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Tax help for summer camp costs

Summer is officially here and for many kids, that means camp.

For a couple of summers, I spent time at Cisco Junior College learning how to twirl. A baton, not just how to better spin around! Although the classes didn't help me make it as a majorette leading the Kermit High School band on parade routes, it was a fun experience.

That camp of my youth is no longer around, but another Texas school, Kilgore College, offers a similar baton camp experience.

Idol_camp_logoRock camps, which I blogged about last year, are a big deal here in music-mad Austin. And speaking of music, you knew it had to happen: There's an American Idol Camp.

That's right. If your child is a natural performer, or you're an overbearing stage parent, this camp in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., is for y'all. Young Jimmy or Janie will, according to the camp's Web site, learn from "former Idols, performing artists and inspiring teachers … how to take your skills to the next level."

And the camp's new West Coast location, says the site, "will offer campers even greater access to the inspiring industry professionals located in nearby Los Angeles!"

Yep, there literally are camps for just about any interest or aspiration. Just take a look at

Do you or your child have hopes that he or she will one day be a major leaguer or at least have good enough game to get a college scholarship? In addition to the standard football and baseball offerings, there are camps for hockey (field and ice) players, wrestlers, soccer and swimming.

Summer_camp_2 Unconventional sport camps include paintball, wake boarding, SCUBA diving and something called zipline, which apparently is that rope you zoom down via pulley, but in camp vernacular it also covers other X-Game type of activities.

If your child prefers a more cerebral experience, check out the art, academic and technology camps.

There also are specialty camps -- why didn't my folks send me to Secret Agent Camp? -- and kid getaways for youngsters with special needs. And, of course, most religious denominations offer their own camps for kids.

While it's fun for kids and parents to get a break from each other, these overnight camps can be costly. So a lot of families rely on close-to-home day camps to help occupy the kids when school is out and mom and dad are at work.

And when it comes to day camps, Uncle Sam might help cover some of the costs.

Tax credit for camp care: If you incur care expenses for a child younger than 13, you can claim the Child and Dependent Care tax credit if the expenses are necessary for you to go to or look for work.

Tax_tip_icon_3 And camp costs might qualify as tax credit eligible costs for working parents. Of course there are lots of rules. This is the IRS after all.

The biggest requirement is the work-related necessity. If you're a non-employed parent and you just want to send the kiddies to camp, day or otherwise, to get them out of your hair, Uncle Sam understands but he won't help pay.

The other big requirement is that the camp be one that operates only during the day. While having the kids off at a sleep-over camp probably will make getting to work much easier, the IRS doesn't consider sending your child to an overnight camp a legitimate work-related expense.

There also are monetary limits. Not all care costs, camp or otherwise, are covered. In computing the credit, you can count only up to $3,000 in expenses for one qualified dependent or up to $6,000 for two or more.

Even then, you only get to claim up to 35 percent of the costs. But, hey, every little bit helps.

You can get the full official scoop on the child care tax credit in general and camp and other care considerations in IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses. This blog item from last August also discusses the IRS' final, formal child care rules care rules, as does this story.

Camp reflections: Kim of Kim & Jason Escape Adulthood has some interesting reflections in Summer for Some Kids on school vacation and day camps. She also offers some advice to working and single parents so they can "allow their children the opportunity to experience the freedom of summer, that many of us look back on with delight."

Sun camp image courtesy of Summit School Summer Camps.


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