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Dependent Care FSA

FSA Grace Period Extended

To help faculty and staff better manage their Health Care, Limited Purpose, and Dependent Care FSA plans, the Grace Period to incur eligible expenses for 2020 funds has been extended


2020 Dependent Care Accounts

  • If you currently have a 2021 Dependent Care Account, your unused 2020 funds will be moved into your 2021 account.
  • If you don’t have a 2021 Dependent Care Account, Payflex has created a 2021 account specifically with your 2020 unused funds.
  • Any 2020 funds not used by 12/31/2021 will be forfeited.

2021 Dependent Care Accounts

  • If you sign up for a 2022 Dependent Care Account during Open Enrollment, your unused 2021 funds will be moved into your 2022 account.
  • If you don’t sign up for a 2022 Dependent Care Account during Open Enrollment, Payflex will created a 2022 account specifically with your 2021 unused funds.
  • Any 2021 funds not used by 12/31/2022 will be forfeited.


If you have any questions, please contact PayFlex Customer Service at 1-844-PAYFLEX. They are available Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. CT, and Saturday, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. CT.


Special Mid-Year Considerations for Dependent Care FSA 2021

Those enrolled or wish to enroll in the Dependent Care FSA plan in 2021 who have changes to their childcare needs due to work from home restrictions can make changes to their 2021 election.  To make a change to your 2021 election, please email with a Subject of "2021 Dependent Care FSA Change Request" and indicate the new annual election you need.  Please note:

Plan benefits

In accordance with IRS regulations, the maximum you can contribute to a Dependent Care FSA is $5,000 per year for a married couple filing taxes jointly or a single head of household; or $2,500 each for a married couple filing separate tax returns. Your contributions will be deducted from your paycheck on a pretax basis throughout the year and credited to your account on a monthly basis. If you have dual Northwestern and Northwestern Medicine appointments making you eligible for both dependent care FSA plans, it is important to keep the $5,000 total maximum in mind when enrolling.

Reimburses dependent care expenses that allow you and your spouse to work. This is NOT for dependent health care expenses. Maximum annual election of $5,000.
The staff or faculty member must be working full-time or a combination of part-time work and part-time school, in order to be eligible.  If married, your spouse must also work full-time, enrolled in school full-time, or a combination of the two. 


Dependent care University match

Employees with a family adjusted gross income up to $130,000 can apply for Northwestern matching funds by completing the online Dependent Care Employer Match Application. For assistance completing this form, review this User Guide. Note: non-employee postdoctoral trainees are eligible for University funds for child care.

Northwestern's dependent care match and maximum contribution by household earnings.
Household Earnings Northwestern Election Match (%) Maximum Contribution
Up to $60,000 80% $4,000 per year
$60,001-$75,000 60% $3,000 per year
$75,001-$100,000 40% $2,000 per year
$100,001-$130,000 20% $1,000 per year

Notes: Northwestern maximum match is based off an annual election of $5,000 University matching contributions are added to a participant’s taxable wages.

Qualifying dependents

If care for a disabled spouse or dependent is provided outside the home, the dependent must live with you at least eight hours a day. Please visit the PayFlex website for a list of eligible dependents.


Newly eligible employees may enroll online through myHR within 31 days of hire. 

File a claim

You can be reimbursed for expenses with service dates from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, while actively making contributions to the plan. The date you pay for an item or service is irrelevant. Northwestern offers a Grace Period from January 1, 2021 through March 15, 2021 which allows participants extra time to spend their 2020 funds.
  • Submit claims directly to Payflex using Express Claims or a paper claim form. You will not be reimbursed for expenses until after the care is provided.
  • Include the social security number or federal tax identification number of the child care provider.
  • Individuals participating in the Dependent Care Account may be reimbursed only up to the amount in his or her account.
  • Payment may be received by check or direct deposit.
  • All eligible funds for plan year 2020 must be claimed by March 31, 2021. Under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations, any monies not claimed from the FSA as of March 31, 2021 are forfeited.

Separation from the University

If you separate from the University, you may submit claims only for eligible expenses incurred through the end of the month in which you terminated employment. Expenses incurred after this date are not eligible for reimbursement.