Children and Relatives as Dependents

If you support children, relatives, or non-relatives (i.e girlfriend or boyfriend's child), then you may be able to claim them as dependents on your tax return.

What Is a Dependent?

A dependent is someone who is your Qualifying Child or Qualifying Relative. When you claim a dependent on your tax return, you may qualify for additional tax benefits including: 

Can You Claim Dependents on Your Tax Return?

If someone qualifies as your dependent, you are entitled to claim them on your tax return unless you or your spouse qualify as a dependent for another person. If someone else can claim you (or your spouse, if filing jointly) as a dependent, whether or not they actually claim you, then you are not allowed to claim any dependents of your own.

Who Can You Claim as a Dependent?

You can claim a person as your dependent if all 3 of these statements are true:

  1. They are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, resident alien, or resident of Canada or Mexico. There is an exception for legally adopted children.
  2. They are not married and filing jointly, unless the joint return is only a claim for a refund and there would be no taxes owed by either spouse if they filed separate returns.
  3. They are a Qualifying Child or a Qualifying Relative, according to the IRS rules.

Adopted Child

A child whom you legally adopt is always considered your child. If you adopted a child who is not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or resident alien, they can still qualify as your dependent if they lived with you for the entire year. If a child was placed with you for a pending legal adoption, they are considered to be your adopted child for the purposes of claiming a dependent.

What Is a Qualifying Child?

If a person is your Qualifying Child according to the IRS requirements, then you can claim that person as your dependent. A Qualifying Child must be related to you, but they do not have to actually be your child.

See the Qualifying Child requirements

How to Know That You Have a Qualifying Child

Answer a few simple questions on our DEPENDucator tax tool below to find out!

Find out if your child is a dependent now! or

Open the Dependent Tax Tool in New Window

What Is a Qualifying Relative?

If someone meets the IRS requirements to be your Qualifying Relative, you may claim them as a dependent. A Qualifying Relative does not have to actually be related to you, as long as they lived with you all year and meet other requirements.

See the Qualifying Relative requirements

How to Know That You Have a Qualifying Relative

Use our RELucator tax tool below. Answer a few simple questions and the tool will have your answer!

Find out if your relative is a dependent now! or

Open the Qualifying Relative Tax Tool in New Window

When Two or More People Claim a Dependent

Generally, only one taxpayer (or married couple filing jointly) may claim any one person as a dependent. The tax benefits for claiming a dependent cannot be split, unless it is detailed in a divorce decree. If two or more taxpayers claim the same person as a dependent, the IRS will apply a set of tiebreaker rules to determine who has the legitimate claim.

In the case of divorced parents, the custodial parent usually has the right to claim the child as a dependent. The custodial parent may release this claim, allowing the non-custodial parent to claim the child, by attaching a written statement or Form 8332-Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent. efile it

Find out more about the tiebreaker rules for more than one person claiming a dependent.

How to Claim Dependents on Your Tax Return

You can claim dependents when you prepare your  tax return on eFile.com. Based on your answers to several tax questions, we will select the correct forms and schedules for you to report your dependents. It's that easy!

Before you begin, make sure that you have access to your dependents' Social Security cards because you will need to enter their names and Social Security Numbers exactly as they appear on the cards. If your dependent does not have a SSN, an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) or an adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN) is acceptable.

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