Taking care of an elderly parent at home is not easy. New tax benefits may help some, but not all.
As the number of elderly has grown nationwide, so has the need for caregivers. The baby boom generation, the largest demographical segment of the U.S. population at 74 million, are now entering their late 60s and early 70s. Many are still very capable of caring for themselves, but others are in need of assistance as they progress into their senior years.
Unfortunately for many, the costs associated with an assisted living facility are not feasible and in other cases, not an option just yet. So instead, a growing number of elderly are staying in their homes or living with their families. Many times, a son or daughter will move in with mom or dad and essentially become their part-time or full-time caregiver. Some elderly end up moving in with family members where they actually become part of the household.
The challenge for family members that act as caregivers is the financial burden that may be imposed. An estimated 34.2 million adults provide some sort of unpaid care for elders aged 50 and older in 2015. Over 85% of these caregivers provide assistance directly for relatives. The average caregiver commits over 24 hours per week in providing care for elders.
Even though there is no actual pay for family member caregivers, there is a tax break when done properly. Under the new tax rules, taking a personal exemption for a qualified friend or family member has been replaced by the larger standard deduction. However, the rules still allow caregivers to claim those receiving care as dependents as long as the following criteria are met for the person being cared for:
The person cared for is a relative as defined by the IRS or a non-resident that has lived with the caretaker for at least six months.
Earns less than $4,050 (2017) per year, not including Social Security or disability benefits
Is unable to pay over 50% of personal living expenses.
Can’t be claimed as a dependent by anyone else.
In addition, a $500 credit is available for 2018 taxes for non-child dependents intended to assist those caring for disabled or senior family members.
Tax rules allow the caretaker to claim medical expenses incurred by dependents on Schedule A, in excess of 7.5% of the caregivers AGI. Per the IRS Publication 502, medical expenses include the costs of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, prevention, to mention a few.
In addition to federal tax considerations, some states also allow for special tax credits meant solely for caregivers. Taxpayers should verify with their state of residency to confirm any additional tax credits.
Kent G. Forsey, CFP®
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, IRS.gov, OneBlueWindow, LLC.©