Who Can I Claim As a Dependent?

Family

This post can be found en Español here.

The article below is accurate for your 2017 taxes, the one that you file this year by the April 2018 deadline. Tax information below will change next year for your 2018 taxes since the personal and dependent exemption has been eliminated under the new tax law effective on your 2018 taxes, but won’t impact you this year. Learn more about tax reform here.

The 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.

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 scratch their heads about 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. The 5 tests that will qualify a child as a dependent are:

  • 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.

The 4 tests that will qualify a relative as a dependent are:

  • Qualifying Child: They are not the “qualifying child” of another taxpayer or your “qualifying child.”
  • Gross Income: The dependent being claimed earns less than $4,050 in 2017 ($4,050 in 2016).
  • Total Support: You provide more than half of the total support for the year.
  • Member of Household or Relationship: The person (a friend, girlfriend, non-blood relative) must live with you all year as a member of your household.

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, for example, you can not still be married to someone else. (Also, check your individual state law, as 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 we have answered for you here:

Question: My 26-year-old is living with me. He works and has made more than $4,050. 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 $4,050 in 2017.

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 my boyfriend pays 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, you lived with him the entire year, and you did not earn more than $4,050, 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 $4,050 for each of you.

Now that you are armed with more knowledge about dependent tax laws, you may find that your friend crashing on your couch may help you get a larger tax refund.

Don’t worry about remembering these rules come tax time. TurboTax will ask you simple questions and give you the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for based on your answers. If you still have questions, you can connect live via one-way video to a TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent to get your tax questions answered. The TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent can even review, sign, and file your tax return.

Comments (869) Leave your comment

  1. Oh, let me add please to the post I just posted regarding my 88 year old father. Just wondering for clarification, is providing over half the support financial support or does that also cover physical, mental, emotional and proving all transportation? Th banks Lisa

  2. I have kept my 88 year old father for 2.5 years at my house at 100% at my expense plus s 24/7 care. He has SS which I realize does NOT count towards “income” to qualify for me to claim him on my tax return. However, he has investments which he of course makes money on. Is his investment money counted as INCOME for him? He does not work. What exactly does and does NOT qualify as INCOME?

  3. My daughter is 38 lives at home. She has applied for ssd. Because she can’t work because of her disability. She hasn’t been approved yet. Is she eligible for disability credit

      1. Hi Sherri,

        You can claim her as dependent if she meets either the qualifying child or qualifying relative test, is a US citizen or resident, you are the only person claiming her as a dependent, and she is not married and files a joint tax return. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about your family and will determine for you who qualifies as a dependent on your tax return. Here is more information relating to dependents: https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tips/family/rules-for-claiming-a-dependent-on-your-tax-return/L8LODbx94.

        Thank you
        TurboTax Brittany

  4. Lisa, my 26 year old son who is full time student, I will claim him as a dependent, can he file a tax return for tax he paid for 3,873. Dollars he earned

  5. My 19 year old daughter was a full time college student in 2017 living at school for 9mo of the year. She earned $8000 at a job, but we paid more than half her support. Can we claim her as a dependent?

    1. Hi Tami,
      Yes, since she is a full time student under 24 and you provide more than half of her support then you would be able to claim her as a dependent regardless of whether she made $8,000. TurboTax will ask you simple questions and help you claim her as a dependent if you are eligible.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  6. Hi i have two kids me and brother live together I have been out of work for the past 2 years with an illness my brother has covered all the bills can my brother claim the kids as dependents what all should we bring with us

    1. Hi Cassandra,
      If your brother has been providing over half of the support for your kids he may be able to claim them. If he uses TurboTax it will ask simple questions and give them the dependent exemptions if he is eligible.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

    1. Hi Ashley,
      If your ex husband claimed EITC that means he also claimed your son as a dependent. Only one of you can claim him as a dependent. IRS will not allow two people to claim a dependent.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  7. I have a few questions about the support test for my parents:
    1) Do I include my parents SSA money as part of their income?
    2) Do I also take out their payment to life insurance from their income? The support test worksheet does not list this as part of an expense.
    3) I own the house my parents live in but can I include a rent portion, base on rental cost around the area, in their expense for the year?

