Anyone whose field of vision falls at or below 20 degrees, who wears corrective glasses but whose vision is 20/200 or less in his best eye, or who has no eyesight at all, meets the legal definition of being blind and is eligible for certain tax deductions.
The article below is accurate for your 2017 taxes, the one that you file this year by the April 2018 deadline, including a few retroactive changes due to the passing of tax reform. Some tax information below will change next year for your 2018 taxes, but won’t impact you this year. Learn more about tax reform here.
Several aspects of federal tax law apply specifically to blind or visually impaired citizens. Anyone whose field of vision falls at or below 20 degrees, who wears corrective glasses but whose vision is 20/200 or less in his best eye, or who has no eyesight at all, meets the legal definition of being blind and is eligible for certain deductions.
A bigger standard tax deduction for blind taxpayers
Box 39a on the 1040 tax-return form and Box 23a on the 1040A form are both places where blind filers can claim unique deductions. This translates into a larger tax break, allowing you to subtract a bigger standard tax deduction from your adjusted gross income.
If you're blind and over age 65, your savings increases. Married filers also benefit from this deduction when their spouse is visually impaired.
Medical deductions for the blind
The law allows you to deduct what you spend to prevent, diagnose or treat illness, as well as any costs related to your blindness or visual impairment. As with any taxpayer, the total of both types of medical expenses must be more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income before you can claim a deduction for tax years 2017 and 2018.
Transportation to and from a doctor's office, prescriptions, insurance premiums and tests are examples of accepted medical deduction expenses. Disability-associated items applicable to blind filers include the following:
- Braille magazines and books (costs that exceed regular print versions)
- Braille printer
- Eyeglasses, eye exams, eye surgery
- Guide dog and all related costs: purchase, training, harness and leash, food, grooming, veterinary care
- Home modifications
- Instruction in braille
- Nursing services
- Phones with braille and audio features and related repairs
Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, all taxpayers may deduct only the amount of the total unreimbursed allowable medical care expenses for the year that exceeds 10% of their adjusted gross income.
Earned income tax credit
Even if your income is low enough to put you in the "doesn't have to file" category, you may want to consider your eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. Regardless of whether you had federal tax withheld or don't owe any federal tax, you can get a hefty refund in the form of EITC if you qualify. How much you receive varies according to income, filing status and number of child dependents. Unlike filers with itemized deductions, you can use the 1040EZ tax return to claim your EITC.
You may require special equipment or accommodations as an employee or self-employed individual. The tax code allows you to subtract expenses for things you must have in order to work. Called impairment-related work expenses, they appear as unreimbursed employee expenses on the Schedule A form used for itemizing.
Minimum requirements for the dollar amount do not apply to blind filers. Impairment-related work expenses you might have, provided you don't count them under medical expenses, include the following:
- Computer attachments for braille display and typing
- Electronic visual aids
- High-speed Internet connection
- Modifications to your home
- Software that provides synthetic voice description
- Reader services
Credit for the elderly and the disabled
The IRS offers two ways to qualify for the Credit for the Elderly and the Disabled:
- Be at least 65 years old
- Or have a disability that forced you to retire before your employer's mandatory retirement age, usually age 65
To qualify as disabled, you also need to have taxable disability income such as Social Security disability benefits. This credit reduces the amount of tax owed to the IRS. Unlike the Earned Income Tax Credit, it is nonrefundable, meaning it does not offer a refund if it lowers your tax liability to zero.
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