Who Counts as Your Dependent /Tax Deduction? You Might Be Surprised

For updated information also see Who Can I Claim as My Dependent?

Tax season is when we look at our family and friends in a different – and tax-deductible – light.

Can I count my sister-in-law as a dependent? How about my live-in girlfriend and her unemployed brother? What about my golden retriever?

Believe it or not, the IRS code tells us that any of the above, except the retriever, could qualify as a dependent under the right circumstances.

Why are dependents good to have at tax time?

For each dependent you can legally claim, you get a $3,500 deduction on your 2008 taxes. So if you are in the 25 percent tax bracket and have three dependents, worth $10,500 in deductions, you could save $2,625 on your taxes. (However, for some higher-income earners, deductions are reduced.)

In our society, where growing numbers of people live together who aren’t married or aren’t related, it’s good to know the rules. And if economic realities mean that you’ve had grown children move back home with you, or that you’ve extended financial help to a family member, you could get a tax break.

The following guidelines only apply to adult dependents. (The IRS has all sorts of rules for dependent children, particularly those whose parents are divorced. For information, see IRS Publication 504: Divorced or Separated Individuals.)

If you claim an adult as a dependent, that person must meet several IRS qualifications:

·Had less than $3,500 of gross income during 2008.

·Received more than half of his or her support from you for the year.

·Did not file a joint income tax return for 2008 with anyone else.

·Is a citizen or resident of the United States, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.

·Is a member of your household for the full year, or a relative who does or does not live with you.

As you can see, this last requirement opens your door – and your tax return – to many potential dependents, as long as you’re willing to support them.

So, to use our initial example, your live-in girlfriend and her brother who also lives with you could count as your dependents, if they meet qualifications.

But what if you support someone who doesn’t live with you, such as your elderly mother?

The IRS allows you to count as a dependent a whole list of relatives who don’t also have to occupy your home, as long as you provide more than half their annual support:

  • Children, stepchildren, eligible foster child, grandchildren or great grandchildren
  • Siblings, including half or step siblings
  • Parents, grandparents, or any other direct ancestors
  • Stepparents
  • Aunts or uncles
  • Nieces or nephews
  • Fathers-in-law, mothers-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law, or sisters-in-law

Unfortunately, your golden retriever is not among these. Nor is your gardener or house cleaner, even though it might seem you support them. They’re your employees, not your dependents.

Comments (202) Leave your comment

  1. I take care of my kids and my girlfriend son , but don’t live with him can I file him on my taxes

  2. If I’m fixing my half brother and half sister in mexico papers will I be able to claim them as depends?

  3. I have a question. If I moved in with my sister and her 5yr old son to help her financially because she’s unemployed. Can I claim her or her son? She receives snap for her son but I also bought groceries and helped with bills.

  4. I am 18 years old and turn 19 on Janurary 24th, I am pregnant and will be having my baby boy in November of this year. I have lived with my grandparents for two years. My mom does not pay for any of my food, clothes, car insurance, cell phones bills or anything like that. My grandparents pay for my car insurance but I pay them back for it. I have a part time job, and I graduated high school in May of this year. I am enrolled for college starting in August but am only going part time, and my FASFA is paying for it. My grandparents make a lot of money and don’t feel the need to claim me. If my grandparents don’t claim me, can I claim myself as an independent? And my mom can not legally claim me if she does not support me at all, right?

  5. My son has a stepdaughter who receives social security survivor benefits from her deceased dad. I file their taxes with turbo tax. I did not list her benefits on their taxes because I didn’t think I had to since he makes twice her benefits. They received a letter saying they owed $1500 because I didn’t report her benefits. Can you help me?

  6. My son has a stepdaughter who receives social security survivor benefits from her deceased dad. I file their taxes with turbo tax. I did not list her benefits on their taxes because I didn’t think I had to since he makes twice her benefits. They received a letter saying they owed $1500 because I didn’t report her benefits. Can you help me?

  7. I’m 81 yrs old, somewhat disabled, use a wheel chair from time to time…hoping my ability to move won’t further diminish. I worked p/t last yr until I could no longer perform the duties. I have ssa as my total income, now. I live in one state and my daughter and her husband live in another. They are in a high income tax bracket and have 2 children as deductions. Since I have no other income than ssa, can they claim me as a dependent?

  8. My son is on disability due to bipolar disorder. He lives with us and we pay for all of his expenses. Can I claim him as a dependent?

    • Hi Marilyn,
      If you provided for 2013 more than half of your son’s support (food, lodging, transportations, medical expenses, educations, recreation, etc.) and his “gross” income is less than $3,900,(this doesn’t include income such as social security disability that is not taxed and other tax free income) then you can claim him as a “qualifying relative” dependent on your tax return.

      Hope this information was helpful.

    • Our son also has bipolar disorder which has made it extremely difficult to keep a job. He lost his last job in March of this year and has been so ill with severe depression that he hasn’t been able to work and has applied for disability (not approved yet). He doesn’t live with us, but we’re paying all of his expenses to help keep him in his apartment until hopefully he is better and able to work. We pay all his expenses which is averaging about $2,000 a month for his rent, gas, food, bills, drugs and doctor visits. I would also like to know if we can claim him as a dependent.

  9. My daughter moved out at the end of Aug. in with her boyfriend who is married and claimed her on his taxes with his wife. how and what kind of receipts do we need to prove we supported her as she was on unemployment for a month and got kicked off. We paid for everything she needed and have her on our ins.. what kind of paper work do we need ? As we are not on speaking terms and she did it out of spite to hurt us! Need to know so we can file soon. The irs said to show receipts , but what kind? As she had no medical bills!

  10. Hi
    My Mom lives in our home that we have not been able to sell which is next door. She makes about 15,000.00 per year. She pays us no rent, we take care of all her expenses except for groceries and her car. Can be claim her as a dependent?

  11. I claimed my granddaughter on my taxes as a dependent this year, but because I didn’t put her complete full name on my return in was rejected by the Federal IRS. My state went through with no problems. My state also had a copy of my federal return. What can I do to fix this. I tried calling the IRS site and it told me to call back on a less busier day 5 times. I just need to know what to do. Thank you

  12. my son was in jail 6 1/2 months in 2012 we paid all his support for him living here and when he was gone we continued sending him money for food , phone etc. We also paid all his bills he had for truck student loans etc for the whole year. can we claim him on our tax return?

