Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account

The Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account, offered under the Brown University Flex Plan, allows employees to set aside portions of salary on a pre-tax basis to pay for out-of-pocket dependent care expenses which allows the employee or spouse to work, seek work or study as a full-time student.

Examples of eligible dependent care expenses:

  • After-school day care expenses
  • Preschool tuition
  • Elder care
  • Day camp

For the current plan year or upon initial eligibility, employees may elect a minimum of $240 for eligible expenses incurred by eligible dependents.


Regular faculty, staff, and members of the Public Safety bargaining unit working 50+% time (based on academic year), and SEIU bargaining unit members working 25+ hours/week are eligible to participate in the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account under the Brown University Flex Plan.

In order to claim Dependent Care expenses for children or a disabled dependent, the dependent must be claimed as a dependent on the employee federal income tax return* (or be prevented from doing so only because she or he earned more income than the exemption amount or, in the case of a spouse, is filing a joint return).

Additionally, child dependents under the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account must be under age 13. Older dependents, including a spouse, child or parent, must be physically and/or mentally unable to provide self care (as certified in writing by a licensed physician).

Certain exceptions may apply for children of divorced or separated parents; employees may wish to review IRS Publication 503 or consult with a tax advisor for additional information.


Dependent care may be provided:

  • At home, if the care is not provided by someone claimed as a dependent;
  • Outside of home, provided there is no overnight stay by the dependent child; or
  • Outside of home, for a dependent age 13 or older (physically and mentally incapable of self-care as certified in writing by a licensed physician) and spends at least eight hours/day at home

Covered expenses must be incurred during the plan year on or after the employee date of eligibility. Under IRS regulations, expenses are incurred when the service is provided, not when the bill is paid. Certain expenses specifically are not covered. Examples are: overnight camp, housekeeping services, and after-school instructional or enrichment classes/courses

Allowable Contribution

Employees may elect to set aside a minimum of $240 per plan year. The maximum allowable contribution may be the smallest of the following:

  • $5,000 if married and filing an income tax jointly with a spouse or if single; or $2,500 if married and filing an income tax separately from a spouse; or
  • The employee's taxable compensation minus all pre-tax salary reductions, including Dependent Care Flexible Spending; or
  • The actual or projected income of a spouse (a student spouse or mentally/physically incapable of self-care is projected to earn $200 per month for one dependent or $400 per month for two or more dependents).

Brown will divide the employee's total annual contribution amount and deduct it equally among the number of regularly scheduled paychecks remaining in the calendar year.

Election Changes

Employees may increase or decrease elections under the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account during the course of the plan year only in the event of a change in family status. In this case, a change in family status is defined as marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child, death of a spouse, commencement or termination of employee or spouse's employment, or a change from full-time to part-time or from part-time to full-time employment by the employee or spouse. 

Requests for a change in total annual contribution amount due to a change in family status, along with supporting documentation, must be submitted in writing to the Benefits Office within 31 days of the occurrence of the change.

*SPECIAL NOTE: In accordance with Federal Tax Guidelines, the plan is subject to a non-discrimination test that may reduce the maximum amount of compensation that a highly compensated employee may set aside. When applicable, the Benefits Office will notify the employee as soon as possible after the plan year begins.


Submit claim forms for eligible expenses incurred in calendar year 2017 throughout calendar year 2017 and up until June 30, 2018 to:

Sentinel Benefits
Fax: 781-213-7301

The June 30, 2018 deadline means if mailed, claims must be postmarked by that date. If faxed or emailed, claims must be received prior to midnight.

Participants must budget expenses carefully because, under IRS rules, Brown cannot refund the amount that remains in Brown Flex accounts at the end of the reimbursement period. If 2017 funds are not claimed prior to June 30, 2018, employees will lose the unspent funds.

To obtain more information, call Sentinel Benefits at 888-762-6088.

This summary is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal contract. In cases where disputes occur, the Plan Document will be the ruling and binding instrument.