4 tax breaks that reduce in-home senior care expenses

Learn about the tax breaks families can use for senior care


Hiring an in-home senior caregiver can be costly. The good news: There are tax breaks that can help offset your care costs.


To determine which tax breaks you may qualify for, you first need to determine who the employer is. (Note that this different from child care tax breaks, where there is no question that the family is the employer). In most cases, the employer of a senior caregiver is the person receiving care or their spouse. However, it's also possible for an adult relative (often a child) to be considered the employer - especially if the elderly person is living in their home.

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Lets take a look at the tax breaks associated with each employment scenario.


Tax breaks when the senior is the employer

This commonly occurs when a senior is still living in their own home and needs in-home care. The care may be for themselves or their spouse. Depending on individual factors, these four following tax breaks may be available:


Employers may take an itemized deduction for qualifying medical expenses that are more than 7.5% of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Qualifying medical expenses are generally those prescribed by a licensed healthcare practitioner. Expenses for long-term care and nursing services may also be included, even if they are not performed by a registered nurse.


The cost of general household services, such as housekeeping, cannot be itemized, even if the help is recommended by a doctor.


  • Medical Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

If the employer or their spouse has access to a Flexible Spending Account through their job, they may be able to pay for up to $2,750 of medical care using pre-tax dollars. Depending on the employers marginal tax rate, using this FSA will save approximately $1,000 per year.


  • Dependent Care Account (FSA)

The employer can also enroll in a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account through work to pay for up to $5,000 of care-related expenses (usually the caregivers wages) using pre-tax dollars. This will save the average person about $2,000-$2,300 per year. Eligibility for this FSA is less common as most people taking care of a spouse will either not be able to claim them as a dependent or are not working.


This tax break allows the employer to itemize up to $3,000 of dependent care expenses per year per dependent ($6,000 maximum per year). The tax credit percentage is based on income, but most employers will receive a tax credit of 20% on those itemized expenses, yielding up to $600 per year for one dependent or $1,200 per year for two or more dependents. But like the Dependent Care Account, eligibility for using this tax credit is uncommon due to either the employer being retired or unable to claim their spouse as a dependent.


It's important to note that the IRS says the same expenses cannot be applied to multiple tax breaks. "Families need to understand what tax breaks they are eligible for first and then speak to a personal income tax professional about how to maximize their tax savings," says Eva MacCleery, Director of Care.com HomePay.


Tax breaks for adult children that are considered employers

In some circumstances, an adult child may be deemed the employer if their parent receiving care passes the Qualifying Persons test (see IRS Publication 503). Generally, in order to pass the Qualifying Persons test, the elder parent must be physically or mentally unable to take care of himself and live with the adult child for more than half the calendar year. If this is true, the following tax breaks may come into play:


  • Medical Care Tax Deduction

The qualifications and benefits are the same as described above.


  • Medical flexible spending account

Savings and qualifications are the same as above, but the savings will be tied to the adult child's marginal tax rate.


  • Dependent Care Account

Also the same stipulations as described above, but it's more common for a parent living with a child to qualify as a dependent.


  • Dependent care tax credit

Eligibility is the same as previously mentioned, but again, adult children whose parent lives with them are more likely to meet the qualifications for claiming the parent as a dependent.


Important disclaimer:

As with all tax rules and regulations, there are numerous exceptions, exemptions and nuances. When calculating tax breaks for senior care, it's strongly recommended that families seek professional guidance from a CPA, financial advisor or personal income tax specialist.


For all other household employment topics, give us a call at (888) 273-3356 and we'll be happy to provide a free consultation to address your needs.


Next Steps:

First things first—have you hired a caregiver?

If you're seeking a caregiver or a care job, visit Care.com

What type of caregiver have you hired?

Have you already made any payments to your caregiver?


If you've made payments, we'll help you track them and we'll provide your employee with pay stubs.

We'll help calculate the taxes in your state.

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What type of caregiver are you planning to hire?

When do you expect to hire someone?

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