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Color of Money

Easing Burden On Caregivers

By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, March 7, 2004; Page F01

Why do you think the tax code is called a code?

"It's called a tax code because it's indecipherable," said Steve Weisman, an estate attorney and author of "A Guide to Elder Planning: Everything You Need to Know to Protect Yourself Legally & Financially."

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Sorry. I just love that joke, and you have to keep a sense of humor during tax season.

Actually, Weisman and I had a serious conversation about how many senior citizens and the adult children taking care of them often don't claim the deductions to which they are entitled.

More than 22 million U.S. households contain someone caring for an older relative or friend, according to AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving. And here are some deductions often overlooked by these caregivers and seniors, Weisman said:

• Premiums paid for a qualified long-term-care insurance policy. These payments are treated like any other unreimbursed medical expense, meaning they can be deducted only if they are more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.

• Claiming a dependency exemption for elderly parents.

• Payments to a nursing home or similar institution for yourself, your spouse or dependents. This is also treated as a medical expense.

• Medical expenses for an elderly parent. You can take these deductions even if you don't claim your parent as a dependent, but you have to be providing more than half of their support.

• Home improvements directly related to medical care.

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