Send Your Kids To Summer Camp and Write It Off

If you paid someone to care for a child so you could work, you may be able claim a tax credit for child and dependent care expenses on your federal income tax return. This credit is available to people who, in order to work or to look for work, have to pay for child care services for dependents under age 13.

The credit is a percentage, based on your adjusted gross income, of the amount of work-related child and dependent care expenses you paid to a care provider. The credit can range from 20 to 35 percent of your qualifying expenses, depending upon your income.

For 2004, you may use up to $3,000 of the expenses paid in a year for one child or $6,000 for two or more children. These dollar limits must be reduced by the amount of any dependent care benefits provided by your employer that you exclude from your income.

To claim the credit for child and dependent care expenses, you must meet the following conditions:

1. You must have earned income from wages, salaries, tips or other taxable employee compensation, or net earnings from self-employment. If you are married, both you and your spouse must have earned income, unless one spouse was either a full-time student or was physically or mentally incapable of self-care.

2. The payments for care cannot be paid to someone you can claim as a dependent or to your child who is under age 19.

3. Your filing status must be single, head of household, qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child, or married filing jointly.

4. The care must have been provided for one or more qualifying persons identified on the form you use to claim the credit.

5. Your children must reside with you.

What is a "qualifying" child? The child must have been under age 13 when care was provided and you must be able to claim the child as an exemption on your tax return. A spouse who is mentally or physically unable to care for himself or herself also qualifies.

You should read IRS publication 503 or speak with a tax professional to learn more. Still, it is nice to know you can write off those swimming lessons.

Richard Chapo is CEO of Business Tax Recovery - Obtaining tax refunds for small businesses for overpaid taxes. Discovery tax strategies and deductions in our tax articles section.

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