I would like to fly my elderly parents
across the country next month for my daughter’s wedding
but have some concerns about the flight. My mom has
trouble walking long distances and my dad has COPD and
needs an oxygen tank. What airport or airline services
are available to help old passengers?
A: Flying can be physically exhausting for anyone,
but for seniors with health issues or physical
limitations it can be extremely challenging. Here are a
few tips that can help.
Booking the flight
When you go to book your parents’ flight, this is the
time to make special requests that can help make the
trip easier for them. You’ll need to make these requests
over the phone.
For example, you may want to inquire about seats in the
front of the plane for easier access or bulkhead seats
that provides extra leg room, and you should probably
request a wheelchair or two with attendant(s) to
maneuver your parents through the airports they will be
departing from and arriving to, and if there’s a
connecting flight in between.
If your parents don’t want a wheelchair, but want some
help, ask about electric carts.
You also need to check with the airline regarding their
policy for portable oxygen concentrators for your dad.
Some airlines require specific medical forms that will
need to be signed by his doctor.
If your parents are flying on their own, you should know
that airlines allow elderly fliers to be escorted to and
from the gate by a non-traveling companion, as long as
the escort provides his or her full name, birth date and
government issued ID. If no one is available to help
your parents, find out how the airline can assist them.
Delta Airlines, for example, can have an employee help
your parents through check-in with 48 hours notice, and
American Airlines provides special assistance to
passengers with disabilities.
Or, consider hiring an independent company like Royal
Airport Concierge Services, who will meet your parents
at the curb to help them check their bags and escort
them to security. They typically charge $150 to $250 and
serve dozens of airports across the U.S.
There are also a number of traveling companion services
Preferred-TravelHelpers.com that will do everything,
including making the travel arrangements, accompanying
your parents on the trip, and facilitating their needs
along the way. Fees vary, depending on what’s needed and
Going through security
All U.S. airports offer expedited screening to
passengers 75 and older that allows them to move through
security without removing their shoes or jacket, and
many airports have lanes specifically for use by
passengers with disabilities and medical conditions so
they don’t have to wait in line. They should ask about
these when they check in.
If your parents are packing medications in a carryon
bag, they should know that their pills or liquid
medications do not have to be packed in their
prescription containers to get through airport security,
but they will need to separate them from their other
belongings so they can be screened. Liquid medications
in excess of 3.4 ounces will require separate screening.
For more information on other airport security screening
policies and procedures visit
tsa.gov/traveler- information, or call TSA Cares at
855-787-2227 where you can ask specific questions.
Boarding and deboarding
When it’s time to board, your parents can take advantage
of the airline’s pre-boarding option for elderly
passengers who need some extra time to get on the plane
and get settled. And for getting off the plane, they can
wait for the other passengers to debark so attendants
can assist them with carry-ons and escort them from the
New rules in effect for reverse mortgages in 2014
April 16, 2014
Q: What can you tell me about
reverse mortgages? I was considering one last year, but
now I hear they are more difficult to get.
A: That’s correct.
Tighter rules on reverse mortgages that have recently
gone into effect have made them harder to get,
especially for seniors with heavy debt problems.
The reason the Federal Housing Administration made these
changes was to strengthen the product, which has
suffered from a struggling housing market and a growing
number of defaults by borrowers.
Here’s a rundown of how reverse mortgages now work in
Overview: The basics are still the same. A
reverse mortgage is a loan that allows senior homeowners
to borrow money against the equity in their house.
The loan doesn’t have to be repaid until the homeowner
dies, sells the house or moves out for at least 12
months. It’s also important to know that with a reverse
mortgage, you, not the bank, own the house, so you’re
still responsible for property taxes, insurance and
Eligibility: To be eligible for a reverse
mortgage you must be at least 62 years old, own your own
home (or owe only a small balance) and currently be
living there. You will also need to undergo a financial
assessment to determine whether you can afford to make
all the necessary tax and insurance payments over the
projected life of the loan.
