Who Can I Claim As a Dependent?


The article below is accurate for your 2018 taxes, the one that you file this year by the April 2019 deadline. 

Under tax reform, you can no longer claim the dependent exemption, which was $4,050 for tax year 2017, but you still need to know who qualifies as your dependent for other tax benefits like the Child Tax Credit up to $2,000 or the new $500 tax credit for dependents who aren’t your children.

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 $4,150 in 2018.
  • 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 or be related to you.

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 $4,150. 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.  To be considered a “qualifying relative”,  his income must be less than $4,150 in 2018.

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 $4,150, 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. However, if you file married filing jointly, you may have more tax benefits.

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 (893) Leave your comment

  1. due to loss of job I now live with my daughter, she fully supports me. She wants to claim me at tax time. I owe past taxes from when was working years ago, am trying to find job to fulfill payments. Will it hurt her to claim me as I owe past taxes?

  2. Hi , i was wondering if my man is able claim my child that he’s been taking care of he will be 3 in March and he has been living with us the whole time ? I been working 3-4months thats it

  3. I have taken care of my 19 year old daughter all her life and i pay her rent,cellphone and any other expenses she has. I have also carried her four year old son since birth she has never worked a job but dosent reside in my residents any longer she now dont want me to carry her son which is my Grandson and i have bought everything for both of them do i have the right to claim him.

  4. I am 18 years old I have a 2 year old son, I just wanted to know could I file for taxes this year (2016) because some one told me I couldn’t file taxes because last year in (2015) I was receiving government assistance because I was in kingap but because I’m 18 I’m not getting any assistance anymore? can I file if so would I have to pay anything back? I also have receipts from everything to show I’ve been supporting myself and my son?

  5. Okay, so I worked probably 7 months this year. But I’ve not made much money at all can my girlfriend of four years claim me???

  6. Can I file as a joint income return? I’m married and my husband does not work! Are they gonna return some money back?

  7. i have supported my 3 children all year and saw them on weekends until october can i claim at least one of the children?

  8. My daughter lives with me 33 percent of the time. I pay child support to her mother and her mother does not work. We never discussed taxes when we decided on custody arrangements in court. Do I have a legal right to claim her on my taxes?

  9. My son lived with me until june.He is six. He lived with my brother for two months then moved to my mothers for four months. She has saved all of her reciepts saying she is going to claim him. Although I had him the longest part of the year. Will I get in trouble if I claim him

  10. I have lived with my boyfriend(my children’s father) for 15 years.he has 2 children that are not bio logically mine.he has always claimed all the children on his taxes.he has been disabled for the past 3 years and I’m the only one working.why have I not been able to claim the 2 children on my return.they have always lived with us and I support them.I called IRS last year and was told I should have been allowed to but turbo tax wouldn’t allow it only my two biological ones were allowed.what can I do to be able to claim them

  11. If my son is 24 and he lives with me and has made less then 3,700 can I claim him as a Dependent ? I provide everything for him .

    1. my daughter is 23 years old and lives with me and was in collage for 5 months out of the year can I claim her on my taxes?

  12. I haven’t worked because of health, i live with my son who supports me. can he claim me on his taxes?

  13. My half sister is disabled but provided companion services for an elderly lady, her annual income yielded at 3382. Can I claim her as a dependent and do I need to report her income?

  14. Two years ago my boyfriend and his son moved in with me and my boyfriend isnt working so i claimed him on my taxes last year. Im going to claim him again this year but can i also claim his son since he lives with us?

  15. 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

  16. 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?

  17. 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

      1. I provide over 70% of my adult sons expenses including home, medical that insurance insurance does not cover etc. He does get a small employers annuity each month – I do claim Head of Household – he files his own taxes – so is he also a dependent – I have never claimed him as such nor an exemption

  18. 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?

  19. I’ve been living with my girlfriend and her mother for about a year and a half now. She is over 19 but under 24. She hasn’t been a full time student since 2012. She does not earn any income so I fully support her and pay rent. I am not sure if it passes all the tests for her to known as a qualifying relative. I filed my tax on February 7th and havnt got my refund yet. I tried to track it but Irs says I have to wait 4 weeks which will be tomorrow. But I want to know if there is a chance that my taxes can be denied and I end up getting none of my refund.

  20. So far I have not worked in 2015, should this continue to be true I will have no w2 provided for taxes to be submitted in 2016. If I have no w2, I assume my husband I would/could not file jointly since I made no income. I would not have even brought in $1. If that is true, would he be able to list me as a dependent like he does our two year old son? Thank you for your time!!

  21. We bought a house march2015 when can i file the first time home buyer credit?
    Also i am sending money overseas for minor sister can I file her as dependent?

  22. 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.

  23. 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?

  24. 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?

  25. 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

  26. 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.

  27. If im married but am a full time student and live with my parents since my husband is in the airforce traveling a lot, can my parents claim me as a dependent ?

  28. 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

  29. I have been unemployed for over 1.5 years. My daughter has asked me to come live with her and they will pay me to care for my granddaughter. Would it be a better deduction for them to not pay me as a babysitter and claim me as a dependent? They will be covering all of my daily costs as I have zero income (i.e. Medications, insurance, gas, food etc). Can they claim me as both as long as I don’t make more than the income limits?

  30. I have a 19 year old freshman in College at University of Missouri. We as her parents live in Washington state. In order for her to get residency in the state of Missouri we can not claim her on our taxes as a dependent. Our accountant is having trouble with us doing this, because he says we provide most of her support. But if we want to do this I would say it’s our choice to not get the 3900.00 deduction. Is that correct??I really need help on this. Thanks, Nancy

  31. My boyfriend and i have been living together for two years but the year 2014 he lost his job so i have been take care all the bills and supporting him,until he fines another job,can i claim him as a dependent and if he owe will it be taken from my taxes.

    1. No, your baby cannot be claimed for the 2014-2015 tax year. He can be claimed at the end of the year 2015-2016 tax year.

  32. 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

  33. 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

  34. 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

  35. 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

  36. 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

  37. 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

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