  13. Hi there I currently live with my parents at 22 I work 2 jobs and I’m not in school I pay all my own bills but don’t pay to live at the house can my parents claim me I make about 25,000 a year.

  14. Live in CA, My daughter lives with me, EBT and only made $2702.00. Can I claim her on my taxes as an adult relative without there being an issue or penalty with her EBT?

  15. My fiance claimed our daughter as a dependent on her unemployment she filed for at the beginning of the year. Can I still claim my daughter as a dependent since she hasn’t gone back to work and I have been the head of household the past 4-6 months?

  16. Hello, I am in curious question.
    I am a natural gas 798 pipeliner I spent the entire year out working in different states. I get to write off my food,hotel rent etc,work clothes. My wife came with me to all my jobs can I write off her food and clothing expenses due to that she was unemployed the entire year? Also I payed about 4 months of my sisters car note to help her while she’s in rehab. Can I write that as charity?
    Thank you and God Bless.

  17. Ok so maybe someone can help me… me and my girlfriend have a 6 month old daughter and we are living together. We are not married, so i know we cant file jointly. But my question is this, without a paternity test can i leagaly claim my daughter on my taxes? I have been reading into it and nothing i have read disputes my claim. This article i found on this same site supports it from what i am understanding. Its called “The Dirty Dozen: 12 Tricky Tax Dependent Dilemmas” .
    Unmarried Parents

    Q. My boyfriend and I live together with our 3-year-old son. Since we’re not married, we can’t file a joint return. Which one of us gets to claim our son as a dependent

    A. It’s up to you. Since he qualifies as a qualifying child for each of you, either parent may claim the child as a dependent. If you can’t decide, the exemption goes to whichever of you reports the higher Adjusted Gross Income on your separate taxreturn.

  18. Thanks she said he can claim him. Since ” he goes well beyond his fatherly duties and is a great father. ” she only did it to continue to receive the child support so she can continue to not work and party in the club all the time with the child support money. smh. She’s been trying to get us not to cut the child support but it’s happening anyway. We supply everything for his son except a roof and that’s only because we need HARD proof she is an unfit mother.

  19. My ex and I broke up and seperated but I supported her and my daughter and her son for 3 1/2 years with her not working and me providing all support can I claim her son as a dependent since I supplied 100% of his support

    • .if my 26 yr old son has lived with us since 17 yrs old …and held pt or full job …..can we claim him on our taxes.. my husband is self employed

  20. My husband and I have cared for our grandson since April of 2012 while his daughter tried to regain custody. We gained full guardianship April of 3013. I am not sure why, but we were unable to claim him on our taxes last year, even though we provided full care and he lived with us. Were we suppose to be able to obtain a deduction last year and are we able to obtain the deduction this year. Please advise. Something doesn’t seem right

  21. Hi

    My son is us citigen, I am indian citigen living in US on H1b, I son left India end of June 2013 to spend some time with grandparents at india and he will be back in April 2014.

    Can I claim him as dependent on my 2013 taxes?

    He lived with us only from Jan 2013 to June 2013.

    Looking forward to hear from you

  22. Hi,
    my husband has full custody of his daughter and has a mutual agreement (didn’t go through court) allowing her to see her daughter every other weekend without child support and now she wants to claim her as a dependant this year. My husband says she isnt able to…I just want to know if thats true. Thanks :)

    • She can try to claim her daughter…but if he claims her too, it will trigger an audit and they will both have to provide evidence. Therefore, it will eventually go in your husband’s favor…but it will delayed the process.

  23. Hi There,
    Due to economic times, my father had to live with me last year off and on. I paid the majority of his bills, and living expenses. He does receive social security though. Am I able to claim him? I paid for more than half of his years expenses?

  24. Question, My husband has 50/50 custody with a 7 day weekly rotation. The mother has not worked since 2002 and we found out she lets other people claims the children each year for money. The children go to school in our district and she drives them to school on her week about 30 mins away. Can she legally let a stranger claim the children?

  25. My son was still 19 years old at the end of 2013, he is not in school. Am I allowed to still claim him as a dependent for filing my taxes this year 2014. Please respond as soon as possible. Thank you

  26. What kind of proof do I need to have that I’ve been taking care of my unemployed brother for the past 7 months, in order to claim him?

  27. Last yr my (unemployed) brother lost his home due to foreclosure, since June of 2013 he’s lived with us. We take care of him in every way. Can we claim him as a dependant?

  28. My wife regained guardianship of her daughter in August of this year from her parents and I adopted her at the same time. Am I able to claim my adopted step-daughter as a dependent this year? Thanks

  29. My daughter’s boyfriend lives with us and has since May 13, 2013. I have supported him with food, clothes, shelter. He is 18. Can I claim him? If so, how?

  30. My husband pays child support and more than half of his child’s income. The mother hasn’t worked in 7yrs. She won’t allow him to claim their son. How can she claim him if she doesn’t and hasn’t worked? The mother lives with her mother and we think the grandmother claims his son. How can we claim him since we provide the child support and she doesn’t work?

    • The reality is, he reside with the mother and grandparent…therefore, she can claim him. Child support is not enough.

  31. my son is 20, he lived with me all year and I paid for all of his support last year, including over $4000 in medical expenses. He got a job in September and has made just over $3900 for the year. (none of which was used toward his own support) Can I claim him? He also went to school part time for 3 months during the year. (I paid for school)

  32. My cousin gave birth to her son on December 4th and was evicted from her apartment on December 10. She currently has no income and has been living with my boyfriend and I ever since. We’ve been providing 100% of their support since they moved in. She did work for the beginning of 2013 so she will be filing her own taxes but she suggested that my boyfriend claim her son as a way of paying us back for supporting them during this time. Can her son be claimed since he will not even be one month old at the end of the year? Can someone else claim her child if she is filing as well? Also will my boyfriend even be able to claim her son since they are not related?

