Special-needs families may get squeezed by tax reform

Personal Finance

“Renovations to make a home safe and secure for a special-needs child can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Shenkman said. “If you’ve been thinking about renovating your house, you’d better do it now.”

Shenkman said he personally used the deduction when renovating his residence to accommodate the needs of his wife, who has multiple sclerosis. His savings from using the tax break were significant, he said.

The deduction can also help in specific years in which a child requires a lengthy hospitalization, said Rob Wrubel, a financial planner in Colorado Springs with Cascade Investment Group. Wrubel said his family used the deduction the year his oldest daughter, who has Down syndrome, was born, because she required a six-week hospital stay after her birth.

“It’s not like we made money on it, but it made a difference to being able to provide for my family,” Wrubel said. “Families with special-needs members just need every break they can get.”

The medical-expense deduction isn’t the only significant break for families of special needs kids. Parents can save up to $14,000 per year in an ABLE account for a child diagnosed with a qualifying disability. Balances in the accounts grow tax-deferred, and distributions for qualified disability expenses aren’t taxed.

Orozco’s daughters’ years of treatment have been expensive, but they’ve also yielded results, he said.

“We’ve had good progress, and they’re doing things that we never thought they were going to do,” he said. “We’re trying to put the time and energy now into making them as functional as possible, so that they can become taxpayers in the future.”

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