Understanding the Legally Blind IRS Definition: What You Need to Know

  • Billy Cobb
  • Aug 18, 2023
Understanding the Legally Blind IRS Definition: What You Need to Know

Understanding the Legally Blind IRS Definition

If you’re visually impaired or have limited vision, it’s important to know what qualifies as legally blind under the IRS definition. Being legally blind may affect your taxes and could entitle you to certain deductions and credits. So what does the IRS mean by legally blind? Let’s take a closer look.

How the IRS Defines Blindness?

The IRS defines blindness as either of the following conditions:

  • A visual acuity of 20/200 or less in your better eye with corrective lenses, or
  • A limited field of vision that remains constricted to no more than 20 degrees in your better eye, even with corrective lenses.

It is important to note that, under the IRS definition, visual impairment in just one eye is not enough to qualify as blindness. The definition refers to the better of an individual’s two eyes.

What it Means for Taxes?

If you meet the IRS definition of blindness, you may be eligible for certain tax deductions and credits. These may include:

  • The standard deduction – Blind taxpayers are eligible for a higher standard deduction than those who are not blind. The amount of the deduction may vary from year to year.
  • Medical expenses – If you have significant medical expenses related to your blindness, such as vision aids or devices, you may be able to deduct these costs from your taxes.
  • The child and dependent care credit – If you have a dependent who is visually impaired and requires care, you may be eligible for this tax credit.
  • The earned income tax credit – If you are visually impaired and meet income requirements, you may be eligible for this tax credit.

It is important to speak with a tax professional or use tax software that is compatible with your disability status to make sure you receive all the deductions and credits you qualify for.

Important Considerations

While the IRS definition of blindness for tax purposes is important to know, it is important to note that it may differ from other definitions in healthcare, education, and social services. It is important to consult with a professional in the appropriate field to determine the relevant definition and eligibility for services or benefits.

Additionally, being legally blind may affect your ability to work, drive, and perform daily tasks. It can be a challenge to adjust to these changes in your life, and you may need to seek support and resources to help you navigate this new reality.

Conclusion

The IRS definition of blindness for tax purposes can have significant impacts on your taxes and may entitle you to certain deductions and credits. If you meet the definition, it’s important to make sure you receive all the benefits you qualify for. Speak with a tax professional or use compatible tax software to ensure you accurately file your taxes.

What is Considered Limited Field of Vision?

According to the IRS, an individual is legally considered to have a limited field of vision if they have less than 20 degrees of visual field in their better eye. This means that they have trouble seeing objects to the side of them or in their peripheral vision. This can greatly affect an individual’s ability to perform everyday tasks, such as driving or reading.

There are a number of conditions that can cause limited field of vision, including glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. These conditions can cause damage to the eye’s optic nerve or retina, resulting in decreased visual field.

It is important to note that not all individuals with vision loss are considered legally blind. The IRS defines legal blindness as having a vision of 20/200 or worse in the better eye, even with correction, or having a limited field of vision of less than 20 degrees. Legal blindness can qualify an individual for certain government programs, such as disability benefits and tax deductions.

If you are experiencing vision loss or limited field of vision, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider or an eye specialist for evaluation and treatment options. Early detection and treatment can help prevent further vision loss and improve overall quality of life.

In conclusion, the IRS considers a limited field of vision as having less than 20 degrees of visual field in an individual’s better eye. It is important to be aware of any vision loss or limited field of vision and seek medical attention if necessary. This can help prevent further vision loss and qualify individuals for certain government programs.

What is the Legally Blind IRS Definition?

The legally blind IRS definition refers to an individual with visual acuity that is no better than 20/200 in their better eye with corrective lenses or whose visual field is limited to 20 degrees or less. This means that an individual who is considered legally blind cannot see any better than someone with normal vision who is standing 200 feet away from an object. It is important to note that the IRS definition of blindness is not necessarily the same as the definition used by Social Security or state agencies.

In addition to meeting the visual acuity or visual field standards, an individual must also have a certified statement from an eye doctor or optometrist stating that they are legally blind in order to qualify for tax benefits.

Standard Deduction for the Legally Blind

One of the tax benefits available to those who meet the legally blind IRS definition is a higher standard deduction. For tax year 2021, the standard deduction for individuals who are blind or over age 65 is $1,700 higher than the standard deduction for those who do not meet these criteria. This means that if you are legally blind, you can deduct $14,800 if you are single or $27,400 if you are married filing jointly.

