4 Tax Breaks When You Care for Aging Family Members

A smiling middle age woman hugs her aging mother

As a caregiver, you may qualify for a few tax breaks that can save you money, lower your tax bill, and provide some financial relief. Here are some steps you may consider when you go to file your next tax return.

1. Tax credit for other dependents

The IRS gives a Child Tax Credit for young dependents under age 17. But for dependents over age 17 or who do not otherwise qualify for the CTC, the tax credit for other dependents is worth $500 per qualified individual. It’s a nonrefundable credit, so you can apply that amount to your tax bill (if you have one).

To claim your parent or relative as a dependent, the following must be true:

  • You provided more than half of their financial support during the current tax year, and
  • They must not have earned more than the gross income limit for the specific tax year (this amount changes every year)

Learn more about claiming a parent (or relative) as your dependent.

2. Medical expense deduction

If you itemize your deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A, you may be able to deduct the medical and dental expenses you paid for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents.

Remember, medical expenses must be more than 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, or AGI (7.5 percent of your AGI if you or your spouse is age 65 or older).

For example: If you pay for part of your parent’s medical expenses, you may be able to deduct these medical expenses on your tax return if your parent was your dependent (see criteria above), but not if

  • he or she earned $4,200 or more in taxable income
  • he or she filed jointly
  • you are claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return

3. Dependent Care Credit

Do you pay someone to care for your parent or relative while you work? You may be eligible for the Dependent Care Credit on your tax return. For tax year 2021, the credit is refundable and worth up to $8,000 per dependent. Learn more about this credit and see if you qualify.

4. Head of household filing status

As a caregiver for an elderly parent, you may be able to choose head of household as your filing status. The benefits of filing as head of household include a larger standard deduction and higher income thresholds for other credits and deductions. In other words, by qualifying for and choosing the head of household filing status, you could end up with a bigger tax refund.

The conditions for filing as HoH are as follows:

  • you must not be married
  • you are responsible for more than 50 percent of the cost of maintaining the home for your parent (e.g. buying food, clothing, and other necessary items for your parent) during the year.

Note: Your parent, as your dependent, is not required to reside with you for you to be considered head of household.

The information in this article is up to date through tax year 2021 (taxes filed in 2022).