Special Needs Services That Can Be Claimed on a Tax Return

While we can’t give tax advice, we’ve got some expert tips on things to consider when itemizing your taxes. Many services and expenses you might not have realized could be tax deductible.

Tax season is quickly approaching (didn’t we just file for 2014?), and the thing most of us want is to get a refund, or at least, to pay as little as possible. Most people don’t know exactly what they can claim as tax-deductible, let alone what parents of children with special needs can claim. We spoke to Amy O’Hara, Esq., a partner with the law firm Littman Krooks LLP, whose specialties include estate planning and administration, trust administration, guardianships, and special needs planning, to find out what services you can claim on your next tax return.

The following are tax-deductible and can be itemized on tax returns:

  • Special schools and special education services
  • Aides that a child may require to benefit from education
  • Exercise programs, if recommended by a medical professional
  • Transportation to and from special schools or therapy sessions
  • Equipment, devices, and supplies necessary to treat or alleviate a medical condition, including technology items such as communication devices
  • Doctors’ office co-pays, evaluations, and travel to and from appointments
  • Medications
  • Home renovations, as long as they are medically necessary
  • Workshops and seminars for parents that focus on the child’s special needs, as well as the travel to and from, but not the lodging or meals
  • The cost of buying, training, and maintaining a guide dog or other service animal, including food, grooming, and veterinary care
  • Special foods if your child is prescribed a gluten- or casein-free diet; as long as it’s medically recommended and you have a doctor’s note or certification, the cost of the specialty foods over and above what you would normally pay, would be allowable
  • Legal expenses related to your child’s special needs (i.e. if you hire an attorney to help you prove that your child’s medical expenses are legitimate) 

RELATED: Financial and Future Planning for Child with Special Needs

The following can be claimed on a case-by-case basis:

  • Special therapies (arts, gymnastics, horseback riding): You can try to claim special therapies, but everything goes back to the doctor’s recommendation and how the therapy helps to alleviate your child’s condition.
  • Supplements: If they are medically recommended, they most likely are deductible. If they’re not recommended and are being used as an experimental therapy or not under a doctor’s orders, then it’s questionable and, O’Hara says, unlikely to be accepted.

Above all, O’Hara says, be cautious and carefully consider allowable deductions because you can be audited, and you want to be able to verify and justify the expenses you are trying to deduct. “I recommend you document and keep receipts for everything because you never know when the state or federal level may audit your tax return and ask for verification of these expenditures,” O’Hara says. “So it’s very important to document everything.”

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