If you adopted a child last year and requested an extension of time to file your 2011 taxes, you may be able to claim the expanded adoption credit on your federal tax return. The Affordable Care Act temporarily increased the amount of the credit and made it refundable, which means it can increase the amount of your refund.

Here are eight things to know about this valuable tax credit:

  1. The adoption credit for tax year 2011 can be as much as $13,360 for each effort to adopt an eligible child. You may qualify for the credit if you adopted or attempted to adopt a child in 2010 or 2011 and paid qualified expenses relating to the adoption.
  2. You may be able to claim the credit even if the adoption does not become final. If you adopt a special needs child, you may qualify for the full amount of the adoption credit even if you paid few or no adoption-related expenses.
  3. The credit for qualified adoption expenses is subject to income limitations, and may be reduced or eliminated depending on your income.
  4. Qualified adoption expenses are reasonable and necessary expenses directly related to the legal adoption of the child who is under 18 years old, or physically or mentally incapable of caring for himself or herself. These expenses may include adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees and travel expenses.
  5. To claim the credit, you must file a paper tax return and Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses, and attach all supporting documents to your return. Documents may include a final adoption decree, placement agreement from an authorized agency, court documents and the state's determination for special needs children. You can use IRS Free File to prepare your return, but it must be printed and mailed to the IRS. Failure to include required documents will delay your refund.
  6. If you filed your tax returns for 2010 or 2011 and did not claim an allowable adoption credit, you can file an amended return to get a refund. Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, along with Form 8839 and the required documents to claim the credit. You generally must file Form 1040X to claim a refund within three years from the date you filed your original return or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
  7. The IRS is committed to processing adoption credit claims quickly, but must also safeguard against improper claims by ensuring the standards for receiving the credit are met. If your return is selected for review, please keep in mind that it is necessary for the IRS to verify that the legal criteria are met before the credit can be paid. If you are owed a refund beyond the adoption credit, you will still receive that part of your refund while the review is being conducted.
  8. The expanded adoption credit provisions available in 2010 and 2011 do not apply in later years. In 2012 the maximum credit decreases to $12,650 per child and the credit is no longer refundable. A nonrefundable credit can reduce your tax, but any excess is not refunded to you.

For more information see the ‘Adoption Benefits FAQs' page available at IRS.gov or the Form 8839 instructions. The forms and instructions can be downloaded from the website or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

TaxACT Free Federal and Deluxe Editions include step-by-step guidance for claiming the adoption credit through Form 8839. If you need to amend your 2011 tax return, TaxACT Deluxe will help you complete the steps for Form 1040X.

Start a 2011 return, sign in to your 2011 TaxACT Online account, or start your desktop program now.

Links:

  • Adoption Benefits FAQs
  • Instructions for Form 8839 (PDF)
  • Publication 4903, Affordable Care Act Expands Adoption Tax Credit Flyer (PDF)
  • Instructions for Form 1040X (PDF)
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