Regal Blog


Congress Creates Tax-Favored Savings Accounts for Disabled

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 @ 05:01 PM

As part of the larger tax extender legislation passed this month, Congress approved the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 allowing disabled individuals to save money to pay for their disability expenses in tax-favored accounts, called “ABLE” accounts. ABLE authorizes states to create tax-favored accounts for disabled individuals, who became disabled before age 26, similar to Section 529 plans used for college savings. Distributions are tax-free if used to pay for qualified expenses such as medical costs, education, transportation and housing (see full list below). This bill is effective for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2014.

This bill hopes to assist individuals and families in saving to support those with disabilities so they can better maintain health, independence, and quality of life. Its purpose is to provide secure funding to supplement benefits for disability-related expenses provided through private insurance and Medicaid. According to a Wall Street Journal article, ABLE plans will allow people with disabilities to save as much as $100,000 and still qualify for benefits including Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.

Every year, up to $14,000 (adjusted annually for inflation) can be contributed to an ABLE account set up for a specific disabled beneficiary. Anybody can make contributions for a tax year for the benefit of the eligible individual, including relatives and friends. A state’s ABLE program must limit designated beneficiaries to one account and can only allow accounts to be opened for residents of that state.

Contributions are not deductible. The tax advantage comes from the fact that ABLE account earnings are allowed to build up free of any federal income tax liability and tax-free withdrawals can be taken to cover qualified expenses.

These can include expenditures for:

  •      ~  education
  •      ~  housing
  •      ~  transportation
  •      ~  employment training and support
  •      ~  assistive technology
  •      ~  personal support services
  •      ~  health and wellness
  •      ~  financial management and administrative services
  •      ~  legal fees
  •      ~  expenses for oversight and monitoring
  •      ~  funeral and burial expenses

Individuals must file a disability certification with the IRS or meet certain criteria for blindness or disability under the Social Security Act. Contributions must be made in cash. Annual contributions are limited to the amount of the annual gift tax exclusion in effect for that tax year. The cost of establishing an account should be less than either a Special Needs Trust or Pooled Income Trust. One disadvantage seems to be that for those who receive Medicaid, if they die with money in an ABLE account, their estate must repay the state for benefits they received after creating the ABLE account, and this is not the case with a Special Needs Trust unless the beneficiary funded the trust with his or her own earnings or savings. 

The ABLE program must provide separate accounting for each designated beneficiary, and designated beneficiaries and contributors will not be able to direct the investment of contributions or earnings in the account. Distributions from the account will not be included in the designated beneficiary’s gross income so long as they do not exceed the beneficiary’s qualified disability expenses. If they do exceed the beneficiary’s qualified disability expenses: “the amount otherwise includable in gross income will be reduced by an amount bearing the same ratio to that amount as the expenses bear to the distributions”. (Funds in ABLE accounts will be disregarded for purposes of various federal means-tested programs).

Upon the disabled individual’s death, any amount remaining in the ABLE account goes to their estate or designated beneficiary, and the accumulated earnings are taxable. 

Contact Us: Of course, as with most other tax regulations, exceptions and other rules apply. Check with your local CPA and Attorney first, but remember that Regal Home Health and Regal Care Management have team members that work with clients and their legal and/or financial advisers to navigate their insurance, and other benefits applicable, to help seniors and their families better maximize what is available, and the services that can be provided. For more information, please contact Ferial Andre, RN, CCM, CDP, CAEd., at 561-499-8382 or ferialandre@regalcares.com.

 



January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Thursday, January 8, 2015 @ 05:01 PM

Did you know that almost 3 million Americans have Glaucoma, and that although the most common forms of the disease primarily affect Seniors and the elderly, Glaucoma can affect people of all ages? There are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent!

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases* that gradually steal sight without warning. Initial loss of vision is of side or peripheral vision, and the visual acuity or sharpness of vision is maintained until late in the disease. By the time a patient is aware of vision loss, the disease has advanced. Vision loss from glaucoma cannot be reversed either with treatment or surgery.

Understanding the basics of Glaucoma is the first step to protecting your vision. Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.  High-risk groups for glaucoma include people over 60 years of age. Other risk factors include hypertension, use of steroids, smoking, and prior diagnosis of a family member, as well as nearsightedness. Experts say 40% of vision can be lost without a person even noticing, which is why it is so important for Seniors and your elder loved ones to have regular eye exams and tests for Glaucoma, including eye dilation.

Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of this disease for which there is no cure yet, but medication or surgery can slow down or prevent further vision loss. Treatment might include drugs, drops, and/or surgery depending upon the type of Glaucoma as well as other factors.

To be safe, a comprehensive Glaucoma exam should be administered every year to anyone 65 years  or older and five factors* should be checked before making a glaucoma diagnosis. Click here or the link below to read more about what needs to be tested: http://www.glaucoma.org/glaucoma/diagnostic-tests.php

With an aging population, especially here in South Florida, an increase in the incidence of blindness is coming if we don’t raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to prevent vision loss. Additional information and resources can be found here: http://www.preventblindness.org.

Contact Us: Regal can assist whether you need help in getting yourself or an elderly family member to the eye doctor, coordinating medications, or providing care for those who are vision impaired. Contact Ferial Andre, RN, CCM, CDP, at 561-499-8382 or ferialandre@regalcares.com.