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Steps to Claiming an Elderly Parent as a Dependent

Updated for Tax Year 2019


OVERVIEW

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


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.
  • Current exemption amounts can be found in IRS Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.
  • 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 10 percent of your adjusted gross income to claim these expenses in 2019 (7.5 percent in 2017 and 2018).

Dependent care credit

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.

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