Tax season is here. Again. To the great joy of just about no one. But if you're a parent, there is likely relief available to you in the form of deductions and credits you may not be aware of. Here are three to look into, or ask your tax pro about:
The breastfeeding supplies deduction.
Since 2011, the Internal Revenue Service has granted breastfeeding mothers a tax break on breastfeeding equipment. Women who have a flexible spending account (FSA) can use pre-tax dollars to help cover the cost of breast pumps, as well as "supplies that assist lactation." Women who don't have an FSA are able to deduct breastfeeding supply costs if -- and this is a biggie -- their out-of-pocket medical costs for the year exceed 10 percent of their income.
That definitely means the deduction is simply out for a lot of mamas. But given how expensive birth is in this country -- even with insurance -- it's hardly rare for a woman to go over that 10 percent figure in the year her baby's born, especially if her income is lower because she cut back her hours or took an unpaid leave, Melissa Labant, director of tax advocacy for The American Institute of CPAs, told The Huffington Post.
What counts as "supplies"? Breast pumps and pump rentals certainly do. Beyond that, things are open to a bit of interpretation because the IRS doesn't go into much detail. Nursing bras and tops are generally a no-no, Labant said, because clothing is generally tricky when it comes to taxes, and you could feasibly wear them after you're done nursing. But pump parts likely count, and things like milk storage bags probably do as well. "If you needed cream to help with nipples that are chapped, those items appear like they are deductible," Lori Moore, a certified public accountant with Plante Moran, told The Huffington Post.
So, basically, save your receipts!
The child-tax credit.
Moore said she hopes anyone who's been a parent for a while has been made aware of this one, but new (and yes, probably sleep-deprived) parents may not know it's available to them.
"It's basically a dollar-for-dollar credit that you're allowed off of your tax liability related to having a child," Moore said. "It's one thousand dollars per qualifying child. The biggest requirement is that your child has to be under the age of 17 at the end of the year." In other words, if you've got a teen or younger at home, you can basically shave up to a grand off what you owe for the year if your accountant confirms that you qualify.
To that end, there are income limits. For example, for married couples filing jointly, the "phase-out," as the IRS puts it, currently starts at $110,000.
Paying someone to watch your kid is expensive. Daycare costs up-to-$16,000-a-year in some states. But this break can help soften the blow. Qualifying parents can get up to $3,000 off their tax bill (up to $6,000 for two or more children) based on their adjusted gross income for any expenses related to having a care provider watch your child. Note: You're going to have to provide a social security or taxpayer ID number for that person or organization, and no, the payments can't have gone to your spouse.
"The lower your income, the higher the credit amount is," Moore said. "The highest amount is 34 percent and the lowest amount is 20 percent." And it's possible to qualify for the credit if you're currently working, or if you're actively looking for work, she added.
Of course, with all of these credits, there are plenty specific rules and caveats -- and there certainly may well be more breaks available to you than the three discussed here. That's why Moore urges all new parents to try and meet with a professional accountant, regardless of income level.
"Parents generally don't know what is out there that's available to them," she said. And really, isn't anything that helps make this whole parenting thing a bit easier a good thing?
CORRECTION: This article previously misstated that women can take the breastfeeding supplies deduction if their un-reimbursed medical expenses for the year meet or exceed 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income. It is 10 percent.
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