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We are halfway through our summer break and by now you have heard 1,000 times, “I’m bored!” from your kids! How do you survive the summer and keep your sanity? Follow these tips to make this summer break memorable and tackle the challenge of keeping your kids engaged.

  1. Keep A Routine

Kids thrive with schedules. The idea of just lazing around all summer sounds great at the beginning, but it feeds the “I’m bored” monster. Having no routine or daily schedule leaves kids with no expectations of what needs to be accomplished for the day. I cannot count the number of times I’ve texted my children from work at 1pm, “Have you gotten dressed and brushed your teeth?” Set up a daily routine and post it in a well-traveled location in your home. Set up expectations for the day—make your bed, get dressed, feed the dogs, brush your teeth, put away laundry. Simple tasks give familiarity to the day and help guide them to productivity.

  1. Water & Sun Safety

Teach your kids to always ask before heading out to the pool—whether it’s in your backyard, a friend’s house, or the neighborhood splash park. When they are in the water, make sure someone is watching. Among preventable injuries, drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1 – 4 years old. Drowning happens quickly and quietly—not like it’s portrayed in movies and on TV with lots of splashing and yelling. Keep kids in your sight at all times. Likewise, pay attention to applying sunscreen consistently. The sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Apply sunscreen every hour and if possible, have your children wear UV protected clothing and hats.

  1. Summer Bucket List

Make your “Top 5 Summer Activities” list as a family and schedule them! Maybe it’s to try the new snow cone shop around the corner or go to a special concert series in the park. Your community is bustling with things to do during the summer. Research what special speakers are coming to your local library, break out your list of favorite movies from when you were a kid and introduce them to your children (Space Camp, Neverending Story, Flight of the Navigator!), make slime! Making a list of these fun activities gives your children something to look forward to and work towards achieving.

  1. Learn a New Skill

This summer’s skill in my house is learning how to type! I found a website that has free lessons and skills tests and my kiddos are completing modules of learning online during the day. Our hope is by the end of the summer, our teenagers can type using all 10 fingers! Figure out a skill that your children could benefit from learning and find a way to teach them this skill. It doesn’t mean you are now instructing them on how to play a violin, but if they want to learn, can you find a local music store that has some summer lessons? Or what about your friend’s artistic teenager who could teach your child how to draw anime or how to sing?

  1. READ!

You knew that one was coming. We’ve all heard of the “summer slide” where kids slide backwards in learning during their summer break. Reading not only prevents this slide but can propel your child into success for the coming school year. Get to your local library and talk with your librarians about the latest book series that are on fire for your school-aged children. Read along with your kid so you can discuss the twists and turns in the books. Have your student draw pictures of their favorite scenes in their book. Get your noses in some books! Readers are leaders!!

With these survival tips you will be blazing the trails to a successful summer. Parents—you got this!

School’s out! Summer is here, and it’s the time of year when working parents have questions about using their Dependent Care Spending Accounts (DCSAs). Are summer camp expenses eligible? What about day versus overnight camps? Employers and benefit advisors want to be ready with answers about this valuable benefit program.

The following are the top summertime questions about DCSAs and reimbursable expenses:

1. What are the basic rules for reimbursable expenses?

Dependent care expenses, such as babysitting and daycare center costs, must be work-related to qualify for reimbursement. Work-related means the expenses are for the care of the employee’s child under age 13 to allow the employee to work. If the employee is married and filing jointly, the employee’s spouse also must be gainfully employed or looking for work (unless disabled or a full-time student).

In some cases, expenses to care for a disabled dependent, regardless of age, may be reimbursable. This article focuses on expenses for children under 13 since those are by far the most common type of DCSA reimbursement.

2. One of our employees and his family are taking a two-week vacation this summer, but his children’s daycare center will charge its regular fee. Are the expenses reimbursable even if the employee and spouse are off work?

Yes. In most cases, expenses are not eligible unless the dependent care services are necessary for the parents to work, but some exceptions apply. The IRS rules for DCSAs provide that expenses during short, temporary absences are eligible if the employee has to pay the child’s care provider. Absences of up to two weeks are automatically considered short, temporary absences. Depending on the circumstances, longer absences also may qualify.

3. During the school year, our employee uses her DCSA for her 10-year old’s after-school daycare center expenses. This summer, the child’s daycare will be provided by her 20-year old sister. If the older daughter bills for her services, are the costs eligible for reimbursement?

The answer depends on whether the employee or spouse can claim the older daughter as a tax dependent. If the older daughter can be claimed as a dependent, whether or not the employee actually claims her, she is not a qualifying dependent care provider under the DCSA rules.

