Care for your parents, get a tax break and deduct their medical expenses

About 1/3 of Americans wait to file their taxes during the last two weeks before the tax return deadline. There is a hidden tax break many local families don’t know about.

Thousands of local families care for elderly loved ones. They are working longer hours, paying higher gas and medical bills and struggling to find the money and time to care for aging loved ones. Help is on the way this tax season because the government of the United States is giving these families a tax break for elderly care. These tax breaks include writing off your parents as dependents and writing off their medical expenses if you are helping to pay for them.

“One fourth of the families in this country are caring for elderly loved ones and they’re not aware of a tax law that allows you to write-off some of the expense,” says Peter Ross, CEO of Senior Helpers, a leading provider of in-home senior care. “Whether you’re providing that care yourself, or you’ve hired a caregiver, you should take advantage of the tax breaks that are a true gift in these troubled economic times. If you don’t qualify for the tax breaks, there are other ways to cut costs every family should know about.”

A recent survey, conducted by Volunteers of America, shows that more than 40% of caregivers are spending more than $5,000 a year caring for an elderly loved one. More than a third of surveyed caregivers have been forced to quit jobs, take early retirement, reduce hours or take a leave of absence to care for an elderly loved one. 40% of female caregivers say the economic downturn has made it harder for them to care for loved ones.

Tax breaks for elderly care

Claim your parent as a dependent. Your parent’s income, excluding Social Security, must be less than the amount of the personal exemption. For 2010, the personal exemption was $3,650. For 2011, it’s $3,700. Plus, you must provide more than 50% of a parent’s financial support. If a parent lives with you, you can include a percentage of your mortgage and utilities. You can claim more than one parent as a dependent if both meet the income and support tests.

Deduct your parent’s medical expenses. If you contribute to a parent’s health care expenses and pay the health care provider yourself versus giving your parent the money to pay, you may qualify to deduct costs, even if you can’t claim the parent as a dependent. To claim this deduction, you must provide at least 50% of the parent’s financial support, but you don’t have to meet the income test. Deduction is limited to medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. Qualified expenses include the cost of a nursing home, in-home health care, dental care, and prescription drugs. You can include your own unreimbursed medical expenses when calculating total costs. (Source: Perspective Accounting Services)

Other ways to cut costs if caring for an elderly loved one

Veteran’s Benefits – Veterans can earn up to $1,800 a month in VA pension money to pay for in-home care. Senior Helpers helps families find resources to get these benefits. Contact Your Local Area Agency on Aging to learn about government assistance programs that provide low income seniors, eligible for Medicaid, money to pay for in-home care.

“American families need to realize there is help out there to help them shoulder the burden of caring for an elderly loved one, “says Ross. “If you can’t provide care yourself, hire a caregiver and research the ways you can pay for that care. It’s a cheaper alternative to a nursing home and your loved ones get to stay in the comfortable surroundings of their own home. ”

By Stacey Hilton and Sue Yannello
Senior Helpers

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