Well summer is here – that means the snow has melted, the sun’s out, the kids are out of school and life gets easier, because the family is together, right? In reality, for most working families though, the nightmare has just begun. Not that these hard working moms and dads don’t love their children, but taking time off from work for the next three months is just not an option for most people. Unfortunately, for most parents, with extended families spread across the country, taking off to Grandma’s house for the summer may not be a sound financial option either.

We could leave the kids Home Alone while we are at work, but I’ve had kids myself, and I’ve seen the movie, I know that when kids are left on their own, bad things can and do happen.

So before you cast your kids in a remake of Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, you could try something else, like sending the young’uns to summer camp. “Ah ha! Summer camp, the kids will be out of our hair for the summer, life can be calm again!” But, “Whoa, summer camp is going to cost money. Can I deduct the cost of sending my children to summer camp on my taxes?” The accountant’s answer is, of course, “It Depends.” Ha! Got you on that one!

First off, parents or guardians (the one who claims the child on their tax return) must either be working, a full time student, or disabled. If grandma pays for summer camp, she won’t get any tax benefits. However, if camp is an eligible expense, then the parents can deduct what Grandma paid for.

  1. If your child has a medical condition or is special needs, then special camps CAN be deducted as a medical expense
  2. If your child goes to day camp – you know the ones that act like a day care center, then you can deduct it, as long as the child is 12 or under (for some reason society thinks teens are safe at home alone).
  3. If the kiddos spend the night at camp, like band camp – where your prodigy will finally learn to play the tuba without running everyone out of the house. (or Space Camp, or Sports Camp or Dance camp – just fill in the blank). This isn’t deductible. Unfortunately, spending the night turns it into entertainment and camp no longer qualifies for child care credits. It cannot be deducted on the parents or guardians tax return even if they do work at night.

What about expenses necessary to get your kid into summer camp to start with – things such as physicals, shots or the purchase of new hiking boots and a sleeping bag? Well the physicals and shots are considered medical expenses so they might be deductible, but sorry, no go on the boots or the sleeping bag or any other equipment such as uniforms, hockey sticks or even tubas.

I wish you luck for the summer. It is nice to know you can keep your sanity, and Grandma’s too, by sending them to camp. Just don’t count on writing it off. Drop us an e-mail if you want to know if something is deductible or not. Meanwhile, we are going to look into adult summer camp – if you know of one with white sandy beaches where margaritas are served all day long, let us know – we’ll see if there is a way to write that off.