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What Parents of Kids With Disabilities Should Know Before Filing Their Taxes


The rules surrounding federal tax deductions can be confusing for anyone — especially families raising children with disabilities Adding to this challenge are recent changes from the Tax Reform and Jobs Act of 2017.  

As you finish filing taxes for 2018 and plan for the year ahead, keep in mind these rules and deductions listed below. And always keep detailed records of your expenses throughout the year.  

Deducting the Cost of a Special School or Institution 

Did you know that your child’s regular school can be classified as a “Special School”? This applies when the school has a special curriculum for neurologically disabled individuals, for example children with autism spectrum disorders. 

Here is a breakdown of deductible expenses:  

  • Lodging 
  • Meals  
  • Transportation  
  • Incidental educational costs provided by the institution  
  • Costs of supervision, care, treatment, and training 

You can also deduct the cost of private tutoring by a specially trained teacher who provides therapeutic and behavioral support services for your child. And special education for children with dyslexia may also qualify, provided the school’s program enables children to deal with their disability caused by a medical condition.  

Special Therapies and Treatments Outside of School 

The following qualify as deductible expenses: hyperbaric oxygen; therapy chelation therapy; equestrian therapy; individualized or group art, dance, music, and play therapies; summer camps.

Medical Expenses 

Starting in tax year 2018, un-reimbursed medical expenses are deductible only to the extent taxpayers itemize their deductions (Schedule A) and if they exceed 10 percent of adjusted gross income. These medical expenses include transportation and lodging costs, as detailed here.  

For 2018 tax returns:

  • 18 cents per mile 
  • Lodging costs (but not meals): up to $50 per day are deductible for the taxpayer and one additional person if an overnight stay is necessary 
  • Medical conferences and seminars: attendance fees and travel expenses (but not meals or lodging)  

 Older Individuals With Disabilities 

It’s important to understand rules that apply to disabled family members who are able to work. For example, attendant care services at a disabled person’s place of employment (ordinary and necessary expense to help in performing job) are deductible in lieu of a medical deduction. Also, an individual with special needs can be older than 19 or 24 and claimed as a dependent for the earned income tax credit. However, the rules are detailed and complex, so be sure to consult your tax professional and www.irs.gov.  

Getty image via scyther5