If I charge my mother for services, do I need to claim that as income?

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Mom lives with my husband and me full time now. She is totally dependent upon us for food, transportation, hygiene, etc. My husband and I are on fixed incomes, as is Mom. She does have social security and a small pension. Can I charge for food, transportation (multiple medical appointments, etc). Is there an acceptable rate, do I need a written agreement? Will I need to claim this money as income?

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Peggy - I'd first suggest that you need to see if an increase in income paid to & reported by you from your mom would adversely affect your or your hubby's income or social services your receiving now. Like if mom paid you 20K a year for care, would having to pay taxes on the extra 20K cost you too much in taxes or cause you to be denied food stamps or other services, then it;s a bad idea.

But if you are still kinda young (50's) and can still build towards your SS, then an extra 20K income can actually pay off in the long run in the amount of SS you draw when you finally retire.

Alot of this will hinge on how much money mom has available. Like my mom has about $ 1,900 a mo between her SS, my dad's federal retirement and an annuity and had savings (spent down for NH). While my late MIL had like $ 500 a month in SS and that was pretty well it. My mom could have afforded 2K a mo to "pay" or have a personal services contract while my MIL couldn't afford a penny. So you need to look at that too.

Assandache7 idea of paying for utilities is really good if there is not enough hard money to do a personal services contract. Mom needs to write checks from her solo personal checking account that gets her SS and pension. So no future commingling issue with Medicaid (should she need to apply for it) or SS.
Good luck.
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The best way to handle this is to decide on a monthly amount. Then have your Mom pay that amount in utilities.. That way, no questions asked, when, or if, medicare is needed.
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I have to add that I don't know how rent would be handled. I've wondered about that, especially if there is monthly payment of rent or mortgage on the home. Would the mother be considered as a roommate or a tenant? It makes a difference at tax time.
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Peggy, good question. The money you would get from your mother can be divided into two categories -- living expenses and your time. Anything living expenses, including food, gas, utilities, and such things would not be income. They would simply be upkeep costs. If she were living alone, she would have to pay these expenses for herself. If you charge her a certain amount for your time, however, this would be income and would be taxable. You can work something out with her that she will pay a certain amount for material things and a certain amount for your time. Charges for your time would be considered self-employment income and you would need to pay SE taxes (social security) on the money in addition to regular income tax. It is pretty easy to do if this is the way you want to go. Be sure to keep good records of expenditures.
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