Who Can I Claim As a Dependent?


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:

  • They are not the “qualifying child” of another taxpayer or your “qualifying child”.
  • Gross Income: Dependent 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 (you can’t still be married to someone else. Also, check your individual state law. 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 want to reconsider kicking out your free-loading friend. They 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.

Comments (821) Leave your comment

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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…

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

  15. 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?

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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?

  21. 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?

  22. 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.

  23. 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

  24. I have taken care of my 44 yr old nephew for over a yr now,but he was put in jail on dec.2015 can I still carry him on my taxes

  25. 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?

  26. 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

  27. 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.

  28. 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?

  29. 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???

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

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

  32. 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?

  33. 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

  34. 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

  35. 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?

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

  37. 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?

  38. 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?

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