Can You Claim Your Elderly Parents on Your Taxes?

Family

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 (74) Leave your comment

  1. I moved to NV in 2013 to take care of my dad who is 73 and many medical issue . He does get social security income and $100 in food stamp. He lives with me and I pay for everything including when he runs out of food. Can I claim him on my taxes.?

    1. Hi Starlyn,
      You can claim him if you provide over half of his support and he doesn’t earn over $3,950 in taxable income.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

    2. Hello. My mother is 85. We share a home that is her mortgage but we’re both on the title. I pay all bills. I qualify to claim head of household, so may I claim the mortgage interest and her medical bills as well? Is there a separate form needed when I claim her on my taxes or do I just list her along with me three sons (dependents).

      1. Hi Tracye,
        You would just answer the questions in TurboTax about her being a dependent and TurboTax will give you the exemption for her if you are eligible. Regarding home mortgage interest there will be an option for you to answer that you did not receive a 1098 for mortgage interest in your name but you did pay it. You can also claim her medical expenses if you are able to claim your mother as a dependent.
        Thank you,
        Lisa Greene-Lewis

  2. I am a bur confused about claiming parents. They on get social security and i take care of their needs. Whatever they need and there is no money left of their checks i pay.i take them to appointsand do everything i have asked before but was told they have to live with you. So should i be able to claim them..

    1. Hi Irene,
      Only non-relatives have to live with you. You can claim them if you provide over half of their support, they do not make over $3,950 taxable income, and they meet the citizenship tests.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  3. There is major conflicting information here about the support test: I hope the latter is true – it seems to match the IRS regs.

    http://blog.turbotax.intuit.com/2011/07/20/can-you-claim-your-elderly-parents-on-your-taxes/

    Satisfying the support test:”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.”

    https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Family/Steps-to-Claiming-an-Elderly-Parent-as-a-Dependent/INF19455.html
    Support Requirement: last sentence:
    “Compare the value of support you provide with any income, including Social Security, that your parent receives to determine whether you meet the support requirement. The amount of support you provided must exceed your parent’s income by at least one dollar.”

  4. Hello,
    My mother receives military pension from divorce and sums up to over $3,950, but does military pension considers as taxable or nontaxable income. If nontaxable that mean i can claim her as dependent right?

    1. Hi Arnett,
      The military pension is considered taxable income so you would not be able to claim her if she provided over half of her own support.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  5. Hello,

    My father has not worked in the last 2 years and since then I have been supporting him with rent, food and some other expenses, he is 62 years old. He recently received his earning records and its shows no income in 2011, 2012, 2013 (says not yet recorded)

    Can I claim him as a dependent?

    Regards

    1. Hi Hugo,
      Yes, if he meets the following test:
      – He is a US citizen, US National, resident of Mexico or Canada
      – He did not earn over $3,950 in taxable income
      – You provided over half of his support.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

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