Social Security now withholds for federal taxes, if you ask

Moneyline

And you can deduct care expenditures for spouse with Alzheimer's

April 23, 2000|By Neil Downing | Neil Downing,PROVIDENCE JOURNAL

You (wrote) that we could sidestep the problem of having to pay excess federal tax at the end of the year by having withholding taken out of our Social Security benefits. As far as I know, Social Security will never withhold any kind of tax. I've been using Social Security for nine years and they will not take a penny out, so I have to pay a little estimated tax.

Effective last year, you may direct the Social Security Administration to withhold federal income tax from your benefit payments, according to agency spokesman Kurt Czarnowski.

You do this by filling out a form (Form W-4V) and mailing it to the Social Security Administration. You can get a copy of the form by calling the Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-3676 or by contacting the agency's World Wide Web site at www.irs.gov.

On the form, you can pick the rate (but not the dollar amount) at which you want federal income tax withheld: 7, 15, 28 or 31 percent. Once you've completed and signed the form, take it or mail it to your local Social Security office. It may take about four weeks to process, Czarnowski said. (You can later change the rate you want withheld, or stop withholding altogether, by completing and returning a new Form W-4V.)

You may get more information by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, or from its Web site: www.ssa.gov.

Could you tell me if nursing home care is deductible for tax purposes? My wife has the latter stages of Alzheimer's, and also she's not in a nursing home yet, but she will be going shortly, probably, and she's going to (an) adult day care center.

In general, you may claim a federal income tax deduction for money you spend to care for a spouse who has Alzheimer's disease, said Judy A. Riggs of the Alzheimer's Association.

"There's a lot of confusion about this point," she said. Nevertheless, expenses are generally deductible for "virtually any person with Alzheimer's disease who's reached the level where they really need supervision and care."

Expenses include money you spend on such things as assisted living, day care, group homes, respite care, in-home care and incontinence treatment supplies.

"The bottom line is that long-term care expenses, including maintenance and personal care -- the nonskilled medical care -- [are] clearly deductible as a medical expense," she said.

"If he's paying for somebody to help him at home, if he's paying for respite care ... all of that is deductible."

The expenses may be deducted on a return filed for the person with Alzheimer's, on a joint return filed by his or her spouse, or on the return of another person (a son or daughter, for instance) if the patient is that person's dependent.

To claim the deduction, you need to get a certification from a doctor or qualified health care professional that the person is chronically ill and needs the services as part of a plan of care, Riggs said.

You needn't file the certification with your tax return, but you must keep it on file.

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