Both the federal and New Jersey tax laws allow exemptions, deductions and credits to care for someone with special needs. Some of these are often overlooked. Many tax preparers will not think to ask whether anyone in your family has special needs.
You may be able to claim your special needs family member as a dependent regardless of age. You also may be able to take the dependent care credit. Any payments you make for care while you work or look for work may entitle you to this credit. For a person with special needs, the age limit does not apply.
Most costs of caring for someone with special needs are deductible medical expenses. Costs of special materials, such as computers, software, apps, books, equipment, and materials for the family member are deductible. Books, magazines, travel and registration costs for conferences and seminars which address your family member’s specific disability are also deductible. Speech, physical, and occupational therapy not covered by health insurance is deductible. Doctors, and prescriptions not covered by insurance are deductible. Home modifications, counseling, therapy and even legal costs for providing an appropriate education, setting up a special needs trust and getting guardianship are deductible. As a rule of thumb any money you spend is deductible if you spend the money because your family member has special needs. It is best to get a prescription from your doctor for these services.
Note that all the medical expenses for your family may not be deductible on the federal return unless they exceed 10 percent of your income. (Or 7.5 percent for 2012, 11 and 10.) You may set up a flexible spending account or health savings account to avoid the 10 percent exclusion. However, medical expenses are deductible on the New Jersey return if they exceed only 2 percent of income. If you have overlooked some of these expenses you may amend your return and get a refund for 2010, 2011 and 2012.
This article is just a brief overview of some of the more common deductions, exemptions and credits that may be available under current tax law. It is not intended as tax advice for any individual. Specific rules apply to each benefit. Determining whether a tax benefit applies is based on each taxpayer’s specific situation.
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