5 Free Senior Tax Tips That Will Make You Feel Really Smart
All of a sudden, I was responsible for my dad’s taxes in addition to my own. I didn’t even know how he usually did them or where to find his detailed paperwork.
He was living with trauma-induced dementia in a small family care home, and couldn’t help answer questions. I sleuthed out the name of his tax preparer, but felt sure it had to be simple enough to file on my own. I completed his taxes for $100 with online filing software, but didn’t realize that I could have done it for free.
Because of the pandemic, many of the sites that offered free help for seniors living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities are temporarily closed. With the May 17 (it’s been extended) deadline looming, jump on these free tools that are currently available for senior tax assistance.
5 Tools for Free Tax Support
- Fill out this quick IRS survey to see which free tax prep tool would fit your senior’s financial situation.
The six questions include age, income and state. When you get to the questions about Adjusted Gross Income, know that Social Security benefits don’t count toward gross income. If this is the only income your senior received, then the gross income equals zero, and you don’t have to file a federal income tax return.
After entering my dad’s information, the IRS suggested an approach for free tax help.
AARP volunteers can walk you through
- If you would rather talk to someone live, the AARP Foundation has volunteers that will help you with your senior’s taxes for free. My dad used to be a member of AARP. Submit an online request and a tax consultant will get back to you within two days. Then they send an online meeting invite.
My father passed away two years ago and so the next year I had questions about filing. Vincent M., an AARP Foundation volunteer, met with me on Google Meet and walked me through the IRS TaxSlayer software. In 45 minutes, I had filed both federal and state online for free.
Even though I am tech-savvy and had filed taxes in the past using online tax software, I needed his help to get through the questions efficiently. Thanks Vincent and AARP!
- If you are helping care for your senior, you may be able to take tax deductions for costs including home adaptations, transportation, insurance, adult day services and more. Check with your tax professional.
Claim your senior as a dependant?
Consider claiming your senior as a dependent. The IRS states that in order to claim your parent as a dependent you must meet all of the following parameters:
- You (and your spouse if filing jointly) are not a dependent of another taxpayer.
- Your parent, if married, doesn’t file a joint return, unless your parent and his or her spouse file a joint return only to claim a refund of income tax withheld or estimated tax paid.
- Your parent is a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, U.S. resident alien, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
- You paid more than half of your parent’s support for the calendar year.
- Your parent’s gross income for the calendar year was less than $4,200.
- Your parent isn’t a qualifying child of another taxpayer.
- If your parent is your foster parent, they must have lived with you all year as a member of your household.
- See “qualifying relative, “qualifying child,” and “Table 5. Overview of the Rules for Claiming a Dependent,” in Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction and Filing Information, for additional information about claiming a dependent and certain exceptions that may apply.
Senior Tax Credit
- Check in to the Senior Tax Credit for the Elderly and Disabled. If your senior qualifies, you could take up to $7,500 directly off their tax bill. To qualify, a person must be 65 years of age by the end of the tax year. The IRS also establishes income guidelines for each tax year. Check with a tax professional.
The May 17 deadline is coming up, so don’t wait to reach out to counselors at the IRS and AARP Foundation for questions about your senior’s taxes. If you are caring for a senior in your home, talk to a tax counselor about deductions for related costs and about claiming them as a dependent. The time is now to utilize these free resources for your senior’s taxes.
Debbie McDonald is the Founder of Ways & Wane, an online platform that helps you help your aging parent. She lives in Northern California with her husband.