65 or Older? Special IRS Rules Apply for Income Taxes

Senior Citizens rules
65 or Older? Special IRS Rules Apply for Income Taxes

WASHINGTON — You’ve downsized to an apartment, the kids are long gone, and you’re no longer eligible for some of the deductions and exemptions that had helped you lower your tax bill. But for those 65 years or older, there are other tax breaks that might benefit you come tax time.

For one, not all your Social Security benefits are subject to federal taxes. How much depends on your other income and filing status. “No one pays federal income tax on more than 85 percent of his or her Social Security benefits based on Internal Revenue Service rules,” the Social Security Administration says on its website.

To determine what percent of your benefits might be taxable, add half your benefits to your other income, including nontaxable interest. If your combined income is between $25,000 and $34,000 and your filing status is single, up to 50 percent of your benefits might be taxable, according to the IRS. For married couples filing jointly, the 50 percent taxable figure applies if your combined income is between $32,000 and $44,000. Combined income lower than the threshold? Social Security benefits aren’t taxable. If the combined income is above these income ranges, up to 85 percent is subject to income taxes.

Be sure to check your state tax laws. In many states, you won’t have to pay state tax on all or some of your Social Security benefits. The IRS offers free tax help for people 60 and older, working through nonprofit groups like AARP Foundation.

Standard Deduction or Itemize?

People 65 and over also should consider whether it’s more beneficial for them to claim the standard deduction or to itemize.

The standard deduction is higher for seniors — $7,750 if your filing status is single, $14,800 if you’re married filing jointly and you and your spouse are both at least 65. That compares to $6,200 for single filers under 65 and $12,400 for married taxpayers under 65 who are filing jointly.

“Seniors very often have already paid up their mortgage and they very often don’t itemize anymore,” said Jackie Perlman, principal tax research analyst at the Tax Institute at H&R Block (HRB). But it’s important to do the math — or let your tax preparer or tax software do it for you — to see whether it still makes sense to itemize even with the higher standard deduction.

Even if you don’t have mortgage interest to deduct, you can still deduct any property taxes you paid. State income taxes also are deductible, or alternatively, you can choose to deduct state sales taxes, an attractive option if you live in a state that doesn’t have an income tax.

Medical Expenses and Charities

For seniors, medical expenses have to exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income to be deductible. That threshold applies even if only one spouse has reached 65 and you file jointly. For those under 65, medical expenses are deductible only if they exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income.

And medical bills can be hefty for seniors. Covered medical expenses include the portion of doctor, dentist and hospital bills and the cost of prescription drugs not covered by insurance, as well as premiums for Medicare or other insurance coverage. Prescription eyeglasses are deductible, as are the cost of false teeth, hearing aids and wheelchairs. So is the cost of transportation to medical appointments.

Charitable donations also are deductible. However, seniors who are at least 70½ had another option for charitable donations. At that age, you’re required to take a minimum distribution for your individual retirement accounts. If you rolled that distribution over directly to a charity — instead of taking the money and then donating it — the distribution is not counted as income and therefore is not taxable.

“The difference is you’re lowering not only your taxable income but also your adjusted gross income,” Perlman said. And that can affect such things as whether Social Security benefits are taxable and whether you can deduct your medical expenses. But there’s no double-dipping. If you itemize, you can’t also deduct a charitable donation that was made through a direct rollover from an IRA.

There is also a small tax credit for low-income seniors, which Perlman says is not widely used. “It might be helpful for someone who neither contributed to the Social Security system nor ever married.”


Wyoming Pushing for increased Child Abuse Penaltys

No excuse for child abuseLegislative committee advances tougher child-abuse penalty

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A state legislative committee has moved ahead a bill that would double the maximum prison sentence for some child abusers.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 9-0 Thursday to advance the bill to the full House of Representatives to consider.

The legislation would change Wyoming law to punish non-aggravated child abuse by up to 10 years in prison. The current maximum is five years.

Aggravated child abuse is punishable in Wyoming by up to 25 years in prison. But proponents of increasing the penalty for non-aggravated child abuse say aggravated child abuse is a difficult charge to prosecute successfully.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, tells the Wyoming Tribune Eagle even severe child abuse often falls short of causing the serious bodily injury required to get a conviction for aggravated abuse.

