Things to consider before making flex credit allocations

The deadline for allocating how you wish to use your flex credits is November 30, 2020. In considering the use of this valuable benefit, the UWOFA Pension & Benefits Committee would like to offer the following reminders and suggestions:

1. Consider what your professional or health needs might be for the upcoming year. Are you planning on attending a conference or replacing some technology? Do you need a new pair of glasses? Do you anticipate a family member requiring braces?

2. Use income tax benefits strategically. If you pay for a professional licence/dues (e.g. professional engineers, nurses, law and similar) as a requirement of your work, these costs are tax deductible and perhaps not the best use of your professional expense reimbursement (PER) dollars. However, a membership to an academic society or organization, which is not tax deductible, would be a very legitimate cost to recover through your PER;

3. Use of your health care spending account (HCSA) may be affected if you have a partner with benefits. Coordination of benefits will likely change (reduce) the extent to which you would rely on the HCSA.

Below are some things to consider when planning how to allocate your flex credits.

Professional Expense Reimbursement (PER) - this account can be used for your work including, but not limited to:

  • Books, journal subscriptions
  • Membership fees, association dues (see note 2 above)
  • Conference registration and associated travel expenses (COVID travel restrictions permitting)
  • Technology expenses for scholarly work. This includes home internet charges, for example
  • Supplies and related expenses for scholarly work
  • PER was expanded this year to include home office furniture as an eligible expense. Members can claim a maximum of $500 for office furniture purchased in 2020 only.

Health Care Spending Account (HCSA) - this account can cover the costs that the Western benefits program does not. Examples of coverage include:

  • The remaining 15% of prescription drug costs (some medications [e.g. insulin] are very expensive and the additional costs can be recovered with the HCSA)
  • The additional costs for health care practitioners above the $15 covered by benefits. This can be substantial for practitioners such as chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists and other practitioners
  • A pair of prescription glasses is covered at $150 per year. The benefit accumulates to a maximum of two years ($300). The remainder can be covered by your HCSA
  • Regular dental services are covered to 85% so the remaining 15% can be covered by the HCSA
  • Restorative dentistry or major dental work is covered at 80% so the remaining 20% can be covered by the HCSA
  • Only the initial orthodontic consultation fee is covered by your benefits so the cost of orthodontics can be covered by the HCSA

Wellness Spending Account - this account is a taxable benefit. However, it does cover many areas that are beneficial to you.

  • Fitness such as gym memberships, sporting equipment
  • Dental (whitening strips, toothbrushes, mouth guards)
  • Health (natural products, vitamins, heating pads)
  • Counseling (grief, addiction, weight loss programs)
  • Professional (lawyer fees, paralegal fees, accounting)
  • Personal development (personal interest courses such as cooking classes or meditation classes)
  • Renovations (air conditioners, air purifiers)
  • Environmental (composters, energy saving appliances, green home initiatives)

Flex credits have a shelf life

Remember that the flex credits you allocate have a finite shelf life. The professional expense reimbursement can accumulate for the life of the Collective Agreement but must be spent by March 31, 2022.

If you allocate a certain amount to your health care spending account or your wellness spending account for 2021 and you’re unable to use the funds in 2021, the unused portion will be added to your 2022 allocation and forfeited if it is not spent by December 31, 2022.

For more information about these three accounts (professional expense reimbursement, health care spending account, and the wellness spending account) and about your flex credits, visit the university's flex credit page and choose UWOFA 2021 or UWOFA – Librarians and Archivists 2021. This is a very useful resource!

Ready to allocate?

If you are ready to allocate your flex credits please click “log in to My Human Resources”. Select the "Allocate Flex Credits" tile and click on "Flex Credit Allocation" from the menu on the left. Select the "Make changes to your elections" button from the bottom and choose, in $100 increments, the amounts you wish to allocate to each of your HCSA, PER and WSA. If you do not allocate your flex credits, they will all be allocated to your PER by default.

We hope this information is helpful as you consider the most beneficial use of these credits for your professional work, health and well-being. Remember, the deadline is November 30, 2020!

UWOFA Pension & Benefits Committe