Sunday, March 22, 2015

Doing Your Elderly Parent's Taxes - Today We're Doing Mom's Income Taxes

Yes, 60 can be the best age, the kids are out of the home, if we are lucky we still have our health, we may or may not have paid off the mortgage. But if you are sixty that means your parents are eighty or eighty five, or even ninety, and that means that your perfect age is now spent toiling over their health and over their wealth. Or the remnants of their wealth.

And that means toiling over their annual income taxes

Are you prepared for the day when you will have to prepare, or have prepared, your parents' income taxes? Among other things?


My mom used to do her income taxes with a commercial establishment, in her case H&R Block. She worked full-time until she was 85 and would bring all her papers over there and it was easy.

By last year there were several significant changes: she had quit work, she couldn't drive any longer, and I had Power of Attorney. 

I contacted her tax agent, who said that if I could get all my mom's paperwork to her electronically, that she could file for her, as usual.


Last year was an awful year: My mom sold her home, got divorced, and moved again.  I was often focused on those things, by necessity. It was also difficult for me to work my way through her paperwork, given her unique 'filing system'. And I don't know too much about taxes and mortgages or mortgage credits or what would constitute her tax paperwork in the first place. So this in itself involved several trips, airfare included, to go through her paperwork and seize the goods.

Once I had the goods, I had to scan everything, make electronic files out of it, and send everything to her tax preparer.

The fact that it was already April - NO BIG DEAL - I jest, because I enlisted my brother the lawyer to file for a late tax return.  Would I have known how to do that? Would I have had to time to figure out how to do that? Not in your life. 

From there it went rather easily, until it was time to actually file. I forgot to ask the tax returner to have the IRS direct deposit, until I remembered to tell her to have the IRS direct deposit into her checking account. So she had to do something - I don't know what - and get that corrected. DO NOT FORGET TO HAVE THE TAX AGENT DIRECT DEPOSIT.

Federal and state, done.

Another year later, another tax season. What would change? What could change?

Plenty. First of all, another move, another address. Second of all, a brother who has completely disconnected from me and almost entirely from my mother. Any chance of his filing for a late return? Next question. Putting my anger and resentment toward him aside....


What has also changed from last year is my mother's financial status. And how quickly it does change.

With less money now than ever, with the home sold and the proceeds now distributed between her and her ex-husband, and the monthly fees attached to living in independent living, she can no longer afford the tax filer. And she's no longer driving. That means my husband and I are downloading TurboTax on this windy but sunny Sunday afternoon, and doing and filing her taxes. I also think that it will be faster for me if we just do it ourselves, rather than my scanning everything, emailing everything, and doing through what I went through last year. Last year it was the most convenient thing. Even at that, the tax preparer and I were back and forth and back and forth with emails a zillion times, and it was me thinking through everything, "Is she entitled to medical deductions? Is she entitled to this and that?" This year I think doing it ourselves would be the most expedient thing.



So today we are doing my mom's taxes. 


 And I suppose that this, among everything else associated with taking care of your senior parent, is now the way it will be. 


Are you prepared?


  1. Wow, I can see why my post on "The Perfect Age" kind of hit your buttons! I'm with you on this sandwich generation thing that happens at our age. My mom is 91 and still living on her own. Fortunately for us, my brother is a tax accountant and takes care of her taxes. I feel your pain. But the emotional toil of taking care of and worrying about an elderly parent is suffered by all of us with living parents at this age. I try to be a good daughter. I feel that I fail at times. So, I keep trying...

  2. Hello, RW!

    Thank you for visiting my blog and for commenting. The prevalence of having to care for, to one degree or another, our elderly parents is exactly why I began this blog. There are many blogs that are "how to" and "what to do" blogs by experts; I want this to be different. It is experiential. For example, there are many blogs that tell you to get the keys to the car from your parents, etc., but that don't describe what it really feels like to do that. The complications, the range of emotions. Or many blogs that advise people to get their financial house in order, or sit down with (ones) parents and make sure they do this and that... But what if our parents refuse to heed any of this expert advice? THIS has been my personal experience and I am writing this blog as a sort of antidote, maybe a reality-check, for those of us whose parents did not.

    LIFE doesn't read and follow the blogs; it's the other way around. Families do not always work together to solve problems. It's difficult to say what being a "good" daughter constitutes, and I'm glad you raised that point. Who determines what being a "good" daughter is? Is it something discrete? If there's a concept of a "good enough" parent, is there also a "good enough" child? I can tell you that my concept of being a good daughter and my mother's and (separately) my father's' concepts are at complete odds. It's a really complex question that I should probably write a post - or two -on some time. I'd be happy to hear more of what you experience in this regard.

    Thank you again!