Who Can I Claim As a Dependent?


The age-old question, “Who can I claim as my dependent?”, has remained a confusing topic for many taxpayers and an area where tax deductions are often missed or misstated on tax returns.

Diverse generations

Did you know, you may be able to claim your couch potato friend as a dependent?  Did you realize that support of your struggling aunt who didn’t live with you may qualify you for the dependency deduction?  Don’t feel bad, you would be surprised how many people don’t understand the dependency tax laws.

The bottom line is a dependent must be your “qualifying child” or “qualifying relative” and meet specific tests in order for you to claim them.

There are 5 test that will qualify a child as a dependent as follows:

  • Relationship – Must be your child, adopted child, foster-child, brother or sister, or a descendant of one of these(grand or nephew).
  • Residence – Must have the same residence for more than half the year.
  • Age – Must be under age 19 or under 24 and a full-time student for at least 5 months. They can be any age if they are totally and permanently disabled.
  • Support – Must not have provided more than half of their own support during the year.
  • Joint Support – The child cannot file a joint return for the year.

There are 4 tests that will qualify a relative as a dependent as follows:

  • They are not the “qualifying child” of another taxpayer or your “qualifying child”.
  • Gross Income – Dependent earns less than $3,700 TY 2011 and $3,650 TY 2010.
  • Total Support – You provide more than half of the total support for the year.
  • Member of Household or Relationship – The person must live with you all year as a member of your household or be one of the relatives that doesn’t have to live with you see IRS Publication 501 for a list of qualifying relatives.

Many taxpayers are surprised to find they may be able to claim a boyfriend, girlfriend, domestic partner, or friend as a qualifying relative if:

  • They are a member of your household the entire year.
  • The relationship between you and the dependent does not violate the law (you can’t still be married to someone else.  Also check your individual state law.  Some states do not allow you to claim a boyfriend or girlfriend as a dependent even if your relationship doesn’t violate the law).
  • You meet all the other criteria for “qualifying relatives” (gross income and support).

Here are  some common questions from our users that we answered:

Question:  My 26 year old is living with me.  He works and has made more than $3,600.  Can I claim him as a dependent?

Answer:  No, because your child would not meet the age test, which says your “qualifying child” must be under age 19 or 24 if a full-time student for a least 5 months out of the year.  He may be considered a “qualifying relative”, but his income must be less than $3,700 for 2011 and $3,650 for 2010.

Question:  I start work in September of this year and had my baby in March.  Can I claim my baby as a dependent on my taxes?

Answer:  Yes, even if you have a baby on December 31, you can claim them as a dependent on your taxes.

Question:  My boyfriend fully supports me.  We live with his mother, but we pay for our full support including rent.  His mother wants to claim us as dependents.  Who can claim the deduction?

Answer:  As long as your boyfriend is not married (be sure to check your individual state law regarding claiming a boyfriend or girlfriend some states don’t comply with the federal law), supplies over half of your support, and you lived with him the entire year, you did not earn more than $3,650 TY 2010 and $3,700 TY 2011, you would qualify as his dependent.  His mother could not claim you since she did not provide more than half of the support.

Question:  My spouse has not worked all year except for a month, can I claim him as a dependent?

Answer:  You cannot claim a spouse as a dependent.  If you file married filing jointly, you will get a personal exemption of $3,650 for TY 2010 and $3,700 for TY 2011 for each of you.

Now that you are armed with more knowledge about dependent tax laws, you may want to reconsider kicking out your free-loading friend.  They may help you get a larger refund.

For more information see our Who Counts as Your Dependent or Can I Claim My Girlfriend As a Dependent blogs.

Comments (743) Leave your comment

  1. My 2 children and I live with my mother due to the fact that I’ve been laid off. I did not work at all 2014. Can my mother claim all of us? Also only received 1745 in unem ployment

  2. In 2013 our daughter claimed herself, however she moved back home in 12/2013 and lived with us until 12/2014. She made less than $2,000 and was doing several online classes. Can we claim her in our 2014 taxes?

  3. My wife and I got married June 21 of 2014, from January my wife lived in the trailer on my parents property. After we got married we lived in that trailer for the next 5 month’s before we left. While. living there we paid $300 a month to cover the gas and electric and the water bill, and also pain nearly $50-75 every week to two weeks for propane. My mother wants to claim us as dependents for the time spent there. Can she claim us?