  33. Hello, my first cousin and his girlfried had asked me and my husband if we could take care of their son that was about to be born due to the fact they can’t provide for him. I agreed and took him home straight from the hospital. We later signed and notarized a power of attorney/guardianship over him because they were going to let us adopt him later. My husband and I provided 100% for him. His parents decided to take him back in july 2013. We still provide for him but he now lives with them. Can me and my husband claim him as a dependant? And what do we need?

  34. My neice and her son lived with me all of 2012. She was in trouble with cps, so she signed and notarized a “temporary guardianship agreement” giving us guardianship of her son. It’s basically the only way cps would let her near him. Anyways, long story short, we supported them both fully for more than a year. She left in Jan of 2013 taking her son to live with my sister. We filed taxes with her son as a dependent and so did she, even tho she lived with us the whole year and did not support him or her son. She is now in jail and her son lives with my sister. Question: are we going to be in trouble and if so, since my sister is taking care of her grandson now and supporting him, can she claim him without fear of her daughter in law coming along at the first of the year and claiming him?(if she gets out of jail)

    • Hi Marie,
      The IRS will send letters to you and your niece asking about support, etc. You will be able to provide the guardianship agreement, and show that you provided his support, and hers, entitling you to the deduction. They will modify her tax return.
      Your sister could have the same thing happen if your niece files a tax return claiming her son, and your sister also claims him.

      Mary Ellen

  35. My sister currently lives with me and she is studying in the USA on a F1 student VISA i pay for her college fees, food, clothing and shelter can i claim her on my income tax return

    • Hi Toya,

      Your sister would have to have an ITIN and you must provide more than half of her support in order for you to claim her as a dependent.
      She can apply for an ITIN by filing a form W-7 with the IRS, if she does not have one.

      Mary Ellen

  36. If I support my sister and her infant child, but have no proof of doing so, can I claim them? She is on DSS and receives food stamps and temporary assistance with cash. I supply her diapers and wipes and buy clothes for her and her child. I occasionally help her with bills when she cannot make ends meet. She is unemployed but does not qualify for unemployment, so aside from DSS she has no income. She lives with her “boyfriend” who has a large income but does not support them in any way.

    • Hi Laura,

      If your sister is living with her boyfriend, he is providing housing for her support. You have probably not provided more than half of her support.

      There is a worksheet in Publication 17, page 30 for determining support. You would need to complete that worksheet to determine if you are able to claim her or her child.

      Mary Ellen

  37. Is it legal for my dad to claim me as a dependent if I have been homeless since 2011, “he kicked me out” I was 18 years old, and I lived in a crisis shelter for a year and some months before my friend took me in, I filed taxes in 2012 but was denied because someone (he) claimed me as a dependent. And what steps can i take to solve this problem. Please help I need to know before the next year. Thank you

    • Hi Travis,
      If you provided over half of your own support and did not live with your dad more than half the year, then he cannot claim you. You will have to contact the IRS. They will ask for proof of support and other test to determine who can take the exemption.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  38. Can my ex claim my kids even if I have full custody and living with me? She claimed my kids and totally messed up my filing last year.

    • Hi Avelino,
      If you have custody, and did not sign an agreement giving her the exemptions, you should contact the IRS. The will ask for proof of support and other tests to determine who is entitled to the exemptions.

  39. I claim my 20 year old daughter as dependent in my taxes.
    She recently was involved in an at fault auto accident away from home while in college.
    The car is registered in her name and she pays for her own insurance.
    Will claiming her on my taxes somehow make me liable if the passengers decide to file a civil lawsuit?

  40. can you tell me if I can collect from my boyfriends ss being he just passed away and we lived together for 28yrs.

  41. My wife and I support our 28 yr old daughter while she goes to college in Colorado. we pay for her rent,food and car expenses along with her health insurance. Does the fact that she does not live with us disqualify us from claiming her as a dependent

  42. Hi, i pay for my brother’s tution fees completely and he has lived with me for more than half year. Only thing is he is on F-1 student visa and doesnt have SSN but has ITIN. Would that qualify him as a resident alien if he has lived in USA for more than 183 days in a year , so i can claim him as dependent on my tax return next year ?

  43. If I am 25 has 3 kids not workin living with my kids father and receives child support from him can he claim all 4 of us?

  44. My boyfriends childern from a previous relationship moved in with us in Janurary 2013. They are ages 4, 2, and 1. I have provided support and am listed in their insurance as an authorized representative for them. We are not married. Can I claim them on my 2013-2014 tax return?

  45. My 31 yr old son lives with me can I claim him on my taxes. I support all his needs. He is a US citizen.

  46. My son could not find a job and lived with me (his mom)for 8 months and my husband (his step-father). So we claimed him on our taxes 2012. Will this stop him from getting financial aide – he wants to go back to school?

  47. In 2012, my son had a full time job until July and then started law school full time. His orientation period at school began on August 30, but classes did not start until September 4. In determining if he was a full-time student for at least 5 months for purposes of whether I can take him as a dependent and claim the $3,800 exemption, do the two orientation days in August count towards the 5 months?

  48. I live with my boyfriend and we had a baby this year. Because I am “single” I qualified for pregnancy medicaid in NC, which does not include household income. Can he claim me and the baby as dependents even though we qualified for medicaid as “single”?

  49. I have a 19 yo son who lives at home and is a full time college student and works part-time. I supply housing, food, clothing, car etc.. He helps to pay for his tuition. But he made $8000 last year. So I can’t deduct him as a dependent?. I also have a 24 yo at home who has high student loan payments and can’t afford to live on her own and made $16,000 last year. I supply food, and housing and I can’t deduct her either?

  50. I live with my daughter (all year) and babysit my granddaughter. I have no income and I went to school part time. I am separated,not divorced yet. Can my daughter claim me.

  51. My 20 year old son is homeless. He does not live with us. He is not in school. He does not have a job. We buy food, bus pass and sometimes pay for a room for him. Should we still claim him as a dependent?

  52. in 2010 My father had a heart attack and was unable to work i supported the household while he was incapable of working.he has been together with the same woman for over 10 years. she has 2 childeren who have been living with us and during the time my dad was out of work i supported them. there are no blood ties between me and the 2 boys and my parents cannot get married because my father is still married to my birth mother. i believe i can prove that i supported them through that year. the irs audited me for $7000 is there anyway to lessen or relieve my debt?

