Dependent Basics: Who Can I Claim as a Dependent?

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You know you can claim exemptions for your children on your tax return when you file. But if you have other family members that you support, you may be able to get exemptions for them as well.  A dependent exemption reduces your taxable income by $3,950 in 2014, so when it comes to exemptions, the more the merrier. Here’s how they can add up.

Your children. To qualify as a dependent child, a child does not need to be your biological child, but they must be related to you in some way, such as your stepchild, adopted child, brother, sister, niece, nephew, etc. And the child has to be under the age of 19, with a few exceptions: if the child is totally disabled there is no age requirement, and if the child was a full-time student for at least five months of the year and is under 24, they qualify as an exemption.

Your child must also live with you more than half the year, unless they live with the other parent or are away at school or temporarily away for some other reason.

There are some other rules as well – the child must be not be self-supporting, must be a US citizen or national, or a resident of the United States, Canada or Mexico, and you must list the child’s social security number on your tax return.

Your relatives. If your parents, other relatives, or even non-relatives are dependent on your support, you may be able to claim a dependency exemption for them, if they pass three tests.

  1. They have to be either a relative or member of your household the entire year if they are a non-relative. Relatives include:
  • 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.
  1. The person’s taxable income must be less than $3,950 (this goes up every year).
  2. 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.


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