10 Major Tax Credits and Deductions for Disabled Tax Filers

A Mature man of African American ethnicity with physical disabilities is sitting in wheelchair, worried in the home office.
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With tax season upon us, we are all looking for ways to reduce our tax liability. Tax filers who are disabled will find a number of tax credits, income exclusions and deductions that can ease their tax burden a bit.

But you might not be aware that such breaks exist. “These aspects of the law are not properly explained to taxpayers,” said Jody Padar, a certified public accountant and CEO of New Vision CPA Group in Mt. Prospect, Ill.

As a result, many taxpayers overlook such breaks initially and have to file amended returns later, Padar said. However, you can avoid this hassle by educating yourself about the credits and deductions available to disabled tax filers.

Before we get to the money-saving ideas, it is important to define three key terms:

  • Tax credit — A direct reduction in tax liability.
  • Deduction — Reduces the amount of income used to calculate one’s tax liability.
  • Exclusion from income — Means that an item is not included when calculating your income for tax purposes.

With that jargon out of the way, here are 10 credits, deductions and income exclusions that disabled tax filers should consider:

Related: 7 Signs You’re the Victim of a Tax Scam

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1. Credit for the Elderly or Disabled 

This credit can put an extra $3,750 in your pocket, or up to $7,500 if you are married. To qualify for this credit, you must be either elderly or disabled.

The rules differ depending on whether you are 65 or older, or younger than that. To qualify for the credit based on your age, you must reach age 65 by the end of the tax year for which you are filing — in this case, 2020.

If you are younger than 65, you can still get a credit if you meet the disability portion. To qualify, you must meet all three of the following conditions:

  • Be retired on permanent or total disability.
  • Received taxable disability income for the 2020 tax year.
  • Had not reached the mandatory retirement age as of Jan. 1, 2020.

You can find more information on this credit at the IRS website.

2. Earned Income Tax Credit

The earned income tax credit is a refundable tax credit for low-to-moderate-income working individuals and couples, particularly those with children.

According to the IRS, the credit is intended to help people make ends meet, and it put more than $62 billion into the pockets of almost 25 million individuals and families in 2020. “The EITC is a refundable tax credit. This means workers may get money back, even if they have no tax withheld,” states the IRS.

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Some disability retirement benefits qualify as earned income when claiming the credit, according to the IRS. According to the IRS, you may claim a child of any age as a qualifying child if he or she is totally and permanently disabled and has a valid Social Security number.

The IRS categorizes disability retirement benefits as earned income until you reach minimum retirement age. That is defined as the earliest age you could have received a pension or annuity if you did not have the disability. Once you reach minimum retirement age, disability payments are considered to be your pension and not earned income.

3. Child and Dependent Care Credit

The child and dependent care credit covers expenses paid for the care of a qualifying individual, including those with physical and mental disabilities.

For example, the IRS says a qualifying individual includes:

  • “Your dependent qualifying child who is under age 13 when the care is provided.
  • Your spouse who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care and lived with you for more than half of the year.
  • An individual who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care, lived with you for more than half of the year, and either: (i) is your dependent; or (ii) could have been your dependent except that he or she has gross income that equals or exceeds the exemption amount, or files a joint return, or you (or your spouse, if filing jointly) could have been claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer’s 2020 return.
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The expenses used to calculate the credit are $3,000 for one qualifying individual or $6,000 for two or more qualifying individuals. Like all credits and tax breaks, you need to understand the ins and outs of what types of expenses qualify and what records need to be kept.

A tax professional can help you craft the best tax strategy for your circumstances.  

4. Adoption Credit

The IRS says tax filers who have adopted a U.S. child with special needs — as determined by the taxpayer’s state — typically are eligible for an adoption credit in the year the adoption becomes final.

