Can You Claim Your Elderly Parents on Your Taxes?


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows you to claim your elderly parent as a dependent on a tax return as long as no one else does. If you choose to claim an exemption for your parent, you must also ensure that you are not an eligible dependent to another taxpayer. This restriction is effective even if the taxpayer who can claim you as a dependent chooses not to.

Satisfying the gross income test

Unlike claiming a child as a dependent, it is not necessary that your elderly parent live with you. However, if your parent has gross income that is not exempt from tax of $3,650 or more, you cannot take their exemption on your return. When evaluating your parent’s gross income, do not include their social security payments and other tax-exempt pensions. Their gross income does include, however, dividends, capital gains from the sale of stock, interest earned in a bank account and other passive investments such as income from rental properties they own.

Satisfying the support test

Not only must your parent have minimal gross income, but you must also provide more than half their financial support during the tax year. Satisfying the requirements of the support test requires a comprehensive evaluation of your parent’s expenses. The fact that your parent receives sufficient income during the year does not necessarily mean the funds are used for their support. The support test looks to who actually pays rather than the parent’s ability to pay. For example, if your elderly parent only uses their Social Security benefits to pay $300 in monthly rent and you provide all other expenses that total more than $300 each month, then you will satisfy the requirements of the support test even if your parent puts thousands of dollars of tax-exempt income into a savings account each month.

Sharing your parent’s exemption

Oftentimes an elderly parent receives financial support from multiple children during the tax year. In total, the children may satisfy the support test; however, as individuals they may not. The IRS permits these siblings to take turns claiming the parent as a dependent if in the aggregate they can satisfy the support test. However, only a child who contributes at least 10 percent of the parent’s total support during the tax year is able to claim the dependency exemption. If you and your siblings agree to alternate claiming the exemption, the siblings who do not claim the exemption each tax year must sign a document stating that they will refrain from doing so in the current year.

Exemption limitations

If your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is more than the threshold amount for your filing status, you must reduce your total exemptions by 2 percent for each $2,500 or part of $2,500 that your AGI exceeds the limitation. However, the exemption will never be reduced to zero, regardless of your AGI. For example, in 2010, a single taxpayer with AGI of $166,800 or more must reduce the $3,650 exemption accordingly. Therefore, if your AGI is $169,400, you must reduce the exemption by 4 percent to $3,504 since the excess equals $2,600.

Comments (48) Leave your comment

  1. If I purchase a home for the sole purpose of my mother living there and she pays less than market value rent do I have to claim that as income? If I don’t charge rent can I claim her as a dependent and claim the mortgage interest and real estate taxes as itemized deductions on my return?

  2. I am financially supporting my elderly mother that lives in a senior home in europe. Can I claim her as a dependent or does she have to reside in canada?

  3. What if someone does not have children that help them but they have a really good friend that pays part of her light bill every month for years also pays for all house hold repairs as well as car repairs and her land taxes because she just doesn’t have enough money to make it. Could that friend use her for an exemption?

  4. Hi, my father lives in the nursing home and his Medicaid/Medicare pays for his nursing home expenses. However, I have hired a personal caregiver to help him with the extra medical needs. I am paying $800 a month for this. He only makes $30 a month from his SSI.

    Does he qualify as my dependent?


    1. Hi John,
      Yes, you could claim your father if he does not have taxable income over $3950 in 2014 and your provide over half of his support.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      1. Thank you very much Lisa,
        I have not filed him as a dependent so far. How many years can I go back and make corrections in my tax return?

  5. My parents live in my rental and i do not charge them rent. in addition I also pay some of the utility bills. They only get social security and do not file taxes. can I claim them as dependents? I am still paying the mortgage on the house they live in. $600.00 a month.

  6. Father (age 91) lives with us. His Pension income is $6,950/year, so does he have to file and can we claim him? He is here under a Doctor’s order.

  7. Can I claim my 68 yr old mom who’s only income is Soc Security ($4120 yearly) and I pay rest of the bills?

    1. 68 yrs oldNewly retired pension 1000 a month do I file w4 form, married claiming 2 or I have to choose flat amount deduction. Pls help

  8. Me and my wife are dependent on our daughter for our livelihood. We have no income of our own except yearly dividend & interest of around $ 1500. Do we need to file separate tax return for our above earnings?

    1. Hi Teyphun,
      No you do not meet the IRS income requirement threshold so you don’t have to file.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  9. My mother’s pension income is more than $3900, however I paid more than 50% of her skilled nursing home costs in 2013 and more than 50% of all her medical expenses. If I cannot claim her as a dependent because of her income, can I still deduct the medical expenses I paid directly to the nursing home/medical expenses I paid for her care?

