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Tax time: how to help your parents file their taxes

Sure, you do your own taxes, but your parents' taxes are different and there's a learning curve for adult children.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Teaching your parent to use their smartphone, it takes some patience, right? Let me remind you they once taught you to use utensils, so the frustration and the patience go both ways!

Now add in taxes. You may do your own, and maybe your parents did too for a while, but now they need help. Like everything else, there’s a learning curve.     

“You're used to doing your own tax return, but it's different with your parents' return and if they are retired they have expenses you don't have. Maybe the mortgage is paid but your parent has a lot of health care expenses that can be written off, “ said Cameron Huddleston, of GetCarefull.com. She’s a financial expert and has personal experience of being a physical and financial caregiver.

“Your parents will have different forms, for example, a 1099-R for retirement or Social Security income,” said Huddleston.
 

Here's the good news, the IRS has free filing tools to help you and it comes step-by-step instructions to make sure you get all those documents.

ARE YOUR PARENTS FILING TO GET THE STIMULUS?

If mom and dad are usually non-filers but they're filling out taxes simply because they want the stimulus money, the online free file forms are pretty simple. You’re looking for the Recovery Rebate Credit, which is line 30 on the 1040-SR form for seniors.

WHAT IF YOUR PARENTS AREN’T COMPETENT TO FILE THEIR OWN TAXES?

“If you have to file a tax return for a parent, you can't simply sign the return, you can't forge their signature, you can't leave it blank. You have to be your parent's power of attorney or their designated conservator,” said Huddleston.

You can read more about these topics in Huddleston’s articles:  How To File A Tax Return For A Parent and also Instructions for the IRS Power Of Attorney.