Additional Tax Benefits for the Legally Blind

In addition to the higher standard deduction, there are other tax benefits available to those who are legally blind. For example:

  • Exemption from penalties for early withdrawal of retirement savings if the individual is under age 59 1/2 and can no longer work due to blindness
  • Lower threshold for deducting medical expenses, which can be particularly beneficial for those who need to purchase specialized equipment or services to accommodate their vision impairment
  • Credit for the elderly or disabled, which is available to individuals who are over age 65 or permanently and totally disabled (which includes those who are legally blind) and have income below certain thresholds
  • Deduction for impairment-related work expenses, which includes expenses related to any special equipment or services required for the individual to work as a result of their vision impairment, such as screen reading software or a magnifying glass

Filing Taxes as a Legally Blind Individual

If you are legally blind, you can still file your taxes like anyone else. You may choose to use tax preparation software, enlist the help of a tax professional, or fill out the forms by hand. When filling out your tax return, be sure to indicate that you are blind by checking the appropriate box on your Form 1040 or 1040-SR. If you require assistance, you can also request help from the IRS through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

Conclusion

Meeting the legally blind IRS definition can provide significant tax benefits for individuals who are visually impaired. In addition to a higher standard deduction, those who qualify may be eligible for other tax breaks related to their vision impairment. Filing taxes as a legally blind individual is no different from filing as someone who is not visually impaired, but it is important to be aware of the additional benefits that may be available to you and to take advantage of them when filling out your return.

What Other Tax Benefits Are Available to the Legally Blind?

Being legally blind means that you have a visual acuity no better than 20/200 in your better eye with correction or a visual field that is restricted to no more than 20 degrees. According to the IRS, if you meet these requirements, you may be eligible for certain tax benefits. One of the main tax benefits available to those who are legally blind is a higher standard deduction. However, there are several other benefits that legally blind individuals may be able to take advantage of.

Disability Tax Credit

The disability tax credit is a non-refundable tax credit available to those with a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions. If you are legally blind, you may be eligible for this credit. The amount of the credit will depend on the extent of your disability and the amount of income you have. To claim this credit, you will need to have a completed Form T2201, Disability Tax Credit Certificate, signed by a qualified practitioner.

Dependent Care Credit

If you are legally blind and have a dependent who requires care, you may be eligible for the dependent care credit. This credit provides a tax break for expenses related to the care of a qualifying person, such as a child or dependent adult. The credit is a percentage of the qualifying expenses, up to a maximum amount of $3,000 for one dependent or $6,000 for two or more dependents. To claim this credit, you will need to provide the name, address, and taxpayer identification number of the care provider.

Medical Expenses Deduction

Individuals who are legally blind may also be eligible to deduct certain medical expenses on their tax return. This includes expenses such as the cost of prescription eyewear, eye exams, and guide dogs. To claim this deduction, your eligible medical expenses must exceed a certain percentage of your adjusted gross income (AGI). For the 2021 tax year, the threshold is 7.5% of your AGI. If your eligible medical expenses exceed this amount, you can deduct the excess on your tax return.

Talking Books and Braille Material

If you are legally blind and require special reading materials, such as talking books or braille books, you may be able to deduct the cost of these materials on your tax return. This deduction applies to the cost of purchasing, maintaining, and using these materials. To claim this deduction, you will need to keep records of the expenses and make sure that they are necessary for your medical care or treatment.

Specialized Equipment Deduction

Individuals who are legally blind may also be able to deduct the cost of specialized equipment required for their medical care or treatment. This may include items such as canes, guide dogs, or screen reading software. If the equipment is used for personal purposes as well as medical purposes, you may be able to deduct a portion of the cost based on the percentage of time it is used for medical purposes. To claim this deduction, you will need to keep records of the expenses and make sure that the equipment is necessary for your medical care or treatment.

Conclusion

Being legally blind can be a challenge, but there are several tax benefits available to help alleviate some of the financial burden. These benefits include a higher standard deduction, the disability tax credit, dependent care credit, and deductions for medical expenses, specialized equipment, and reading materials. If you are legally blind or have a dependent who is legally blind, it may be worth consulting with a tax professional to make sure you are taking advantage of all the tax benefits available to you.

Are There Any Differences Between the Legally Blind IRS Definition and Other Definitions?

Yes, other definitions of blindness may differ from the IRS definition, such as those used by Social Security or state agencies. While the IRS definition of “legally blind” refers to an individual with a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in their better eye, with corrective lenses if needed, or a visual field of 20 degrees or less, other organizations may use different criteria.

For example, Social Security uses a similar definition of “statutory blindness,” which also requires a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less or a visual field of 20 degrees or less, but also considers the individual’s ability to engage in certain activities, such as reading and driving. State agencies may also have different criteria for determining legal blindness.

It’s important to note that the legally blind IRS definition is specifically related to tax benefits, such as the ability to claim a higher standard deduction and various credits and deductions. It is not intended to determine eligibility for other benefits or services, such as disability or insurance benefits. Individuals who believe they may be legally blind according to the IRS definition should consult a tax professional for guidance on claiming these benefits.

What Tax Benefits Are Available to Those Who Meet the Legally Blind IRS Definition?

Individuals who meet the IRS definition of legally blind may be eligible for several tax benefits, including the following:

  • Higher standard deduction: Those who are legally blind are eligible for a higher standard deduction, which can lower their taxable income and reduce their overall tax liability.
  • Dependent exemption: If the legally blind individual is claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, their exemption amount may also be increased.
  • Credits and deductions: There are several credits and deductions available to those who are legally blind, including the child and dependent care credit, the earned income tax credit, and the lifetime learning credit.

It’s important to note that some of these benefits may be limited based on the individual’s income and other factors. Consult a tax professional for guidance on claiming these benefits.

How Can I Determine If I Am Legally Blind according to the IRS Definition?