    • Hi,
      I’m assuming the IRS is limiting dependents claimed for 2010 correct? If so, you would have to prove that your claimed dependents meet the IRS test for dependents.
      – First they can not be claimed on any one else’s tax return.
      – You must have supplied over half of their support.
      – The claimed dependent could not make over $3,650 in 2010
      – They must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
      You can also see http://blog.turbotax.intuit.com/2011/11/07/who-can-i-claim-as-a-dependent/
      for more info.

      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      • i claimed 2 dependents, the boys were the only 2. no one else claimed them and meet all other requirements. their resoning was that there is no blood relation and my parents arent married. i dont understand why i was audited. is there any real explination why i was audited if i was the main supporter for the two boys?

  53. Me and my husband are supporting his mother,father,brother,and his 3 children that live in Mexico .His mom and dad are to old to work and to sick his brother works in the fields in Mexico and earns $15 a day not enough to feed all of them .Can we claim them on are taxes and if we can what do I need to do?

  54. Wow, amazing weblog structure! How lengthy have you been running a blog for? you made running a blog look easy. The full glance of your website is great, let alone the content!

  55. My daughter is a full time student, she is a single mom. She is receiving child care assistant and financial aid for college. I am fully supporting her and my grandson. Also I contribute money for her education. Can I claim her as my dependent?

    • Hi Yolanda,
      If she is a full-time student and under 24 you may be able to claim her as a “qualifying child” as long as she doesn’t provide over half of her own support and she lives with you for more than half the year. If she is over 24 you may be able to claim her as a “qualifying relative” as long as she did not make over $3,700 taxable income in 2011.
      You may also be able to claim your grandson as a dependent as long as no one else claims him and you provided over half of his support and he did not earn more than $3,700 in taxable income.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  56. My brother has been living with me for about 2 years. He is on welfare and won’t let me claim him since he says he is homeless (living in his car). Can I claim him or will he be arrested as he is paranoid and believes this?

    • Hi Lynn,
      You can claim him if you provide over half of his support, he did not earn over $3,700 the entire year, he meets the citizenship rules, and no one else claims him.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  57. I have a brother who is 28y/o autistic, doesn’t speak, never had a job, staying in a group home, whom I am supporting every month for his medications and expenses back home (Philippines). He is not a resident of US or Canada. Can I file him as a dependent? how?
    Thank you so much.

    • Hi Ackie,
      Unfortunately you cannot claim your brother first unless he is a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  58. My husband and I are claiming 4 dependents from Mexico. One is his father and the other 3 are children of his cousin (so relatives.) When doing the tax calculator to try to estimate my refund. Do we receive the same credits as we would if they were U.S. citizens and living with us?? Please clarify. Thank you.

  59. My 18 yro daughter is a full time college student, my wife and I pay all expences (tuition, books, dorm, meals, etc). She is on Medicaid due to unmarried pregnancy. Can I still claim her as a dependent on my taxes?

    • Hi Roger,
      Yes as long as she does not provide over half of her own support and meets the citizenship test.
      TurboTax will guide you through questions during the interview and allow you to claim the dependency deduction if you are eligible.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  60. Divorced since 1995. Reside in Ohio. Paid all my child support, dutifully, on time, etc. Daughter is now 19 (child support ceased when she turned 18 & graduated high school) and in college. I’ve converted child support to college support. That pays most of the daughter’s tuition (about $8400). Daughter lives with and is claimed on taxes by her mom. Any way for me to get some kind of tax write-off for the college support?

    • Hi George,
      Sorry. If her mom claimed her as a dependent, then she would get the deduction for college expenses.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      • Lisa,
        Not what I’d like to hear but it won’t keep me from supporting my daughter in her endeavor to be the best she can be.
        Thanks for the information,

      • Lisa,
        What about claiming the college funding as a gift to the child? Any way to write that off? I’m also paying the tuition of my step son, who lives on his own and supports himself but we (wife and I) are essentially paying his tuition. Had to ask.

  61. Hello, I have a Big concern And Would appreciate all the help i can get. I am 18 and a resident of new york. In the year of 2011 I did not live with my mother and I was collecting foodstamps at a different household. However my mother still provided me with all the necessary living supplies. And I was not able to support myself. Would my Mom be able to claim me for the taxes of 2011?

    • Hi Darion,
      It sounds like you could not be claimed as a “qualifying child” since you did not live with your mom for more than half the year, but you could be claimed as a “qualifying relative” as long as your mom provided over half of your support and you did not earn over $3,700. You must also be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or resident alien.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  62. I was just using the turbotax refund calculator to estimate our refund this year. I do this every year and it is always very close to what we actually receive. But I am confused because the estimated refund is way under what we had expected. Will we still receive the 3500/per child as in years past or has something changed?

    • Hi Megan,
      Without seeing all of your details, there are many factors that could be impacting the estimate of your refund, but TurboTax will guide you through all of the tax deductions and credits you deserve. Yes, you will receive a personal exemption for each child of $3,700 each, as long as they meet the tests for “qualifying child”.

      I hope this helps you!
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

    • Cosmomakeup on August 30, 2011 i like my big wide smile! i definitely do not have siahtgrt white teeth but i do not let my teeth prevent me from smiling! in my opinion, smiles can bring people together and cheer up a stranger’s day, therefore i want to spread and share my happiness with others

  63. I lived with my boyfriend all year, and have children from a previous marriage (with being legally my dependants) can we write the kids off and qualify for EIC? How do we label my kids?

    • Hi Jessica,
      Yes, you can claim EIC if the following tests are met:
      – You must have a valid Social Security Number
      – You must have earned income from employment or self-employment
      – Filing status cannot be married, filing seperate.
      – You must be a U.S. Citizen or resident alien all year, or non-resident alien married to a U.S. citizen or resident filing jointly.
      – You cannot be the qualifying child of someone else
      – Your AGI must be less than:
      43,998 with 3 or more children
      40,964 with 2 children
      36,052 with 1 child
      13,660 with none
      – “Qualifying Child” must meet the relationship, age, and residency test.
      Also make sure your children are not claimed by anyone else.
      You can also try TurboTax TaxCaster or TurboTax software to run through scenarios. Here are the links http://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/ or http://turbotax.intuit.com/

      Thank you!
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  64. My husband and I were granted guardianship of our 12 year old nephew after he got into some legal trouble we took him home from the courthouse May 11,2011 and he is still living with us can we claim him on our taxes as a dependent? What would happen to us if his father also claimed him on his taxes?

