Can I Claim My Elderly Parent as a Dependent?

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It isn't just time, but money that most caregivers donate to help support the ones they love. When tax time rolls around, you may be able to claim your parent as a dependent on your income taxes. This would allow you to get an exemption for him or her.

In order to claim your elderly loved one as a dependent on your taxes, you must meet certain preliminary criteria:

  • You (the caregiver) cannot be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.
  • Your dependent must be a resident of the U.S., Canada or Mexico.
  • Your dependent cannot file a joint tax return with a spouse.

If you and your loved on pass these three initial requirements, read the additional criteria that are explained in detail below.

Your Relationship

The person who you want to claim as a dependent must be a relative. Relatives who may qualify but do not have to live with you include: a mother, father, grandparent, stepmother, stepfather, mother-in-law, and father-in-law.

The Elder's Income

Your loved one's gross income for the tax year must be less than $4,050. Social Security normally is excludable, but if they have other income, which in many cases means pensions, interest and dividends, some is taxable.

The Amount of Support You Provide

You must be providing over half of their financial support for food, housing, medical expenses, transportation, etc. If the person lives with you, include a reasonable percentage of your mortgage, utilities and other household costs in determining your level of support.

Your parent doesn't have to live with you in order to be claimed as a dependent. When a parent is able to remain in his or her own house, in an assisted living facility or a nursing home, costs you pay for parental support at those locations count toward meeting the IRS requirement. Those who are in an assisted living or long term care facility can qualify as dependents if the income and support levels are met.

Deducting Medical Expenses

One of the benefits of claiming your loved one as a dependent is that any medical expenses you pay for them count toward your itemized deduction. Since medical costs must exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (7.5 percent if you and/or your spouse were 65 years or older in 2016) before you can claim them, a parent's added expenses could help you meet these requirements.

Shared Caregiving Responsibilities

Often more than one family member is involved in providing care and support. The one who is providing more than 50 percent of the support is entitled to claim the dependent. Be sure everyone is on the same page so you don't run into trouble with more than one person claiming the individual.

If none of you solely pays for half of a parent's support, but each contributes at least 10 percent toward parental care, take a look at the IRS Form 2120: Multiple-Support Declaration.

For more information on claiming an elderly relative as a dependent, see IRS Publication 501: Exemptions, Standard Deductions and Filing Information.

When you are unsure about what deductions you are eligible for, it is always best to consult a qualified financial professional for planning and preparing your taxes.

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52 Comments

Check legally if you are required to pay a debt of a deceased person first.
Thanks for the kind words! The goal of this website is not only to provide useful information to caregivers, but also to create a sense of community. Information and resources are great, but sometimes, what caregivers need more than anything else, is to communicate with someone in a similar situation -- an "online" shoulder to cry on, if you will. Caregivers are special people and we're happy to provide a forum for you to connect and share with others.
This does occur more regularly than you can imagine, because otherwise it is diffucult to find care faciilties willing to "take the chance" that the money will run out. Also some of the states have specific rules regarding debts of the deceased and types of debts. I would check with a good accountant about the deductibility by your brother on HIS taxes if he was legally responsible for over 50% of her support during her last year of life. I don't think you would have a claim, but could "gift" him the money to help after all the calculations re done by the accountant to see his actual out of pocket cost if he can deduct the payment. Good luck and keep us posted!