Who Can You Claim As a Dependent on Your Taxes?

May 6, 2012 by  Filed under: Taxes 

A dependent can be a valuable addition to your tax return, decreasing your tax liability and maybe even earning you a refund. Every tax season, however, there is confusion about who exactly qualifies as a dependent.

Many people don’t realize that there are actually two different types of dependents: qualifying children and qualifying relatives.

These two categories have different requirements and are often treated differently by the tax code. Though both are considered “dependents,” if a credit refers specifically to a qualifying child, a qualifying relative does not count.

In order to claim someone as your qualifying child, he or she must

  • Be your biological or adopted child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half sibling, stepsibling, or a descendant of one of these
  • Be under age 19, under age 24 if a full-time student, or any age if permanently and totally disabled
  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico
  • Be unmarried, or married but not filing a joint return
  • Have lived with you for at least half the year, unless absent due to illness, education, business, vacation, or military service
  • Not have provided more than half of his or her own support

In order to claim someone as your qualifying relative, he or she must

  • Have lived with you all year as a member of your household, or be one of the following family members: child, parent, sibling, stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling, half sibling, grandparent, grandchild, child-in-law, parent-in-law, sibling-in-law, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew
  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico
  • Be unmarried, or married but not filing a joint return
  • Not be a qualifying child of you or someone else
  • Have a gross income less than $3,700
  • Have more than half of their total support for the year provided by you

No one can be both a qualifying child and a qualifying relative. Qualifying child status takes precedence, so someone who qualifies for both automatically becomes a qualifying child first.

Note that two taxpayers cannot claim the same dependent. Occasionally taxpayers wrongfully try to steal someone else’s dependent in order to claim a bigger refund or a dispute arises between two parents or relative who both lay claim to the same dependent.

If someone does wrongfully claim your dependent, your e-filed return will be rejected by the IRS. When that happens to you, be sure to follow these steps to make sure that you can claim the whole refund that is rightfully yours.

File your taxes with RapidTax, the easiest tax preparation service on the internet. The cooperative and informed live agents can help you solve your dependent problems and any other tax issues that may arise.

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