The idea of Congress banding together to create a well-considered program likely to help tens of millions of Americans might sound like science fiction right now, but it’s actually plausible thanks to Representative Tom Reed of New York, who has reintroduced the Credit for Caring Act. The act, which already has support from Republicans and Democratic leaders, would “provide working family caregivers with a nonrefundable tax credit up to $3,000 to assist with out-of-pocket expenses related to caregiving.” The basic idea is to provide substantive assistance to the many Americans shouldering the financial burden of long-term care for a loved one.
But why is this tax credit necessary in the first place? Well, according to the AARP, seventy-eight percent of caregivers in America are forced to use their own money to provide care for their loved ones. And these expenses, which include home modifications, transportation services, and assistive technology, can get very costly very quickly. In fact, a deeper look at the numbers show that “those caring for loved ones 18 and older spent an average of nearly 20 percent of their annual income on caregiving expenses — an average of roughly $7,000 in 2016.”
Under the Credit for Caring Act, eligible caregivers would receive a tax credit for 30 percent of the qualified expenses above $2,000 paid to help a loved one. The maximum credit amount would be set at $3,000. This would decrease the massive burden for many of the estimated 43.5 million Americans who have provided some form of unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. To be considered an eligible family caregiver, taxpayers will have to meet the following criteria:
- Be a spouse, adult child, parent or another relation named under the “dependent” definition.
- Help a loved one, of any age, who meets certain functional or cognitive limitations or other requirements, as certified by a licensed health care practitioner.
- Have more than $7,500 in earned income for the taxable year.
- Have documented expenses.
So does this bill have any chance of becoming law? Well, there are factors that suggest it might not go away as easy as people think. For one thing, the bill was created as part of a bipartisan effort. Reed is a Republican but Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the more vocal and left-leaning members of the senate, had a hand in its construction. It also has the support of quite a few activist groups and the AARP, which has noted that the tax breaks actually seem manageable. The bill may have a long path ahead of it before it becomes law, but at least there is a path.
Whether it is this bill or something else entirely, American caregivers are certainly in need of some sort of relief. As our population continues to age, more and more resources are needed to tend to the elderly, and more people are being forced to provide care for someone in their life. The Trump administration has, notably, gotten behind a national parental leave proposal. A similar policy aimed at caregivers might serve to help a similar number of people.