Who Qualifies as a Dependent on Your Tax Return?


Got family? Then you might have tax deductions as well. Most of us know you can claim a personal exemption for your children on your tax returns, but many people forget that they might be able to claim exemptions for elderly parents or other relatives that qualify as dependents as well.

Is it really worth it? For each dependent you can deduct $3,900 from your federal taxable income, which is likely to reduce your taxes. And if the dependent is your child, you may be able to claim the child tax credit of $1,000 as well.

Children you support

In IRS-Speak, a child you support is a “qualifying child.”

To be qualifying, the child doesn’t have to be your biological child, but must be related to you, such as a stepchild, adopted child, brother, sister, niece, nephew – you get the idea.

The child has to be under age 19 unless permanently and totally disabled. An exception to this rule lets you claim an exemption if the child has been a full-time student for at least five months of the year and is under the age of 24.

The child must be dependent and not-self supporting, must live with you unless living with the other parent in the case of divorce or separation or temporarily absent, such as being away at school.

The child must be a US citizen, US national or a resident of the United States, Canada or Mexico during the year.

And finally, you have to list the child’s social security number on your tax return.

Relatives you support

If you support your parents or your great-uncle Harry, you might be able to claim a dependency exemption for them, if they pass three tests.

1. The person must either be a relative or a member of your household. The category of relatives is broad, and includes:

  • your child, adopted child, step child, foster child, or their descendents, such as your grandchild descendant of any of them (for example, your grandchild) if they are not considered your “qualifying child”
  • your brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, or stepsister, or their descendents
  • your father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, grandparent, or other ancestor
  • a brother or sister of your father or mother, or
  • your son-in-law, daughter-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law, but only while the marriage exists, not after it ends in death or divorce.

2. The person’s taxable income must be less than $3,900 (this goes up every year).

3. You must pay for more than half the person’s support during the year, unless the person is supported by several people who all agree in a multiple support agreement that you can claim the exemption.

You don’t need to worry about figuring this all out. TurboTax makes it easy. After asking you a few simple questions about your family, TurboTax will determine for you who qualifies as a dependent on your tax return. That way, you’ll get the biggest tax refund possible with the least amount of hassle.

Comments (673) Leave your comment

  1. My nephew has been living with me since June 2014 while he attends trade school. His mother claimed him on her tax return and he filed his own taxes as well. Am I able to claim him as a dependent on my 2014 tax return?

  2. I just ripped an associate of mine a “new one” because he told me he had filed his personal tax return claiming as a dependent the child of his “girlfriend”. Quizzing him, he admitted he is NOT the Father, she is “just a friend” (no carnal knowledge) that he has “known for a minute”, AND THE WORST point, that it was HER IDEA. Oh and she would get half of the return expected.
    My guess is that “she” has others duplicating this scenario.
    Can you tell me what his potential penalties might be so I can SHOCK HIM into reality and send an Amended Return to UNDO this sad scenario?

  3. my wif has a son in thailand which she has toatal custody and pays all his expenses- he has green card and social security #- ca we claim him on taxes- his age is 19

  4. I have a 20yr old son and a 16yr old son who live with me, I am a single parent and recently did my taxes for 2014. I would like to know if I can claim my 20 yr old son who didn’t work at all in 2014 so I basically supported him in everything. Is it to late to claim him? Or is it possible to claim him?

  5. Hi, my son is a ft student. He already filed on turbo tax but on line 5 of 1040z he put $10,150 in that box which I think means he claimed himself. He did this in error, now when my husband and I tried to file it says we can’t claim him and was rejected due to this error. I know it says to file an amendment but when we go on turbo tax to try to change that it will not less us change it, or even find it on there to change it. Is there anything we can do ?

  6. If you have a court order for the noncustodial parent to claim the children every other year but that noncustodial parent provides none of their support and has them maybe 1 month out of the year (scheduled holidays only) does that parent still have the right to claim the children legally? She doesn’t pay CS and lives 3 states away so rarely gets the children

  7. I have a daughter who turned 19 in November of 2014. She lived in my home for 11 months and earned about $500 in income, therefore my wife and I provided more than half of her support. I claimed her as a qualifying relative after using the question and answer tool on the IRS website to determine if I was entitled to do so. We e-filed more than 30 days ago and have not yet received our refund. Claiming our daughter as a qualifying relative was the only thing different about our return this year…in previous years, we always got our refund within 21 days…could claiming my daughter as a QR be what is holding up processing of our return this year?

  8. In 2014, I was 21/22, was a full-time student for 15 weeks and worked full time for the second half of the year (July-Dec, currently still working full time). I live at home with my mom who pays for everything but my car payment, gas, student loans and misc purchases I make. Am I a dependent?

  9. Am u able to claim my mother and brother who love in another country I send money to them all the time? They do not have a social here in the States?

  10. Hi, I had a question. Turbo tax won’t allow us any child tax credit or earned income credit. I was a stay at home mother who has all rights to both children the fathers rights are suspended. And my boyfriend has lived with me and supported both children and myself for the entire year. We do not believe in marriage. But turbo tax won’t allow him to claim them unless he is a stepparent. Do we have to be married for him to be considered a step parent? Even though their father has never paid child support and my live in boyfriend who we all see as a stepparent has provided for them for over a year

  11. Well My Turbo Tax wont let me claim my son because he made more than $3,900 working HOWEVER, he IS a full time student and we do support him – he lives at home, we pay for his food, lodging and clothes….. his money goes to pay for his car – SO WHY IS TURBO TAX Telling me he is NOT claimable? Please EXPLAIN

    1. Hi Leslie,
      If he is 19 and a full-time student you should be able to claim him as long as he did not provide over half of his own support, he lived with you more than half the year (temporary absences for school can be an exception), and he meets the citizenship test. Please go back through the questions carefully. One question off can cause you not to be able to claim him.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      1. Same situation as Leslie Engelman with me, however my son made $5,300 in 2014, as I was preparing the taxes I saw those options and when I did his taxes there is also an option where it asks if anyone else claimed him as a dependent… so can he do his taxes too?

  12. My aunt came to live with me in June of 2014. Can I claim head of household and also claim her as a dependent since her SS benefits barely cover her additional medical expenses? She is 85 years old and we also have day attendants come in and look after her.

    1. what are considered paid support? Mom is in assisted living, dad lives with me. Paying bills from checking account that has their & my name
      What is taxable income? ( VA aide; social security , pension)..
      How do you prorate bills for parent living with you? ( mortgage payment , utilities, grociers, others?

  13. my daughter is 21 years old and is living with me and my husband we support her she has taken ged classes at a college last year 2014 she has not worked in a year can we claim her as a dependent or qualifying relative?

    1. You can as long as she has not made at least $3,900 in taxable income for the year. I had the same situation with my son, who was not in college. The year before last, he made too much income and I could not claim him. This past year, he hardly made any income (about $1,000 total), so I can claim him.

  14. My son was in another country for the entire year, with his grand parents. I worked in USA and supported him financially (school and living expenses). Can I claim him as a dependent in my tax returns?

  15. My daughter is 16 and I am going to claim her as a dependent like I do every year however, she works and I am curious to know if she needs to file a tax return as well.

  16. Hi maam my husbund is almost 4 yrs here my two son and i came here june 2014 they are 6yrs old and 4yrs old..before we go here june 2014 my husbund file his tax together with us by 2013..my question is are we consider to be his dependents when he files his tax now?did my husbund can get money for my two son and i?please reply i need your opinion maam so that my husbund knows..

  17. Hi maam liza i just want to know if we consider to be the dependents of my husbund when he files his tax now we came here june 2014..my two son and i can get a tax now?

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