At 62, Lori Colucci, of Williamsburg, didn’t expect to be measuring dosages of medicine and ferrying a friend to multiple doctors’ appointments.
But as she became more of a caregiver—helping her friend and neighbor work around his memory lapses, making sure he takes his heart medicine on time and getting him to appointments—that meant less time for her interior design clients.
She’s the sort of person advocates believe would be helped by a state tax credit for family caregiving, an idea that will come before the Virginia General Assembly when the session begins on Jan. 8.
“I didn’t realize how much responsibility is involved in caregiving. It's incredible how much time it takes,” Colucci said. “If it’s not put on a nurse, it’s put on a family member.”
Caregivers could save on their Virginia income taxes to cover out-of-pocket expenses like adult diapers, home modifications, respite care, home health care aides and transportation to medical appointments.
Under the proposal, they could receive a credit for 50 percent of the cost of such expenses, up to $1,000 per year. Those with incomes over $75,000 ($150,000 for couples) or who don’t owe state taxes would not qualify for the credit.
As an interior designer, Colucci has many older clients who ask for more accessible features, such as walk-in showers or taller toilets. Family members often bear those costs.
Relief in sight
Del. Luke Torian (D-Woodbridge) has been pushing family caregiver tax credits and will reintroduce a bill this year. The measure could cost $20 million annually, but more than 1 million family caregivers are providing an estimated $11 billion in long-term services and support every year, said Natalie Snider, AARP Virginia advocacy director. “We should at least give them a tax break.”
The bill doesn’t go far enough, Colucci said, because she loses a lot of work time and income. Many caregivers have to give up their jobs entirely, she noted.
“One thousand dollars is a start,” Colucci said. And it raises awareness of the crucial role that caregivers play, she added.
The Family Caregiver Income Tax Credit is a top priority for this session for AARP Virginia, which is also urging a “work and save” program that lets people put away money for retirement through payroll deduction.
In addition, AARP is building support for efforts such as prescription drug price reform and funding to beef up staffing for the state’s long-term care ombudsman, who helps advocate for residents of facilities like nursing homes.
Caregiving aid draws strong bipartisan support, especially since many legislators are family caregivers themselves.
On average, those caregivers spend about $7,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses, according to a recent AARP report. The tax break, Snider said, means more than just money for caregivers.
“Feeling like they matter goes a long way,” she said.
Tamara Lytle is a writer living in Vienna, Virginia.
This story is provided by AARP Virginia. Visit the AARP Virginia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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