Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

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 NU and NMG 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 PDF Document that allow you and your spouse to work. This is NOT for dependent health care expenses.
  • Maximum annual election of $5,000.

Dependent Care University Match

Employees with a family adjusted gross income up to $130,000 can apply for Northwestern matching funds by completing the Dependent Care Employer Match Application PDF Document.

If your household earnings are:

Percent of election match by NU

Up to a maximum contribution of...

Up to $60,000


$4,000 per year

$60,001 to $75,000


$3,000 per year

$75,001 to $100,000


$2,000 per year

$100,001 to $130,000


$1,000 per year


  • 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

  • A child under age 13 in your custody whom you claim as a dependent on your tax return.
  • A spouse who is incapable of self-care, or
  • A dependent who lives with you, such as a child over age 13, parent, sibling, or in-law-who is incapable of self-care, and whom you claim as a dependent on your tax return.

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.
  • An individual may change his FSA contributions within 31 days of a qualifying change in family status. Changes in child care arrangements or expenses are not considered qualifying events.
  • Employee is not eligible for the Dependent Care FSA until he/she has returned to work. At that time you must enroll in the Dependent Care FSA online via myHR.
  • During Open Enrollment, an individual must re-enroll through myHR to continue participation in the FSA the following year.

File a Claim

You can be reimbursed for expenses with service dates from January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017, while actively making contributions to the plan. The date you pay for an item or service is irrelevant.

  • 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 2018 must be claimed by March 31, 2019. Under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations, any monies not claimed from the FSA as of March 31, 2019 are forfeited.
  • All eligible funds for plan year 2017 must be claimed by March 31, 2018. Under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations, any monies not claimed from the FSA as of March 31, 2018 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.