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Today I'm spending the day with my mother. It's a rare weekday visit, which allows us to take care of some things that must be done during regular business hours, not on weekends.

My mother turned 80 this year. You wouldn't know it. For the most part, she's still very vital and active. In fact, her social life is much more vibrant than one the hubby and I have!

Older parent younger daughter hands

She can't, however, drive. So part of each visit is devoted to errands that are hard for her to accomplish using the limited public transit options where she lives.

I'm thankful that Mum is doing so well. And I'm happy to help in the small ways she needs.

Others with older parents aren't as lucky.

In many cases, they spend much more time, energy and, yes, money on taking care of an aging parent.

Tax credit proposed for elder care costs: U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) thinks those folks deserve more than just family thanks.

While some are able to claim the dependent and child care tax credit for the help they provide their older parents, others don't quite meet the tax break's requirements. So their financial contributions are of no tax value.

Lee has introduced H.R. 5287, the Elder Care Tax Credit. In her statement announcing the introduction of the legislation, Lee notes that on average, caregivers spend $5,530 a year taking care of aging relatives.

That often leads to many caregivers cutting back on their own health care spending, or reducing hours at work, to provide relatives with the necessary care.

But in many of these cases, the older person's care costs and situations don't qualify the caregiver for the existing child and dependent care credit.

The Elder Care Tax Credit would change that, says Lee, offering financial support for qualified care expenses to families caring for aging relatives not defined as dependent. Under Lee's bill, caregivers would receive a tax credit worth up to $1,200 per year.

"As Americans live longer, more and more families are responsible for both young children and parents aging in place," says Lee. "My Elder Care Tax Credit will give families more financial flexibility as they juggle work and care-giving responsibilities for aging relatives."

As I told Bankrate's Dr. Don Taylor when he wrote about this latest iteration of an elder care tax credit, my personal bias aside I believe this is a good idea.

Parent and child roles eventually reverse. If we're awarding tax breaks for folks caring for young children, then it's only fair that we give equal consideration to those caring for older family members when that time comes.

The odds of Lee's bill passing this Congressional session are nil. But at least it gets the issue out there. And as more of us age, it's a topic -- and a tax issue -- that's needs to be discussed.

State tax help, too: Some states offer tax breaks for elder care. Arizona, for example, allows its state residents to claim a $10,000 exemption for each of the taxpayer's parents or grandparents that meet certain eligibility requirements.

To qualify, the Arizona taxpayer providing help must have paid more than one-half of the support and maintenance costs for his or her parent, grandparent or great-grandparent. The older Arizonan receiving the help must be at least 65 years old during the taxable year.

That elderly care recipient also must have lived in the taxpayer's principal residence for the entire taxable year; certain temporary absences are allowed.

Finally, the older person must require assistance in two or more of 12 specific categories of daily living. These include dressing, food preparation, eating, ability to get around (ambulating), hygiene, toileting, medications, shopping, housekeeping, managing personal finances, basic communication, transportation (driving ability).

The Arizona Department of Revenue has created an Activities of Daily Living Checklist to help residents determine whether an aging relative needs assistance.

Below is the personal finances section. It's probably a good test to give any aging relative -- or yourself! -- periodically just to make sure you're still handling your money appropriately.

Senior management of finances Arizona questionairre
Click image for a larger view.

Check with your state's tax department about any tax breaks it might offer for elder care expenses.

And if you agree with me that a federal elder care tax credit is a good idea, let your Representative and Senators know so they can support Lee's bill or similar legislation that is likely to be introduced in future Congressional sessions.

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