Dependent care assistance benefits carryovers and extended claims period amounts that would have been excluded from income if used during the preceding tax year will remain excludable in tax years ending in 2021 and 2022. In addition, these benefits will not be taken into account in determining the dependent care benefits exclusion limit for the tax years ending in 2021 and 2022.

Dependent Care Assistance Exclusion

Employees may exclude amounts their employer pays or incurs for dependent care assistance benefits if furnished pursuant to a dependent care assistance program. For 2020, the exclusion could not exceed $5,000, $2,500 if married filing separately (for 2021 only, increased to $10,500, $5,250 if married filing separately). Unused benefits may be used during a 2 1/2 month grace period following the plan year’s end. However, if the sum of the benefits used in the tax year (including unused benefits used during a grace period that falls in the tax year) exceeds the limitation, the excess is taxable.

Carryovers and Extensions

Beyond the grace period, carryovers of unused dependent care assistance program amounts generally are not permitted. However, the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 ( P.L. 116-260) allowed employers to amend their plans to permit carryovers to plan years ending in 2021 and 2022, or to extend the permissible period for incurring claims to plan years over the same period.

Under Notice 2021-15, I.R.B. 2021-10, 898, if an employer adopts the carryover or the extended period, the annual limits apply to amounts contributed for a year, and not to amounts reimbursed or otherwise available for reimbursement.

Notice 2021-26 clarifies that dependent care assistance program benefits that would have been excluded from income if used during the tax year ending in 2020 or 2021, remain eligible for exclusion from the participant’s gross income, and are disregarded in applying the limits for the employee’s subsequent tax years when they are carried over from a plan year ending in 2020 or 2021 or permitted to be used pursuant to an extended claims period.

Notice 2021-26 also provides examples illustrating the possible tax consequences of electing $10,500 in benefits for a plan year beginning in 2021 but ending in 2022.