How does a Health Spending Account work for small business in Canada?

By: Updated: May 10, 2021

A Health Spending Account is a unique and affordable way for Canadian small business owners to minimize their medical expense costs.  Continue reading if you are looking for an explanation on the question, "How does a Health Spending Account work for small business?".

What is a Health Spending Account?

A Health Spending Account (HSA) is often referred to as a Health Care Spending Account (HCSA) or Private Health Services Plan (PHSP). These names are used interchangeably. For ease of reading, I will refer to these plans as a Health Spending Account (or HSA) for the rest of the article.

A Health Spending Account is a cost-effective alternative to traditional health insurance. In simple terms, health and dental benefits offered through this plan are 100% tax deductible to the employer and received 100% tax free by the employee. There are no premiums, hidden fees, deductibles, copay, or complex policies.

How does a Health Spending Account work?

A Health Spending Account can be viewed differently based on your company structure (whether or not your business has arm’s length employees). 

For a business WITH arm’s length employees 

Are you a small business owner with a staff? A Health Spending Account makes for a great employee benefits package. It is a cost effective and flexible alternative to traditional health insurance.  Employers get value from an HSA as they get cost control with their benefits (there are no premiums with an HSA).  Moreover, an HSA is easy to implement, manage, and the plan is customizable.  Employees prefer an HSA as it is a tax free benefit, coverage is complete, and the benefit is flexible.

Here are additional details on how an HSA works:

  • It is easy to understand and use:
    • The employer establishes customized categories of employees and assigns a spending limit (dollar value) to each category.  For example, Executives receive $10,000 per year, Managers $5,000, and Full Time employees $2,500.
    • The employer funds the plan with a set monthly amount of their choice
    • Employees pay for their medical expense personally
    • Afterward, employees claim their medical expense and get reimbursed tax free, using funds from the employer funding account
    • The medical expenses are a tax deduction / business expense for the employer
  • An HSA transfers the value from the employer directly to the employee - instead of losing money to a premium or deductible.
  • Funds not used by an employee are returned to the employer
  • The value of a HSA is never lost in an insurance premium
  • There’s no expense for the employer until a claim is made by the employee for an eligible medical expense
  • When the employee claims, they’re reimbursed directly for 100% of the claim, tax-free, up to their yearly benefit limit
  • The employee can claim all their health and dental bills as needed. They manage their yearly benefit limit and select what medical treatments matter to them.  They are not restricted by category or type of expense.

    Watch the video below to learn how an HSA can work for your staff.


Download the FREE Complete Guide to Olympia HSA to learn how to use an HSA for your employee benefits

For a business with NO arm’s length employees 

Are you an incorporated professional? A Health Spending Account turns your after-tax personal medical expenses into a before-tax business deduction.

Basically, you get to withdraw money from your corporation tax free to pay for your personal medical expenses.

It is easiest to understand the cost-savings of a HSA by a case study:

Case Study - Single person incorporated business

As a business owner, you receive income from your corporation. In Canada, we have a progressive tax structure. Meaning the more income you make, the more the government takes. Your income tax rate will have a significant effect on the total cost of your medical expenses. Your marginal tax rate is the combination of your provincial and federal tax rate.

For example: if you earn $100,000 in Alberta, your marginal tax rate is 36%.  You would have to gross roughly $1.60 to bring home $1.00 after-tax. $0.60 of your gross $1.60 (or 36%) would be taxed, leaving you with $1.00 after-tax. Keep in mind, medical expenses are an after tax event.

Below is an example of a savings comparison between medical expenses paid personally (left side in red) vs. through your business using a Health Spending Account (right side in green). 

HSA savings_comparison_AB

On the bottom left (red), you see the total cost to your company when you pay for a $3,000 medical expense with no HSA. To get $3,000 after tax to pay for your medical expense, you must withdraw a gross amount of $4,800 from your company. $1,800 or approximately 36% (of $4,800) is paid in income tax. 

On the right side (green), instead of paying the government 36% income tax, you pay Olympia an annual HSA membership fee of $499. Your company saves over $1,000 in taxes by using an HSA. You can find out exactly how much you will save by using our HSA savings calculator.

Watch the video below to see how an HSA works for an incorporated individual.


Key Takeaway for a Small Business

In many cases, a Health Spending Account will be used by small companies and self-employed business owners (contractors, consultants) to control their costs and receive more flexible coverage than a traditional health insurance plan.


Next Steps: Read the Complete Guide to Olympia Health Spending Accounts

Download this guide if you are an incorporated professional:

Olympia HSA Walkthrough for incorporated professionals

Download this guide if you are a small business with arm's length employees: 

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