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Credit for the Elderly or Disabled or Senior Tax Credit: Do I Qualify?

The Credit for the Elderly or Disabled is also referred to as "The Senior Tax Credit." It is a federal tax credit that can be applied to your tax returns if you:

  • Are 65 years old by the end of the tax year
  • Have a disability (regardless of your age) 
  • Meet certain income requirements

This credit can be a significant benefit to qualified older adults as it might cover the amount of any tax you might owe, which could result in a tax refund.

Eligibility Requirements For Tax Credit

To qualify for the older adult tax credit, an individual must be 65 or older by the end of the tax year. If they are younger, the individual must:

  • Be retired on permanent and total disability
  • Have taxable disability income 
  • Not yet reached the mandatory retirement age

You must also be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien. Some exceptions apply to non-resident aliens married to U.S. citizens or resident aliens. Lastly, you must meet certain income limits described in the table below.

Credit for the Elderly or Disabled: Income Limits

The IRS provides updated publications on the older adult tax credit. This publication includes the current eligibility income limits. As of the 2021 tax year, the limits were as follows:

Elderly and Disabled Tax Credit Income Limits (2021)

Filing Status

Your adjusted gross income must be less than:

OR the total of your nontaxable social security and other nontaxable pensions, annuities, or disability income must be less than:

Single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child

$17,500

$5,000

Married filing jointly and only one spouse qualifies

$20,000

$5,000

Married filing jointly and both spouses qualify

$25,000

$7,500

Married filing separately and the spouses lived apart for the entire year

$12,500

$3,750

How Do I Claim The Credit for the Elderly or Disabled?

To claim the senior tax credit on your federal taxes, you must complete a Schedule R form with your IRS Form 1040A. The most recent Schedule R can always be located on the Forms and Publications page of the IRS website.

Marriage During The Tax Year

If you’re married by the end of the tax year, you are generally required to file a joint return in order to claim the credit. However, separate returns can be filed if you did not live with your spouse at any time during the tax year. More information on the process of preparing and filing a Schedule R can be found on the IRS website.

Help With Tax Forms

For assistance in preparing Schedule R forms or your tax returns in general, the IRS provides a free tax return preparation program, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). This program is available to qualifying taxpayers. It is particularly available to:

  • People making $58,000 or less per year
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Limited English-speaking taxpayers

People over age 60 who make $58,000 or less can also use the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program.

Under the TCE and VITA programs, IRS-certified volunteers provide assistance with tax preparation and counseling. To find a VITA volunteer near you, see the VITA locator on the IRS website.

State Tax Credits

Certain states also have their own form of older adult tax credits or exemptions that can apply to your state or local tax returns.

California, for example, provides a Senior Head of Household Credit. Massachusetts, and other states, also offer Circuit Breaker Tax Credits to qualifying older adults based on real estate taxes or rent paid during the year.

Additional information on senior tax credits or exemptions that may be available in your state can be located on the website of your state's treasury or revenue agency.

Further Considerations

The federal tax credit for the elderly or disabled only applies to the filer's tax return. It would not apply if the qualifying older adult were listed as a dependent on someone else's tax returns.

However, in some cases, it may be advantageous for older people to be claimed as a dependent. There are other tax benefits that may apply to the filer, including deductions for medical and dental expenses and home care or adult care costs.

For older people to be considered a dependent on another’s tax returns:

  1. The filer must provide over half of the older adult's financial support
  2. The older adult must have lived with the filer for a full calendar year
  3. Other factors like gross income and general IRS dependent rules

Additional Resources

For additional information on tax breaks for older adults, see FindLaw's, "Top Seven Senior Tax Breaks." Also, given the complexity and fluidity of federal and state tax laws, it is important to consult a tax attorney or an accountant to see what federal and state older adult tax credits or deductions may be available to you. To contact a tax attorney near you, see FindLaw’s attorney directory.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified elder law attorney to help you and loved ones plan care and address problems.

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