    • Hi Liz,
      Either his father or you have to claim him. Not both. The IRS will not allow the same dependent to be claimed on two different tax returns. If his father does not claim him, you would be able to claim him as a “qualifying relative” if you provided over half of his support for the year and he did not make over $3,700 gross income.

      Hope that helps you!
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis



      • Hi Mary,
        You can claim him as long as he meets the following test:
        -He is a U.S. Citizen, national, resident alien, or a resident of Mexico or Canada
        -You provide over half of his support
        -He did not earn over $3,700 in 2011
        Thank you!
        Lisa Greene-Lewis

  66. My girlfriend, who is 21, has been living with me since May and I have been taking care of her financially the entire time. During the holiday season she got a job but worked no more than 80 hours total. Can I claim her as a dependent on my taxes this year?

    • Hi Shannon,
      Unfortunately, in order to claim your girlfriend, she must live with you the entire year. The good news is you will be able to claim her when you file your 2012 taxes if she lives with you all of 2012 and you provide over half of her support.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis CPA

  67. Can I claim my mother who works but made less than 3500.00 and lives with me? Also would she be able to file taxes for that amount even though I’m able to claim her?

    • Hi Henry,
      It looks like your mother meets the relationship test and the gross income test. She would just have to meet the support test and and she could not file a joint return with someone else(unless solely to claim a refund). To meet the support test you would have to provide more than half of the total support for the year. Your mother must also be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national or resident of Canada or Mexico for part of the year.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

    • Hi Henry,
      You may be able to claim your mother if she meets the following test:
      -Makes under $3,700
      -You provide over half of her support
      -She is a U.S. citizen, national, resident alien, resident of Mexico or Canada.
      She can still file taxes for that amount, but she would not be able to take a personal exemption if you claim her.

      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  68. i am deployed in affganastan right now and have saported my wife and son this whole year and a few days ago she asked for a devorse do i still get to claim them or dose she get too choise who does and she is unemployed if that matters

    • Hi Clark,
      If you paid over half of their support in 2011 you would be able to claim them for 2011.

      I hope this helps!

      Thank you,

  69. My brother has been out of work for a couple of years. He no longer gets unemployment and I have been supporting him for over a year. He lives in Florida and now moved to Maryland which I also payed for the moving.I live in NY can I still claim him as a dependent on my tax return? Can I also claim the cost of the gas for the mileage he put on the moving truck?

    • Hi Joseph,
      Yes you can claim your brother as a dependent “qualifying relative” as long as the following test are met:
      -Your brother is a U.S. Citizen, National, resident alien, or resident of Mexico or Canada
      -You provided over half of his support
      -He did not earn more than $3,700 in 2011

      You cannot, however claim the cost of moving. Moving expenses are only deductible if they are related to your move due to a change of job.

      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      • Hi Shereen,
        We’re glad you enjoy it. Check back again for more up to date topics.
        Thank you,
        Lisa Greene-Lewis

    • Hi Carolyn,
      If you have legal guardianship of the 4 children and they meet the residency and support tests you can claim them on your taxes. The children must have lived with you more than half the year and the children could not have provided more than half of their own support for the year. In addition, they cannot be claimed by anyone else.

      I hope this helps you!

      Thank you!
      Lisa Lewis

  70. I have a 19 year old daughter who got married in June or July of this year but lived with me until August. She does not work or make an income and I supported her until she moved out in August. Can I still claim her on my taxes or now that she’s married does her spouse claim her?

    • Hi Kim,
      If your daughter was a full-time student you would be able to claim her as a “qualifying child” as long as she did not supply over half of her own support. If she is 19 and not a full-time student, she may be claimed as your “qualifying relative” as long as you supplied more than half of her support, she did not make over $3,700, she was a U.S. citizen,
      national, resident alien, resident of Mexico or Canada. Since she is married, if she and her husband decide to file married filing jointly, you would not be able to claim her as a dependent, unless your daughter and spouse’s tax return was filed to claim a refund and if either spouse filed a separate return there would be no tax liability. Spouses cannot be claimed as dependents. They can only be claimed as an exemption.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  71. I was wondering if i can claim my 9 yr old bother in law as a dependent. Me and my husband have been supporting him since he was 5yrs old. The only problem is that he dosen’t have a SSN so i don’t know if its allowed?

    • Hi Smiley,
      Usually you would be able to claim him has a “qualifying relative” if he met the gross income, support, and member of the household test, however you must have a social security number to claim him. If the dependent is a resident alien or nonresident alien who does not have and is not eligible to get a SSN, they must apply for individual taxpayer identification number.

      Thank you!
      Lisa Lewis

    • Hi Tif,
      You boyfriend may be able to claim your son on his taxes as long as you are not required to file a tax return and no one else claimed him. In addition, your son can be considered a “Qualifying Relative”, however he must have lived with your boyfriend the entire year and he could not have earned income over $3,700 for TY2011.

      I hope this helps!

      Thank you,
      Lisa Lewis

  72. I have been in divorce proceedings all year. I pay the mortgage of the marrital home which my wife and daughter live in. I also give my wife $1,500 a month living expenses, she does not work. My 16 yr old son and I have been living seperatly since March. Can I file head of household and claim both my daughter and my son?

    • Hi Mike,
      You can claim Head of Household if on the last day of the year you are unmarried or considered unmarried as follows:
      -You file a seperate return

      -You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year.

      -Your spouse did not live in your home during the last 6 months of the tax year.

      -Your home was the main home of your child, stepchild, or foster child for more than half the year.

      -You must be able to claim an exemption for the child.

      You can also claim an exemption for your children as long as your wife doesn’t claim them. If the 1,500 per month is alimony payments she will be required to file a tax return for that money and you can deduct it.

