Who Can I Claim as a Dependent for This Tax Year?

Tax Tips

That is one of the trickiest questions when it comes to preparing your taxes. It’s so difficult because the nature of families has changed so much. Back in the days before divorce was as common as it is today, claiming a dependent was easy. Two parents meant one married filed jointly return that claimed all the children. Today, just having the parents separated and filing two returns can mean audits if you’re not careful!

It’s also important to make sure you’re claiming every dependent you can. If this recent economic crisis has taught us anything, it’s that it’s very important to get your taxes right so you get the largest refund you’re entitled to. Last year, the average tax refund was nearly three thousand dollars according to the IRS. Who wouldn’t want an extra $3,000 to help with bills this year?

So, let’s discuss how the rules have changed and who you can claim as a dependent for the tax year 2010.

Qualifying Dependents

By definition, a dependent is someone who is a qualifying child or qualifying relative, which by definition makes it only possible for that dependent to appear on one tax return. When it comes to deciding if someone is a qualifying child or relative, qualifying child takes precedence if the individual satisfies all the requirements..

Qualifying Child

To be considered a qualifying child, you need to satisfy four criteria – relationship, residence, age, and support. On relationship, the child must be your child, step child, adopted or foster child, brother or sister, or a descendant of one of these (so nephews count too). They must live with you for more than half the year (residence) and be under the age of nineteen unless they are in college, then the age limit rises to twenty four. The age restriction is removed if they are totally and permanently disabled. Finally, you must provide more than half of his or her financial support during the year.

Qualifying Relative

To satisfy the requirements to be a qualifying relative, there are six requirements. First, they can’t be a qualifying child. They have to earn less than the personal exemption amount during the year, which for TY2010 was $3,650. You must also provide more than half of the total support. If they are married, they cannot file a joint return with their spouse (this would be double counting). They must be related to you in some way (the laundry list includes every conceivable familial relationship you can think of) or live with you for the entire year. Finally, they have to be a citizen or resident alien of the United States, Canada, or Mexico.

As you can see, many of the rules exist so that one dependent cannot be claimed on two returns.

Finally, we leave with this word of warning. This is also one of the areas where being accurate is crucial. If you claim someone who is already being claimed by another taxpayer, you’ll get audited regardless of which tax bracket you’re in. This makes it especially important for divorced parents to communicate with one another.

Comments (169) Leave your comment

  1. I have a daughter who turned 24 on December 29th. She meets all of the six requirements for a dependant child except the age. She graduated mid May as a full time student from college. She made about $ 15k over the tax year. Can we still claim her as a dependant?

    1. Hi Pat,
      Unfortunately since your daughter turned 24 in 2014 she could only be considered a “qualifying relative” so you could not claim her since she made over $3,950. Income does not come into play for a “qualifying child”, but they have to be under 19 or under 24 if a full time student.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  2. Can I claim my daughter she is disabled and lives with me all year round and still goes to school but turned 18 on 02/19/2015

  3. I just turned 24 on January 21st, 2015. For my taxes this year can my mom still claim me or no? I am in college full time but I didn’t know if I was too old. Thanks!

    1. Hi Alex,
      If you were a student last year and you didn’t provide over half of your support then she can claim you.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

    1. Hi,
      If you provided over half of her support and she didn’t make over $3,950 in taxable income.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s