Posted: Apr 13, 2012 8:00 AM
 
Every year, taxpayers leave billions of dollars on the table by not claiming all of the credits and deductions to which they are entitled when filing their income tax returns. Read on to learn more about the credits and deductions you may have available to you as a parent.

H&R Block offers the following income tax tips for parents.

Dependents

To claim a child as a dependent, parents must have a child who:

  • Is younger than 19 at the end of the tax year, or younger than 24 and a full-time student for at least five months
  • Is the taxpayer's child or stepchild, foster child, sibling , halfsibling, or stepsibling, or a descendant of one of these
  • Lives with the taxpayer for more than half the year (some exceptions apply for birth, death, divorce, etc.)
  • Is permanently and totally disabled, regardless of age
  • Does not provide more than half of his own support for the year

Social Security numbers

Babies are not required to have Social Security numbers, but without them they cannot be claimed as dependents on tax returns. Social Security numbers are also required when parents do the following things for their children: open a bank account, buy savings bonds, obtain medical coverage and apply for government services.

Deducting alimony

If you are receiving alimony, you must claim this as taxable; for some it is beneficial to adjust the amount of withholding on your W-4 to help avoid having to pay all the taxes resulting from the alimony payments at one time. The payer may claim the alimony payments as an above-the-line tax deduction.

Child support

Child support isn’t tax-deductible for the payer, and child support isn’t considered income for the recipient; therefore, child support should not be reported on income tax returns.

Higher education

Higher education expenses may be eligible deductions. Parents of students in high school and college, or those who are taking a course to further their own advancement within their profession, may be eligible to claim education credits and deductions.

  • American Opportunity Credit allows taxpayers to claim up to $2,500 for each of the first four years of college for each student; credit requires the student to be enrolled at least half-time in a degree program.
  • Lifetime Learning Credit is worth up to $2,000 per return (not per student) for post-secondary degree programs.
  • Tuition and Fees Deduction provides a reduction in taxable income up to $4,000; applies to tuition and fees only (not books, supplies, etc.) and can be applied to post-secondary education. Additionally, the IRS recently clarified that the student does not need to have a high school diploma to qualify; therefore parents of high school seniors taking AP classes to prepare for college may be able to claim the credit on their returns.

Whether you are using an in-person tax preparer or a digital tax preparation product, be sure the service you choose is backed by tax professionals. H&R Block offers options for taxpayers to file online, in-person or via smartphone, or a combination with the new Block Live video conferencing service.

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