Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account

Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account for Military Families & Spouses

The cost of day care for children or supervision for an aging parent can be a significant expense for many families. A DCFSA can help pay for out-of-pocket eligible expenses tax-free. Qualifying expenses include those incurred to help you and your spouse go to work, study and look for a job.

A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) is a pre-tax account used to pay for eligible dependent care services such as child or adult day care.

Enrollment in a DCFSA is open to DoD civilians, regular (active) component service members, and Active Guard Reserve members on Title 10 orders who have dependents with eligible expenses.

Here are some tips from financial experts to help you build a spending plan:

  • Create or update your spending plan. Focus on essential living expenses and try to minimize discretionary spending. Determine where you can cut and divert that money to savings. Review your current spending for areas to consider, where possible, cutting back.
  • Prioritize your bills and contact your lenders if you need help making payments. Many lenders will allow you to defer payments such as mortgages, rent, car loans and credit card payments. Others are temporarily suspending late fees or collection efforts of past due payments.
  • Check with your service relief society for additional assistance. Military relief societies may offer immediate, no interest loans or grants for financial needs.

Army Emergency Relief:
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society:
Air Force Aid Society:
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance:

Quickly Determine Eligibility

  • You must have an eligible dependent and use eligible dependent care services to allow yourself and your spouse (if applicable) to work, look for work or attend school full-time.

  • Your dependent must be claimed on your tax return for the year you are enrolling in a DCFSA.

  • If your spouse is a full-time student or incapable of self-care, for purposes of DCFSA eligibility, your spouse is considered to have $250 per month in earned income for your first dependent, and $500 per month in earned income if you have two or more dependents.

Common Eligible Expenses

  • Preschool & After-School Care

  • Day Care

  • Day Camp

Eligible Dependents

  • Children under age 13 who are claimed as dependents for tax purposes

  • Spouse or dependent of any age who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care

Ineligible Expenses

  • School tuition expenses (kindergarten and above)

  • Services provided by one of your dependents

  • Night-time babysitting (unless you work nights when the expenses are incurred)

  • Overnight camps

  • Nursing homes, medical care or other residential care centers

How Much Can I Contribute?

$100-$5,000 Pre-tax Earnings

  • You may contribute a minimum of $100 and a maximum of $5,000 or up to the amount of your total earnings if you earn less than $5,000 per calendar year into a DCFSA.
  • However, your marital and tax filing status may impact the amount you are able to contribute.


  • You may only enroll in a DCFSA during the Federal Benefits Open Season, typically held mid-November through mid-December each year, or when you have experienced a Qualifying Life Event (QLE) such as the birth or adoption of a child, a divorce, or relocation.
  • The DCFSA operates on a calendar year basis, starting January 1 and ending December 31.
  • There is a grace period through March 15 of the following year to incur expenses. Claims can be submitted through April 30 of the following year.
  • Any funds remaining in a DCFSA after April 30 of the following year are forfeited.

Military Family“My spouse is active component and we have three dependents - two children under the age of 13 and my father who is a disabled veteran. I was the sole care provider for our family but am now returning to work part-time and will be hiring an au pair. Am I eligible to enroll in a DCFSA benefit or must my spouse?”

Good news! You are eligible. Your active component spouse can enroll or you can enroll through your employer. However, the maximum contribution per tax year is $5,000 for a family whose tax status is married filing jointly.

Resources Available

A financial planning professional can help you set a budget that will work for your family. They can help you decide if a DCFSA supports your overall financial readiness. Connecting with a personal financial professional is easy and free for service members and their families.

A tax consultant can help you examine your family’s tax situation and how a DCFSA might benefit you. Service members and their families have access to free tax consultation from MilTax via Military OneSource.

Primary Text Separator for Milspouse Money Mission, Financial Education for Military Spouses

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