Is This Tax Deductible? Care-taking for a Parent

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Remember when you thought that once the children were grown and gone, your caregiving days would be over? If you find yourself now looking after aging parents, you realize that isn’t necessarily true.

There are three tax benefits from caring for a parent or other relative that you shouldn’t overlook: the dependency exemption, medical expenses and the dependent care credit.

The dependency exemption

There are several  tests to determine whether you can claim a parent as a dependent:

Kinship. Your dependent must be related to you. This isn’t a problem if you are claiming a parent, including an in-law or step-parents. But it could be a problem if it is someone that you think of as a parent but isn’t related. If that’s the case, there’s one extra step to claim them: they must live with you all year as a member of your household and not make over $4,000 for the year.

Citizenship/residency. Your parent must be a citizen or resident of the United States or a resident of Canada or Mexico.

Filing status. Your parents may not file a joint return, unless they have no tax liability and are filing just to get a tax refund.

Income. Your parent must not have gross income in excess of $4,000 for the year. Social Security payments under $25,000 don’t count, nor do other sources of tax-exempt income.

Support. You must provide more than half of the support for your parent during the year. Support consists of the usual living expenses, including education, medical expenses and transportation. If you didn’t pay more than half of your parent’s total support for the year, you can still claim your parent as a dependent if you paid more than 10 percent of your parent’s support for the year, and your support combined with the support of others amounted to more than half of your parent’s support. Everyone who supports your parent must sign the Multiple Support Declaration, Form 2120, allowing you to claim the dependency exemption.

Medical expenses

If you pay medical expenses or medical insurance for a dependent parent, you may be able to deduct some of those costs. Medical expenses you pay for a dependent are deductible on your tax return, as long as all the medical expenses you pay exceed 10% of your gross income. If you pay for your parent to live in a nursing home or assisted living facility, a portion of the fees that you pay may be considered medical expenses. Fees for in-home nursing care may also qualify. If your parent qualifies as your dependent in all respects, you can still claim the medical expenses you pay for them.

Dependent care credit

If you pay for care for a dependent parent to enable you to work or go to school, you may be eligible for the dependent care credit. You can claim up to 35% of the first $3,000 of expenses, and that increases to $6,000 for more than one parent.  It can be for a day care program, care in a nursing home, or individual care. To claim the credit you must indicate the social security number of the caregiver on your tax return, and if you are married, both you and your spouse must have worked to show the need for day care.


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