The best way to determine if you are legally blind according to the IRS definition is to schedule an eye exam with an ophthalmologist or optometrist. They can perform the necessary tests to determine your central visual acuity and visual field.

If you do meet the criteria for legal blindness, consult a tax professional for guidance on claiming the tax benefits available to you. They can help you understand your eligibility and ensure that you are claiming all the deductions and credits you are entitled to.

The Bottom Line

The legally blind IRS definition refers to an individual with a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in their better eye, with corrective lenses if needed, or a visual field of 20 degrees or less. While other organizations may use similar criteria to determine blindness, the IRS definition is specific to tax benefits and is not intended to determine eligibility for other benefits or services. If you believe you may be eligible for tax benefits based on the legally blind definition, consult a tax professional for guidance.

How Do I Prove I Meet the Legally Blind IRS Definition?

To qualify for certain tax benefits, individuals must meet the legally blind IRS definition. According to the IRS, a person is considered blind if their corrected vision is 20/200 or less in their better eye, or if their visual field is 20 degrees or less in their better eye. But how do you prove that you meet this definition?

Documentation from an Eye Doctor

The most common way to prove that you meet the legally blind IRS definition is to obtain a statement from an eye doctor. This statement must include certain information, such as:

  • The patient’s name and address
  • The date of the exam
  • The results of the exam, including visual acuity and visual field measurements
  • A description of any visual aids or devices used
  • The doctor’s signature and contact information

It is important to note that the statement must be signed and dated by the eye doctor within the current tax year. This means that if you are filing for the 2021 tax year, the statement must be dated between January 1, 2021, and December 31, 2021.

Certification from a State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency

Another way to prove that you meet the legally blind IRS definition is to obtain certification from a state vocational rehabilitation agency. These agencies can provide documentation that confirms an individual’s blindness status and may also offer services and assistance to blind individuals seeking employment or further education.

However, it is important to note that not all states have vocational rehabilitation agencies that offer certification for tax purposes. Additionally, the process for obtaining certification may vary depending on the state and agency.

Keep Accurate Records

Whether you obtain documentation from an eye doctor or a state vocational rehabilitation agency, it is important to keep accurate records of your proof of blindness. These records should be kept with your tax documents and should be easily accessible in case of an audit or verification by the IRS.

It is also important to ensure that the documentation meets the specific requirements outlined by the IRS. Failing to provide adequate documentation can result in the loss of valuable tax benefits.

Final Thoughts

Meeting the legally blind IRS definition can provide valuable tax benefits for individuals with visual impairments. Whether you obtain documentation from an eye doctor or a state vocational rehabilitation agency, be sure to keep accurate records and ensure that the documentation meets the specific requirements outlined by the IRS.

Can I Still Work If I Meet the Legally Blind IRS Definition?

Yes, meeting the legally blind IRS definition does not necessarily mean an individual cannot work, but they may be eligible for certain vocational rehabilitation services. According to the IRS, an individual is legally blind if their central visual acuity is 20/200 or less in their better eye with the use of corrective lenses, or if their visual field is restricted to 20 degrees or less in their better eye. This means that even if an individual meets the legally blind definition, they may still have some usable vision and be able to perform certain tasks with the help of assistive devices.

If an individual with legal blindness wants to work, they may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services. Vocational rehabilitation services can help individuals with disabilities, including those who are legally blind, to prepare for, obtain, and maintain employment. These services may include counseling and guidance, job training, job placement assistance, and assistive technology and devices, such as screen readers and magnifiers. The goal of vocational rehabilitation services is to help individuals with disabilities to overcome barriers to employment and achieve greater independence.

What are the employment options for individuals who meet the legally blind IRS definition?

Employment options for individuals who are legally blind can vary depending on their skills and abilities. Some individuals may be able to continue working in their current job with the help of accommodations, such as magnifiers, screen readers, or adjustments to lighting or workspace. Other individuals may need to explore new employment options that are more suited to their abilities and needs.

There are many types of jobs that individuals with legal blindness can pursue. Some examples include positions in customer service, data entry, telemarketing, transcription, and computer programming. Individuals who are legally blind may also consider self-employment or starting their own business. Vocational rehabilitation services can help individuals explore their options and develop a plan for achieving their employment goals.

What are the tax benefits available to individuals who meet the legally blind IRS definition?

Individuals who meet the legally blind IRS definition may be eligible for certain tax benefits. For example, they may be able to claim a higher standard deduction on their federal income tax return. In addition, if they are unable to work due to their disability, they may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. SSDI benefits can provide monthly income and access to Medicare after a waiting period.

Individuals who are legally blind may also be eligible for certain state and local tax benefits. For example, some states offer property tax exemptions for individuals with disabilities, including those who are legally blind. Others offer sales tax exemptions for assistive devices and other disability-related expenses.

Conclusion

Meeting the legally blind IRS definition does not necessarily mean an individual cannot work. With the help of vocational rehabilitation services and assistive technology, individuals who are legally blind can prepare for and maintain employment. They may also be eligible for certain tax benefits that can provide additional support. For more information on these benefits and services, individuals should consult with a qualified tax or disability professional.

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