Lenders will look at your sources of income, assets and
credit history. Depending on your financial situation,
you may be required to put part of your loan into an
escrow account to pay future bills.
If the financial assessment finds that you cannot pay
your insurance and taxes and have enough cash left to
live on, you will be denied.
Loans: Nearly all reverse mortgages offered today
are home equity conversion mortgages, which are FHA
insured and offered through private mortgage lenders and
banks. HECMs also have home value limits that vary by
county, but cannot exceed $625,500. See
hud.gov/ll/code/llslcrit.cfm for a list of Housing
and Urban Developmentapproved lenders.
Loan amounts: The amount you get through a
reverse mortgage depends on your age, your home’s value
and the prevailing interest rates. Generally, the older
you are, the more your house is worth, and the lower the
interest rates are, the more you can borrow. A
70-year-old, for example, with a home worth $300,000
could borrow around $170,000 with a fixed-rate HECM. To
calculate how much you can borrow, visit
Loan costs: Reverse mortgages have a number of
upfront fees including a 2 percent lender origination
fee for the first $200,000 of the home’s value and 1
percent of the remaining value, with a cap of $6,000; a
0.5 percent initial mortgage insurance premium fee;
along with an appraisal fee, closing costs and other
miscellaneous expenses. Most fees can be deducted for
the loan amount to reduce your out-of-pocket cost at
In addition, you’ll also have to pay an annual mortgage
insurance premium of 1.25 percent of the loan amount.
Payment options: You can receive the money in a
lump sum, a line of credit, regular monthly checks or a
combination of these. But in most cases, you cannot
withdraw more than 60 percent of the loan during the
first year. If you do, you’ll pay a 2.5 percent upfront
insurance premium fee.
Counseling: All borrowers are required to get
face-to-face or telephone counseling through a
HUDapproved independent counseling agency before taking
out a reverse mortgage.
Some agencies are awarded grants that enable them to
offer counseling for free, but most charge around $125
to $250. To locate a counseling agency near you, visit
hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/he cm/hecmhome.cfm or call
NEXT TUESDAY: Elderly parents want to travel to
daughter’s wedding. What airport or airline services are
Help for the hard of hearing
April 8, 2014
Q: What types of amplification
products can you recommend to help people with hearing
impairment? My 62-year-old husband has some hearing
issues, but doesn’t think he needs a hearing aid, so I’m
looking for some alternative devices that can help.
A: If your husband is reluctant to get a hearing
aid, there are dozens of “personal sound amplification
products” that can help him hear better at a lower cost
than most hearing aids, which can run up to $3,000 each.
PSAPs are over-thecounter electronic products (they are
not Food and Drug Administration approved medical
devices like hearing aids) that come in many different
shapes and sizes that will give your husband the ability
to adjust the volume and tone so he can hear better in
It’s also important to know that PSAPs work best for
people with mild to moderate hearing impairment, you
don’t need a prescription to buy them, and they usually
aren’t covered by insurance or Medicare.
Before you look into PSAPs, your husband should probably
get tested by an audiologist who can rule out any
medical issues that could be affecting his hearing like
excessive ear wax, an infection, abnormal bone growth or
Audiologists are also familiar with the different PSAPs
and can help your husband choose the best products to
meet his needs, or let him know if a hearing aid would
be a better option.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the different PSAPs that
TV and telephone amplifiers: To hear the
television better, there are a number of TV listening
devices on the market that will let your husband
increase the volume and adjust the tone to meet his
needs, without blasting out you or the rest of the
The best options available today are wireless infrared
or radio frequency systems that come with standard or
stethoset headphones. Sennheiser (sennheiser.com,
877-736-6434) makes some of the best TV listening
products sold today with prices running between $250 and
If hearing over the telephone is a problem, a handset or
in-line amplifier can be added to your phone for a few
dollars, or you can purchase an amplified telephone.
