Here are some hidden tax benefits for seniors, caregivers

  • Retirees qualifying as "chronically ill" may be able to deduct the cost of long-term care or senior living arrangements.
  • Long-term care insurance premiums are deductible if greater than 7.5 percent of income.
  • The new $10 million exemption from estate taxes means many life insurance policies purchased as wealth-preservation strategy can now be sold.
Senior couple long term care
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One huge expense awaiting a large percentage of Americans near the end of their lives is long-term care.

Coming up with the money to pay for a nursing home, an assisted living facility or other such care isn't always easy. What many seniors and their families don't realize, however, is that there are tax deductions they can take advantage of that would give them extra money to help with long-term care expenses.

There are also tax-advantaged ways they can exit out of a life insurance policy they don't need anymore, which could help them solve some of the financial challenges they face.

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Some of those potential tax deductions or strategies for seniors include:

  • Costs of senior living and long-term care. If you're diagnosed as "chronically ill," some long-term care expenses can be tax-deductible. Those expenses, however, need to be more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. So, what constitutes chronically ill? You must be diagnosed and under a certified care plan issued by a doctor or nurse that addresses your inability to perform two or more activities of daily living. Or you need to be suffering from cognitive impairments. Family members may also be entitled to tax deductions if they are financially contributing to the costs of care for a loved one and qualify as a dependent.
  • Long-term care insurance premiums. Owners of long-term care insurance policies can take tax deductions on premiums they pay for qualified plans — as well as other reimbursed medical expenses such as Medicare premiums — as long as the premiums are greater than 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income.
  • Estate-tax changes and life insurance. Many large life insurance policies were purchased over the years as a wealth- and legacy-preservation strategy to offset the impact of estate taxes. Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act tax reform, the first $5,490,000 of income was exempt from the estate tax. Now that has been nearly doubled to $10 million. That means policies currently in force to protect estates valued below the new level are no longer necessary. This presents a chance for the policy owner to sell the policy and recoup some or all of their premium payments under more advantageous tax conditions.
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The important thing to remember is that, if you're facing long-term care or other retirement expenses that seem to be more than you can handle, you may have options you hadn't thought about. Knowing the tax rules and how they apply to your personal situation can make a huge difference.

It's complicated, that's why it makes sense to check with an accountant or financial professional who can provide more details about whether you're eligible to take advantage of any of these deductions or strategies.

— By Chris Orestis, executive vice president of GWG Life.

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