Who Can I Claim as a Dependent?

Who is a dependent?

Being the primary provider for your family can greatly impact your taxes. If a child or relative relies on you for financial support, you may be able to include them on your return as a dependent. Claiming a dependent is one of the most reliable tax breaks. Each dependent will allow you certain deductions and tax credits, which can help reduce your tax liability and increase your refund. Most people with children or elderly parents can claim dependents, but there are some scenarios you may be unsure about. Keep reading for answers to common questions about claiming dependents.  

Who qualifies as a dependent? 

There are two main types of dependents – qualifying relatives and qualifying children. Both types must meet the following requirements:    

  • They must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident, U.S. national, or a resident of Mexico or Canada. 
  • You must be the only taxpayer claiming them.  
  • They must be filing single or married filing separately. 

What is a qualifying child? 

A qualifying child is a person who meets the following requirements as well as those listed above. 

  • They must be related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption. Some foster children are also included. 
  • They must either be under 19 or a full-time student under 24. 
  • You must financially support them. 
  • They must live with you for at least half of the year. 

What if my child is in college? 

If the child is a full-time student, you may claim them until they are 24. Temporary absences, like being away at school, are acceptable (despite the rule about the student having to live with you for at least half the year).   

Learn more:
Can I Claim a College Student as My Dependent?  
Tax Rules for Claiming a Dependent Who Works   

What if my child passed away?  

If your child died during the year, you may still claim them as a dependent as long as they meet all the other dependency requirements.  

A deceased child can still be a qualifying child for the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit if:  

  • Your home was or would have been the child’s main home for half of the year, and  
  • They meet all the other requirements for a qualifying child  

Depending on the tax year you are filing for, you may need to attach a copy of the child’s birth certificate, death certificate, or other hospital records to your return to claim these tax credits.  

See the IRS website for more details

What if two people want to claim the child? 

Children can only be claimed by one taxpayer. If both parents want to claim the child, whether divorced, separated, or filing separately, the parent who lives with the child the majority of the year gets priority. If the child splits their time equally, the parent with the highest adjusted gross income (AGI) gets priority. 

If a parent and another relative, like a grandparent, are trying to claim the child, the parent gets priority. However, if the parent rejects this right, a grandparent or other relative can claim the child if their AGI is higher than the parent’s income.  

If neither person is a direct parent, the right to claim the child goes to whoever has the highest AGI.  

Who you CAN claim as a qualifying child  

  • Example: You have a single, 10-year-old stepson who lives with you eight months of the year, and you provide more than half of their financial support. You can claim him as a dependent since he meets the relative, age, residence, and financial support requirements. 
  • Example: You have a 22-year-old daughter who is a full-time student, lives with you when she is home from school, and you provide all financial support – you can claim her as a dependent. You can claim a dependent up to age 24 if they are a full-time student.   

Who you CANNOT claim as a qualifying child  

  • Example: You have a five-year-old son who lives with you the entire year and you provide 20% of their financial support – you cannot claim them as a dependent. Although they pass the age test and live with you for at least six months of the year, you do not provide enough financial support for them to be considered a qualifying child. 
  • Example: You have a single, 18-year-old daughter who lives with you six months of the year, you provide 50% of her support, and she is claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return – you cannot claim them as a dependent. The IRS does not allow a dependent to be claimed on two separate returns.  

What is a qualifying relative? 

A qualifying relative is a person who meets the following requirements:   

  • They must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident, U.S. national, or a resident of Mexico or Canada.  
  • They can’t be a qualifying child.    
  • You must provide more than half of their financial support for the year.   
  • They can’t have a gross income of more than $4,300 per year.   
  • They must either be related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption, OR they must have lived with you for the entire year.    

Can I be a dependent if I’m married?  

You can still be claimed as a dependent on another return if your tax status is married filing separately and you pass the other requirements. Otherwise, if you are filing a joint return with your spouse, you cannot be claimed as a dependent. Note that spouses generally cannot claim each other as dependents. 

Learn more:
Tax Questions for Stay-at-Home Parents Answered 
What do I do if either I or my spouse is claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return?    
Claiming Your Parent as Your Dependent  

Who you CAN claim as a qualifying relative  

  • Example: Your sister-in-law lives with you full-time, you provide more than half of her support, and she has a gross income of $3,500 – you can claim her as a dependent. She would be considered a qualifying relative based on residence, income, and support requirements. 
  • Example: Your unmarried partner (boyfriend/girlfriend) lives with you all year, you support them all 12 months of the year, and they have a gross income of less than $4,300 – you can claim them as a dependent. The IRS would consider your partner a qualifying relative, because they resided with you the entire year. Therefore, they would pass the relationship, residence, income, and financial support test.   

Who you CANNOT claim as a qualifying relative  

  • Example: You have a married parent that lived will you all year, you provide the majority of their support, they have a gross income of $2,000, and they’re filing a married filing joint return – you cannot claim them as a dependent. You cannot claim a dependent who is filing a married filing jointly. In order to claim a married person as a dependent, they must file a married filing separate return. 
  • Example: You have a single, elderly uncle with a gross income of $2,000, you provide more than half of his support, and he stays with you a couple of months of the year when he visits – you cannot claim him as a dependent. Although your uncle passes the income and support requirements, he does not pass the residency test, so he would not be considered a qualifying relative. 

Who you can NEVER claim as a dependent   

Unfortunately, the IRS does not allow dogs, cats, or any pets to be claimed as dependents on your tax return. Additionally, the IRS will not allow you to claim yourself as a dependent on your own return. 

 If you are still uncertain about your specific tax scenario, try using the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant tool to help determine who you can claim as a dependent. 

How many dependents can you claim?  

There is no limit to the number of dependents you can claim on your return. If the dependent meets the requirements for a qualifying child or relative, you can include them on your return.  

What happens when someone claims you as a dependent?  

You can still file a return – even if someone claims you as a dependent. Depending on your circumstance, you may still need to file a tax return. You can still file your own return even though you are being claimed as someone’s dependent. When you complete your return, you should indicate that you are being claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return.   

What are the steps for filing a tax dependent?  

TaxSlayer makes adding dependents to your return quick and easy. We can help make sure you get your maximum refund with all the credits and deductions you deserve.   

Ready to start filing your return? Let TaxSlayer help you get your biggest refund!   

This article was last updated on 11/30/2022. 

Disclaimer:
This article is intended to provide general information to the public and does not provide personalized tax, investment, legal, or business advice. You should seek the assistance of a professional for advice on taxes, investments, and any other financial, legal, or business matter pertinent to your individual situation.

Related Posts