Most amplified phones allow you to adjust the volume and
tone for better clarity and they usually come with extra
loud ringers and flashing ring indicators to alert you
when a call is coming in.
Some top makers of these products are Clarity (clarityproducts.
com, 800-426-3738), ClearSounds (clearsounds. com,
800-965-9043) and Serene Innovations (sereneinnovations.com,
866-376-9271), with prices ranging anywhere from $30 up
to around $300. Or, see if your state has a specialized
telecommunications equipment program (see
tedpa.org), which provides amplified telephones for
Personal sound amplifiers: For better hearing in
noisy environments, your husband should get a personal
sound amplifier that’s designed to amplify hard-tohear
sounds (like voices), while reducing background noise.
Able Planet (ableplanet. com, 877-266-1979) offers two
excellent products that fit the bill that are worn
either in-ear or behind the ear, and run $475 or $500
for one, or $850 or $900 a pair.
To help improve hearing at home or in quieter settings,
or if your husband has high-frequency hearing loss,
check out the Bean Quiet Sound Amplifier by Etymoyic (qsabean.com,
888-389-6684). This product, which is worn in the ear,
provides amplification to high frequencies more than low
ones, making speech easier to hear and understand. Cost:
$700 a pair or $375 for one.
If these are too pricy, there are also a number of small
hand-held amplifiers that come with a small microphone
and ear buds that can increase volume without all the
other features. These products typically run around $100
or less, and are available through companies like Sonic
Technology Products (sonictechnology.com,
800-247-5548), Sonic Alert (sonicalert. com,
800-566-3210) and Harris Communications (harriscomm.com,
NEXT TUESDAY: How do reverse mortgages work in 2014?
Medicare information is available through many
April 1, 2014
Where can I get help with my Medicare decisions? I’m
approaching 65, and could use some help sorting through
the different Medicare plan options that are available
A: The options and choices available to Medicare
beneficiaries today can be overwhelming. In addition to
original Medicare (Part A and B) that has been around
for 49 years, you also have the option of enrolling in a
Part D prescription drug plan, and a supplemental (Medigap)
policy – both of which are sold by private insurance
companies. Or, a Medicare Advantage plan which covers
health care, prescription drugs and extra services all
in one. These plans, which are also sold by private
insurers, are generally available through HMOs and PPOs.
To help you figure out the Medicare plans for you, there
are a variety of services and tools available today
depending on how much help you need. Here are several to
get you started.
A good starting point to get familiar with Medicare is
the “Medicare & You” 2014 handbook that overviews the
program and your options. You can read it online at
medicare.gov/pubs/pdf/1005 0.pdf, or you should
receive a free copy in the mail one month before your
The Medicare website also offers a free “plan finder”
medicare.gov/find-aplan that can help you find and
compare health plans, supplemental policies and
prescription drug plans in your area. Or, if you don’t
have Internet access, or don’t feel confident in working
through the information on your own, you can also call
Medicare at 800-633-4227 and a customer service
representative will do the work for you over the phone.
Other free resources that can help include
www.ehealthmedicare.com, two websites developed by
eHealth Insurance that will compare Part D, Advantage
and supplemental plans in your area and connect you to a
licensed insurance agent.
In addition, the Medicare Rights Center (www.medicarerights.org)
staffs a hotline at 800-333-4114 to help answer your
And your state health insurance assistance program
provides free Medicare counseling in person or over the
phone. To find a local SHIP counselor see
www.shiptalk.org, or call the Eldercare Locator at
And, for tips on choosing a top Medicare Advantage plan,
see the HealthMetrix Research Cost Share Report at
www.medicarenewswatch.com. This resource lists the
best Advantage plans by area based on your health
If the free services don’t cut
the mustard and you need some additional help in making
your Medicare decisions, there are a handful of
fee-based companies that are very helpful.
