FAQ #1: Who Can I Claim as a Dependent?

The following series will address frequently asked questions. From the most pressing general questions about what to claim, to specific issues applying to niche groups of taxpayers, we have all of the answers to common questions covered.

This question is on many taxpayers’ minds – who exactly can be claimed as a dependent? In recent years, families have rearranged their finances and living arrangements as a result of the state of the economy, making this an even bigger matter. It’s especially important for taxpayers because for each dependent you claim, an exemption applies, taking off a portion of taxable income. Read below to know once and for all.

Definition of Dependent

At the most basic level, a dependent must be someone you support: you must provide at least half of a person’s total support, such as food, shelter, and clothing, in order to claim them as your dependent. If your child is an adult, working and taking care of themselves while living in your home, it is likely that you cannot claim them as your dependent.

Requirements for All Dependents

Dependents are typically children or another relative but not always. The below rules apply to all dependents.

  • The dependent(s) must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or resident alien.
  • The dependent(s) must have a taxpayer identification number. This is usually a Social Security Number.
  • The dependent(s) cannot file a joint tax return for the year you are claiming them; they can have their own return and even be married, however.

Requirements for Claiming Children

When you are claiming a child, certain restrictions apply:

  • The child must live with you for at least half of the year.
  • The child has to be related to you: a son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, or step sibling, or a descendant of any of those.
  • The child must be 18 or younger at the end of the year, or 24 or younger if they are a student. If the child is a student, they must attend full-time during at least 5 months of the year.
  • The child must be younger than you (or your spouse when filing jointly), unless they are disabled.

Requirements for Claiming Other Relatives and Non-Relatives

Parents or other relatives can be claimed as dependents, and also come with a set of requirements:

  • The dependent(s) cannot have a gross yearly income of $4,000 or more. (The amount changes yearly)
  • The dependent(s) cannot be a qualifying child dependent of you or another person.
  • The dependent(s) must either be related to you or must have lived with you the entire year.

There are also special circumstances for claiming dependents, such as when a birth or death occurs, domestic partnerships, and so on. Always consult your trusted tax professional to explore exceptions and requirements.


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