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5 min read

‍What is a 125 Cafeteria Plan?

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Team Orca
Published on
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5 min read

What is a 125 Cafeteria Plan?

A 125 Cafeteria Plan, named after Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code, allows employees to convert a taxable cash benefit (like their salary) into non-taxable benefits. In simpler terms, it lets employees pay for certain qualified expenses, such as health insurance premiums or medical costs, with pre-tax dollars, thereby reducing their overall taxable income.

Some of the benefits that can be offered under a Cafeteria Plan include:

- Health insurance

- Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)

- Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

- Dependent care assistance

- Adoption assistance

- Group-term life insurance coverage

The Advantages

For Employees:

Financial Savings: By using pre-tax dollars, employees can reduce their total taxable income, leading to lower taxes.

Flexibility: Employees get a choice in how they want to receive their benefits based on individual needs and priorities.

For Employers:

Tax Savings: Employers don’t have to pay FICA or FUTA payroll taxes on employee salaries redirected through a Cafeteria Plan.

Enhanced Benefits Package: Offering such a plan can enhance the overall benefits package, making it more appealing to potential hires.

Implementing a 125 Cafeteria Plan

  1. Plan Design: The first step is to decide which benefits to offer under the plan. The choice should reflect the needs and preferences of the employees as well as the budgetary considerations of the employer.
  2. Document Everything: Once the benefits are chosen, the plan must be put in writing. This document will detail all the specifics, including eligibility, benefits provided, and the procedure for opting in or out.
  3. Communication: It’s essential to inform employees about the plan—what it offers, how it works, and the benefits of participating. Regular informational sessions, brochures, or one-on-one discussions can be useful.
  4. Administration: Employers can manage the plan in-house or outsource to a third-party administrator. The latter can often simplify the process, ensuring compliance and efficient handling of claims and reimbursements.
  5. Stay Compliant: Regularly review the plan to ensure it remains compliant with the current IRS rules and regulations. This might involve periodic amendments or updates.
  6. Annual Enrollment: Set an annual open enrollment period when employees can opt into, or make changes to, their benefits.


A 125 Cafeteria Plan is an excellent tool for companies aiming to offer flexibility and tax savings to their employees. By understanding its structure and ensuring proper implementation, employers can make the most out of this benefit, promoting a happier and more financially savvy workforce.

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