One of the best is Allsup Inc. (ama.allsup.com,
866-521-7655), which offers a Medicare adviser service
that takes your personal information online or over the
phone, such as the prescription drugs you take and the
doctors you use, and provides you customized advice on
the best Medicare plans that match your needs and
budget. They’ll even help you enroll in the plan(s) you
select. Fees for their services range between $200 and
$495 depending on how much help you need.
Another option is Healthcare Navigation (www.healthcarenavigation.com,
877-811-8211), which charges $750 for a 90minute
comprehensive Medicare consultation.
Another way to get help with your Medicare enrollment is
to consult an independent insurance agent. Agents
typically get paid a commission to sell you a policy,
although they offer plans from a number of providers.
The Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America
have a directory on their website (see
independentagent.com/contactus) that lets you search
for agents in your area. But keep in mind that agents
typically specialize in the Medicare plans they
represent, rather than all the plans in your market.
NEXT TUESDAY: Personal sound amplification products
can help seniors hear better.
Health strategies can reduce risk of getting Alzheimer’s
March 18, 2014
Are there any proven strategies to
preventing dementia? My 80-year-old mother has
Alzheimer’s, which has me wondering if there is anything
I can do to protect myself.
A: While there’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s
disease, new research indicates that there are a number
of healthy lifestyle strategies that can help most
people reduce the risk of getting it.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the key
factors that increase the risk of getting Alzheimer’s
are advanced age, family history and heredity, but
research shows that our general health plays a factor
While we can’t do much about our age, family or genes,
we do have control over how we treat our body and brain.
Some medical experts even estimate that by following
these healthy tips now in middle age, you can actually
reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as
50 percent, or at least delay its onset by a few years.
Here are the recommended strategies.
Manage health problems: Studies have consistently
shown that Alzheimer’s disease is closely related to
conditions, like diabetes and heart disease. So, if you
have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes
you need to treat them with lifestyle changes and
medication (if necessary) and get them under control.
Left untreated, these diseases over time will cause
damage to the vessels that feed blood to the brain,
making them more vulnerable to damage, and increasing
your risk of dementia.
Exercise: Aerobic exercise increases blood flow
to all parts of your body, including your brain, to keep
the brain cells well nourished. So choose an aerobic
activity you enjoy like walking, cycling, dancing,
swimming, etc., that elevates your heart rate and do it
for at least 30 to 40 minutes three times a week.
Eat healthy: A heart-healthy diet, like the
Mediterranean diet, will also help protect the brain.
A Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat
and emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish
and shellfish, and nuts, olive oil and other healthy
fats. Also keep processed foods and sweets to a minimum.
Sleep well: Quality, restful sleep contributes to
brain health too. Typically, adults should get between
seven and nine hours of sleep daily. If you have
persistent problems sleeping, you need to identify and
address the problem. Medications, late-night exercise
and alcohol can interfere with sleep quality and length,
as can arthritis pain, sleep apnea and restless leg
If you need help, make an appointment with a sleep
specialist (see sleepeducation.com) who will probably
recommend an overnight diagnostic sleep test.
Challenge your brain:
Research shows that mind challenging activities can help
improve memory, slow age-related mental decline and even
build a stronger brain.
But, be aware that mind challenging activities consist
of things you aren’t accustomed to doing. In other
words, crossword puzzles aren’t enough to challenge your
brain, if you’re already a regular puzzle doer. Instead,
you need to pick up a new skill like learning to dance,
play a musical instrument, study a new language or do
math problems – something that’s challenging and a
little outside your comfort zone.
Brain-training websites like
BrainHQ.com are excellent mind-exercising tools
because they continually adapt to your skill level to
keep you challenged.
Socializing and interacting with other people is another
important way to stimulate the brain. So make a point to
reach out and stay connected to friends, family and
neighbors. Join a club, take a class or even volunteer –
anything that enhances your social life.
Reduce stress: Some stress is good for the brain,
but too much can be toxic.