If the older daughter cannot be claimed as a tax dependent, her charges for providing care are eligible expenses. The specific rule is that a child of the employee, whom the employee cannot claim as a dependent, may be a qualifying provider if the child is age 19 or older by the end of the year.

Note that the employee’s spouse or the child’s parent is never a qualifying provider.

4. One of our employees has to pay an application fee and deposit before her child starts attending a daycare center this summer. Are those expenses eligible for reimbursement?

Prepaid expenses are eligible for DCSA reimbursement, provided the costs are required in order for the child to receive care. In this case, after the daycare center begins providing care, the employee can be reimbursed for the application fee and deposit she paid. On the other hand, if the employee cancels and her child does not attend, then the application fee and deposit are not eligible expenses.

5. An employee will pay day camp expenses for his 8-year-old son and overnight camp expenses for his 12-year-old daughter this summer. Are both types of expenses eligible for reimbursement?

The day camp expenses generally are reimbursable. Expenses for overnight camp, however, are not eligible since overnight care is not work-related.

Under the IRS rules for DCSAs, expenses for food, lodging, clothing, education, and entertainment are not reimbursable. If, however, such expenses are small, incidental expenses that cannot be separated from the cost of caring for the child, they may be included for reimbursement. For instance, the day camp may include lunch, snacks, and some sports activities in its basic fee, which would be eligible for reimbursement.

6. An employee’s children go to private year-round schools. He pays tuition for one child’s grade school and fees for the other child’s nursery school. Are both types of expenses eligible for reimbursement?

Educational expenses are not reimbursable, unless the educational services are merely incidental as part of a child care service. Expenses to attend kindergarten or a higher grade are educational, so the older child’s school fees are not eligible for DCSA reimbursement. (Expenses for before- or after-school care, however, may qualify as reimbursable expenses.)

On the other hand, expenses for a child in nursery school, preschool, or a similar program for children below the level of kindergarten are expenses for care. Such expenses are not considered educational even though the nursery school may include some educational activities.

Originally Published By ThinkHR.com

A dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA) is a pre-tax benefit account used to pay for eligible dependent care services. The IRS determines which expenses are eligible for reimbursement and these expenses are defined by Internal Revenue Code §129 and the employer’s plan. Eligible DCFSA expenses include: adult day care center, before/after school programs, child care, nanny, preschool, and summer day camp. Day nursing care, nursing home care, tuition for kindergarten and above, food expenses, and overnight camp are ineligible expenses.

Qualifying Individuals

Only qualifying individuals are eligible for dependent care expenses. A qualifying individual is an individual who spends at least eight hours in the participant’s home.

Dependent care includes care for a child who is under the age of 13 and in the participant’s custody for more than half the year. Dependent care also includes care for a spouse or relative who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care and lives in the participant’s home.

If parents are divorced, then the child is a qualified dependent of the custodial parent. A non-custodial parent cannot be reimbursed under a DCFSA even if the parent claims the child as a tax dependent.

Contributing to a DCFSA

The election is the participant’s contribution amount, which is the amount the participant puts into a DCFSA at enrollment. Participants may change the amount of money to be withheld within a 31-day window after a qualifying event, such as marriage, birth or adoption of a child, dependent death, divorce, or change in employment. Participants may enroll in or renew their election in a DCFSA during open enrollment. Participation is not automatic. Participants must re-enroll every year by the enrollment date.

The employer determines the minimum election amount and the IRS determines the maximum election amount. The IRS sets the following annual contribution limits for a DCFSA:

  • $2,500 per year for a married employee who files a separate tax return
  • $5,000 per year for a married employee who files a joint tax return
  • $5,000 per year for the head of household
  • $5,000 per year for a single employee

Even though a different maximum contribution limit may apply depending on the employer’s plan, the maximum contribution cannot exceed the following earned income limitations:

  • If you are single, the earned income limit is your salary, excluding contributions to your DCFSA.
  • If you are married, the earned income limit is the lesser of: your salary, excluding contributions to your DCFSA, or your spouse’s salary.

All DCFSA contributions are subject to IRS use-it-or-lose-it rules, which means that unused funds within the plan year will be forfeited to the employer unless the employer’s plan offers a grace period extension. Some plans include a two-and-a-half-month grace period.

Participants must report their DCFSA contributions on their federal tax return along with the name, address, and Social Security number (if applicable) of the dependent care service provider.

Reimbursement Requests

A valid DCFSA claim will either have the dependent care provider certify the service by signing the claim form or have the participant provide an itemized statement from the dependent care provider that includes the following: service dates, dependent’s name, type of service, amount billed, and the provider’s name and address along with a completed claim form.

Participants should save supporting documentation related to their DCFSA expenses and claims because the IRS may request itemized receipts to verify the eligibility of their expenses.

By Danielle Capilla
Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

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