K.M. FORSTER & CO.
Chartered Professional Accountant
Articles > Warning: Buyer beware when it comes to Health Spending Accounts


31 Mar 2019

What are HSAs?

HSAs are self-insured health plans arranged by employers for their employees residing in Canada. They provide a way that small businesses can provide tax-free health and dental benefits to their employees (and their employees’ family members). This makes the HSA appear to be an extremely attractive and cost‑effective way of getting and providing health and dental benefits.

However, a valid HSA plan must conform to private health service plan rules set out in the Income Tax Act.  The information below clarifies the rules on what are acceptable Health Spending Accounts.

What HSAs are acceptable

Incorporated businesses, including shareholder employees and all other corporate employees, are eligible to participate in an HSA. Corporations with as few as one employee can be eligible as well. However, the HSA cannot be solely for shareholders unless the shareholders are also employees earning a T4 income.

In the case of unincorporated businesses or sole proprietors, the owner and their employees are also eligible if the owner has at least one arm’s-length employee.

What HSAs are not acceptable?

Some insurance agents/brokers and financial planners are marketing HSAs to businesses operating as sole proprietorships that have no arm’s-length employees. Participants are told that they will be onside with meeting the Income Tax Act rules for private health services plans if they purchase additional types of insurance. 

Bottom Line:

If the business is a sole proprietorship with no arm’s-length employees, the CRA does not consider an HSA to be a private health services plan and any costs incurred for amounts paid to this account are not deductible business expenses.

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