Ellyn Hefner works with allies for a STABLE future

(This is the Third segment in a series of reports from The City Sentinel newspaper of Oklahoma City, in print and online.)

In the midst of a pandemic which most Americans will survive but which is ravaging the nation with daily bad news, financial planner Ellyn Hefner of Oklahoma City continues to work on garnering help for special needs children and the families who care for them.

Many people do not realize the extent of tax and other benefits already in place for such families. Some costs for special schooling are already deductible, including  lodging, meals, transportation, incidental educational costs provided by the institution, costs of supervision, care, treatment, and training.

Other possible benefits, The City Sentinel learned in discussions with Hefner and government officials, include private tutoring by a specially trained teacher, therapeutic and behavioral services, special education for dyslexic children — provided the program enables children to deal with disability caused by medical condition.

Additional help can include assistance with Medical Conferences and Seminars, both transportation and the conference itself. Medical Travel and Transportation can qualify for deductions in 2020’s tax returns (.17 per mile – and 20 cents per mile for 2019). Lodging costs (but not meals) can be deducted up to $50 per day are deductible for the attendee and one additional person if an overnight stay is necessary

For those ineligible for medical expense deductions, Hefner can explain access to the FSA (Flexible Spending Account) Health Care plan. The maximum pre-tax contribution is $2,750 for 2020 ($2,700 for 2019).

For those wanting to nurture a child in need, there are also credits for Special Needs Adoption Expenses, as much as $14,300 for a child with special needs in 2020 ($14,080 for 2019). For a “special needs” adoption, the credit is claimed the year an adoption is finalized.

Prospects for additional advances in the Oklahoma state Legislature during this troubled year now seem daunting. However, existing law outlined in our February news story (i.e. the article the OK-STABLE provisions LINK ) could emerge over time as a path forward.
The program is based on an effective model from Ohio, Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE).

A knowledgeable state policy “insider” told The City Sentinel in a recent exchange: “I have serious doubts the Legislature will pass anything other than a budget this session. In all likelihood, we’re looking at trying again next session in a best case scenario.”

Detailed information on the proposed tax deduction legislation is available throug this link to information from the Oklahoma state Treasurer’s office (https://www.ok.gov/treasurer/documents/Feb-20_OER.pdf). In brief, contributions to an Oklahoma STABLE account (a fine existing program that can be improved) would be deductible from Oklahoma taxable income up to $10,000 per year for single filers and up to $20,000 per year for those filing jointly. The Oklahoma Tax Commission estimates the annual fiscal impact would be $121,000 per year.)

Concerning proposed improvements to the STABLE program Oklahoma Treasurer Randy McDaniel reflects: “I strongly support legislation to improve the Oklahoma STABLE Program, which is specifically designed to help people with disabilities. Providing a state income tax deduction will encourage family and friends to contribute and save for their future needs.”

A loving mother with three children of her own, including a son needing special care, Hefner continues to seek a more secure and stable future for people who love and care for children, hoping to leave them in a better place than before the present.

A summary of Hefner’s daily labor, provided to this writer upon request, follows:
“Special Care Planning is a process. Working as a Special Care Planner, Ellyn Novak Hefner’s process is to encourage communication with the family’s network; providing information, education and resources, and offering holistic solutions unique to each individual’s situation. This includes outreach to families and professionals to understand ABLE, Achieving a Better Life Experience. Oklahoma’s ABLE account is OKSTABLE. As a Special Care Planner, she works with estate planners who create Special Needs Trusts as part of the process.”

Call Ellyn Hefner 405-640-9408 about Special Care Plans, or  send Ellyn an email at EHefner@FinancialGuide.com. 

When you talk to her, tell her you read about her work in The City Sentinel or CapitolBeatOK!

NOTE: Patrick B. McGuigan is a state-certified teacher in ten subject areas, and a member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.