Eldercare Can Be a Medical Deduction

December 8th, 2012

With people living longer, many individuals find themselves becoming the care provider for elderly parents, spouses and others who can no longer live independently. When this happens, questions always come up regarding the tax ramifications associated with the cost of nursing homes or in-home care.

Generally, the entire cost of nursing homes, homes for the aged, and assisted living facilities are deductible as a medical expense if the primary reason for the individual being there is for medical care or the individual is incapable of self-care. This would include the entire cost of meals and lodging at the facility. On the other hand, if the individual is in the facility primarily for personal reasons, then only the expenses directly related to medical care would be deductible, and the meals and lodging would not be a deductible medical expense.

As an alternative to nursing homes, many care providers are hiring day help or live-in employees to provide the needed care at home. When this is the case, the services provided by the employees must be allocated between household chores and deductible nursing services. To be deductible, the nursing services need not be provided by a nurse so long as the services are the same services that would normally be provided by a nurse, such as administering medication, bathing, feeding, dressing, etc. If the employee also provides general housekeeping services, then the portion of the employee’s pay attributable to household chores would not be a deductible medical expense.

Household employees, like other employees, are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes, and it is the responsibility of the employer to withhold the employee’s share of these taxes and to pay the employer’s payroll taxes. Special rules for household employees greatly simplify these payroll withholding and reporting requirements and allow the Federal payroll taxes to be paid annually in conjunction with the employer’s individual 1040 tax return. Federal income tax withholding is not required unless both the employer and the employee agree to withhold income tax, but the employer is still required to issue a W-2 to the employee and file the form with the Federal government. A Federal Employer ID Number and a state ID number must be obtained for reporting purposes, and most states have special provisions for reporting and paying state payroll taxes on an annual basis similar to the Federal reporting requirements. Note: if the caregiver is hired through an agency, generally the agency is considered the employer.

To the extent the payroll taxes are for deductible nursing services, the employer’s portion of those taxes is also deductible as a medical expense.

If you need assistance in setting up a household payroll arrangement, please contact this office for additional details and filing requirements.

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