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Wednesday September 20, 2017

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Tax Help for Caregiver of Elderly Parents

Are caregiving expenses tax deductible? I provide a lot of financial support to my elderly mother and would like to find out if I can write any of it off on my taxes.

There are actually several tax deductions and credits available to adult children who take care of their aging parents or other relatives. Here are your options along with the IRS requirements to help you determine if you're eligible to receive them.

Dependency Deduction


If you're paying for more than 50% of your mom's living costs (housing, food, utilities, medical and dental care, transportation and other necessities), and her 2016 gross income (not counting her Social Security benefits) was under $4,050, you can claim your mom as a dependent on your tax return and reduce your taxable income by $4,050.

Note that your mom doesn't have to live with you to qualify as a dependent, as long as her income was under $4,050 and you provided more than half her financial support.

If your mother does live with you, you can include a percentage of your mortgage, utilities and other expenses in calculating how much you contribute to her support. IRS Publication 501 (see irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p501.pdf) has a worksheet that can help you with this. To receive this, or other IRS publications or forms via mail, call 800-829-3676.

Shared Support


If you share the financial responsibility for your mom with other siblings, you may be eligible for the IRS multiple-support declaration. Here's how this works. If one sibling is providing more than half the parent's financial support, only that sibling can claim the parent. But if each sibling provides less than 50% support, and their combined assistance exceeds half the parent's support, then any sibling who provides more than 10% can claim the parent as a dependent. But only one sibling can claim the tax break in any given year. Siblings can rotate the tax break, with one claiming the parent one year and another the next. The sibling who claims the parent as a dependent will need to fill out IRS Form 2120 (irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f2120.pdf) and file it with his or her tax return.

Medical Deductions


If you can't claim your mom as a dependent, you may still get a tax break for helping pay her medical costs. The IRS lets taxpayers deduct money spent on a parent's health care and qualified long-term care services, even if the parent doesn't qualify as a dependent.

To claim this deduction, you still must provide more than half your mom's support, but your mom doesn't have to be under the $4,050 income test. The deduction is limited to medical, dental and long-term care expenses that exceed 10% (or 7.5% if you're 65 by Dec. 31, 2016) of your adjusted gross income. You can include your own medical expenses in calculating the total. See IRS publication 502 (irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p502.pdf) for details.

Dependent Care Credit


If you're paying for in-home care or adult day care for your mom so you are free to work, you may also be able to claim the Dependent Care Tax Credit, regardless of whether or not your mom qualifies as a dependent on your tax return. This credit can cut up to $1,050 off your tax bill for the year. In order to claim it, you must fill out IRS Form 2441 (irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f2441.pdf) when you file your federal return.

Check Your State


In addition to the federal tax breaks, more than 20 states offer tax credits and deductions for caregivers on state income taxes. Check with your state tax agency to see what's available. For links to state tax agencies see taxadmin.org/state-tax-agencies.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published January 13, 2017
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