There’s growing evidence that things like mindfulness
meditation, yoga and tai chi are all good ways to help
For more tips, call the National Institute on Aging at
800-222-2225 and order a free copy of their booklet
“Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: What Do We Know?”
Automobile aids can help elderly drivers keep driving
March 11, 2014
Can you recommend any products that can help older
drivers with their vehicles? My 84-year-old mother is
still a pretty good driver, but she has arthritis, which
limits her range of motion and hinders her driving.
A: To help keep older drivers safe and extend their
driving years, there are a number of affordable products
you can purchase today that can easily be added to your
mom’s vehicle to help with many different needs. Here
are several to consider.
Entry and exit
If your mom’s limited range of motion is hampering her
ability to get into and out of her vehicle, consider
these products: Standers metro car handle: This
is a small portable support handle that inserts into the
U-shaped striker plate on the door frame that helps with
getting out of a car.
Car caddie: This is a nylon strap handle that
hooks around the top of the door window frame for entry
and exiting help.
Swivel seat cushion: A round portable cushion
that turns 360 degrees to help drivers and passengers
rotate their body into and out of their vehicle.
If your mom has a difficult time looking over her
shoulder to backup or merge into traffic, or struggles
with sensitivity to glare, these products can help.
Allview mirror: This is an oversized rear view
mirror that attaches to the existing rearview mirror to
widen her rear visibility and eliminate blind spots so
your mom can see traffic without significant neck or
body rotation. It also helps during parking.
Blind spot mirrors:
These are small convex mirrors that stick to the corner
of the side view mirrors to improve side and rear
Backup camera: To eliminate blind spots and avoid
turning around when backing up, this device (which costs
around $100) comes with a wireless night vision camera
that attaches to the license plate and a small monitor
that mounts to the dash or windshield.
Sun zapper glare shield:
This plastic tinted visor clips on to the existing sun
visor to remove sun glare without obstructing vision.
It also has a special sliding shield that lets you block
extra bright glare spots.
If your mom’s arthritis makes turning the ignition key,
twisting open the gas cap, or gripping the steering
wheel difficult and painful, consider these devices:
Key turner: This is a small plastic handle that
attaches to the car keys to provide additional leverage
making it easier to turn the key in the ignition or
Gas cap removal tool:
To help at the pump this long-handled device works like
a wrench to make loosening and tightening the gas cap
much easier and it fits most gas caps.
Steering wheel cover: It fits over the steering
wheel to make it larger in size and easier to grip.
If your mom has shrunk a little over the years to the
point she needs help seeing over the steering wheel or
reaching the pedals, consider a “wedge seat cushion,”
which is an orthopedic cushion that supports the back
and elevates her a few inches. Or, “foot pedal
summiteasy.com) that allow her to reach the pedals
while keeping her 10 to 12 inches from the steering
Seat belt aids
The easy reach seat belt handle is a six-inch rubber
extension handle that attaches to the seat belt strap to
make it easier to reach for seniors with mobility loss.
And a “seat belt shoulder pad” that fits around the
shoulder strap protects the neck and shoulder from
rubbing and chafing.
Where to buy
All of these items (except the pedal extensions and
backup camera) cost under $50, and can be found online
amazon.com. Type the product name in the search bar
to get a variety of options.
Seniors can protect themselves from annoying robocall
Is there anything that can be done to stop the annoying
robocalls my husband and I keep getting? It seems like
we get two or three a day offering lower credit card
interest rates, medical alert devices, home alarm
systems and more.
What can you recommend?
A: There’s been a huge spike in robocall scams in
the U.S. over the past few years. In fact, the Federal
Trade Commission gets more then 200,000 complaints every
month about this widespread problem.
Here’s what you should know, along with some tips that
can help you protect yourself.
Whenever you answer the phone and hear a recorded
message instead of a live person, it’s a robocall.
You’ve probably gotten robocalls about candidates
running for office, or charities asking for donations.
