Can a Totally Disabled Spouse Be Claimed as an Dependent on Your Tax Return?

When your spouse is disabled, it is likely a fair amount of your household budget and your time is spent caring for them. However, the Internal Revenue Service does not allow you to claim a spouse as a dependent. That does not mean there aren’t some special tax provisions for people with disabilities.

Tip

While you can't claim a disabled spouse as a dependent, there is a tax credit for which your spouse may qualify.

Claiming Disabled Person on Taxes

Although you cannot claim your wife as a dependent if she is disabled, for example, that does not mean you cannot claim other family members with disabilities. Even your spouse may prove eligible for the Child and Dependent Care Credit if you must pay for someone to care for them while you work or while you search for a job. Under IRS rules, your spouse qualifies for the credit as long as they cannot care for themselves either physically and mentally and share your home for at least half of the year. Other family members are considered “qualifying persons” for the credit if they are under age 13 or are otherwise a dependent who falls under similar criteria as your spouse as far as the inability to care for themselves and paid care.

The amount of the credit is based on your income and may range between 20-and-35 percent of allowable expenses, according to the IRS. However, the credit is capped at $3,000 for one person and $6,000 if you have two qualifying persons for whom you are paying for care. That may prove the case if your spouse is totally disabled and you have a child in day care. To claim the credit on your tax return, you must include the Social Security number of each qualifying person. Also, you must also include the Social Security number of your spouse’s or other dependent’s care provider on your return.

If your spouse retired on permanent and total disability and received any form of taxable disability income, and your adjusted gross income meets eligibility limits, your spouse may qualify for the Credit for the Elderly and Disabled. Depending on income, the credit ranges between $3,750 and $7,500. Only disabled spouses who are U.S. citizens or resident aliens for the entire tax year are eligible.

Personal Exemptions 2017

For the 2017 tax year, you could claim a personal exemption of $4,050 for you and your spouse and eligible dependents. That is no longer the case for 2018.

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on December 22, 2017, eliminated personal exemptions but has nearly doubled the standard deduction, from $6,350 to $12,000. If you are filing jointly as a married couple, your standard deduction is now $24,000. If your spouse is totally disabled due to blindness, you can still claim an additional deduction of $1,250 if you file jointly.

For both 2017 and 2018, you can deduct family medical expenses exceeding 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. For that reason, it is essential to keep track of all your family medical expenses to meet this percentage threshold.

If you have modified your home in various ways to accommodate a totally disabled spouse's needs, you should include this amount as medical expenses. Examples include installation of stair lifts, wheelchair ramps and bathroom modifications.

However, as of 2019, the amount reverts to medical expenses exceeding 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. That is a major reason why if you are considering making home modifications, you should do so in 2018 if you suspect your medical expenses may not reach the 10-percent limit in 2019.

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About the Author

A graduate of New York University, Jane Meggitt's work has appeared in dozens of publications, including PocketSense, Zack's, Financial Advisor, nj.com, LegalZoom and The Nest.