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Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton proposed at an Iowa town hall a tax relief program for millions of family caregivers taking care of their elderly relatives.

While any help for caregivers is certainly good news, families may want to know the details of this ambitious proposal.

First of all, it should be clear that this proposal isn’t entering our tax code anytime soon. Rather, if this tax relief program ever made its way into law, it likely wouldn’t happen unless Clinton wins the presidential election. That’s not to say other candidates couldn’t suggest something similar, of course.

That said, here are the key points of her proposal:

• Families “paying for, coordinating, or providing care for aging or disabled family members” would receive a credit when filing their taxes. People who work professionally as caregivers do not appear eligible (unless they’re taking care of a family member, that is).

• The relief itself would be a 20% tax credit applied to a maximum of $6000 in caregiving costs. This means the families would be able to claim a credit of $1200 at most.

• Credit eligibility would phase out and end entirely at incomes of $120,000 or more.

• The program would cost $10 billion over 10 years, and would be offset through unspecified revenue increases elsewhere.

• The Caregiver Respite budget, introduced with the Lifespan Respite Care Act, would receive $100 million in funding over 10 years.

She also floated the idea of enhancing the Social Security benefits for unpaid family caregivers, but did not elaborate on what those benefits would look like.


According to estimates from the Alzheimer’s Association, about 43.5 million people care for a relative 50-years-old or older.

If that seems like a huge chunk of our population, it is. To put it in perspective, AARP’s Public Policy Institute estimated family caregivers provided $470 billion worth of care in 2013.

How far will $1200/year actually go for the average family providing care? Not much: if you have someone spend even a few hours five days a week taking care of an elderly relative, your caregiving costs would land somewhere between $25,000-$35,000 each year, not accounting for any other expenses such as medication, doctor’s visits, and medical equipment.

However, every little bit helps. While this proposal certainly doesn’t solve the looming caregiver shortage or the rising costs of Social Security, it is a positive step in the right direction. When the federal government moves even an inch toward policy that benefits our aging population and their families, you can expect policy groups and other geriatric organizations to follow suit.

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