    1. Hi Austin,
      She would have to provide over half of your support and you each could not make over $3,950 in order for her to claim you. It sounds like you paid most of your living expenses.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

    1. Hi,
      He wouldn’t be a dependent, but you would still get an exemption for him of $3,950, which reduces your taxable income.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  4. I am 26 years old and disabled. I made 7,000 last year, I live with my mom and she fully supports me. Can she claim me as I dependent? Can I still file?

  5. My daughter just filed her taxes on Turbo Tax. When asked if she had any dependents she indicated yes. however, when the question regarding how much income I made, she indicated more than the 3900. However, my income is SSD and not taxable. Can she amend her return? The system said I was not a qualified dependent, assuming based upon my income entered as taxable, when in fact it is not.

  6. I’m 20 years old. I took a year and a half off from high school, and worked all through 2014, earning roughly $13,000. Now I am a full time student, but I had started January 2015. This means that I can’t be claimed as a dependent under the age clause because:
    -I’m not under 18
    -I was not a full-time student until 2015
    Am I correct in this assumption?

  7. Hi, if i been claiming my daughter for the past 13years but she has been living with her grandparents and they receive Medicaid for her, can I still claim her?

  8. Can we claimed our parents as our dependents, we send them $300 a month or so, my mom & my dad doesn’t work. But we dont live in the same place?

    1. Hi Kate,
      Your parents don’t have to live with you, but you have to provide over half of their support and they can’t make over $3,950 in taxable income. TurboTax will help you claim them if you are eligible.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      1. Hi Kate,
        If your taxes were already accepted by the IRS you will not be able to.
        Thank you,
        Lisa Greene-Lewis

  9. I was out of work and living with my mother for 9 months of 2014, I started working in october and made 3500 by year’s end. Do I file, should I be claimed? I am over the age of 25.

  10. my wife and i had a baby in may of 2014. i work full-time and she works part time. we both forgot to claim our child exemption on our w2 or w4. we are about to do our taxes and was wondering who should claim our daughter? is it too late to claim her or change our exemption?

    1. Hi Kevin,
      No, it’s not too late to claim her on your taxes and you should claim her since you will receive a dependent exemption, child tax credit, and you may be able to receive other tax benefits. Just make sure you have a social security number for her. The fact that you did not add her as an exemption on your W-4 only impacts your withholding so typically when you add an exemption your withholding is less. Since you did not include her you may have had more taxes withheld, but you may get it back as a refund when you file your taxes.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  11. My nephew is 19 and legally blind he lives with us an receives like 600 a month I disability should I claim him I know his check is based on living with us

    1. Hi Shawn,
      Your nephew could be claimed as a “qualifying child” if he lived with you over half of the year and did not provide over half of his own support.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  12. My ex-father-in-law lives with me. He collects Social Security. Does not file income tax anymore. Can I claim him on my taxes as a dependent?
    We live in Florida.

    1. Hi Mike,
      If you provide over half of your fathers support, he’s a US citizen or National, and his social security income is not taxable then you can claim him. TurboTax will walk you through claiming him.

      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  13. I am 26 years old and live with my boyfriend who has a disability. He does receive an SSI check. We had a baby together August 2014. Can I claim him as a dependent? If so, how much can I expect to reduce, more or less, for doing so?

    1. Hi Linnette,
      If your boyfriend lived with you for the entire year and you provided over half his support, you may be able to claim him as a dependent as long as he did not earn any taxable income over $3,950. TurboTax will walk you through claiming dependents so you get the tax refund you are eligible for.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  14. my daughter is 31 yo and is going to school full time, she is not working and we provide all her living expenses for past 1.5 yrs. can i claim her as a dependent?

    1. Hi Jodi,
      As long as you provide over half of her support, she does not earn more than $3,950, and she is a US citizen, National, or resident of Canada or Mexico, you can claim her. TurboTax walks you through claiming a child or relative as a dependent.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  15. My wife was pregnant in 2014, and had the baby in Aug 2014 and she could not work due to pregnancy. I had to support her and the baby the whole year. She is age 21. Can I claim her as a earned income credit or a dependent, since she was not able to work?

