A little-known tax rule can help offset the cost of some retirement communities.

If you, your parent, or an elderly loved one is reaching the point where living alone is no longer an option – for medical reasons or otherwise –  it may be time to consider some time of assisted living, whether nursing home or retirement community Increasingly, many families are looking at the “Continuing Care Retirement Community” or CCRC option. Even though the CCRC may be the pricier option, a little-known tax strategy recently explained in Smart Money could make it more financially attractive..

What is a CCRC? As SmartMoney explains: As opposed to a traditional nursing home where you simply pay a monthly fee, residents enter into a long-term contract with a CCRC. In exchange for a one-time entry fee and ongoing monthly charges, the CCRC provides housing and a range of on-site services. When a resident's health and personal care needs become more acute, the level of service can be increased to include assisted living, long-term care and skilled nursing care. The big advantage is that the resident doesn't have to move as his or her needs change.

Interestingly, there is another advantage: a potential tax savings. Because part of the upfront and ongoing fees is to provide medical services – whether the resident uses them or not – a medical tax deduction may be available. This strategy was upheld in the 2004 Tax Court case, Delbert L. Baker v. Commissioner (122 TC 143, 2004).

Of course, medical expenses must exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income in order to claim the deduction.  However, if you are considering a CCRC, it’s quite possible that your applicable expenses will exceed this threshold, since their fees, including the upfront buy-in, are usually quite high. Remember, too, that the percentage of costs that qualify as medical is determined by the aggregated spending of the facility itself, rather than the individual and their level of received care. The CCRC management should be able to give you estimates of the percentages, though you may have to ask for them.

Also of note, remember that if you will pay some or all of your parent’s CCRC fees, you can claim the applicable percentage of the charges as a medical expense on your return – if you provide more than half of your parent’s support. Also, the IRS says these tax breaks apply only if the person enters into a CCRC-like contractual lifetime care arrangement, not just any retirement facility or nursing home.

Reference: SmartMoney (June 15, 2011) “A Tax Break for Retirement Community Costs


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