The holidays are over and 2016 is here, and it’s time to gather your information and schedule an appointment to get those taxes filed. Yes, you have until April to get them filed, but I thought I’d help you kick-start the process by offering news you can use before you prepare your taxes or make an appointment to have them prepared.
I’ve heard many older adults in my family ask at what age they can stop filing taxes. For the last four years of my father’s life, he lived in Columbus. Each year, when January rolled around, he had an urgency to file his taxes, and because he had lived in Virginia for 27 years before moving back to Ohio, he used my accountant. She advised it was not necessary that he file because he was 71 and his gross income did not exceed the sum of standard deductions.
Because there are so many different rules when it comes to filing taxes, and they change as we age, I decided to hand-pick some that seem to me to be important and cover the broader spectrum of people. Remember this is the short list of tips that apply to seniors and retirees.
- When Seniors Must File – if you are unmarried and at least 65 years of age, then you must file an income tax return if your gross income is $11,850 or more. However, if you live on Social Security benefits, you don’t include this in gross income. If this is the only income you receive, then your gross income equals zero, and you don’t have to file a federal tax return.
- How to Claim Caregiver Tax Deductions – To qualify for caregiver tax deductions or credits, the person you are caring for must be a spouse, dependent, or qualifying relative, as well as a United States citizen or resident of the U.S., Canada, or Mexico. A qualifying relative includes a parent, step-parent, father-in-law or mother-in-law, or any other person who lived with you all year as a member of your household. The caregiver and medical expense tax rules have several important qualifications. Before claiming this deduction consult with your accountant or the IRS website at irs.gov.
- You May Qualify for Additional Tax Credits – You may qualify for the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled if you and/or your spouse are at least 65 years or considered permanently disabled. You must meet certain income qualifications found by completing a “long form” (for 1040 or 1040A). You won’t find the credit on the “short form” (form 1040 EZ), so if you think you may qualify, make sure you use the correct form. If you’re unsure which form you should use, ask any tax specialist.
- Medical Expenses – For seniors, medical expenses have to exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income to be deductible. That threshold applies even if only one spouse has reached 65 and you file jointly. For those 65, medical expenses are deductible only if they exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. Medical bills can be hefty for seniors. Covered medical expenses include the portion of doctor, dentist and hospital bills and the cost of prescription drugs not covered by insurance, as well as premiums for Medicare or other insurance coverage. Prescription eyeglasses are deductible, as are the cost of false teeth, hearing aids and wheelchairs. So is the cost of transportation to medical appointments.
- Charitable Donations – These are also deductible. However, seniors who are at least 70 have another option for charitable donations. At that age, you’re required to take a minimum distribution for individual retirement accounts. If you rolled that distribution over directly to a charity instead of taking the money and then donating it, the distribution is not counted as income and therefore is not taxable.
If you prepare your own taxes, and have questions about the information shared, please visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov. If you have an accountant that files for you, and you would like to know more about any of the rules I’ve listed, they should be able to clarify them for you. If you need assistance finding tax help and aren’t sure where to start, check with the Concierge Service office at your community. For Wesley Glen call 614-888-7492 and for Wesley Ridge call 614-759-0023