Tax Deductions for Special Education Nov 12, 2011Laura Saunders
More than six million children in the U.S. fall into the “special needs” category, and their ranks are expanding. The number of thoseaffected by one developmental disability alone—autism—grew more than 70% between 2005 and 2010.
The tax code can help—if you know where to look.
There are numerous tax breaks for education, but the most important one for many special-needs students isn’t an education break per se. Instead, it falls under the medical-expense category.
Although students with disabilities have a right to a “free and propriate” public education by law, some families opt out and others py for a range of supplemental therapies.
Such families can use Uncle Sam’s medical-expense deduction for help oping with costs, say experts. But many parents and tax advisers verlook it.
“Parents are busy helping their children, and tax preparers often dot ask about medical expenses unless the taxpayer is old or ill,” ays Bernard Krooks, a New York attorney who is past president of the
Special Needs Alliance, a nonprofit group with members specializing in dsability law.
In fact, tax rules allow medical deductions for “diagnosis, cure, mtigation, or treatment…primarily to alleviate or prevent a physical ormental defect or illness” (IRS publication 502).
That can include the cost of a school or program if prescribed by a liensed health-care professional. It might even cover costs for a secial two-year college certificate program for students with severe learning disabilities, such as the Reach program run by the University ofIowa, which costs as much as $40,000 a year.
The deduction also can be used for additional therapies. Regina Levy, Los Angeles CPA with two special-needs children, offers a partial list: occupational therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, physical therapy, social-skills groups and hippotherapy” (horseback riding) among others…….