    1. Hi Ryan,
      Your wife cannot be a dependent, but you will get an exemption for she and your baby worth $3,950 each. Your baby will also qualify you for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Make sure you have a social security number for your new baby. TurboTax will walk you through all of the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  16. I have a 21 year old who made less than $3000 in 2014. He lives at home and did take 2 college classes during the 2nd semester of 2014. Can I not claim him as a dependent? If so, how?
    ALSO … I have a 17 year old who is a senior in high school. He worked and made less than $2000. Why is my tax software not including him as a dependent?

    1. Hi David,
      You would be able to claim your 21 year old as a “qualifying relative” since he made less than $3,950 as long as you. provided over half of his support. You should also be able to claim your 17 year old as a “qualifying child” as long as he didn’t supply over half of his own support. Double check your answers to questions regarding your dependents and also make sure you are inputting their social security numbers correctly.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  17. I have a 22 year old that just graduated from college in May 2014, he lived with me until the end of August 2014. He has since moved to another state and started working from Sept – Dec making about $40,000. Since he was in college from Jan – May and not working until he moved out the end of August, can we claim him and his college on our 2014 taxes?

  18. My daughter has lived with me full time. She has part time job earn $9k last year 2014. Can i claim her as a dependant on my taxes? She is 23 years old.

  19. My sister is 31 and my god sister is 18 and they both been living with me and am the only working can i file both of them as a dependant

  20. My mother is 61 and on disability (has been for years now). I had twins 20 months ago and she moved in to help watch them while my husband and i work. Besides her medicaid she only makes $742.00 a month. That does not cover much at all:) Am I able to claim her as a dependent on my taxes? I pay for her transportation, room and board, meals, utilities ect….
    thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Leia,
      If her $742 per month is taxable income like from a retirement you could not as it does not meet the income test, which says a “qualifying relative” must make under $3,950 a year. If it is not taxable income and you provide over half of her support then you may be able to claim her. TurboTax will guide you through the necessary questions and give you the deduction if you are eligible.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

    2. My boyfriend and i have been living together for 2 years he didnt work at all last year but i did. I fully supported the household including him. Can i claim him as a dependent on my taxes

  21. My live in boyfriend for two years has not worked all year and lived with me for 13 months. He finally starting claiming unemploymnet in April for himself. He paid me only 3600.00 for the whole year. Can I claim him?

  22. According to my divorce papers,my ex can claim both of our children if the deduction does not benefit me. I just got married in Nov 14. I do not work. Can we claim my child based on my husband’s income and the deduction benefittng us?

  23. in this man nurse and he is 65 yrs of age and receive payment for mhmr.he is unable to care for himself.I have been supporting him.and being his home nurse for 12 months can I carry him as a dependant?

  24. Me and my boyfriend have lived together for about 4 years I have a son and we have a daughter together can he claim me and my son who I have physical custody of and has lived with us the whole year also if I’m unemployed and just go to school or can he only claim our daughter

  25. My mom has a 401K and wants to take some out to help me pay for college. I am 31 and struggling but make too much for her to claim me… How would we file our taxes if she took the money out of her 401K?

    I am trying to start college but am short $10,000.

    My mom and brother did this a few years ago, but we can’t remember how they were both able to file taxes. Can you please help me?

  26. Lisa, My son was on my 2014 Health care, I received my 1095A from healthcare. My son will file his own income tax for 2014. what do I need to do about the 1095A. they have him listed on the healthcare as a dependant

  27. If my boyfriend lives with me can I claim him as dependent if I’ve supported him all year and he has not had a job? Also how much do you get back for 1 child ?

  28. HI Lisa… A quick question.We claim our son on our taxes and he is in school and works fulltime.Since we don’t qualify for the EIC can he receive the EIC even if we claim him?

  29. Hi I’m Tyhree. I’ve been working two different jobs for about 4 months Can I claim my 11 month old nephew whom I’ve helped take care of. His mother isnt employed so no one is claiming him?

  30. Can my bf claim me as a dependant even if i filed my own i meet all the requiremts for him to claim me because i didnt make nothing pretty much

  31. I claimed my neice last year cause I took care of her but her mother took her back and im not claiming her will I get in trouble with irs??

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