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Dependent Care FSA

Note: PayFlex is now Inspira Financial

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 between all Dependent Care FSA plans in mind when enrolling.

Reimburses dependent care expenses that allow you and your spouse to work. This is NOT for dependent health care expenses. 

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.  To begin the match on the first of the month, an application must be received by the Benefits Division by no later than the 15th of the preceding month.

Note: non-employee postdoctoral trainees are eligible for university funds for child care without contributing to the Dependent Care FSA.

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.

Enrollment After December 15

The match amount you receive will be prorated during any calendar year for which you do not participate in a Dependent Care FSA for the entire year, or you applied for the match after December 15. 

For example, you submit the dependent care match application on 8/14, which means the match begins on 9/1. Your AGI is $70,000 and you contribute $5,000 to your account for the remainder of the year, the University match will equal 60% of your contributions, which will be prorated. In this case, the amount deducted on a pre-tax basis from your paycheck each month is $1,250 ($5,000 ÷ 4) and the amount or prorated Employer Dependent Care FSA added each month in taxable income is $250 (($3,000 ÷ 12) x 4), which totals $1,000 for the year.

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 Inspira Financial (formerly PayFlex) website for a list of eligible dependents.


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

Create a Inspira Financial account

File a claim

You can be reimbursed for expenses with service dates from January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2023, 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, 2024 through March 15, 2024 which allows participants extra time to spend their 2023 funds.
  • Submit claims directly to Inspira Financial (formerly 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 2023 must be claimed by March 31, 2024. Under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations, any monies not claimed from the FSA as of March 31, 2024 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.