Filing status as head of household for mother of adult son who is handicapped

My son is 33 and multiply handicapped and lives with me 24/7. He receives his
father's Social Security Death Benefits monthly of 1,400. He has a Special
Needs Trust that owns 1/2 the apartment and pays 1/2 of the maintenance
monthly of our apartment we live in and his other expenses. Since it is an SNT
these payments are not considered income for Medicaid purposes. In NY State, he
is considered a Dependent Adult child and his SNT payment of expenses and his
Death Benefits from SS are not considered income for purposes of his Medicaid
eligibility. Can I file as a single head of household? I am 67 and retired. May
I file as SHH. As per the terms of the SNT, I can not provide additional support
because it would constitute income and affect his Medicaid status. In addition
to advice, could you please provide me any sections of the law or rules that
govern a special case like this. I would follow your advice/directive, of
course, but need to share this with my tax preparer and his Bank Trustee who
were both unable to advise me.
Reply to
Mother of adult handicapped 33 yr old living at home 24/7
On 11/14/13 7:38 PM, Mother of adult handicapped 33 yr old living at
In order for you to file as Head of Household (HoH), you first need to have a qualifying person living with you for more than six months and secondly you must be providing more than half of the cost to maintain the household. Typically, the qualifying person is going to be your dependent child or parent. In your case, the qualifying person could be your "totally and permanently disabled" son. This requires that he be your "qualifying child" for the dependency exemption. In order to be your qualifying child he must pass one additional test other than his relationship to you and his living with you. He can not be self-supporting.
In order to make this determination, one must first add up his total support and then add up how much of that support he is providing. If he provides more than half, he is self-supporting and he would not be your qualifying child, not be your dependent and you could not file as head of household. Total support includes the fair rental value of lodging provided, his food, clothing, education, transportation, recreation, medical and dental expenses and any other item required for his care. You state that he receives SSA benefits. If he spends those funds on his own care, then that amount counts as money he provides for himself. The funds from the trust that get spent on his care can be tricky. There isn't just one kind of special needs trusts. However, typically they are set up as qualified disability trusts in order to maximize the trusts income tax exemption. Additionally, they are usually set up such that they are not grantor trusts. I.e., the trust income belongs to the creator of the trust (typically the parent). So, assuming that any trust income that is provided to your child rightly belongs on his own income tax return, that money would also count as money he provides for his own support.
Assuming you can pass the above tests and claim a dependency exemption, you still have to pass the test for providing more than half of the cost of maintaining the household. This is different than his total support test. This test requires that you add up the cost of the household and then see if you provided more than half. These costs would include the rent paid for the apartment, utilities, maintenance/repairs, household property insurance, food "consumed in the apartment" and any other expense directly related to upkeep. E.g., the cost of a maid service or cleaning supplies.
If he is not your qualifying child then you can't file as HoH and you can't claim an exemption. If he is your qualifying child, you can claim the exemption and you may be able to file as HoH if you pass the maintaining the household test.
Lastly, assuming his father was your spouse and he died either in 2011 or 2012, and your son is your dependent, then you could use the filing status Qualifying Widow With Dependent Child for 2012 and 2013 tax years. This is better than HoH, as this status has the same tax rates as filing Married Jointly. In addition, you don't need to be concerned about passing the HoH test for maintaining the household.
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