2024 Tax Season: The Best Way for Grandparents to Claim Grandkids

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Written By kevin

A financial strategist with a knack for demystifying taxes and insurance, Kevin distills complex concepts into actionable advice.

For many grandparents across the United States, raising grandchildren has become an increasingly common reality. Whether due to family circumstances, financial hardships, or other personal situations, grandparents often find themselves stepping in to provide care and support for their beloved grandkids. As the 2024 tax season approaches, it’s crucial for these dedicated caregivers to understand the various tax credits and deductions available to them, which can offer much-needed financial relief and recognition for their invaluable role.

This comprehensive guide aims to empower grandparents by shedding light on the best strategies for claiming their grandchildren as dependents and maximizing their tax benefits. By leveraging these opportunities, grandparents can alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with raising grandchildren and ensure they receive the support they deserve.

Qualifying for the Child Tax Credit

One of the most significant tax benefits for grandparents raising grandchildren is the Child Tax Credit. This credit can provide a substantial financial boost, potentially reducing the tax liability or even resulting in a refund. To qualify for the Child Tax Credit, several criteria must be met:

  1. Age Test: The grandchild must be under 17 years old at the end of the tax year.
  2. Relationship Test: The grandchild must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of these (e.g., grandchild, niece, nephew).
  3. Support Test: The grandchild cannot have provided more than half of their own support during the tax year.
  4. Dependent Test: You must claim the grandchild as a dependent on your tax return.
  5. Citizenship Test: The grandchild must be a U.S. citizen, national, or resident alien.
  6. Residency Test: The grandchild must have lived with you for more than half of the tax year.
  7. Income Test: The credit begins to phase out at higher income levels, with the phase-out ranges varying based on your filing status.

It’s important to note that if the grandchild meets the criteria to be considered a Qualifying Child for the Child Tax Credit, they cannot be claimed as a Qualifying Relative for other tax benefits. Source: IRS Publication 972

Claiming Grandchildren as Qualifying Relatives

In cases where the grandchild does not meet the requirements to be considered a Qualifying Child for the Child Tax Credit, grandparents may still be able to claim them as a Qualifying Relative. To do so, the following conditions must be met:

  1. Not a Qualifying Child Test: The grandchild cannot meet the criteria to be considered a Qualifying Child for the Child Tax Credit or any other tax benefit.
  2. Support Test: You must provide more than half of the grandchild’s total support during the tax year.
  3. Gross Income Test: Your gross income must be higher than the grandchild’s gross income.

Claiming a grandchild as a Qualifying Relative can provide grandparents with additional tax benefits, such as the ability to claim certain credits and deductions, as well as potentially lowering their taxable income. Source: IRS Topic No. 607

Adoption Tax Credit

For grandparents who have legally adopted their grandchildren, the Adoption Tax Credit can offer significant financial assistance. In 2024, this credit allows adoptive parents to claim up to $16,810 in qualified adoption expenses, including legal fees, court costs, and travel expenses related to the adoption process. Source: IRS Topic No. 607

However, it’s important to note that income limits apply, and the credit begins to phase out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) above certain thresholds. The phase-out ranges for the 2024 tax year are as follows:

  • Married Filing Jointly: Phase-out begins at $239,230, fully phased out at $279,230
  • All Other Filing Statuses: Phase-out begins at $179,420, fully phased out at $219,420

Grandparents who have adopted multiple children may be eligible for a higher credit amount, making it essential to consult with a tax professional or refer to the IRS guidance on the Adoption Tax Credit for the most up-to-date information.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable credit designed to provide financial assistance to low to moderate-income families, including grandparents raising grandchildren. The amount of the credit varies based on the number of qualifying children and the taxpayer’s income level.

To claim the EITC, grandparents must meet specific income limits and have earned income from employment, self-employment, or certain disability benefits. The credit amount increases with each qualifying child, providing additional support for grandparents caring for multiple grandchildren.

It’s important to note that the EITC has income limits and phase-out ranges that vary based on the taxpayer’s filing status and the number of qualifying children. Grandparents should consult the IRS EITC Assistant or seek professional guidance to determine their eligibility and potential credit amount.

Special Circumstances

While the general rules for claiming grandchildren as dependents are straightforward, there are several special circumstances that grandparents should be aware of:

  1. Divorced, Separated, or Non-Custodial Grandparents: If the grandchild’s parents are divorced, separated, or living apart, specific rules apply regarding which parent (or grandparent) can claim the child as a dependent. These rules are outlined in IRS Publication 501.
  2. Claiming Grandchildren When Parents Also Live in the Household: In situations where the grandchild’s parents also reside in the same household, the IRS has specific guidelines for determining who can claim the child as a dependent. These rules are designed to prevent multiple parties from claiming the same child.
  3. Impact of the Grandchild’s Income and Government Assistance: If the grandchild receives income or government assistance, such as Social Security benefits or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), it may affect the grandparent’s ability to claim them as a dependent or qualify for certain tax credits.

Grandparents should carefully review the IRS guidelines and consult with a tax professional to ensure they understand and comply with the rules specific to their situation.

State Tax Benefits

In addition to federal tax credits and deductions, some states offer expanded child tax credits or other benefits for grandparents raising grandchildren. The eligibility criteria and credit amounts vary by state, so it’s essential for grandparents to research the specific tax benefits available in their state of residence.

Resources such as the National Conference of State Legislatures and the AARP GrandFamilies Guide can provide valuable information on state-specific tax benefits for grandparents.

Documentation and Proof

To claim tax credits and deductions related to raising grandchildren, grandparents must be prepared to provide documentation and proof to the IRS if requested. This may include:

  • School Records: Enrollment documents, report cards, or other records demonstrating the grandchild’s residency and relationship to the grandparent.
  • Medical Records: Immunization records, doctor’s statements, or other medical documentation showing the grandparent’s responsibility for the grandchild’s care.
  • Childcare Expenses: Receipts or statements from daycare providers, after-school programs, or other childcare services.
  • Legal Documents: Court orders, adoption papers, or other legal documents establishing the grandparent’s custodial or guardianship rights.

Maintaining accurate and up-to-date records is crucial, as the IRS may request verification of the grandparent’s eligibility for various tax benefits. Consulting with a tax professional can help ensure that grandparents have the necessary documentation and understand the specific requirements for their situation.

In conclusion, the 2024 tax season presents a valuable opportunity for grandparents raising grandchildren to claim various tax credits and deductions. By understanding the eligibility requirements, navigating special circumstances, and maintaining proper documentation, grandparents can alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with their caregiving responsibilities.

It’s important to remember that tax laws and regulations are subject to change, and grandparents should consult with a qualified tax professional or refer to the most up-to-date IRS guidance to ensure they are taking advantage of all available benefits. With the right knowledge and preparation, grandparents can confidently navigate the tax season and receive the support they deserve for their unwavering commitment to their grandchildren’s well-being.