8 Tips for Claiming Summer Camp Expenses

Summer camps are a great way to keep the kids busy as well as wrapping up your day care needs if you’re at work during the school break. Though a summer camp may not technically be day care in the normal sense, there are situations where the Internal Revenue Service allows day care deductions for the costs of summer camp. Here are 8 tips for claiming summer camp on your tax return.

Overnight camps don’t qualify for tax breaks

While you may enjoy the break from meal preparation while your child is at a camp in the woods for a week, the IRS doesn’t see this as a work-related day care expense, so you’re out of luck in terms of a tax deduction. However, you’ll still be free from the daily rush to make meals and collect the kids from camp, so don’t forget the intangible benefits that an overnight camp interlude may have on your sanity.

A spouse at home nullifies the tax credit

If one spouse is stay-at-home or currently unemployed, then your family isn’t eligible to claim the child care credit, since the tax classification for the credit is “work related.” If the at-home spouse is unemployed and looking for work, you may be able to claim the credit, but only if they find a job. Also, if the at-home spouse has self-employed earnings during this time, you may be able to claim the child care credit if summer camp coincides with work-at-home duties.

The camp activity doesn’t matter

Some summer day camps are quite specialized, perhaps for a particular sport or other activity. You don’t have to find the cheapest child care available, and there’s no tax advantage for signing up with the most expensive camp either. The best bet here is to match the activity to your child’s interests, since it won’t impact the child care credit as long as you…

Choose a legitimate camp with a tax ID number

Claiming the child care credit means payments are legitimate and with receipts. The camp is listed on your return including tax ID number. You can’t simply declare that Grandma is your day care provider unless she’s legitimately in business doing so.

Camp expenses probably aren’t deductible

Virtually everything you buy for your child to attend camp is a personal expense. This applies even when the expense is required to attend, such as specific sporting equipment. These personal expenses of your child aren’t work-related for you, so they’re not eligible for deduction under the child care credit.

Some preparation expenses may be deductible

Medical expenses such as for participation physicals and immunizations are deductible. These apply to medical expenses  if you itemize deductions on your tax return. With increases to standard deductions taking effect for the 2018 tax year, it’s not likely that summer camp medical expenses will impact most peoples’ tax situation.

Transportation costs aren’t deductible

The IRS expects you to get to work on your own dime. Your child’s transportation costs to get to summer camp are on you too. You can’t include these costs for the child care credit. There’s an exception if the costs are for field trips away from the place where child care is usually provided.

Deposits aren’t deductible if your child doesn’t attend

If you wait until summer to sign up for summer camp, chances are you’ll lose options. The popular camps fill up fast, so you may need to start as early as January. This forces you to be something of a mind reader to predict your summer schedule  in advance. Most camps will refund money you’ve paid if you must cancel, but there’s probably a non-refundable administrative amount. Though your intentions are work-related and in good faith, you still can’t claim that amount as a child care expense.

About Paul Gaulkin CPA

Paul Gaulkin is a Certified Public Accountant and enrolled with the U.S. Treasury to practice before the IRS. Mr. Gaulkin possesses unique technical knowledge in the process of securing relief for taxpayers nationwide with IRS and State tax problems. With an accounting degree from Florida International University, he is able to transform complex tax and accounting problems into easy to understand solutions.

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