Adoption of U.S. children who have been determined by a state to have special needs
In the case of an adoption of a U.S. child that a state has determined has special needs, you may be eligible for the maximum amount of credit or exclusion for the year of finality, even if you paid no qualified adoption expenses. A child is considered to have special needs for purposes of the adoption credit if all of the following conditions are met:
◦The child was a U.S. citizen or resident when the adoption effort began; ◦A state determines that the child cannot or should not be returned to his or her parent's home; and ◦A state determines that the child probably will not be adopted unless assistance is provided to the adoptive family.
The definition of "children with special needs" for purposes of the adoption credit is narrower than the definitions of "children with special needs" for other purposes. For purposes of the adoption credit, foreign children are not considered special needs. Additionally, many U.S. children who have disabilities are not considered special needs for the purposes of the adoption credit. Generally, special needs adoptions are the adoptions of children whom the state's child welfare agency considers difficult to place for adoption.
There are five filing statuses:
◦Single ◦Married filing jointly ◦Married filing separately ◦Head of household, and ◦Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child
If you file a return as single or as a qualifying widow(er) with dependent child, you are eligible to claim the adoption credit or the exclusion. Generally, if you are married, you must file a joint return to claim the adoption credit or exclusion. However, a married individual who is considered to be unmarried for tax purposes, as well as a single individual, may be eligible to file as head of household under some circumstances. If you file as head of household, you are eligible to claim the adoption credit or the exclusion. For more information on filing status, see Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deductions, and Filing Information.
If your filing status is married filing separately in the year when particular qualified adoption expenses are first allowable, you are ineligible to claim the credit or exclusion for the particular expenses. In order to claim the credit or exclusion, you may need to amend your return to change your filing status to "married filing jointly" within the period of limitations. Example 5 illustrates this rule.
Example 5. Husband and wife pay qualified adoption expenses of $3,000 in 2011, $4,000 in 2012, and $5,000 in 2013 in connection with a domestic adoption. In 2013, the adoption becomes final. Husband and wife file their 2011 and 2012 returns using the married filing separately filing status, but change their filing status to married filing jointly when filing their 2013 return.
Husband and wife’s filing status for 2011 is irrelevant for purposes of the adoption credit because the $3,000 of qualified adoption expenses that they paid in 2011 are not first allowable until 2012. But because husband and wife’s filing status for 2012 is married filing separately, they cannot claim the $3,000 of qualified adoption expenses that they paid in 2011. However, the $9,000 of qualified adoption expenses first allowable in 2013 ($4,000 paid in 2012, plus $5,000 paid in 2013) can be claimed on the 2013 tax return because husband and wife’s filing status for 2013 is married filing jointly.
Form 8839 and instructions
To claim the credit or exclusion, complete Form 8839 (PDF), Qualified Adoption Expenses, and attach the form to your Form 1040 (PDF) or Form 1040NR (PDF).
There is no longer a requirement to attach the adoption documentation with your tax return. However, documentation must be kept as part of your records.
The IRS encourages taxpayers to e-file their Federal income tax returns. The 2013 Form 8839 can be e-filed. Consequently, taxpayers who e-file their tax returns do not need to print and mail completed forms to the IRS.