    1. Hi Jenna,
      Regarding the support test:
      1) If their social security income is not taxable income then you don’t include it. Typically social security income is not taxable unless you have other sources of income like retirement income that make it taxable.
      2) If the life insurance payment is paid by them that would be an other expense
      3) Regarding rent, you should include it as an expense if they actually pay the rent.

      If you use TurboTax it will help claim your parents if you are eligible based on your entries.

      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  8. My child did not have healtcare, and we did know our healthcare had droped her and could not re-enroll untill Nov 16. Will i pay a penalty fee.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Christine,
      For 2016 the penalty for not having health insurance is $347.50 for kids, but you may be eligible for tax deductions and
      Credits that help offset the tax penalty. Turbo will help you easily report your health insurance status and will ask you simple questions and give you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  9. My 34 year old daughter lives with us along with her child. She is divorced and we support her 100 percent so she can take care of her baby. She lived with us the full year and was divorced the full year. No one else is claiming her or the baby. I knew we could claim the baby, but want to know if we can claim our daughter.

    1. Hi Cindy,
      Yes, as long as your daughter didn’t make over $4,050, you provided over half of her support, and she meets the other requirements you can claim her as well. TurboTax will ask you simple questions and give you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  10. Lisa,

    My son who is 18 years old is a Full-Time College Student and lives with us at home, He has a Part-Time Job and makes less than $4,050 a year. From what I’m reading, we can claim him on our taxes as a dependent but he can not file a separate return just on him? Is that correct? if we claim him, no separate return?

    1. Hi Bobby,
      Yes if you claim him he cannot claim himself on his tax return if he files. Don’t forget to take education tax benefits if you are eligible. TurboTax will ask you simple questions and give you the tax deductions and credits you deserve.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

    1. Hi Missy,
      With TurboTax you don’t need to fill out or know tax forms. TurboTax will ask simple questions and give you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  11. OMG!! I didn’t know I could still claim our 23 yr old Son who made less than $4000 last year let alone his Friend who has been living in our home for over a yr and is 22yrs old. I wish I would had known this, because then I would had claimed then both and possibly received more in my Refund 😕

    1. Hi Gary,
      If you meet the requirements you can amend your tax return from last year. You can go back three tax years and claim a tax refund.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  12. I provide support for my 14 year old brother because my mother does not work and she can not claim him. I do not live there but I help them with rent and other expenses. I know my mom is over the claiming age but can I claim him? Even though I live with my boyfriend and daughter? I am filling head of household and claiming my own baby as I provided all support for her as well.

    1. Hi,
      If you provide over half of your brother’s support and no one else can claim him you may be able to claim him. You may be able to claim your mother also as a “qualifying relative” if you provided over half of her support and she didn’t make over $4,050. You can claim “qualifying relatives” without meeting age requirements. TurboTax will ask you simple questions and help you get the tax deductions and credits you deserve for your dependents based on your answers.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  13. Our 24-year-old granddaughter lives in a rental trailer near us. She is totally and permanently disabled. I am her representative payee and my husband and I are her legal guardians and conservators. She received a total of $9,061 from Social Security in 2016. Her expenses (including rent, utilities, etc.) came to $13,279. This did not include food and clothes that I occasionally bought for her, but did not keep track of. She also is on food stamps. Can we claim her as a dependent on our taxes?

    1. Hi Patricia,
      If what you paid is more than 50% of her support then you may be able to claim your granddaughter if no one else is claiming her. Turbo Tax will walk you through claiming your dependent and ask you simple questions and give you the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for based on your answers.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  14. I’m married with kids own my own home with daycare expense only investment is 401k from work how would I file with turbo tax and why

  15. I have lived with my girlfriend for 3 years already, we’ve just had a baby last year. For the last year, she made less than $5,000. I want to know if I can still claim her as my dependent.

    1. Hi James,
      Congratulations on your baby. If she made less than $4,050, you lived together the entire year, you provided over half of her support, and she meets the citizenship rules then you can claim her.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  16. My brother and sister are ages 9 and 11. I moved out about 3 months ago but I pay all of their bills and the bills are in my name. Am I still ablend to claim them on my tax return even tho I don’t live there anymore.