According to the IRS: “Thus, if the adoption of a child whom a state has determined has special needs becomes final in 2020, the maximum credit allowable generally would be $14,300. However, the maximum amount will be reduced by any qualified adoption expenses you claimed for the same child in a prior year or years, and the MAGI limitation may apply.

“MAGI” refers to “modified adjusted gross income. Taxpayers looking to claim this credit need to meet MAGI requirements. It is important to understand whether or not the adoption of your child qualifies you to be eligible for this credit. Consult your tax professional for more information.

5. Increased Standard Deduction

If you are legally blind, you are entitled to claim a higher standard deduction on your tax return. For example, the standard deduction for single filers is $12,400. However, the standard deduction for single filers who are blind is $14,050, which equals an increase of $1,650. If both you and your spouse are blind, the standard deduction increases to $15,700 or $3,300 higher than the standard deduction of $12,400 for single filers who are not blind.

If you are not totally blind, the IRS requires a certified statement from an eye doctor or optometrist that you have non-correctable 20/200 vision in your best eye or that your field of vision is restricted to 20 degrees or less.

6. Exclusions From Income: Military and Governmental Pensions 

Certain military and government disability payments can be excluded from taxable income. According to the IRS, you may be able to exclude from income amounts you receive as a pension, annuity, or similar allowance for personal injury or sickness resulting from active service in one of the following government services:

  • The armed forces of any country
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • The Public Health Service
  • The Foreign Service.”

 There are many conditions attached to the exclusion, and you can find them in Publication 525. 

7. Other Exclusions From Income 

There are a number of other payments related to your disability that are not taxable, according to the IRS. They include:

  • Benefit payments from a public welfare fund, such as payments due to blindness.
  • Workers’ compensation for an occupational sickness or injury if paid under a workers’ compensation act or similar law.
  • Compensatory (but not punitive) damages for physical injury or physical sickness.
  • Disability benefits under a ‘no-fault’ car insurance policy for loss of income or earning capacity as a result of injuries.
  • Compensation for permanent loss or loss of use of a part or function of your body, or for your permanent disfigurement.

8. Disabled Dependent Medical Expense Deduction 

Medical expenses related to the care of a disabled dependent can be included in the calculation of the medical expense deduction. According to the IRS, you can include medical expenses you paid for your dependent. For you to include these expenses, the person must have been your dependent either at the time the medical services were provided or at the time you paid the expenses.

9. Disabled Access Credit 

This credit is available to small businesses that incur expenditures for the purpose of employing and giving access to disabled workers. According to the IRS, an eligible small business is one that earned $1 million or less or had no more than 30 full-time employees in the previous year. Qualifying businesses may take credit every year they incur access expenditures.

Note this is a tax credit for the business entity and not directly for disabled tax filers.

10. Work Opportunity Credit 

Like the Disabled Access Credit, this is another tax break available to businesses. The Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 extended the WOTC through Dec. 31, 2025. An employee with a disability is one of the targeted groups for the Work Opportunity Credit.

Related: What to Do If You Lost Your W-2 

The More You Know, the Less You Owe 

There are a number of income tax credits, deductions and exclusions from income that can benefit disabled tax filers, their parents and caregivers, and companies that hire them.

In recent years, family support groups and other organizations responsible for educating taxpayers about these tax breaks have not had the resources to get word out, Padar said.

“Tragically, many of these resources have had their funding curtailed or totally eliminated,” she said.

However, if you do a little research on your own — and talk to a qualified tax professional — you may be able to trim your obligation to Uncle Sam this tax season.

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Cynthia Measom contributed to the reporting of this article. 

Last updated: Feb. 26, 2021

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About the Author

Roger is an experienced financial writer and financial advisor who uses his experience to explain complex financial topics in an easy to understand format. Roger contributes to his own popular finance blog, The Chicago Financial Planner where he writes about issues concerning financial planning, investments and retirement plans. His work has been featured on Investopedia, US News & World Report, Yahoo! Finance, Equifax Finance Blog and other sites.
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