“I’ve talked with at least 10 different attorneys who practice in this area, and not one could remember us ever prosecuting aggravated child abuse because the standard is too high,” Zwonitzer said.

Lynn Huylar, director of Safe Harbor, a nonprofit child advocacy center in Cheyenne, agreed that prosecutors will pursue the lower-level statute.

“The trauma has already been inflicted, and it is already there,” she said. “But holding offenders accountable is very important, because I think that people need to know that you can’t do horrible things to kids and spend just a couple years in jail while that child lives the rest of their life with the effects.”

Wyoming Department of Corrections Director Bob Lampert said about seven or eight people are sentenced to prison in Wyoming each year on child-abuse charges. He said inmates convicted of child-abuse crimes, upon release, rarely end up back in prison.

“This is at least some suggestion that the current level of sanctions is appropriate and is adequate to deter future criminal activity,” he said.

“As heinous as the underlying offense of child abuse is, the fact remains that once released from prison, and with supervision, this group of offenders very seldom returns to prison for any subsequent offense of any kind, including parole violations.”

Lampert asked the committee to consider the financial cost of lengthier sentences. It costs the state an average of $110 per day to incarcerate an individual.

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How to prevent child sexual abuse

Child Sex Abuse Prevention
Stop Child Sexual Abuse

BATON ROUGE, LA — Child porn is not an easy subject to talk about, but Noel Andrus thinks it’s time we all start looking at the bigger picture.

“You hear of gateway drugs, people getting into gateway drugs that lead to bigger harder things, and it’s kind of a good thing to compare it to,” said Andrus. “There’s a term ‘grooming’ that you’re familiar with that a lot of sexual perpetrators will use to children to warm up to the actual physical act of sexual abuse.”

Andrus works at the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center. She helps families of sexually abused children deal with the pain of abuse.

“It turns everything upside-down for a moment and to come in and have someone really just listen to everything you have to say, and for the child to have that moment to have their time to tell their story,” said Andrus.

The Center works with other agencies like Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana to work on protecting the children in our state. Executive Director Amanda Brunson said since child porn is a form of sexual abuse, it’s something we all need to pay attention to.

Brunson said it’s up to each one of us to prevent child abuse.

“Learn the facts and minimize opportunities, so that means really looking to eliminate all opportunities for your child to be with one adult and one child, or your child to be alone with an older youth. Also, it’s important to talk to your kids about their bodies, about sex, about boundaries and pay attention to adults that may be paying extra attention to your child,” Brunson explained.

One out of every 7 children are abused by the age of 18, and one out of every 3 girls will be sexually assaulted by age 18.

To learn more about their initiative Darkness to Light Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, just click the link below:

To learn more about their initiative Darkness to Light Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, just click the link below:



Girl helps paramedics through sign language

Girl helped Paramedics
Yesenia Diosdado accepting award from Paramedics

Ten-year-old Yesenia Diosdado is revising an English assignment. But it turns out the language that’s proven to be most valuable is the one she knows that’s silent. Yesenia’s mother started teaching her sign language when she was just a year old.

“I have always explained to my kids — even if you may never use it — the importance of sign language is everywhere,” her mother Susan Mulidore told CBS News.

A little over a week ago Yesenia found out her mother was right all along. She was playing outside with a friend in Lenexa, Kansas. “I heard a weird sound so I wanted to go look,” she told CBS News.

It turned out the sounds and commotion were a car accident. Yesenia saw the paramedics trying to talk to a woman who’d been hurt and was still in the car. She could see they were having trouble communicating. That was until the brave girl rushed in and started signing with her. “Are you hurt?” she asked the woman using her hands.

The woman told her that she was indeed injured, and with Yesenia’s help also instructed the paramedics which hospital she wished to be admitted to.

“We would not have even been able to establish what her injuries were without significant delays of having to establish another means of communication,” said Chris Winger, one of the paramedics who was present at the scene of the accident.

While it turns out the woman wasn’t seriously hurt, Yesenia did help ease the transfer to the hospital. In recognition of her heroic efforts, the paramedics presented her with a certificate and medal of appreciation. While Yesenia was surprised by all the attention, it’s now undeniable that learning sign language was well worth the effort.

“Just knowing the simple alphabet of sign language can be a huge benefit, especially in a situation like this,” said her mother.