Invisalign or any clear orthodontic treatment is costly, averaging about $5,000 in the US. “How can I save on straightening my teeth?” is a question in the minds of many candidates.
To begin, “price comparison” is NOT the way to save on Invisalign, though it may seem common-sensical and time-tested. Why not?
1) Picking a price is also picking the provider who offers that price! Price comparison kills the flexibility as to provider… that’s a dear price already!
2) Price comparison focuses away from quality, the very goal for your smile in undergoing Invisalign. If quality is low, money and time invested are lost. Whereas a TV can be returned for full refund failing quality, an orthodontic treatment cannot.
3) Price comparisons tend to identify lower quality. This may mean an Invisalign provider who seeks to build experience, or takes shortcuts in planning the treatment, or simply aims to meet a quota. Unlike a TV, about which independent online reviews are available, an Invisalign provider limits you to his/her self-referential claims and references.
4) In big cities with enough competition among providers, most prices are similar (within a few hundred dollars), and therefore poor differentiators of providers.
Here is a simple tax strategy to save on Invisalign and preserve full flexibility as to provider and quality: Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA).
FSAs allow you to pay for orthodontic braces with pre-tax dollars. Being pre-tax dollars, you save 25%-28% in federal taxes (if household income is between $34,000 and $172,000), about 5% in state taxes, 7.65% in FICA taxes (if below $107,000)… these add up to nearly 40%! In effect, with an FSA, a $5,000 Invisalign comes to just over $3,000 – even though you still must pay $5,000, you save nearly $2,000 in taxes through the FSA.
What are the mechanics of the FSA? If your employer offers an FSA, you simply declare in a form an amount to be deducted from each pay check – about $417 per month, assuming a $5,000 Invisalign. To spend the amount in your FSA, simply use the debit card provided by your employer – or simply start treatment and submit the bill/receipt to employer for refund (full bill OK, even if financing). That’s it! When your employer issues the W-2 in the following year, your income will be $5,000 lower and you won’t have to pay taxes on that, saving about $2,000, without any extra IRS forms.
Now, your Invisalign provider has nothing to do with this – don’t ask him or her anything about FSA lest you seek a blank stare. You still would pay to the Invisalign provider the quoted price. Whether you pay upfront or financed, the flexibility is yours and the FSA is compatible both ways.
A few clarifying points are in order:
– You must declare the FSA amount in advance (ask employer for deadlines), and the amount is use-it-or-lose it. Unused amounts do not carry over to the next year. Accordingly, before declaring the amount, do choose an Invisalign provider and obtain a firm estimate of the cost, using that as a basis for declaring your FSA deduction.
– Invisalign or any orthodontic treatment qualifies for FSA, as do many treatments:
Dental cleanings, fillings, extractions, implants, X-rays all qualify… so do acupuncture, eye glasses or Lasik!
– Employers set a maximum FSA amount per year, typically at most $5,000. Starting in 2013, the IRS will limit it to $2,500 per person per year. If these limits seem problematic, they need not be. If your spouse also can opt for an FSA, this FSA may be used to pay for your Invisalign. If your spouse also wishes Invisalign, fine, the following year you switch roles and devote both your FSAs to your spouse’s Invisalign. The tax savings are the same if you file jointly, and in any case significant. What if a spousal FSA is unavailable? If you are planning other dental work, ask your Invisalign provider for a discount on Invisalign this year and “full price” on the other dental work next year – you may offer a good faith deposit for the future work. Then simply play FSA two years in a row. Use your creativity!