These robocalls are legal and allowed. But if the
recording is a sales message and you haven’t given your
written permission to get calls from the company on the
other end, the call is illegal. In addition to the phone
calls being illegal, their pitch most likely is a scam.
Some common robocall scams that are making the rounds
these days are offering lower credit card interest
rates, mortgage relief, free vacations, medical alert
devices or home security systems, or they falsely notify
you about changes in your health benefits or bank
account. But be aware that new scams are constantly
evolving, and they all have only one goal in mind – to
get your personal and financial information.
The reason for the spike in robocalls is technology.
Fraudulent robocallers are using autodialers that can
send out thousands of phone calls every minute for an
incredibly low cost, and are very difficult to trace.
When these kinds of calls come in, your caller ID
usually displays “spoofed” (fake) numbers, or just says
Your first step to limiting at least some unwanted calls
is to make sure your phone number is registered with the
National Do Not Call Registry (see donotcall. gov or
call 888-3821222). This, however, will not stop
telemarketing scams or illegal robocalls.
Another tip, if you have a caller ID, is to simply not
answer the phone unless you recognize the number.
But if you do answer and it’s a robocall, you should
just hang up the phone.
Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator and don’t
press any other number to complain about the call or get
your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any
number, you’re signaling that the autodialer has reached
a live number and will probably lead to more robocalls.
You should also consider contacting your phone provider
to ask them to block the number, and whether they charge
for that service. But keep in mind that telemarketers
change caller ID information easily and often, so it
might not be worth paying a fee to block a number that
Another call-blocking option you should check into is
Nomorobo. This is a free new service and works only for
people who have an Internet-based VoIP phone service.
Anyone with phone service from Comcast and Time Warner
Cable can use it too. Nomorobo uses a “simultaneous
ring” service that detects and blocks robocalls on a
black list of known offender numbers. It isn’t 100
percent foolproof, but it is an extra layer of
protection. To sign up, or see if Nomorobo works with
your phone service provider, visit
It’s also important that you report illegal robocalls
you receive to the FTC at
ftccomplaintassistant.gov or call 888-382-1222.
NEXT TUESDAY: Automobile aids that can help
Resources are available for caregivers to ease with
Feb. 25, 2014
What resources do you recommend that offer help to
caregivers? I’ve been taking care of my 82-year-old
mother, and it’s wearing me to a frazzle.
Filing federal taxes depends on gross income, age
Jan. 28, 2014
A: Taking care of an elder loved one over a period
of time can be incredibly taxing, both physically and
mentally. Fortunately, there are a number of tips and
services you can turn to that can help lighten the load.
Here are several to consider.
Assemble a care team: A good first step is to put
together a network of people (family, friends and even
neighbors) that you can call on to help out when you
can’t be there or need a break.
Tap local services: Most communities offer a
range of free or subsidized services that help seniors
and caregivers by providing things like home-delivered
meals, transportation, senior companion services and
more. Also, look into respite services (see
respitelocator.org) that can provide short-term care
to your mom so you can take some time off. Your Area
Agency on Aging (call 800-677-1116 for contact
information) can refer you to services available in your
Use financial aids: If you’re handling your mom’s
financial chores, make things easier by arranging direct
deposit for her income sources, and set up automatic
payments for her utilities and other routine bills.
If you need help, hire a professional daily money
877-326-5991) who can come in once or twice a month to
pay bills, make deposits, decipher health insurance
statements and balance her checkbook. They charge $25 to
$100 per hour. Or, if your mom is low-income, a similar
service is offered by AARP (aarpmmp.org)
in select communities for free.
Benefitscheckup.org is another excellent resource
you should use to look for financial assistance programs
for lower-income seniors.
Get insurance help: If you have questions about
Medicare, Medicaid or longterm care, your State Health
Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is a great resource
that provides free counseling on all these issues. Call
800-633-4227 or visit
shiptalk.org to locate a nearby counselor.
