Caring for Aging Parents? These Tax Breaks Could Help

Many who are younger Baby Boomers and GenXers are in what is sometimes called “the sandwich generation”: wedged in by responsibilities to care, not only for our kids, but also for aging parents. And as Baby Boomers continue to age, this responsibility will continue to fall on younger and younger cohorts of the population. With costs for healthcare and long-term care increasing much more rapidly than inflation, it’s also a situation that can pose stiff financial challenges.

However, there are four provisions in the tax code that have the potential to provide at least a bit of relief for those who are facing high expenses for dependent care, especially the typically higher costs associated with taking care of elderly dependents. Especially for family stewards, who are often concerned with the welfare of multiple generations, it’s important to keep these tax breaks in mind. Let’s take a look.

  1. Credit for Children and Other Dependents. If your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is under $200,000 (for singles; $400,000 for married filing jointly) and you have provided at least half or more of the person’s financial support, you may qualify for a $2,000-per-child (under 16) tax credit, and a $500 credit for a dependent parent, even if the parent doesn’t live with you. The key is that they must be claimed as your dependent, and you must provide at least half of their support, which can include food, clothing, shelter, utilities, health care, and other expenses. This is a tax credit, which means it is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of taxes you would otherwise owe. If you think you qualify for this credit, talk to your tax advisor and also review the IRS guidelines here:
  2. Child and Dependent Care Credit. If your earned income is between $40,000 and $400,000 (married filing jointly), you may be eligible for a tax credit equal to 20% of expenses you paid to someone else to provide care for an eligible dependent so you could work or look for work (if your income is less than $40,000, the percentage increases incrementally, up to 35%). Dependent parents must have been mentally or physically incapable of taking care of themselves and must have lived with you for half of the year or more. You will have to provide detailed information about the care provider, who typically must not be someone you can claim as a dependent or your spouse. To learn more about this credit, see IRS Publication 503:
  3. Flexible Spending Account with Your Employer. A flexible spending account (FSA), sometimes called a “cafeteria plan,” is a benefit that may be offered by your employer. An FSA allows you to direct an amount of your salary or wages, up to $5,000 annually, to an account you can use to pay childcare, elder care, or medical expenses. You don’t pay taxes on the amount you redirect, so this can be a smart way to pay for elderly dependent care with tax-free dollars. You should check your employer’s plan documents to verify what types of expenses are eligible for payment, and again, to be “qualifying persons,” those for whom you are providing care must be claimed as dependents on your tax return.
  4. Medical Expense Deduction. If you are paying qualified medical expenses for an elderly dependent that are in excess of 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, you may be able to claim this deduction on your return. In other words, if your adjusted gross income is $100,000, and you have paid more than $7,500 in qualified medical expenses for the dependent during the year, the amount in excess of $7,500 could be deductible. Your tax advisor can help you determine if this, along with other deductibles you may be eligible for, is greater than the standard deduction of $12,000 ($24,000 for married filing jointly) that was enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2019.

I specialize in helping family stewards develop and enact smart financial plans that can benefit current and future generations. If you have questions about family tax strategies or other financial concerns, please get in touch. If you’d like to read my recent article, “Is Your Financial Plan Ready for a Biden Presidency?” please click here.

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Empyrion Wealth Management (“Empyrion”) is an investment advisor registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Information pertaining to Empyrion’s advisory operations, services and fees is set forth in Empyrion’s current Form ADV Part 2A brochure, copies of which are available upon request at no cost or at The views expressed by the author are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of Empyrion. The information contained in any third-party resource cited herein is not owned or controlled by Empyrion, and Empyrion does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of any information that may be found in such resources. Links to any third-party resource are provided as a courtesy for reference only and are not intended to be, and do not act as, an endorsement by Empyrion of the third party or any of its content. The standard information provided in this blog is for general purposes only and should not be construed as, or used as a substitute for, financial, investment or other professional advice. If you have questions regarding your financial situation, you should consult your financial planner or investment advisor.

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