A variety of tax benefits exist for parents of children under the age of 18 regardless of the parent's age. However, older adults with minor children may find that the increased income earned after a lengthy career rules out claiming tax credits for low-income earners and that tax benefits for education savings plans or child care costs offer the largest adjustments to taxable income or total taxes owed.
As a taxpayer, you are entitled to claim one exemption for yourself, one for your spouse when filing a joint return and an additional exemption for each dependent in your household. Each exemption reduces your taxable income by a set amount determined by the IRS for each tax filing year. On 2012 returns, each exemption equaled a $3800 reduction.
Child Tax Credit
Families that earn too much for the Earned Income Credit, which allows maximum earnings of $50,270, may qualify to claim the child tax credit and receive up to a $1,000 credit for each of your children. If you pay income taxes or the alternative minimum tax, you qualify for the credit as long as your modified adjusted gross income doesn't exceed $110,000 when you file as married filing jointly. IRS publication 972, Child Tax Credit, contains a worksheet that helps you determine the amount of your credit by examining your taxes owed, other tax credits claimed and income.
Child and Dependent Care Credit
When you pay for child care so you and your spouse can work or seek out work, you may qualify for the child and dependent care credit. This tax credit covers up to 35 percent of the eligible costs spent for daycare services or care provided by an outside individual. The percentage of costs you will be able to deduct are based on your AGI.
Credits for Higher Education
If you have a child attending college as a full-time student and foot the bill for tuition and course materials, you may claim the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit to offset the costs. The American Opportunity Credit provides a credit valued at up to $2500, while the Lifetime Learning Credit maxes out at $2,000 for eligible households. You can only claim one of the credits per student each year but may opt for the higher value credit.
Saving for College
For children too young to attend college, contributions to a 529 savings plan helps reduce your taxable income. Each state sets its own guidelines for the 529 plan, including the maximum amount eligible for the taxable income reduction. For example, Louisiana lets you write off $2400 per year per account, while Missouri allows up to $16,000 in credits.
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- IRS: 2012 Form 1040: U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
- IRS: EITC Income Limits, Maximum Credit Amounts and Tax Law Updates
- IRS: Publication 972
- IRS: Ten Things to Know About the Child and Dependent Care Credit
- IRS: Tax Benefits for Education: Information Center
- U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: An Introduction to 529 Plans
- Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance: Louisiana's "529" College Savings Plan
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