Bring Home a Tax Credit for Adoption

Copyright 2019

When you adopt a child, you could bring home more than a bundle of joy. You may also be in line for a valuable tax credit.

For 2019, a tax credit of up to $14,080 for adoption of a special needs child can come in handy for qualified parents facing the daunting costs of adoption (up from $13,810 for 2018). For other adoptions the credit is equal to qualified adoption expenses, up to a maximum of $14,080.

Income limit: For 2019, the credit begins to phase out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $211,160 and is eliminated for those with MAGI of $251,160 or more. (This is up from $207,140 and $247,140, respectively, for 2018.)

Experts estimate the entire adoption process can set parents back $25,000 or more. Here are some details of this tax break:

Qualifying expenses. The credit can be used for each child you adopt, in the United States or abroad. To be eligible, the IRS requires the expenses to be "reasonable and necessary" for adoptions of children under age 18. They include court costs, attorney fees and travel expenses.

Some expenses are not eligible. The IRS specifically excludes some outlays, such as those paid for a surrogate parenting arrangement and the costs incurred to adopt your spouse's child. And if you're remarried, you can't claim the credit for adopting the child of your new spouse.

The value of a credit. If you qualify, the adoption credit can reduce your tax liability on a dollar-for-dollar basis. This is much more valuable than a deduction, which only reduces the amount of income subject to tax. The credit is subject to being phased out depending on your adjusted gross income.

Documentation requirements. Eligible taxpayers must attach copies of certain documents such as an adoption order or decree.

Potential double bonus. If you're fortunate enough to have an employer who pays for adoption expenses, some or all of money could be tax-free. You can get the benefits of both the tax credit and the income exclusion for the same child as long as they're not claimed for the same expenses.