You can also get help online at
and through the Medicare Rights Center, which staffs a
hotline at 800-333-4114 to help answer questions.
Use technology: If your mom lives alone, consider
renting her a medical alert device, which is a small
pendent-style “SOS” button that she wears, that would
allow her to call for help if she falls. These are
available through companies like
lifefone.com for about $1 per day. Or, check out
home monitoring systems at
There are also a number of great websites you can draw
on for caregiving information and support like
caring.com, along with
alzheimers.gov and thiscaringhome. org for
caregivers of dementia patients. And, if you’re sharing
care responsibilities with others, sites like
caringbridge.org can help you coordinate together.
Hire help: Depending on your mom’s needs and
budget, you may want to hire a part-time “home care
aide” that can help with things like preparing meals,
doing laundry, bathing or dressing, or if she needs
health care services, a “home health aid.” Costs can run
anywhere from $12 up to $40 per hour depending on where
you live and the qualification of the aide. To find
someone, ask for referrals through friends, doctor’s
offices or hospital discharge planners, or visit
If you need additional guidance, consider hiring a
geriatric care manager (caremanager.org)
who can help you manage and facilitate your mom’s care.
Care managers generally charge between $100 and $200 per
NEXT TUESDAY: How can seniors
guard against robocall scams?
Q: What are the IRS income tax filing
requirements for seniors this tax season? My income
dropped way down when I retired last year, so I’m
wondering if I need to even file a tax return this year.
Whether or not you are required to file a federal income
tax return this year depends on your gross income, as
well as your filing status and age. Your gross income
includes all the income you receive that is not exempt
from tax, not including Social Security benefits, unless
you are married and filing separately.
a detailed breakdown on federal filing requirements,
along with information on taxable and nontaxable income,
call the IRS at 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail you a
free copy of the “Tax Guide for Seniors” (publication
554), or see
meantime, here’s a rundown of the IRS filing
requirements for this tax season. If your gross income
from 2013 was lower than the amount listed in your
filing status, you probably won’t have to file. But if
it’s over, you will.
Single: $10,000 ($11,500 if you’re 65 or older by Jan.
Married filing jointly: $20,000 ($21,200 if you or your
spouse is 65 or older; or $22,400 if you’re both over
Married filing separately: $3,900 at any age.
Head of household: $12,850 ($14,350 if age 65 or older).
Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child: $16,100
($17,300 if age 65 or older).
aware that there are some special financial situations
that require you to file a tax return, even if your
gross income falls below the IRS filing requirement. For
example, if you had net earnings from self-employment in
2013 of $400 or more, or if you owe any special taxes to
the IRS such as alternative minimum tax or IRA tax
penalties, you’ll probably need to file.
figure this out, the IRS offers a resource on their
website called “Do I Need to File a Tax Return?” that
asks a series of questions that will help you determine
if you’re required to file, or if you should file
because you’re due a refund. You can access this page at
or you can get assistance over the phone by calling the
IRS help line at 800-829-1040. You can also get
face-to-face help at a Taxpayer Assistance Center. See
www.irs.gov/localcontacts or call 800-829-1040
to locate a center near you.
Check your state
if you’re not required to file a federal tax return this
year, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re also excused
from filing state income taxes. Check with your state
tax agency before concluding that you’re entirely in the
clear. For links to state and local tax agencies see
- click on “State Agencies/Links” on the menu bar.
Tax prep assistance
find that you do need to file a tax return this year,
you can get help through the Tax Counseling for the
Elderly (or TCE) program. Sponsored by the IRS, TEC
provides free tax preparation and counseling to middle
and low-income taxpayers, age 60 and older. Call
800-906-9887 to locate a service near you.
check with AARP, a participant in the TCE program that
provides free tax preparation at more than 5,000 sites
nationwide. To locate an AARP Tax-Aid site call
888-227-7669 or visit
You don’t have to be an AARP member to use this service.
NEXT TUESDAY: What resources are available to help