Blindness definition


D

Daniel Scott

Is a taxpayer who dies in the tax year, who was sighted at the
beginning of the tax year, but became blind shortly before dying,
entitled to the increased standard deduction for blindness?

How is total blindness defined? Is there a minimum time that the
taxpayer must be alive but (if that's the definition) unable to see to
qualify? Must the taxpayer be conscious to qualify? (For instance, a
taxpayer who experienced a fatal auto accident which destroyed his
eyes on August 10, but who survived, breathing and heartbeat
unassisted, but not conscious, until August 12.)

Is medical documentation required? What form would it take?
 
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R

removeps-groups

Is a taxpayer who dies in the tax year, who was sighted at the
beginning of the tax year, but became blind shortly before dying,
entitled to the increased standard deduction for blindness?
If you are blind on the last day of your tax year, then you can take
the deduction. Just like filing status single or married depends on
your status last day of year.
How is total blindness defined? Is there a minimum time that the
taxpayer must be alive but (if that's the definition) unable to see to
qualify? Must the taxpayer be conscious to qualify? (For instance, a
taxpayer who experienced a fatal auto accident which destroyed his
eyes on August 10, but who survived, breathing and heartbeat
unassisted, but not conscious, until August 12.)

Is medical documentation required? What form would it take?
Yes, you need a letter from your physician stating that the patient
cannot see better than 20/200 in either eye with glasses or contact
lenses, or his field of vision is less than 20 degrees. If the
patient can see better than 20/200 with contacts, but they can only be
worn briefly, then the physician should state this, and the patient
can still take the deudction. The physician should also state if he
thinks the vision will not improve.
 
D

Daniel Scott

I asked about a taxpayer who became blind and shortly after died,
within the same tax year, without ever having been debilitated by the
blindness because he was never blind and conscious at the same time.

If you are blind on the last day of your tax year, then you can take
the deduction.  Just like filing status single or married depends on
your status last day of year.
For a taxpayer who dies during the year, is "last day of the year"
the last day he was alive? (His surviving spouse will be filing
jointly for the full 365-day tax year.)
Yes, you need a letter from your physician stating that the patient
cannot see better than 20/200 in either eye with glasses or contact
lenses, or his field of vision is less than 20 degrees.
That's the definition for partial blindness. (One might assume that
total blindness is a subset of partial blindness, but it's not clear
that "zero" statisfies "less than" for these kinds of things.)
Would the personal representative typically request such a letter
from the former PCP, or from the ER doctor? Would the death
certficate suffice? Perhaps a letter from another MD who did not
examine the patient, stating that from the record it is clear that if
the patient had survived he would have been blind?
I understand that the letter is not actually filed.
 If the
patient can see better than 20/200 with contacts, but they can only be
worn briefly, then the physician should state this, and the patient
can still take the deudction.  
n/a

The physician should also state if he
thinks the vision will not improve.
Again, will the death certificate suffice to document the permanence
of the situation?

I'm particularly concerned about limiting cases, like a taxpayer who
utters "Why did the room suddenly go dark?" in the moments before
dying. (Not the case here, but if that worked, this case is
stronger.) Certainly the dead can't see, does that mean that anybody
who died during a tax year gets the blindness add-on? (For that
matter, maybe surviving non-remarried widows get the add-on for
subsequent years when they are still allowed to file jointly -- since
this won't kick in until 2008 tax year, I haven't looked into the
details for that status, and will do so in 12 months.)

When this was asked of me my first reaction was "No, dead and dying
people aren't usually considered 'blind'" but looking into it I
haven't found anything to support that being alive (medically,
legally, or for tax purposes) is a requirement for being blind.
 
W

William Brenner

That's the definition for partial blindness.
No, that is the definition of _legal_ blindness, which is the condition
referred to by the IRS. In order to confirm this condition, an
optometric examination would be required. Such an exam would most
likely be very difficult to perform were the person in question comatose
or deceased. It is doubtful that a dying statement such as "I cannot
see" would suffice.
 
E

Ernie Klein

Daniel Scott said:
I asked about a taxpayer who became blind and shortly after died,
within the same tax year, without ever having been debilitated by the
blindness because he was never blind and conscious at the same time.
Beg your pardon, "...never blind and CONSCIOUS at the same time." How
do you determine blindness in an unconscious person?

