Claiming a Parent as a Dependent

December 16, 2013
Mortgage paperwork

Don’t put off thinking about your taxes until April.

Tax time may be months away, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be thinking about tax matters now. Many financial advisors lament that clients don’t take the time to figure out their tax situations in advance, but instead wait until the last minute. Home caregivers may therefore want to start thinking now about whether they should claim their parents as dependents when tax season arrives.

Not just parents

Home caregivers must meet several requirements before they can claim elderly patients as dependents. For example, the caregiver can’t be claimed as dependent by another person, the patient must be an official resident of the U.S., Mexico, or Canada, and the patient cannot be filing a joint tax return with his or her spouse.

While the patient must be a relative, that does not mean that he or she must be a mother or father. Depending on other factors, home caregivers may also opt to include a grandparent, stepparent or mother- or father-in-law as a dependent.

There’s a financial floor to consider as well: home caregivers cannot claim as dependents elderly individuals whose gross income is $3,650 or more. (That figure usually does NOT include Social Security payments.)

Perhaps most significantly, home caregivers may be able to claim as dependents parents or other elderly individuals even if those individuals do not live in the same house as the home caregivers.

Home caregivers must also qualify

The bottom line is that basically you, as a caregiver, must be paying more than 50% of the patient’s expenses (medical, groceries, rent/mortgage, transportation, etc.) Some people may run into conflicts in cases in which two or more children are providing support. Basically, whoever is paying for more than half of the expenses is the only one eligible to list the parent as a dependent on tax forms.

Benefit of claiming dependents

There are several benefits to claiming a parent for whom you are caring as a dependent. One of the most important of these is that you may be able to deduct medical expenses. In order to qualify for this, total allowable medical expenses must come to at least 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. (For example, if you adjusted gross income is $50,000, you could claim medical expenses if they totaled $3,750 or more.)

Taxes can be very complicated and confusing, so if possible, consult with an expert to figure out whether you can claim a parent as a dependent and to see what the possible benefits might be for you. Interested home caregivers might also want to check out IRS Publication 501.


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Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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