Suppose I buy some prescription eyeglasses from an online site. Then suppose after I get them I decide I don't like them, and I return them. In such a case, the seller may charge me some fee (e.g., a "restocking fee"), so that I am not refunded the entire amount.

If I had kept the glasses, I could have reimbursed myself from an HSA. Since I didn't keep them, can I still reimburse myself for the fees I incurred? Is "buying eyeglasses and trying them out but then returning them" a qualified medical expense for an HSA, even if I don't wind up with the actual glasses?

I'm asking about eyeglasses, but one could imagine the same sort of question applying to other types of devices (e.g., insulin pumps, orthotics, etc.) that could plausible be purchased and returned for various reasons. I'm curious to know how the question would apply more generally.

  • I can't see any way to claim your not liking your own stylistic decision is a medical expense. Learn to live with and learn from your mistakes.
    – keshlam
    Apr 16, 2015 at 5:56
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    @keshlam: I haven't done this. I'm wondering if I could do this. Either way, what I'm interested in is credible sources for an opinion either way. If you visit several doctors for consultation about surgery before picking the one you like, they're all still qualified expenses, not just the one who eventually does the surgery. If you have an opinion one way or another, I welcome your answer insofar as it is supported by credible sources.
    – BrenBarn
    Apr 16, 2015 at 6:23
  • Credible source: Read the literature for your HSA. It should provide examples of what is and isn't covered. I believe that will adequately confirm my assertion.
    – keshlam
    Apr 16, 2015 at 10:47
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    Actually, clarification: most HSAs will reimburse whatever you submit, but make it entirely your responsibility to justify it to the IRS. Do you really want to take that risk for a trivial amount -- or at all?"
    – keshlam
    Apr 16, 2015 at 12:17
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    I don't have any source for this, but since the money was spent at the optician on an expense related to purchasing medical equipment, I don't see any reason why this wouldn't be allowed. As long as you aren't reimbursing yourself for the amount that was refunded to you, I don't see a problem with this.
    – Ben Miller
    Apr 23, 2015 at 22:57

1 Answer 1


Costs associated with correcting a problem with your glasses or with other legitimate HSA qualified expenses can be expected; getting health-related things aligned with your needs can be and is often a non-linear process.

Given that the person exchanging a health-related good does not receive any financial benefit from the exchange, I would say if you keep your HSA "books" with legitimate debits and credits, you would not have any problem should anyone wish to examine that level of detail.

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