Children and Relatives as Dependents
If you support children, relatives, or non-relatives, such as a girlfriend or boyfriend's child, then you may be able to claim them as dependents on your tax return. Not sure if someone qualifies as your dependent? See our free and simple dependent calculator to find out and see the benefits of claiming dependents on your taxes.
What Is a Dependent for Tax Purposes?
A dependent on an income tax return is someone who is your IRS qualifying child or IRS qualifying relative. In order to claim a dependent on your tax return, the person needs to fall into one of these two categories. If you can claim a qualifying child or qualifying relative on your tax return, you may qualify for additional tax benefits, including:
Tax Tip: Tax credits can either be refundable or nonrefundable. Refundable tax credits are direct payments to you while nonrefundable tax credits only serve to decrease your tax liability. If you want to take advantage of nonrefundable credits, adjust your W-4 with our free tax withholding tools.
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.
You can claim a person as your dependent if all 3 of these statements are true:
- 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.
- They are not married and filing jointly, unless the joint return is only a claim for a tax refund and there would be no taxes owed by either spouse if they filed separate returns.
- They are a qualifying child or a qualifying relative, according to the IRS rules.
In general, any person you take care of physically, financially, and who lives with you for at least half the year is your dependent on your tax return. The exception to this is your spouse; if you are married, you can never claim your spouse, even if they are disabled, do not work, and/or you pay for all their expenses. If you support someone in your household, add this information when you file your taxes on eFile.com and the tax app will apply all relative credits and deductions for you so you can get the most out of your tax refund.
See also: What to do if someone claimed my dependent.
There are some specifics when it comes to claiming dependents; we recommend using the free dependent tool linked below before filing your taxes online.
Qualifying Child or Child Dependent
If a person is your qualifying child according to the IRS requirements, then you can claim that person as your dependent. A qualifying child is generally related to you, but they do not have to actually be your child. Outside of your biological son or daughter, this could be a stepchild, grandchild, or a niece/nephew.
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.
Not sure if you can claim someone as a dependent? See the qualifying child requirements or answer a few simple questions on our DEPENDucator tax tool below to find out if you can claim a qualifying child dependent:
Find out if your child is a dependent now
The tool is based on the IRS rules for dependents outlined on this page. Once you have determined if you can claim someone as your dependent, start your return for free and enter your income, dependent information, and deductions to save the most money on your taxes.
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 they meet other requirements.
See the qualifying relative requirements or use our RELucator tax tool below. Answer a few simple questions and the tool will have your answer if you can claim a qualifying relative dependent:
Find out if your relative (or other person) is a dependent now
Generally, qualifying relatives are persons who you take care of during the year. They can be an older relative, such as a disabled aunt or grandparent, or other qualifying person. Use the linked tool for specific answers to your situation before you begin filing your taxes on eFile.com. Once you are done with the tool, you can email your results to your self and opt to receive informational emails and eFile promo codes.
See also: does my dependent need to file taxes?
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. If you need to file this form, you can prepare your return on eFile.com, print it, and mail it to the IRS and include the Form 8332. If you need to eFileIT Form 2120, Multiple Support Agreement, you can easily add this form to your return and this form can be e-filed with your return. Form 2120 is an agreement between two or more taxpayers who share in the responsibility of caring for someone (usually an elderly or disabled relative) or who provide financial support for the same dependent, to allow the two taxpayers to take turns claiming the dependent.
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!
Related: IRS dependent requirements, deductions, and details.
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, then an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN) is acceptable.
Dependents and Residency, Foreign Status
Children are usually residents or citizens of the same country as their parents. If you were a U.S. citizen when your child was born, then they generally are a U.S. citizen. This is true even if the child's other parent is a nonresident alien, the child was born in a foreign country, and/or if the child lives abroad with the other parent. See more details on nonresident aliens and U.S. citizens living abroad.
When filing your return, include the Social Security number (SSN) of your dependent. If the dependent is a nonresident alien who is not eligible for a Social Security number, then list the dependent's individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) instead of the SSN.
More Dependent Related Information
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