Health Savings Accounts (HSA) contributions must be made for a specific year on or before the due date (without extensions) for filing tax returns in that given year. For example, your 2004 contributions must be made on or before April 15, 2005.

Basically, the annual deductible for “self-only” coverage must be at least $1,000 and the annual out-of-pocket expenses payable under the plan must be no more than $5,000. For “family” coverage, the deductible must be at least $2,000 and the out-of-pocket expenses must not exceed $10,000 for the year. These amounts are indexed for inflation.

HSA contributions can be made in a lump sum or in several payments over the year. How much you can contribute is usually determined month by month and based on the individual's status, eligibility and the health plan coverage as of the first day of each month. The maximum, annual contribution limit is the sum of these monthly limits.

For example, if your plan's deductible for “self-only” coverage is $2,200, you can contribute up to one twelfth — or no more than $183.33 — for each month you are eligible for coverage during 2004.

Under a “family-only” plan, the same rule applies. Assuming a deductible of $5,150, your maximum, monthly contributions could not exceed $429.17.

In addition, eligible individuals — including their spouses who are covered by the high-deductible health plans — who are between 55 and 65 years old can make “catch-up” contributions. The maximum, annual catch-up contribution for 2004 is $500. The maximum will increase yearly by $100 increments until it reaches $1,000 in 2009. The catch-up contribution limit — like the regular contribution limit — is computed on a monthly basis.

Editor's Note: For more information on HSAs, visit one or more of these Web sites: www.nahu.org/consumer/HSAGuide.htm; www.treas.gov/offices/public-affairs/hsa; www.opm.gov/hsa; www.ahia.net/consumers/guide_hsa.html; and www.hsainsi der.com.