Tax Questions for Stay-at-Home Parents Answered 

A SAHM asks herself questions about filing taxes

As a stay-at-home parent, you might not be employed in the traditional sense, but you may still earn income or utilize some form of childcare. This article answers common tax-related questions from parents working in the home, with or without outside employment.

I am a stay-at-home parent. Should my spouse claim me as a dependent?

No. Even if you don’t earn income, this does not make you a dependent for tax purposes. You and your spouse should file as married. Married couples filing jointly generally have lower taxes and can claim more in deductions and credits than those who file as head of household, or even as married filing separately. What filing status should I choose?  

Can you file taxes if you don’t earn income?

If you don’t earn any taxable income, then you’re not required to file a federal tax return. In fact, if you file a tax return without any taxable income to report, the IRS may read it as an empty tax return and reject it.

Depending on your situation, you may decide to file anyway. In that case, here’s how to file a return with $0 income using TaxSlayer.

I earned some money from a side business this year. Do I have to report that income to the IRS? 

As a basic rule of thumb, if you earn more than $400 in a year, you’ll need to report it on your tax return.

In today’s gig economy, many stay-at-home parents are finding ways to earn money outside of the traditional 9-5 work setting. Depending on the type of work and how much you earn while doing it, you could be considered self-employed by the IRS. Here are just some examples of common self-employed professions:

Read also: Do I Have a Business or a Hobby

I receive child support from a previous marriage. Should I report that as income?

No. Child support does not count as income on your tax return.

Alimony is treated differently. If you receive alimony from a divorce finalized before Dec. 31, 2018, those alimony payments should be reported as income. If your divorce was finalized after Dec. 31, 2018, those payments should not be reported as income.

Read also: Tax filing when you are co-parenting.

Are there tax breaks, deductions, or credits for stay-at-home parents? 

There are several potential credits associated with having dependents – the biggest being the Child Tax Credit. Additionally, if you’re a single filer, you may qualify to file as head of household, which has a larger standard deduction and lower tax brackets. Learn more about the different filing statuses here.  

My child goes to daycare two days a week. Can I get a tax credit for child care expenses? 

You are only eligible for the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit if you (and your spouse, if you are filing jointly) are employed, actively looking for full-time employment, or are enrolled in school full-time. You also must have earned income to be able to claim the credit. 

Can a stay-at-home parent get a tax refund? Can I get a tax refund without working?

A tax refund is when the federal or state government reimburses a taxpayer for any excess taxes paid. So, if you haven’t paid into the tax system during the year, you probably won’t be eligible for a tax refund.

Still, depending on your situation, there may be some refundable tax credits available to you. The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit could put money back in your pocket, but both of these have a minimum income requirement.

If I donate clothing and toys that my children have outgrown to charity, can I get a tax deduction?

As long as your items are in good condition or better, you should be able to deduct them on your tax return. The amount you can deduct for your donations depends on what their fair market value is. Fair market value means how much someone would pay for that item the way it is today. Read the rules for deducting household items and clothing on your taxes.

This article was last updated on 9/26/2022.

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