      Thank you,
      Lisa Lewis

  73. I have been paying rent and utilities for my 21 year old daughter and my 3 year old grandson since July 2010. She had a job for only a couple of weeks so far this year. She receives food stamps to pay for their food, but I pay for pretty much everything else. Can I claim her and my grandson on my 2011 taxes even though they live in a separate household?

    Thank you for your help.

    Best regards,

    • Hi Mary,
      As long as your daughter did not make over $3,700 and you provided over half of her support and your grandson. Also make sure she is not required to file a tax return, does not file and claim herself or your grandson, and no one else claims them.

      Thank you!
      Lisa Lewis


    • Hi Gabby,
      You can only claim you son as a “qualifying child” if he is 23 and was a full-time student for at least 5 months. You can claim him as a “qualifying relative” if he has not earned more than $3,650 for TY 2010 and $3,700 for TY 2011. The child support would be offset through the Treasury Offset Program if your son received a refund.

      Thank you,
      Lisa Lewis

  75. I am wondering if I can claim my husband as a dependant for yr 2011. He only had a small amount of unemployment as income for the yr. However, he did not elect to have taxes taken out on that amount. So would I be required to pay that in for him if I do claim him? If I do not claim him is he required to file for those monies and claim?

    • Hi Shasta,
      Unfortunately, you cannot claim a spouse as a dependent. If you file married filed jointly, you will get a personal exemption of $3,650 for TY 2010 and $3,700 for TY 2011. Yes, he is required to claim unemployment income whether you file married filing jointly or married filing separately.

      I hope this helps you!

      Thank you,
      Lisa Lewis

  76. I have a question. My son is living with me. He is 26. He works and I’m sure he has made more than 3,600.00. Can I claim him on my income taxes? I support him mostly. He does pay child support for 5 children. He just make a little more than minimum wage. Thank you for your time.

    • Hi Marie,
      Sorry, if he made more than $3,650.00 for TY 2010 and $3,700 for TY 2011 you are not allowed to claim him as a dependent.

      Thank you,
      Lisa Lewis

  77. Hi ,

    My Boyfriend supports my son and I to the fullest. We live with his mother but we pay rent and some utilities, buy our clothes, food and whatever necessary.She is trying to claim me and my child on her taxes, Is this illegal? My sons father has a nice job and should be claiming our son and myself. What should I do?

    • Hi Lindsey,
      First, let me apologize. I responded to your comment on 9/1, however my September responses have to be done again due to enhancements being made to the blog.

      No, your boyfriend’s mother would not be able to claim you and your son. The only way she would be able to claim you is if she provided over half of your support and it does not appear that she is doing that.

      Your boyfriend can claim your son and he can claim you as long no one else claims you on their taxes, you are not required to file a tax return and you meet the following test:

      1. Your relationship must be legal. You or your boyfriend cannot be legally married to someone else.
      2. You must be a member of his household the entire year.
      3. You must meet the gross income test making less than $3700 in gross income for TY 2011 and $3650 in gross income for TY2010.
      4. Your boyfriend must have provided over half of your support for that year. Support is classified
      as amounts spent for food, lodging, clothing, education, medical and dental expenses, recreation, transportation,
      and necessities.
      5. You must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien of the U.S.

      I hope this helps you!
      Lisa Lewis

  78. i own this house. my parent and my wife parent live on same house but we dont live in that property.but they are getting social security and my mother and father law are getting social security income and foods stump and health benefit from the government and they are not paying the house we are letting them staying for free and also i am paying for the utillities. do i get tax credit or tax deductible if so how much will i get.thank for reading.

    • Hi Pete,
      First, I apologize. I responded to your comment the beginning of September, but some of the responses were lost during our enhancements to the blog so I am sending responses again.

      Unfortunately, you can only write your parents and in-laws off as dependents if you provided over half of the support for them. Because they receive social security, food stamps, and health benefits that most likely covers over half of their support.

      Thank you,
      Lisa Lewis

  79. I have guardianship of a child how do I file them on my taxes.. She is my cousin I just don’t know how this works I do have legal guardianship of her.

    • Hi Sam,
      If you have guardianship of the child you can claim them as a dependent as long as you meet the following test:
      – Dependent Taxpayer Test – You or the child cannot be claimed as a dependent of another.
      – Joint Return Test – Your dependent cannot file a joint return with another person.
      – Citizen or Resident Test – Person must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national or resident of Canada or Mexico.

      The child would be considered your “Qualifying Relative”. If the child was your adopted child they would be considered as your “Qualifying Child”
      There are additional test that must be met for a “Qualifying Child” as follows:
      – The child cannot be your “Qualifying Child” or “Qualifying Child” of another taxpayer.
      – The child must be related to you.
      – The child’s gross income must be less than $3700 for TY2011 and $3650 for TY2010
      – You must provide more than half of the support.
      For more information see IRS Pub 17 http://www.irs.gov/publications/p501/ar02.html#en_US_2010_publink1000220939
      Also, when preparing your taxes using TurboTax, you will be guided on how to file
      I hope this helps you!
      Thank you,
      Lisa Lewis

  80. my 9 year old granddaughter lives with us during the week she stays with her mother on the weekends.

    this is my son’s daughter he was never married and there was never a DNA proving the father of the baby, we claim her as our granddaughter. Her mother claims her on her income tax my question is can I as the grandparent also claim her on my income tax

    thank you, any help would be appreicated

  81. Im 36yrs living with my relative my sister. can she claim me as a dependent if im collecting unemployment benifits.

  82. i am 23 and only worked 1 1/2 weeks in december last year. i have a 2 yr old daughter who lives with me. we both were recieving foodstamps in KY last year. now we live with my parents and sister in NY. can my sister claim me or my daughter in her taxes? and do i still need to file taxes for just working those 1 1/2 weeks? I was also married last year till august. but then got an annulment. should i file taxes with my ex husband, even though we are back to our single status’? please help :)

  83. I support my girlfriends 2 year old uncle’s son. He lives with us and I support him. His parents offer no support for this child.

  84. i live with my boyfriend and not working just had a baby with him. my other son lives with us too hes 18. can he claim all 3 of us as dependents?

