Q&A with Sandy Botkin

Q&A with Sandy Botkin
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I recently had my wife’s dad, sister and her two children move in with us. Since none are working, I was wondering if there’s any tax advantages I can access to help with increased expenses? Kids are 11 and 6.


Under the old tax law, you might have been able to claim them as dependents giving you a whopping extra $16,000 or so in deductions. Sadly, the new tax law (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) eliminated these exemption for you.

If their kids qualify as dependents of yours, you might be eligible for a $2,000 tax credit each if you earn under a certain income. Check with your accountant about this however, here are the requirements needed to claim the child tax credit.

Here’s how to determine which of your kids will qualify you for the credit:

Age test : To qualify, a child must have been under age 17 (i.e., 16 years old or younger) at the end of the tax year for which you claim the credit.

Relationship test: The child must be your own child, a stepchild, or a foster child placed with you by a court or authorized agency. An adopted child is always treated as your own child. (“An adopted child” includes a child lawfully placed with you for legal adoption, even if that adoption is not final by the end of the tax year.) You can also claim your brother or sister, stepbrother, stepsister. And you can claim descendants of any of these qualifying people—such as your nieces, nephews and grandchildren—if they meet all the other tests.

Support test: To qualify, the child cannot have provided more than half of his or her own financial support during the tax year.

Dependent test: You must claim the child as a dependent on your tax return.Bear in mind that in order for you to claim a child as a dependent, he or she must:
1) be your child (or adoptive or foster child), sibling, niece, nephew or grandchild;
2) be under age 19, or under age 24 and a full time student for at least five months of the year; or be permanently disabled, regardless of age;
3) have lived with you for more than half the year; and 4) have provided no more than half his or her own support for the year.

Citizenship test: The child must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or a U.S. resident alien. (For tax purposes, the term “U.S. national” refers to individuals who were born in American Samoa or in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.)

Residence test: The child must have lived with you for more than half of the tax year for which you claim the credit. There are important exceptions, however: A child who was born (or died) during the tax year is considered to have lived with you for the entire year.Temporary absences by you or the child for special circumstances, such as school, vacation, business, medical care, military services or detention in a juvenile facility, are counted as time the child lived with you. (There are also some exceptions to the residency test for children of divorced or separated parents. For details, see the instructions for Form 1040, lines 51 and 6c, or Form 1040A, lines 33 and 6c.)

Family income test: The child tax credit is reduced if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is above certain amounts, which are determined by your tax-filing status. In 2017, the phase out threshold is $55,000 for married couples filing separately; $75,000 for single, head of household, and qualifying widow or widower filers; and $110,000 for married couples filing jointly. For each $1,000 of income above the threshold, your available child tax credit is reduced by $50. Beginning in 2018, the phaseout of the credit begins with $200,000 in income ($400,000 for married filing jointly).


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Sandy Botkin