Tax Tips Claiming an Elderly Parent as a Dependent

You may be able to claim an elderly single parent as a dependent on your tax return. Furthermore, if you are single and your parent qualifies as your dependent, you may also be eligible to file using the Head of Household (HOH) filing status. The HOH status offers better tax rates than filing for single status. To claim a parent as your dependent and qualifying person for head of household several test must be met.

Citizen or Resident Test

Your parent will be eligible to be claimed as your dependent if they are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, U.S. national or resident of Mexico or Canada.

Support Test

To qualify as your dependent, you must provide more than half of the support for your parent. Figuring this support is a little complicated. Basically support includes all living expenses, personal expense, medical/dental expenses and so on. Living expenses entail rent or mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, repairs and maintenance to your home and so on. Personal expenses include food, clothing and just about any other outlays for personal subsistence.

So long as you provide more than half of the support for your parent, even if they are not domiciled in your home, you can still claim then as a dependent. For instance, the parent may live alone in their own home, but you may be paying the rent or mortgage and upkeep for their home, or the parent may reside in a home for the elderly or assisted living situation. The key is, you must provide more than half of the parent’s financial support.    

Gross Income Test

In order to qualify as your dependent, your parent must have a gross income of less than $3,650.*  Gross income includes just about any form of income including social security benefits. Certain income, non taxable income such as disability income, including social security disability income, is excludable from gross income.   

If you are supporting a parent and the preceding test are met, you can claim them as a dependent on your tax return whether you are married or single. If you are single and you have a parent living with you who meets the dependency test above, you may also be eligible to file your tax return under Head of Household (HOH) status. The HOH status provides adjusted tax rates that are almost as good as those for the married filing joint status.

For more information on claiming a parent as a dependent and filing HOH, check with your tax preparer or get IRS Publication 17, “Your Federal Income Tax.” Pub 17 provides the most condensed yet comprehensive tax information for individual tax return filers. You can order a copy of it or any IRS publications and have them mailed to you free of charge. The quickest way to receive IRS publications is via the IRS Internet site, where you can also view most publications on-line or download them in PDF format. To order publications you can also call 1-800-829-3676.      

* Base on 2009 tax rates – this amount is adjusted on an annual basis  for inflation.