  85. My wife and I have supported our son and 3 grandchildren for the last year. Son had no income but he and our grandson lived separate from us which we paid for all expenses. 2 granddaughters live with us fulltime. He is divorced and is custodial parent and is owed back child support. Do we file and claim all 4 of them as dependents? How does he file to receive the back child support owed?

  86. My 21 year old son attended college last year and moved home after the Christmas break. As I funded his education and dorm expenses, can I claim him as a dependent?

  87. I was unemployed and lived with my boyfriend last year. His tax lady told him to claim me as a dependent because unemployment is reported differently then w-2’s. This makes me nervous as I have been independent for many years now. If he claims me will it negatively affect me in any way? I might be taking graduate courses using loan money this coming year. Would it affect it or my tax return? Thanks!

  88. I claimed my brother in law. He lived in my house for 10 months. He only worked a month last year his W2 was less then $3650. Today I found out he was collecting unemployment! He collected over 10k. I do not know what to do? What does the IRS do in this case?

  89. my daughter is a full time college student living at home she turned 25 on aug. 21, 2009. Can i claim her still as a dependent.

  90. My parents claimed me as a dependent even though they do not meet any of those criteria. I haven’t lived with them for two years, I make more than the minimum amount, and they only support they provide for me is allowing me to stay on their insurance (I pay all my medical bills, however). Can they claim me? If not, how do I correct there error?

  91. My Boyfriend lives with me and he is a resident from mexico and doesnt work can i claim him as a dependent?? Thank you

  92. My husband is a private contractor working in Iraq as a security, what can he claim as expenses when he is issued no receipt for his expenses? what exactly can he claim as his expenses, hair cuts count?

  93. Hi,
    I have paid for my brother’s one semester fee for the school year 2008, and have also paid for his living expenses and airline tickets for his trips to back home. He is on F-1 status (student visa) and doesn’t live with me. Can I claim him as my dependent? I filed an extension for the 2008 taxes and I am not ready to file them. Please help me out on this one.

  94. My son turned 18 yrs. old on March 26th of 2009. When we completed our turbo tax it would not let us claim him for the child tax credit. Is this correct? I have the understanding from many friends that they were able to claim their child in the same age bracket for the child tax credit and they received their money so I am checking to see if we are in any way able to claim him as we could really use the money as he is headed off to college. And if so, how do we go about receiving that money?

  95. Hello to A. Barham, Sorry but you can’t deduct any education costs (as a deduction or credit) that you are paying for your grandchild unless she was a dependent on your tax return.

  96. Hello Margaret, Your question isn’t simple. :) First your “gross income” must be less than $3,500. That “gross income” does not include social security that is not taxable. So if your taxable pension and other taxable income , not including your social security, is more than $3500, then your son cannot take you as a dependent.
    If your income is less than $3500, you need to check out the IRS worksheets. Here’s the link: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p17.pdf. Scroll down to page 33 for more info. YOu’ll see that if you live in your own home, the fair rental value of your home is considered support that you contribute to yourself. There’s a good worksheet there to figure out your total support and how much is contributed by your son.
    If it should workout that your son can take you as a dependent and if you need to file a return, you won’t get your own exemption deduction (3650 for 2009). (you don’t need to file unless your “gross income” is at least $10,300.

  97. Hello to Barbara, Sorry but you can’t claim your son’s tuition for a tuition deduction or education credit lifetime / hope) since you aren’t claiming him as a dependent. However, he can take the deduction/credit even tho’ you pay for it.

  98. Can I still claim my son’s college tuition that I paid if I don’t claim him as a dependent?

  99. I am 71 yrs. old on social security with a small pension that adds up to $6984 annually. My gross income is more than the $3500.
    My son lives with me, pays the mortgage, (two of them), food expenses, in short, everything. My money is used for medication and to pay insurance. He feels he can claim me as his dependent…my question, can he? and if he does, what will I lose by becoming his dependent? Please, can you respond? thank you, – sincerely, Margaret

  100. We are helping my grand-daughter, who lives with us now, finish her nursing schooling. She has a B.S., but wants to become and R.N. and needs to take 2 years of classes to do this. We have taken out a personal loan to help her. Her mother claims her as a dependent since she is still paying on the loan she got for her daughter’s four year college tuition and won’t pay any more toward her education. Can we claim any of this loan interest/amount on our taxes since her mother is already claiming her as a dependent?

  101. I had my granddaughter all year 2008 living in my household (under 2) I solely supported her all year, my daughter does not live with me but she claimed her on her taxes..and got her refund….Not knowing that— I claimed her also. I got a letter from the IRS that my tax refund is now on hold. Who is in the right to claim her, I would think i would have the right even if I do not have custody of her. Whats going to happen now?

  102. My husband got terminated from his job after 12 weeks of FMLA because of the accident during work but he’s under work man’s comp. He recieved a check twice a month from work man’s comp insurance. My question is if we’re supposed to disclose whatever money he received this 2008 for 2009 tax filing? And also since he got terminated since Jan. 09 and he cannot go back to his usual work because of the surgery (neck surgery), is he considered unemployed for our 2009 tax? We filed jointly. Any advise is highly appreciated. Thank you very much.

  103. My mother recently passed away. I live in another state, but provided tons of monetary support to her as she lived in a guardian care facility that mainly only took care of her health. Can I claim her as a dependent for her last year?

  104. Why can people claim residents of resident of Canada or Mexico as dependants? Should worry more about keeping the money on this side of the border rahter than subsisizing half of Mexico

    • ljmeyers17 on November 7, 2011 @IMissBritneyAlexI Well it ended may 5th and people are still psoting their comments, wasn’t trying to be offensive, just helpful


  106. My 2 sons 24 & 21 both filed there tax returns (earned more than $3500) and have received there federal returns. Each has lived in our home more than 6 monhs and received 100% support. The 24 year old was a full time student. The 21 year old was not a student last year.
    Can I claim any of my sons as dependents?

  107. I have full custody of my son, but my ex is allowed to claim him as a dependent in our divorce agreement. Question – even though I don’t claim my son as a dependent, can I claim the child tax credit since he lives with me 100%?