An accident perhaps, that left the person unconscious from which he
never recovered and was left obviously blind from the same accident
(both eyes destroyed for example), so that he would never see if he did
recover?

I would think (I am not a tax professional so what do I know) that the
IRS would require, at least, that the tax payer be aware that they were
blind before the exemption would be allowed, and not an accident victim
who died from their injuries which included injuries to the eyes.

If I am misreading your question, please correct me.
 
D

Daniel Scott

No, that is the definition of _legal_ blindness, which is the condition
referred to by the IRS.
OK. I'm going by Publication 17, Chapter 20, that says you qualify if
you are totally or partly blind, and then says you have to have a
letter from an eye doctor or an optometrist to that effect if you are
partly blind. It never says what you have to do if you are totally
blind. Now you've introduced a third term, legally blind, Legally
blind is not discussed in Chapter 20.
 In order to confirm this condition, an
optometric examination would be required.  Such an exam would most
likely be very difficult to perform were the person in question comatose
or deceased.  It is doubtful that a dying statement such as "I cannot
see" would suffice.
That's often the difference between physicians and veterinarians.
Most eye exams I've had have involved doctors asking me if I could see
things. What would be involved in such an optometric examination?

Ernie Klein asked:
] Beg your pardon, "...never blind and CONSCIOUS at the same time."
How
] do you determine blindness in an unconscious person?
]
] An accident perhaps, that left the person unconscious from which he
] never recovered and was left obviously blind from the same accident
] (both eyes destroyed for example), so that he would never see if he
did
] recover?

That would do it, or destruction or disconnection of some other part
of the system. That's why I'm asking.

] I would think (I am not a tax professional so what do I know) that
the
] IRS would require, at least, that the tax payer be aware that they
were
] blind before the exemption would be allowed, and not an accident
victim
] who died from their injuries which included injuries to the eyes.

OK - is that supported by anything? I didn't see any requirement
that the taxpayer be aware of the situation. (Just as someone who is
hit by full-on Alzheimer's at age 64, and is never aware that he's
turned 65 would be eligible for the old-age benefit.) I realize it
might be so, even though it's not in the publications or instructions,
which is why I'm asking.
 
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D

Daniel Scott

I asked:
Is a taxpayer who dies in the tax year, who was sighted at the
beginning of the tax year, but became blind shortly before dying,
entitled to the increased standard deduction for blindness?

How is total blindness defined? Is there a minimum time that the
taxpayer must be alive but (if that's the definition) unable to see to
qualify? Must the taxpayer be conscious to qualify?
Readng further in Pub 17 I see
The amount of the standard deduction for a decedent's final tax return
is the same as it would have been had the decedent continued to live.
However, if the decedent was not 65 or older at the time of death, the
higher standard deduction for age cannot be claimed.

There is no exception for the blindness benefit, just the age
benefit. So it seems that a decedent who became blind a few days
before dying during 2007 gets the same treatment as a decedent who
became blind early in 2007 and did not regain sight at any time before
January 1, 2008.

This still leaves out what it mean to be blind, especially other than
under the given definition of "partly blind". (Apparently you are not
partly blind unless you have a certified statement to that effect.)
The old proverb teaches us that "There's none so blind as those who
will not see" -- in this situation the question is whether those who
cannot see are, by that reason, totally blind for IRS purposes, and
thus blind for IRS purposes.

I now believe there is no minimum time before the end of the tax year
that one must be blind; Ernie Klein thinks one must be aware of one's
inability to see to be blind. (Would that apply to a newborn who was
born without eyes?)

Conversely, it seems that because of the "last day of the year"
standard, someone who has been blind for several years but regains
sight (such as through a successful corneal implant) late in December
does not qualify for the higher standard deduction -- the rules here
often use arbitrary cutoffs that defy common sense.
 
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S

Seth

Ernie Klein said:
I would think (I am not a tax professional so what do I know) that the
IRS would require, at least, that the tax payer be aware that they were
blind before the exemption would be allowed,
So an Alzheimer's victim who isn't (provably) aware of anything
wouldn't get the exemption?

Seth
 

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