Taxes are certain.
No one is exempt. Filing taxes is perhaps one of the most dreaded chores that caregivers have to complete for their patients. Alzheimer’s disease eventually steals away everything from those who suffer from it. Responsibility is stolen away. Gone are pleasant and not so pleasant tasks. Taxes, however, remain.
Alzheimer’s patients may not remember how to file, what to file or even what a tax is, but they are still responsible for filing each and every year, just like the rest of us. As with every other chore, caregivers take up the slack, but filing taxes is a bit more complicated than washing another person’s laundry or seeing that he or she is fed properly. It is after all, the United States Government to which we give an answer.
Now, for those caregivers who are extremely organized, filing taxes for a loved-one may not be a significant problem. In fact, an envelope addressed to Uncle Sam may already be stamped and ready to be dropped in the big, blue box. But, for those of us who are a bit less organized, filing taxes can be dreadful. There are a lot of questions dancing in our heads on the 14th of April, when we finally totter off to desperately search for receipts and forms. As caregivers do we claim the person for whom we provide care; do we file separately; what? Maybe I can get an extension?
Take a Breath.
If as a caregiver you’re feeling harried over filing taxes, it’s okay. Misery loves company, and with 150 million people expected to file this year, you can rest assured that you’re not the only one feeling overwhelmed. Besides, you still have time to get organized, and there’s more good news; this year you will have a few extra days to file. Usually, the last day to file is the 15th of April, but as it falls on a weekend this year, you will have an extension of three whole days. File by Monday the 18th and you’re golden. If you live in Maine or Massachusetts you’re lucky enough to have an additional day after that, since you’ll be celebrating Patriot’s Day on the 18th.
Filing Taxes for Seniors
Filing taxes for an elderly parent can be enough to make your head spin. Remember this; seniors aren’t required to count Social Security income as gross income. If Social Security is the only source of income received, then you needn’t go to the trouble of filing a tax return. Now, it gets a little more complicated if you’re filing for a married person. Married seniors, filing separately are required to include Social Security Income as gross income, if they live with their spouse at any time during the year. Additionally, some (not all) Social Security benefits are to be included in gross income, when half the sum of Social Security plus all additional income (tax exempt income included) is more than $25,000 or if filing jointly, $32,000.
When Seniors are Required to File
- If gross income is more than the sum, of the standard deduction for their filing status, plus one exemption amount.
- Seniors who are 65 and unmarried, with a gross income of $11,850 or more must file.
- Married to a spouse who is 65 or older and filing jointly-if the combined gross income is $23,100 or more. For 2016 the threshold amount decreases, if the spouse is less than 65 years-of-age. In this case the amount is $21,850.
If a senior owes money to the Internal Revenue Service and is 65 years old with income other than Social Security that is not really high, then the disabled or elderly tax credit is available.
Finally, tax documents needed to document income are sent out in January, including investment-related 1099’s. They are also posted online, in most cases: credit card companies, banks. etc. You will also need charitable donation receipts, health care receipts. There are records that will not apply to your elderly parent’s situation, but you should remember to also gather receipts for job-search expenses, and any work expenses that weren’t reimbursed.
When it’s Time to Call a Professional
Preparing to file taxes is a challenge for just about anyone, perhaps especially for a caregiver whose list of “things-to-do” on any given day is a mile long. Make it a little easier on yourself; call in a professional if you like. A tax preparer won’t charge that much, usually less than a hundred dollars. Hiring an accountant is a different story, however.
The cost to hire a Certified Personal Accountant will cost somewhere between $150 to $250 per hour, more if they are backed by a firm. Unless you are being audited, your taxes are super complicated, involve investments, or business related issues, then you can get away with hiring a tax preparer for much less.
For more information on how to file 2016 taxes visit: https://www.irs.gov/filing.