The visually impaired can qualify for certain tax breaks from the Internal Revenue Service. Some of these tax benefits require you to itemize, but you may also qualify for tax credits that don’t require itemized deductions. Generally, you can only take advantage of the breaks for expenses for yourself, your spouse and your dependents. Bills for which you received reimbursement or that you paid with pre-tax dollars, such as from a flexible spending account, shouldn’t be claimed. That would be double-dipping, and the IRS has rules against that.
Basic Medical Expenses
The IRS regulations include a variety of possible deductions for the visually impaired under the category of medical expenses. Magazines and books in Braille are partially deductible; you can claim the difference in cost between Braille reading materials and the same editions printed in standard format. Eyeglasses and contacts are considered medical expenses, as are the soaking and wetting solutions needed for contacts. Eye exams and eye surgery are deductible expenses. You can claim your transportation costs to receive medical care, such as taxi fares. If the visually impaired person is your dependent child, you can deduct the cost of sending him for special education, such as learning Braille, if his doctor recommends it.
You can deduct the costs associated with a guide dog, including buying, training and supporting it. Include the cost of vet bills, dog food and grooming services if the grooming is necessary for the animal to do its job. Your guide dog doesn’t even have to be a dog; any animal specially trained to assist the visually impaired will work. Include the costs associated with your service animal with your other medical expenses.
Increased Standard Deduction
Visually impaired taxpayers may qualify for a higher standard deduction if they choose not to itemize deductions. To qualify, the individual must be blind or considered blind under IRS definitions. If vision in the better eye is less than 20/200 with contacts or glasses, or if the field of vision doesn’t exceed 20 degrees, the IRS considers the person legally blind. If the only way to correct your vision to exceed 20/200 or 20 degrees is contacts, but you can’t wear them for more than a brief time due to ulcers, infection or pain, you still qualify. The only catch is that you must ask your optometrist or ophthalmologist for a certified statement of your limitations; the statement should also indicate whether your vision is expected to improve. In 2011, the difference was $1,150 for couples filing a joint return if one spouse qualified and $2,300 if both spouses qualified.
Dependent Care Expenses
If you have to pay someone to care for a visually impaired dependent because he cannot care for himself, you might be able to deduct those costs. If the care is necessary so that you can hold down a job, you have the option of deducting them as medical expenses or dependent care expenses. However, spouses are not dependents in the eyes of the IRS, so care provided for your spouse can only be claimed as a medical expense.
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