Adoption Tax Credit 2021

The U.S. tax code presently allows adoptive families a tax related benefit for any and all qualifying costs and fees incurred in pursuing an adoption.   The IRS allows a fairly broad definition of allowed costs and fees such that in most cases, any and all fees and costs paid to an adoption agency, an attorney, costs paid to or for a birth parent, medical costs and related services, are most often allowed and included in the calculation of the tax credit amount.  A tax credit is deducted from the bottom line tax that is owed, so for most families, it means getting cash back in the form of a tax refund on a dollar for dollar basis of the amount allowed.  The dollar amount allowed under this law changes each year and it is currently set at $14,660 per child for 2021 (it was $14,300 in 2020).  The tax credit begins to phase out for those families whose modified adjusted gross income for the applicable tax year is in excess of $216,660 and is completely phased out for families with modified adjusted gross income of $256,660 or more (these income numbers are increasing each year as well).  No tax credit benefit is allowed for families with a modified adjusted gross income level above $256,660 for 2021. The adoption of a “special needs” child qualifies for the full tax credit amount for each child without having to show the payment of any costs or expenses.  This tax credit is most often allowed in the year the adoption is finalized.  See the examples below for some new changes to the Adoption Tax credit.

Tax law changes include some important changes to the federal Adoption Tax Credit in recent years.

  • A qualifying adoption is eligible for the adoption tax credit amount of $14,660 per child in 2021
  • The adoption tax credit is not a “refundable” credit.  You can only receive the benefit of the adoption tax credit to the extent that the credit zeroes out your tax liability.   Any unused amount must be “carried over” to the next tax year to be applied to reduce your tax liability in the next year.
  • Some children adopted through state foster care systems are deemed to be a child with “special needs” and therefore, the full $14,660 per child tax credit is permissible – even where the state subsidized the adoption – if all 3 of the following statements are true:
    1. The child was a citizen or resident of the United States at the time the adoption process began.
    2. A state (including the District of Columbia) has determined that the child cannot or should not be returned to his or her parents’ home.
    3. The state has determined that the child will not be adopted unless assistance is provided to the adoptive parents. Factors used by states to make this determination include:
      1. The child’s ethnic background and age;
      2. Whether the child is a member of a minority or sibling group; or
      3. Whether the child has a medical condition or a physical, mental, or emotional handicap.
  • If a child was not adopted from state foster care and does not receive a state adoption subsidy, it is commonly believed that as the state has not determined that the child has “special needs”, and the adoptive family is not likely able to take the full limit amount of the adoption tax credit.  Rather, the adoptive family can take the adoption tax credit for those documented actual expenses paid for the cost of the adoption.

Examples of the Adoption Tax Credit In Action

Basic Scenario, no Adoption Tax Credit
Family Adjusted Gross Income$100,000
Income Tax Withholdings$20,000
Tax Owing (from Tax Tables)($19,000)
Expected Refund from IRS$1,000

 

Same As Above, with Adoption Tax Credit (No Special Needs)
Family Adjusted Gross Income$100,000
Income Tax Withholdings$20,000
Tax Owing (from Tax Tables)($19,000)
Allowed Adoption Tax Credit$8,500Allowed amount equal to actual cost paid to complete the adoption – Homestudy, attorney fees, birth parent expenses, up to $14,660
Reduced Tax Owing($10,500)The allowed amount is subtracted dollar for dollar from tax owed
Expected Refund from IRS$9,500

 

Same As Above, with Adoption Tax Credit (From State Foster Care System, Deemed A Special Needs Child)
Family Adjusted Gross Income$100,000
Income Tax Withholdings$20,000
Tax Owing (from Tax Tables)($19,000)
Allowed Adoption Tax Credit$14,660Total Allowed Amount, even if there were no actual costs paid by the adoptive family
Reduced Tax Owing($4,340)The allowed amount is subtracted dollar for dollar from tax owed
Expected Refund from IRS$15,660

 

The adoption tax credit reduces the tax owing and the balance is paid to the family as a tax refund from IRS – the refund figure will vary of course depending on how much withholding for taxes was taken from wages or paid to the IRS as estimated tax over the course of the year. Check with your accountant or call our office for more details regarding the specific application of this tax benefit in your case.

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