    1. Hi James,
      If you provided over half of their support you may be able to claim them if no one else can claim them as a dependent. You would need to confirm that no one else can claim them as a dependent. Your brother and sister would also need to meet all of the citizenship tests and not make over $4,050 each.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  17. I was a student last year during 2015 and I lived with my parents. I am 23 years old. I fulfill all the requirements for a dependent, except it’s unclear about the age test. I went to a school that had a J-term and as a result was only attending school for February, March, April and a part of May. Does this mean I cannot be claimed as a dependent?

    1. Hi Michelle,
      You may still be able to be claimed as a “qualifying relative” since you didn’t meet the test that requires you to be in college full time for at least five months if you are 19 to 24. Your parents may be able to claim you as a “qualifying relative” as long as you did not provide over half of your own support, you are not claiming yourself, and you didn’t make over $4,000. TurboTax will help your parents get the dependency exemption if they are eligible.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

    1. Hi,
      You may be able to claim her as a “qualifying relative” as long as she did not provide over half of her own support, passed the citizenship test, did not make over $4,000, and she doesn’t claim herself, and no one else can claim her.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  18. Can I claim my son who was 23 but not living with me. He is in florida and I in ohio but I support him. Rent bills food etc…

  19. I made 20000.00 this year my 17 yr.old daughter made 13000.00 but I supported her fully clothing food etc… so can i still claim her even though she made that much. I’m panicking because I already filed

  20. Hi, I am currently a student in college. I was wondering if I could carry myself after my mother carries me? I worked 7 months last year plus school and made under $4,000.

  21. My now girlfriend and I bought a house, then shortly had our baby a few months after months have gone by and now we are trying to figure out what’s gets us the most on this year’s taxes. The house is in her name. Would it be more beneficial for her to claim the house and I claim our baby vs. Her claiming both house and baby?

  22. I’m married. My wife worked one month of the year because of the birth of our son. Can I file head of household? I paid student loans, home loan, and I was in school full time.

  23. My son is in college half time. He is 20 and working part time. I pay his room and board while in school and he comes home on holidays and breaks. If he decides to join the military in August, will I still be able to claim him as a dependent for year 2016?

  24. i live with my mom and I made around 13000 dollars can my mom still claim me on her taxs plus I file my own tax return

    1. Hi Jessica,
      It depends on your age. If you are over 19 or over 24 and a full-time student then your mom cannot claim you if you make over $4,000. If you are under 19 or under 24 and a full-time student for at least 5 months she may be able to claim you, but you can not claim a personal exemption when you file your taxes if she claims you. TurboTax will help your mom figure out if she can claim you by asking simple questions.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  25. I NEED INFO ABOUT FILING TAX AND claiming my 47 year old’s medical expense while he was in a drug rehab. hospital for 6 months..He worked for 2 months however the income was only $1,500.00. I paid by borrowing $5,000.00 for his stay at the rehab center by sending payments weekly by money gram, directly. Also paid additional out of pocket from savings I had..I was going to file on line, however am afraid to start, since I don’t need additional trouble. would it be best to have a firm file for me. It terrifies me to do taxes anyway, so I need expert advise. Thank You

  26. I have only worked in the month of December 2015. I have a 1 and a half year old daughter living with me and also my 4 month old that i gave birth to in September 2015. Can i claim them? Do i qualify to do so? I have made way less than $4,000. I am single and nobody else can claim my children or myself and nobody else has cared for my children.

  27. Yes I have a question I claimed my 2 kids and it says I’m still only getting 1,178 back total and I’m supposed to have atleast 12,000 for my dependents and it says I have none I’d like to see if you can help me figure out why this says this

  28. I live with my parents and I worked two jobs last year , I put 2 down . I got my w2s and I’m wanting to file and my son but my parents are wanting to claim us both but can they still claim my 4 year old son and i even though it says I was claiming myself and my son which is 2 on my w2s? Not sure why they want to claim us when I can claim myself and my son?

  29. My daughter is 19 and worked made about 6500 can I still claim her as a dependent and she is in college.Can she also file a single tax return if I can carry her as a dependent?

  30. My mother passed away and I am now taking care of my handicapped disabled aunt . She now lives with me . She has no one else except me . Can I claim her as a dependent? She does get disability each month.

  31. I was gonna claim my daughter and her son on my taxes. But they recently moved to California. She signed up for aide… Could I still claim then on my taxes

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