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Help for Savers and Caregivers

Homeowner Tax Concept
Scott Rothstein
By Jill Gambon

Madhav Kacker, 91, of Sharon, spent years taking care of his wife, Vijai, who suffered strokes, spinal stenosis, heart disease and other ailments.

Like many people who care for loved ones at home, Kacker found that the out-of-pocket costs related to his wife’s care added up. There were treatments, equipment, prescriptions and copayments for doctor visits.

He made updates to their home to accommodate his wife’s use of a wheelchair.

“I had to modify a bathroom and install a ramp in the garage,” said Kacker, whose wife died in 2012, at age 84. “There were quite a few expenses.”

AARP estimates that family caregivers spend approximately $7,000 per year on out-of-pocket costs related to their relatives’ health issues.

That’s why AARP Massachusetts is urging passage of a bill that would qualify family caregivers for a tax credit of up to $1,500 per year for expenses incurred while serving in this role.

Eligible expenses would include modifications made to the caregiver’s residence, the purchase or lease of necessary equipment, and the hiring of home health aides and personal-care attendants. The measure is one of AARP Massachusetts’ top priorities for this legislative session, said advocacy director Jessica Costantino.

The cost of tending to a loved one at home is often a “major financial burden for families,” said state Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senate sponsor of the bill (SD 786/HD 1405).

The legislation, whose House sponsor is Rep. David Rogers (D-Cambridge), sets income limits for the tax credit. Caregivers must have a federal adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 for an individual and less than $150,000 for a couple.

“Providing a tax credit for eligible expenses can help offset the financial burden,” Lewis noted. “It will help caregivers and their families.”

Another AARP Massachusetts legislative priority is offering a savings plan to the estimated 1.25 million residents (49 percent of all private-sector workers) who do not have workplace retirement savings options.

Proposed legislation would establish the Massachusetts Secure Choice savings program, which would feature an automatic payroll deduction.

Workers would have the option of signing up for plans administered by the state treasurer’s office. The bill would also expand the existing Massachusetts CORE retirement plan, a voluntary multiemployer 401(k) currently available at nonprofits with 20 or fewer employees.

The treasurer’s office handles most of the administrative and investment responsibilities for the CORE plan, making it easier for small nonprofits to offer employees a way to save.

The bill, whose sponsors are state Rep. Tram Nguyen (D-Andover) and Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville), would especially benefit smaller companies.

“Most large and midsize employers offer benefits including retirement savings to attract and retain their workforce,” Costantino said. “For smaller businesses, we know that’s harder.”

AARP Massachusetts encourages members to share information about these bills through social media and to contact their legislators at 617-722-2000 to voice support. To learn more, visit aarp.org/ma.

Jill Gambon is a writer living in West Newbury.

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