How to Claim a Qualifying Child as a Dependent for Tax Deductions
What Is a Qualifying Child?
A Qualifying Child is a child who meets the IRS requirements to be your dependent for tax purposes. If someone is your Qualifying Child, then you can claim them as a dependent on your tax return.
When you claim a Qualifying Child (or a Qualifying Relative) as a dependent, you can claim a special kind of tax deduction called an exemption. An exemption is like a tax deduction, but an exemption is subtracted from your adjusted gross income before your taxable income is calculated.
Note that a Qualifying Child must be related to you, but they do not have to actually be your child.
What Are the IRS Qualifying Child Requirements?
A child must meet all 6 of these requirements in order to be considered your Qualifying Child.
- Relationship: The person must be your daughter, son, stepdaughter, stepson, foster child, sister, brother, half-sister, half-brother, stepsister, stepbrother, or a descendant of any of these, such as a niece or nephew.
- Age: They must be one of the following:
- Under the age of 19 on the last day of the year and younger than you (and your spouse if filing jointly)
- A full-time student under the age of 24 on the last day of the year and younger than you (and your spouse if filing jointly)
- Permanently disabled at any time during the year, regardless of their age
- Support: They must have not provided more than half of his or her own support for the year (regardless of who did provide the support). Support includes food, actual or fair rental value of housing, clothing, transportation, medical expenses, and recreation.
- Residency: They must have lived with you for more than half of the year, except for temporary absences.
- Joint Return: They must not file a joint tax return for the year (if he or she is married).
- Qualifying Child of More than One Person: If they could be a qualifying child for more than one person, you must be the person who is entitled to claim the child.
Who Is My Qualifying Child? Use this FREE Tool to Find out Now!
This "DEPENDucator" tool will help you determine whether or not a particular person is your Qualifying Child.
If it turns out that someone is not your Qualifying Child, you may want to see if they are your Qualifying Relative.
Qualifying Child Special Cases
A child is still considered to be living with you during any period of time when you or the child are temporarily absent from home due to school, business, military service, medical care, or vacation.
Birth or Death of Child
If a child was born or died during the year, they are considered to have lived with you all year if they lived in your home the entire time they were alive during the year. Any time in the hospital is considered a temporary absence.
If a child was kidnapped during the year, they are still considered to have lived with you all year if law enforcement presumes the child to have been kidnapped by someone who is not a member of your family or the child's family, and if, in the year of the kidnapping, the child lived with you for more than half of the part of the year before the kidnapping occurred. As long as the child is missing, they are considered to be living with you until the year of the child's 18th birthday, or until the child is determined to be deceased.
Qualifying Child Examples
Child in College
Your daughter was 20 years old at the end of the year and was not married. She was a full-time college student during the year and lived in a dorm for most of the year. She worked part-time and earned $6,000, but she did not provide more than half of her own total support. She is your Qualifying Child and you can claim her as a dependent on your tax return.
Your daughter was 18 years old at the end of the year, and was married. However, she and her estranged husband are filing separate tax returns, and she lived with you for more than 6 months of the year. She provided some of her own support for the year; but between your support and her husband's, she did not provide more than half of it. Your daughter qualifies as your Qualifying Child and can be claimed as a dependent on your tax return.
After she turns 19, she will no longer meet the requirements to be your Qualifying Child unless she has become a full-time student.
Your son was 24 and unmarried at the end of the year. He was unemployed for most of the year and had an income of only $3,000. He lived with you in your home all year. In this case, your son is too old to be your Qualifying Child.
BUT, because his income was under $3,700 and you provided more than half of his support for the year, he is your Qualifying Relative and can be claimed as your dependent on your tax return.
Niece or Nephew
Your brother's 12-year old daughter lived with you for 7 months out of the year. You, your brother, and your father each provided some of her financial support during the year--but she provided none of her own support. Your niece meets the requirements to be your Qualifying Child, and you can claim her as a dependent.
Child of Girlfriend or Boyfriend
Your girlfriend's 4-year old son, who is not your own child, lived with you and your girlfriend all year. Your girlfriend had some income, but you provided more than half of her son's support. He is not your Qualifying Child because he is not related to you, but he is your Qualifying Relative and you can claim him as a dependent.
This is a special case. In the past, you would not be able to claim your girlfriend's child as a Qualifying Relative because the child was the Qualifying Child of the mother, even if she did not claim the child as a dependent. But the IRS has revised its views and now allows the boyfriend or girlfriend with whom the parent and child lived to claim the child as a dependent--as long as the parent’s income is so low that he or she doesn’t need to file a tax return.