of HSAs, common distribution mistakes, and discusses how employers can assist employees in correcting these errors.

HSA Overview

HSAs are tax-advantaged savings accounts available to individuals enrolled in High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs). They allow employees to set aside pre-tax dollars to cover qualified medical expenses, providing a triple tax benefit: contributions are tax-deductible, earnings grow tax-free, and withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are tax-free. Contributions to HSAs can come from both employees and employers, with annual contribution limits for individual and family coverage set by the IRS.

Common Mistakes in HSA Distributions

Despite the best intentions, mistakes in HSA distributions can occur. Common errors include:

  • Using funds for nonqualified expenses: Employees may inadvertently use HSA funds for expenses that do not qualify as medical expenses under IRS guidelines.
  • Overdrawing funds: Employees may withdraw more than necessary from their HSAs, leading to unintended tax consequences.
  • Exceeding contribution limits: Employees may contribute more than the IRS annual maximum, resulting in tax consequences.
  • Inadequate recordkeeping: Poor recordkeeping can make it difficult for employees to track HSA transactions and verify the eligibility of expenses.

Supporting Employees in Correcting Distributions

As an employer, you can support employees in correcting mistaken HSA distributions in several ways:

  • Educate employees: Provide comprehensive education and training on HSA rules and regulations, including eligible expenses, contribution limits, and the consequences of nonqualified distributions. Offer resources such as workshops, webinars, and informational materials to help employees understand how to use their HSAs effectively.
  • Encourage recordkeeping: Emphasize the importance of keeping detailed records of HSA transactions and medical expenses. Encourage employees to save receipts and documentation for all qualified medical expenses, as well as records of HSA contributions and distributions.
  • Offer guidance and resources: Ensure employees know where to turn for help if they have questions or need assistance with their HSAs. Provide access to knowledgeable benefits administrators, financial advisors, or tax professionals who can offer guidance on correcting mistaken distributions and navigating HSA rules.
  • Communicate proactively: Regularly communicate with employees about HSA-related updates, such as contribution limit adjustments, changes to regulations, and reminders about best practices for managing their accounts. Use multiple channels—email, intranet, and employee meetings—to ensure that information reaches all employees.


HSAs provide employees with a valuable opportunity to save for healthcare expenses and offer significant tax benefits. As an employer, it’s essential to support employees in understanding and managing their HSAs effectively. By providing education, resources, and guidance on correcting mistaken distributions, employers can help their workers maximize their HSA benefits while minimizing potential pitfalls. Together, employers and employees can navigate the complexities of HSAs and achieve greater financial wellness.