Ten Things to Know About the Child and Dependent Care Credit

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Child care is expensive. Month in and month out, parents across the country work hard to pay for childcare. Thankfully there is some tax relief from the government.

Lawmakers years ago recognized that parents needed some sort of relief from the childcare cost burden. The relief caps out at a certain amount and it doesn’t cover every dollar spent but it does help some.

Here’s IRS guidance on how to take advantage of the child and dependent care credit:

Ten Things to Know About the Child and Dependent Care Credit

If you paid someone to care for your child, spouse, or dependent last year, you may be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit on your federal income tax return. Below are 10 things the IRS wants you to know about claiming a credit for child and dependent care expenses.

  1. The care must have been provided for one or more qualifying persons. A qualifying person is your dependent child age 12 or younger when the care was provided. Additionally, your spouse and certain other individuals who are physically or mentally incapable of self-care may also be qualifying persons. You must identify each qualifying person on your tax return.
  2. The care must have been provided so you – and your spouse if you are married filing jointly – could work or look for work.
  3. You – and your spouse if you file jointly – must have earned income from wages, salaries, tips, other taxable employee compensation or net earnings from self-employment. One spouse may be considered as having earned income if they were a full-time student or were physically or mentally unable to care for themselves.
  4. The payments for care cannot be paid to your spouse, to the parent of your qualifying person, to someone you can claim as your dependent on your return, or to your child who will not be age 19 or older by the end of the year even if he or she is not your dependent. You must identify the care provider(s) on your tax return.
  5. Your filing status must be single, married filing jointly, head of household or qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child.
  6. The qualifying person must have lived with you for more than half of 2010. There are exceptions for the birth or death of a qualifying person, or a child of divorced or separated parents. See Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.
  7. The credit can be up to 35 percent of your qualifying expenses, depending upon your adjusted gross income.
  8. For 2010, you may use up to $3,000 of expenses paid in a year for one qualifying individual or $6,000 for two or more qualifying individuals to figure the credit.
  9. The qualifying expenses must be reduced by the amount of any dependent care benefits provided by your employer that you deduct or exclude from your income.
  10. If you pay someone to come to your home and care for your dependent or spouse, you may be a household employer and may have to withhold and pay social security and Medicare tax and pay federal unemployment tax. See Publication 926, Household Employer’s Tax Guide.

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Benefits Of Reviewing Prior Year Tax Returns

IRS4Did you have your tax preparer look at your returns for the last few years? It’s a good idea for taxpayers to review their returns every year. In many cases the review may reveal missed credits and deductions taxpayers may be entitled to that ultimately give them a bigger tax refund.

Review Last Three Tax Returns

This past tax season I reviewed the last three tax returns for one of my clients. In the end, she was grateful I did. Not only had she done her own tax returns without knowing all of the educational credits she was entitled to but she also received bad advice from a co-worker about the number of exemptions/allowances to claim on her paycheck.

She did take some of the educational credits she was entitled to but because she didn’t realize the true extent (and calculation) of the tax law and credit available, she didn’t take the full credit.

Positive Review Results

The review I did revealed that extra unclaimed credit and resulted in her owing the IRS $300 instead of $1900. A huge difference, especially considering she hadn’t started to pay those taxes because she didn’t have the money.

We also fixed the number of exemptions/allowances on her paycheck based on her circumstances.

Not Just “Plugging Numbers into a Computer”

After going through this review process my client realized that filing taxes was not simply “plugging numbers into a computer.” She realized that she was good at her job but when it came to tax law and taking advantage of all the credits and deductions she was entitled to, she needed an expert.

She also helped the effort by telling me everything that happened in her financial life over the past three years, no matter how small the event may have seemed. This was important because given the complexity of the American population; the IRS has built in a number of credits and deductions to help taxpayers from different walks of life. Preparers know more about these benefits than taxpayers.

In the end for many Americans preparing taxes may seem like an easy undertaking of just plugging numbers into a computer but if they are not careful, they may be missing out on credits and deductions they are entitled to. Working with a qualified tax preparer can help ensure the right credits and deductions are taken.

 

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