  10. My parents who both are on social security alone live with me. Can I claim them as dependants? Are there any situations where I couldn’t?

  11. My parent is in a va facility 340 miles away. I have to go up there once a month. Can I take gas mileage off or as a deduction and if so how much per mile?

  12. My 85 year old mother, my sister and I live together , my mothers ss is 1400 amonth. . All three of us pay for our house and upkeep. It would be very difficult to separate for tax purposes. Who ever has the money at the time pays bill. Can I claim my mother since no one else does.

  13. My elderly father’s only income is his monthly social security check. My sister and I both send him money every month to pay his bills, which is over half his support. He still owes child support to our mother, which is currently being taken out of his social security checks. If I claim him as a dependent, will the money he owes get taken out of my refund?

  14. My father receives a veterans pension and that is the only I come he and my mother have. Can I claim them without affecting his benefits?

  15. My father receives a veterans pension for about $1,300/month. Can I carry he and my mother on my taxes without jeopardizing his benefits?

  16. my mother is 45 (not what i consider elderly) can i claim her she worked part of jan. lst yr and is in process of getting soc sec

    1. Hi Devin,
      You can claim your mother if you provided over half of her support and she didn’t make over $3,900.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  17. i support, with remittances, my mother who lives in and and is a citizen of India. Is there a way to get tax credits for those remittances? or does she have to be living with me, in the US for part or entire year?

    1. Can I claim my remittances to my children living in the Philippines in my income tax return here in Canada if yes what category it will fall?

  18. My father passed away this year, and I am living with my elderly mother. The only income that she receives is her monthly social security check. Would I be able to claim her as a dependent and file head of household for next years taxes?

  19. I have been claiming my elderly father as a dependent for a few years now….On April of this year he entered a nursing home…Would I still be able to claim him for this year

  20. I have been claiming my live in father on my income tax for quite a few years….On 4-19-13 he entered a nursing home…..Would I be able to claim him for this year…….

  21. I support my elderly Father, however, he lives in Greece. I pay his caretaker & his monthly expenses. I wire the money monthly. Am I able to claim this?

  22. My mother whom i have as a dependent for taxes passed in august of this year. She was 92. Can i still claim her on 2013 taxes as a dependent?

  23. Since I can claim my mother as a dependent on my taxes, does she still need to file a tax return for her income, as little as it might be?

  24. As of May 2012, we pay nearly 100% of my elderly mother’s living expenses – including her mortgage and utilities. She lives out of state, and receives $730 per month in SSA income per year. We claimed her as a dependent for 2012, but it was disallowed. Before calling the IRS, I am hoping you can let me know what documents or proof I need to have on hand. Thank you.

  25. These are all helpful. My 90year old father moved in after Mom past away and is paying us 1300 per month for rent, medical, personal expenses, so do we claim that as income? Can we still claim him as a dependent?

  26. My father lives in a house that I own. I pay the personal property and up keep on the house. I also pay the water bill for him and repairs to his vehicle. Can I claim him on my taxes. He gets 800 on SS and has no other income. Some times I have to buy him groceries.

  27. my father gets 24,000 from SSDI He lives with me and I pay all household expenses Can I claim him as a dependent

    1. Hi Satie,
      As long as you pay for over half of his support for things like housing, food, medical, clothing, and other basic necessities you can claim him. TurboTax will ask you the necessary questions to help you.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      1. Hi Lisa,

        My Father stays in India and I’m paying for his all expenses (food, clothing, medical etc..) can I claim these expenses on my fed or state return? Is yes can you tell me how?

    2. My 77 year old mother does not live with me but I pay her electric bill, buy most of her groceries, I gave her a vehicle, which she can’t drive anymore, and purchase most of her clothing. She receives $872 a month on social security and $360 on retirement. Up until reading the blogs I didn’t know claiming her was an option. Would she qualify as a dependent for me. No one else claims her.

  28. My mom and brother get ssi and. Sociall security. They both llive with me and my husband. We tried to claim them on our taxes but our tax guy said we couldnt cuz there ssi will be taken away. Is this true?

    1. Hi Rosa, Since your question is about Social Security benefits and not about income taxes, we can’t provide an answer. You may want to contact Social Security directly at the attached link for more guidance. Cheers… –Christopher

  29. My mother lives in a house on our property rent free. She does pay us 100 a month for electricity out of her $780 social security that she received (her only income) We paid insurance on the house, contents coverage, cable, water, taxes on the house. We do claim her as a dependent but not those expenses. What form and what of that can we deduct?

  30. My sister has lived with us for 7 months and we have provided all her care except medical which she doesn’t go to a DR. Can we claim her on our income tax?

    1. can you claim for your parents even if they live abroad and do not have a social security number? which forms/schedules are required to be completed for this?

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