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The Senior Tax Credit: Do I Qualify?

The Senior Tax Credit, also referred to as the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled, is a federal tax credit that can be applied to your tax returns if you are a senior (or if you have a disability, regardless of your age) and meet certain income requirements. This credit can amount to a significant benefit to qualified seniors as it might cover the amount of any tax you might owe, which could result in a tax refund.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for the senior tax credit, an individual must:

  • Be 65 or older by the end of the tax year (if younger, the individual must be retired on permanent and total disability, have taxable disability income and have not yet reached the mandatory retirement age)
  • Be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien (some exceptions apply to non-resident aliens married to U.S. citizens or resident aliens)
  • Meet certain income limits (as described below)

Income Limits

The IRS provides updated publications on the senior tax credit, which include the current income limits for eligibility. As of 2014, the limits were as follows:

Elderly and Disabled Tax Credit Income Limits (2014):

Filing Status

Your adjusted gross income must be less than:

OR the total of your nontaxable social security and other nontaxable pension(s), annuities, or disability income must be less than:

Single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child

$17,500

$5,000

Married filing jointly and only one spouse qualifies

$20,000

$5,000

Married filing jointly and both spouses qualify

$25,000

$7,500

Married filing separately and the spouses lived apart for the entire year

$12,500

$3,750

How Do I Claim The Senior Tax Credit?

To claim the senior tax credit on your federal taxes, you must complete a Schedule R form with your IRS Form 1040A. The Schedule R can be located on the Forms and Publications page of the IRS website.

If you’re married by the end of the tax year, you are generally required to file a joint return in order to claim the credit. However, separate returns can be filed if you did not live with your spouse at any time during the tax year. More information on the process of preparing and filing a Schedule R can be found on the IRS website.

For assistance in preparing the Schedule R or your tax returns in general, the IRS provides a free tax return preparation program, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). This program is available to qualifying taxpayers, particularly those over the age of sixty who make $53,000 or less. Under the VITA program, IRS certified volunteers will provide assistance with tax preparation and counseling. To find a VITA volunteer near you, see the VITA locator on the IRS website.

State Tax Credits

Certain states also have their own form of senior tax credits or exemptions that can apply on your state or local tax returns. California, for example, provides a Senior Head of Household Credit. Massachusetts, and other states, also offer Circuit Breaker Tax Credits to qualifying seniors based on real estate taxes or rent paid during the year. Additional information on senior tax credits or exemptions that may be available in your state can be located on the website of your state's treasury or revenue agency.

Further Considerations

The federal senior tax credit is only applied to the tax return of the filer and, therefore, would not apply if the qualifying senior was listed as a dependent on someone else's tax returns. However, in some cases it may be advantageous for a senior to be claimed as a dependent as there are other tax benefits that may apply to the filer, including deductions for medical and dental expenses and home care or adult care costs.

For a senior to be considered a dependent on another’s tax returns, the filer must provide over half of the senior's financial support and the senior must have lived with the filer for a full calendar year, among other factors.

Additional Resources

For additional information on tax breaks for seniors, see FindLaw's, "Top Seven Senior Tax Breaks." Also, given the complexity and fluidity of federal and state tax laws, it is important to consult a tax attorney or an accountant to see what federal and state senior tax credits or deductions may be available to you. To contact a tax attorney near you, see FindLaw’s attorney directory.

Next Steps
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