  108. I am the sponsor for my aunt and uncle to come to the United States. They both came last year as new resident aliens. They lived at my house for 8 months, so essentially they lived off of me. They did not work at all while they were here. Can I count them as dependants? Thanks.

  109. Can I claim my niece if she is here on a student visa going to college, living with us. She makes no money here, pays no rent to us and we supposrt all her expenses, except for tuition.

  110. July 13, 2008 the Court gave us temporary custody of a baby who was born January 3, 2008. We had to catch up all her medical check-ups and shots, paid for lots of medical attention for ear infections, etc. We also paid day-care expenses for her while I worked as well as all clothing, formula, diapers, etc. We still have custody of her and it’s April 11, 2009. Can we deduct the expenses for her care under charitable deductions since we can’t claim her as a dependent?

  111. My husbands X wife took 1 of their children on her tax return even though the divorce decree states that he (my husband) gets that child as his deduction. Only stipulation state is that he is current with child support. He is current, has always been yet she’s taken this deduction for last year and now this year. We received a letter from the IRS stating that two people had taken the same child as a dependent but when he called they just told him to wait and see what happens? She’s very clever at angling for any advantage. Is there anyway she could get to claim this child? Any advice?

  112. hello Danny, As long as you and your wife claim the child as a dependent on your tax return and the child lived with you all year, you can get the child tax credit. The child must be under age 17 and your income must be under $169,001.

  113. hello Venki, This is from the IRS: ” You cannot claim a person as a dependent unless that person is a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico, for some part of the year.” So from this wording, it doesn’t look like you can take them as an exemption.

  114. If your child is in a Correction Institution but you are sending money to him each month. Is that a deduction.

  115. My mother is 81 yrs old and is on Social Security, SSI, and receives medicare and medicaid benefits… she does not live with me, but I help support her.. can I claim her as a dependent, or will that jeapordize her benefits. She has not filed taxes in over 7 yrs.

  116. My nephew and his girlfriend have a child together. She is the custodial parent and claimed him on her tax return. But my nephew pays nearly 100% of his son’s childcare and private school costs. Can he claim any of these costs on his income tax? Thank you.

  117. Our daughter is a 21 year old full time student living at home but she earned more than $3,500. Can we still claim her as a dependent?

  118. my sister and her son ( 16 yrs ) lived with us for 7 months. We provided all support. Can we claim them as dependents if she also filed for when working the other 5 months. And if I can claim them will it affect her credit already received.

  119. If I claim my girlfriend as a dependent for tax benefits, do I make myself liable for any of her financial debts?

  120. My son and his family (wife and two teenage sons) have been living in our house for the last eight years. They do not pay rent or utility. Can we claim them as dependents on our taxes?

  121. my husband and I are taking care of our three grandchildren (ages 17 months, 4yrs and 5years) They were with us in 2008 (May throught the end of 2008 and are still with us in 2009)They are wards of the court and we get paid a monthly payment for them. The question is can we claim them on our income taxes ?? Paying babysitter,diaper formula etc is more than we receive from the state.

  122. My mother-in-law lives with my wife and I for just over half the year. The rest of the time she lives with her son in a house she owns. Because of alzheimers she cannot live alone, drive etc. and my wife now has power of attorney. Her only income is Social Security which is mainly used to keep the house she owns functioning. Her SS income helps pay for some medical and other necessities. But we provide most of everything else. Can I claim her as a dependent?

  123. I have a daughter who is a full time college student which does not live in my home whom I support. She has received schlorships and is the beneficiary of a Guaranteed college plan that I paid for. Can I claim her as a dependent and deduct her living expenses, books and college fees.

    • I am 61 years old and I live with my son, I don’t work. Can he claim me as a dependent? What other things can he write off as far as his support goes? Can he add me to his health insurance policy?

      • Hi Noelle,
        He can claim you if he provided over half of your support, your taxable income was not over $3,700, and you meet the citizenship test.
        Regarding his health insurance, adding you would be up to his provider.
        Thank you,
        Lisa Greene-Lewis

  124. I have a son 22yrs old still a full time student unemployed, and I fully support him. How old does he have to be for me to stop claiming him?

  125. I have a 38 year old son who does not live with me; Jason (the son)lives independently on his own, and is not my dependent. However, because of his autistic tendencies, he does not drive and either I or my wife drive him to work everyday. This is 22 miles roundtrip. Can I deduct mileage, and if so, how much

    • I am 29, supported my 40 year old brother. He did not work due to being addicted and had no place to stay. I payed for apartment and food expenses, transportation, hygien supplies etd. Being that I am older can I claim him as a relative exemption

      • Hi Ramona,
        Yes as long as you provided over half of his support, he didn’t make over $3,700, and he can meet the citizenship test.
        Thank you,
        Lisa Greene-Lewis

  126. Can I claim my wife and 2 kids as dependents who I supported year long but are living in my home country(INDIA)?

  127. Hello to James, It sounds like you are paying for more than half of the support for your mother-in-law. If so, and her taxable income (do not include her social security ) is less than $3,500, you can claim her as a dependent and get an exemption amount for her. If you claim her as a dependent, you can deduct your mother-in-law medical /dental expenses including related transportation costs (for personal car- 19cents per mile (1/1/08-6/30/08) and 27 cents per mile (7/1/08 – 12/31/08). All of these costs are deducted on Schedule A and are limited to the expenses in excess of 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. You cannot deduct her moving expenses to your home. Only moving related to changing of jobs is deductible. See
    http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc502.html for more info on medical expenses.

  128. Hello to MissMary, No, if the custodial parent has taken the child as a dependent, your son cannot also claim the child. He can only claim the child if the mother “released the exemption” to him.” Since she claimed the child, she didn’t release the exemption. Sorry


    • my brothers daughter has 2 children. and collects a welfare check, food stamps and gets medacaid. And they live with my brother. Can my brother claim all 3 on his income tax as dependents.

  130. i tried to claim my 21 daughter on my taxes and was told she was not eligible for earned income credits but her name appears on my tax forms.i also see mistakes made on my tax forms much different from my 2007 taxes.

  131. My 27-year old son does not work, cannot drive, and lives in our home year-round. He is not disabled; however, he is fearful of leaving the security of our home. Can we still claim him as a dependent? A tax advisor said we could.

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