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Steps to Claiming an Elderly Parent as a Dependent

Updated for Tax Year 2021 • July 15, 2022 02:06 PM


If you cared for an elderly parent, your parent may qualify as your dependent, resulting in additional tax benefits for you.

For information on the third coronavirus relief package, please visit our “American Rescue Plan: What Does it Mean for You and a Third Stimulus Check” blog post.


Woman taking a photo of her children with grandfather.

The first thing that often comes to mind when considering dependents is the parent/child relationship. But if you cared for an elderly parent, your parent may qualify as your dependent, resulting in additional tax benefits for you. Once you determine that both of you meet IRS criteria, you can claim your parent as a dependent on your tax return.

Income limitation

Your parent must first meet income requirements set by the Internal Revenue Service to be claimed as your dependent. To qualify as a dependent,

  • Your parent must not have earned or received more than the gross income test limit for the tax year.
  • This amount is determined by the IRS and may change from year to year.
  • The gross income limit for 2020 and 2021 is $4,300.
  • Generally, you do not count Social Security income, but there are exceptions. If your parent has other income from interest or dividends, a portion of the Social Security may also be taxable.

Support requirement

You must have provided more than half of your parent's support during the tax year in order to claim them as a dependent. The amount of support you provided must also exceed your parent's income by at least one dollar.

When determining the monetary value of the amount of support you provide, you need to consider several factors:

  • Calculate the fair market value of the room your parent occupies in your home. Ask yourself how much rent you could charge a tenant for the space.
  • Consider the cost of food that you provide.
  • Remember to include utilities, medical bills and general living expenses that you also pay.
  • Compare the value of support you provide with any income, including Social Security, that your parent receives to determine whether you meet the support requirements.

Deducting medical expenses

If you paid for your parent's medical care, you may be able to claim medical expenses as an itemized deduction on Schedule A.  Itemized deductions are beneficial when they exceed the amount of the standard deduction you are allowed to claim.

  • You can deduct your parent's medical expenses even if she does not meet the income requirement to be claimed as your dependent as long as you provide more that half of their support.
  • Your total medical expenses, including all costs for prescription drugs, equipment, hospital care and doctor's visits, must exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income to claim these expenses in 2020 and 2021.

Dependent care credit

For 2020, the Child and Dependent Care Credit is a non-refundable tax credit. It can be claimed by taxpayers who pay for the care of a qualifying individual and meet certain other requirements.

  • If your parent is physically or mentally unable to care for themselves, they are a qualifying individual.
  • You need to have earned income and work-related expenses. This means that the care must have been provided while you were either working or looking for work.
  • You must be able to properly identify your care provider. This includes giving the provider's name, address and identifying number (either Social Security number or employer identification number).
  • If you are married but file a separate return from your spouse, you may not claim this credit.
For 2021, the American Rescue Plan brings significant changes to the amount and way that the Child and Dependent Care Credit can be claimed. The plan increases the amount of expense eligible for the credit, relaxes the credit reduction due to income levels, and also makes it fully refundable.  This means that, unlike other years, you can still get the credit even if you don’t owe taxes.

So, for tax year 2021 (the taxes you file in 2022):

  • The amount of qualifying expenses increases from $3,000 to $8,000 for one qualifying person and from $6,000 to $16,000 for two or more qualifying individuals
  • The percentage of qualifying expenses eligible for the credit increases from 35% to 50%
  • The beginning of the reduction of the credit is increased from $15,000 to $125,000 of adjusted gross income (AGI).

Also for tax year 2021, the maximum amount that can be contributed to a dependent care flexible spending account and the amount of tax-free employer-provided dependent care benefits is increased from $5,000 to $10,500.

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