People caring for an elderly parent or other family member could qualify for a tax credit for out-of-pocket expenses under a proposed change to tax laws announced Sunday by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The credit would help defray up to $1,200 in expenses, often a hidden cost of caring for an elderly relative. Caregivers could claim 20 percent of expenses up to $6,000.
Clinton would also seek changes to the Social Security system to allow credit toward a wage earner’s monthly benefit at retirement when that wage earner takes time off to care for an elderly relative.
Both changes would require legislation, but models for these proposals introduced in the Republican-led Congress have not passed.
Both are part of what Clinton calls her plan to raise overall incomes for the middle class. She has also promised not to raise taxes on the middle class and is seeking ways to draw comparisons with rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), who has supported tax increases as a lawmaker.
Clinton was discussing the proposed changes at a meet-the-voters event on Sunday in Iowa, where she is trying to consolidate recent gains over Sanders in the polls. Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential selection contest is on Feb. 1.
The Democratic front-runner is releasing her middle-class economic relief plan in pieces. She previously proposed tax credits for college costs and large out-of-pocket medical expenses.
The changes outlined Sunday would address a systemic problem for women, in particular. The burden of caring for an aging relative, usually a parent or spouse, falls most heavily on women. Providing care can mean reduced hours at work or a hiatus from the workforce, both of which can reduce the Social Security benefit available to those workers when they retire.
“Many family members, most often spouses and adult daughters, spend time out of the workforce, cut back on hours, or use personal days, vacation, and family time to provide needed care,” the Clinton campaign said in announcing the latest proposals. “Providing informal caregiving can strain family finances, with caregivers suffering lost wages, health insurance, and Social Security benefits.”
The campaign cited statistics showing that about 40 million family caregivers in the United States tend to adults today. Such care “can be a win-win for the family and for our overall health system; it enables seniors to remain in their own homes, maintain independence, save costs, and still obtain the support they need,” the campaign said.
Clinton is also proposing what her campaign called a “coordinated, government-wide initiative” to help outside paid caregivers for the elderly and children. This would include strategies to improve skills and “professionalize the workforce through career ladders and apprenticeships,” the campaign said, but it did not provide specifics.
Clinton wants to give care workers “an opportunity to come together and make their voices heard in support of a stronger system,” the campaign said, but a fact sheet stopped short of saying that child-care and elderly-care workers should be more widely unionized.
“Home care workers do hard, essential, compassionate work for millions of Americans. Despite the extraordinary care they provide, home care workers are often invisible and among the lowest paid of any occupation, and nearly half live in households that depend on public assistance,” the campaign said.
“The low wages in these jobs lead to high turnover and limited training, creating care systems that do not work for the families depending on care or the workers who provide it.”