Learn all about who you can claim as a dependent, who they are, how they work, and requirements you need to know.
Filing tax returns each year can be a complicated process, especially when you have children or relatives living in your home that might qualify as dependents on your tax return.
In today's article we'll go over who you can claim as a dependent, how this works, and what kind of requirements you need to know about.
Whether you're a beginner tax filer or not, get the answers to all these questions in today's article as we explain what dependents are, how they work, and how to claim them correctly on your 1040 tax form this year.
What is a Dependent?
A tax dependent is a qualifying child or relative of the tax filer. Usually, this is also someone who relies on the taxpayer financially.
Claiming dependents on your return can potentially help reduce the amount of your income that is taxable income, reduce your Adjusted Gross Income, and potentially increase your standard deduction and tax refund!
Not everyone can be claimed as a dependent. The individual must meet certain requirements first.
If you have someone living in your home with you, or that you financially support, they might qualify, but first, go through the following requirements to see if they qualify for sure.
- The taxpayer needs to be a US citizen or resident alien.
- The dependent needs to be either a US citizen, a US national, a US resident, or a Canada or Mexico resident.
- The taxpayer needs to be the only one claiming the dependent as a dependent.
- The taxpayer can't claim a dependent who is married and filing a joint tax return with a spouse.
- The taxpayer needs to provide more than half of the dependent's financial support.
Requirements for Claiming a Qualifying Child
When claiming a child, the child will need to meet the following criteria.
- The child needs to be related to you. This includes direct offspring, stepchildren, foster children, siblings, half siblings, step siblings, and adopted children.
- The child needs to be under 19 years old, a full-time student under 24 years old, or permanently and totally disabled.
- The child needs to live with the taxpayer for more than half the year. There are some exceptions to this rule.
- The taxpayer needs to provide more than half of the child's financial support. If the child is old enough to earn income, this needs to be considered in these calculations.
Requirements for Claiming a Qualifying Relative
When claiming a relative, the relative will need to meet the following criteria.
- The relative needs to live with the taxpayer all year round. There are some exceptions to this rule that you can find in Publication 501.
- The relative needs to have a gross income less than $4,300, otherwise they make too much money to qualify.
- The taxpayer needs to provide more than half of the relative's financial support.
Can You Claim Yourself as a Dependent?
There was a time when you could claim yourself as a dependent so long as you met the above requirements.
But you wouldn't have been able to claim any other dependents if you claimed yourself.
So, if you had a qualifying child or relative living under your roof, this option wouldn't have worked for you. This was often called a, "personal exemption."
Now you can no longer claim this personal exemption and claim yourself on your tax return. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) did away with these personal tax exemptions in 2017.
Who Can I Claim as a Dependent?
You can claim children and relatives who qualify as dependents. This could include child dependents or adult dependents.
These individuals have to meet certain criteria in order to qualify though.
Everyone's life situation is unique and consulting with a tax professional can help answer any questions about your own financial and tax situation.
Can I Claim My Adult Child as a Dependent?
To claim adult children as dependents, you and the adult child will need to meet the requirements already talked about.
You can claim your adult child if they are a full-time student and under 24 years old. You can't claim adult children if they are only part-time students. After they are older than 24 years old, you will no longer be able to claim them.
If you claim your child, who is a full-time student, you also still need to be providing more than half of their financial support.
If they are a full-time student, under the age of 24, and you don't provide more than half of their financial support, then you cannot claim your adult child on your tax return.
You can claim an adult child indefinitely if they are permanently disabled in some way.
Can I Claim My Girlfriend or Boyfriend as a Dependent?
You can claim a girlfriend or boyfriend as a dependent so long as they meet certain requirements.
Basically, they're going to be considered a qualifying relative, even though they aren't a relative. They just need to meet the following criteria:
- They are an official resident of your household, living with you all year round.
- They can't make more than $4,300 in gross income for the year. This amount varies from year to year.
- You must have paid for more than half of their financial support for the year. If they receive financial support from someone else as well, like a parent, you need to take this into account as well.
- You need to be the only one claiming them. So if they have a parent still claiming them, then you cannot also claim them.
Can I Claim My Wife or Husband as a Dependent?
As a husband or wife, if you are the primary financial provider in your relationship, you might think that you can claim your spouse as a dependent.
But unfortunately, you cannot claim a spouse. Instead, the best you can do is claim a tax exemption for your spouse.
There was a time when a loophole existed that allowed some taxpayers to claim their spouses as a personal exemption, but this was also repealed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).
How Long Can I Claim My Child as a Dependent?
When should I stop claiming my child as a dependent? There are some exceptions, but generally you should stop claiming your child when they are older than 19 years old.
If your child is a full-time student then you can claim them up until they are 24 years old so long as you are also providing more than half of their financial support as well.
When your children are still living at home, you can also claim the child tax credit.
Use a Joint Tax Return if You're Married
If you are filing a separate return from your spouse, then only one spouse will be able to claim a child as a dependent. This is because each individual dependent can only be on one tax return.
If you are filing a joint return with your spouse, then you'll both be claiming your children under the same tax return.