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Filing Taxes for Elderly Parents

If you are caring for an elderly parent, when April rolls around, you will probably have questions related to taxes. Bad enough that you have to stress about your own taxes, and now you are also left wondering, “when do seniors stop filing tax returns?” and hoping the answer is now. You would think if you make it to, say, age 100 you would be exempt from taxes, but sadly that is not necessarily the case (I checked). Hopefully, this article will provide some answers to your questions.

Do Seniors File Taxes?

The question of whether seniors need to file taxes is, of course, complicated. The IRS doesn’t want to make anything too easy. Let’s start with a slightly easier question: do seniors on social security have to file taxes? If social security is the only source of income for the senior, then I have great news and an easy answer: no, you don’t need to file a tax return.

When Do Seniors Have to File Taxes?

Seniors have to file taxes if:

  • They are unmarried
  • They are at least 65 years of age, AND

  • Their gross income is $14,050* or more.

Social Security does not count towards gross income. So if your social security is your only source of income or the rest of your income is less than $14,050 and you meet the other qualifications, you are off the hook.

Please note the gross income of $14,050 (and other incomes discussed later with an * marking) is specific to the 2020 tax year and the amount generally increases yearly. I am using the 2020 numbers in this case for ease of understanding - well, as easy as one can make any discussion about taxes.

If you are married, things are a bit more problematic (aren’t they always?). If both you and your spouse are over age 65, you need only file a tax return if your gross income is $27,400* or more. If you are over age 65 but your spouse is not, the threshold amount decreases to $26,100*.

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How Can Seniors Save on Taxes?

The IRS kindly extends a tax credit called the Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. To receive the credit you must be at least 65 years of age. If you are filing jointly, you and your spouse must both be 65 or older. The qualifications for the Disability portion of the credit are rather complicated (because of course, they are) and you can read about them here.

Taxes aren’t much fun at any age, and they are less fun if you have to do your own and someone else’s. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to a qualified accountant, and use this article only as a reference.