The emails and calls I get from taxpayers are desperate.
It’s now time to file her 2022 return, and she’s still waiting on that refund.
“I started seeing articles that the IRS was storing returns in a cafeteria” and had a backlog in the millions, said the taxpayer, who asked not to be identified because she feared getting on the wrong side of the agency. “Every time I check, it shows that it’s being processed. And when I’ve tried to call, I can’t even get to someone. I pay my taxes every year on time, in full. And it’s extremely aggravating that I have to sit and spend hours trying to get through to them to get my money.”
Pandemic-related return backlogs exposed a woefully understaffed agency hobbled by outdated technology. Although the IRS has said it has largely worked through its massive backlog of unprocessed tax returns, millions still need review. As of Dec. 30, the agency said, it had 2 million individual returns received in 2022 that still needed to be processed.
Some help may be available for people unable or unwilling to brave the agency’s toll-free line. One Saturday a month through May, dozens of Taxpayer Assistance Centers will be open to walk-ins across the country.
Taxpayers can get free help from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 11, March 11, April 8 and May 13 at such offices in dozens of states and the District of Columbia. Centers also will be set up in Puerto Rico on the last three dates. No appointments are required. Normally, the taxpayer centers are open on weekdays and by appointment.
Not every state will have Saturday hours. To find an office near you, go to irs.gov/saturdayhours. If searching on irs.gov, in the search field, type “IRS Face-to-Face Saturday Help.” Once you open the link, you’ll see a drop-down menu for the four dates. You’ll need to check the list frequently because availability may change without notice, the agency says. Be sure to check which documents you need to bring with you.
“These walk-in locations are critical, and funding from the Inflation Reduction Act is allowing us to add more employees across the nation to better assist taxpayers this filing season,” acting IRS commissioner Doug O’Donnell said.
Recently, I hosted an online chat to answer readers’ tax questions. I was joined by Eric Bronnenkant, head of tax at Betterment, a digital investment advisory firm. Here are his answers to leftover questions about claiming a dependent.
Q: My 22-year-old grandson lived with us for seven months in 2022. Can we list him as a dependent?
Bronnenkant: It is possible to claim your grandson as a qualifying child if he lived with you for more than half the year. You would also have to provide more than half of his support, and he would have to be a full-time student. If he was not a full-time student, you may be able to claim him as a qualifying relative if his gross income is less than $4,400. See IRS Publication 501 Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information, page 11.
Q: Is there an easy way to determine if my son, who graduated from college last May, is a dependent? He got a job in July and is living independently.
Bronnenkant: It is possible to claim someone as a qualifying child if he was a full-time student for at least five calendar months.
In addition, he could not have provided more than half of his own support for the year, Eric Smith, IRS spokesman said.
“If he was self-supporting for part of the year and not self-supporting for the other part, it might be hard to say for sure without running the numbers,” Smith said.
To help you do that, there’s a detailed worksheet (Worksheet 2) in IRS publication 501, available on IRS.gov.
Q: If I claim my son, who is 20 and in college, and he has earned some income this past year, can he still file and get a tax refund?
Bronnenkant: A child whose only source of income is wages and who had paid too much in withholding should file a tax return to receive a refund.
Q: Can a parent be claimed as a dependent by an adult child?
Bronnenkant: A child can claim a parent as a dependent if the child provides more than half of the parent’s support. The parent’s gross income also must be less than $4,400, which again excludes Social Security benefits that are not taxed. Notably, a parent is not required to live with their adult child. This is common in a situation where the parent is in a nursing home.
To add to Bronnenkant’s answer, IRS spokesman Eric Smith noted that the child tax credit for other dependents that would apply to the older dependents is smaller than the regular credit, which is generally as much as $2,000 per qualifying child younger than 17. But the credit for other dependents is a maximum of $500 for each dependent.
As for the lucrative earned income tax credit, the dependent needs to be your child. So, an older child who is totally and permanently disabled would qualify, not a parent, Smith said. Regarding the credit for the child and dependent care expenses, a parent can be a qualifying dependent. You just have to have qualifying expenses, and they need to be related to enabling you to work, he added. For details, read IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.
Q: I have a sister with dementia who moved in with me at the end of May. She receives Social Security payments of $1,600 a month. Can I claim her on my tax return?
Bronnenkant: A sibling can claim another sibling as a qualifying relative if the first sibling provides more than half of the other’s support. The second sibling’s gross income also must be less than $4,400 (which excludes untaxed Social Security benefits). See IRS Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits, page 6 worksheet.
The baseline for determining whether a portion of Social Security benefits is taxable is an income of $25,000 for singles and $32,000 for couples, according to Smith.
“So if your only income is from Social Security, or you have little income besides your Social Security, there’s typically no tax on these benefits,” Smith said.
Q: What additional tax breaks do I qualify for paying for in-home nursing care or assisted-living expenses?
Bronnenkant: Qualified medical expenses are an itemized deduction in excess of 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. The IRS states that “This includes services connected with caring for the patient’s condition, such as giving medication or changing dressings, as well as bathing and grooming the patient. These services can be provided in your home or another care facility.” See IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses, page 12.
B.O.M. — The best of Michelle Singletary on personal finance
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