Qualifying Relative as a Dependent

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You can claim someone as a dependent on your tax return if, according to IRS rules, they are a qualifying relative or a qualifying child dependent. A qualifying relative is a person who meets the IRS requirements to be your dependent for tax purposes, which can be your boyfriend/girlfriend, sibling, niece/nephew, etc. If someone is your qualifying relative, meaning they pass the qualifying relative test, then you can claim them as a dependent on your tax return. Depending on the age of the dependent as well as a few other factors, you may be eligible to receive the Child Tax Credit of up to $2,000 or the Credit for Other Dependents of $500.

Despite the name, an IRS qualifying relative does not necessarily have to be related to you. Check the RELucator tax tool below to find out if someone qualifies; it's that easy!

Key points:

  • You can claim someone other than your child as your dependent if they meet a few criteria; generally, if someone lives with you and you fully or mostly support then, you can claim them as a qualifying relative or dependent.
  • A qualifying "relative" does not have to be related to you, thus you can generally claim your boyfriend/girlfriend, unemployed roommate, or other friend or person in which you support financially.
  • Qualifying relatives have certain dependency and income requirements; use the RELucator to get a personalized answer before starting your return on eFile.com.

The RELucator tax tool will help you determine if someone is your qualifying relative and therefore your dependent. Just answer the "Yes" and "No" questions until you reach a conclusion.

Start the RELucator Now

Also, check out the DEPENDucator if you are not certain about the status of the relative or if the person in question is not a qualifying relative. The IRS dependent rules generally do not change each year except to adjust the income amounts due to inflation. Use our other free tax tools to discover your IRS filing status, find out if you can claim tax credits, and more!

Qualifying Relative Requirements

Because there are benefits or personal exemptions that you can receive when you claim a dependent or qualifying relative, the requirements are fairly strict. An individual must meet all 4 of these requirements in order to be considered your qualifying relative on your tax return:

  1. Not a Qualifying Child: The individual cannot be your Qualifying Child and cannot be someone else's Qualifying Child. Not sure? Use our free DEPENDucator tax tool to find out who is a qualifying child. A person is a Qualifying Child if they meet all the requirements, whether or not they are claimed as a dependent on a tax return.
  2. Relationship: The person must either have lived with you for the entire year as a member of the household (a person who is not actually related to you may meet the requirements in this way), OR be related to you in one of the following ways:
    • Your child, stepchild, grandchild, or other descendant of one of your children (or stepchildren or foster children). A child whom you legally adopted is always considered to be your child.
    • Your son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law
    • Your brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, or stepsister
    • Your parent, stepfather, stepmother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, grandparent, and, if related by blood, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew. Also note that, for the purposes of this requirement, divorce or death does not change any relationship which was established by marriage (e.g. son-in-law, daughter-in-law, etc.).
  3. Gross Income: The person must have made less than $4,700 in gross income during 2023. This amount was $4,400 in 2022 and will be $5,050 in 2024.
  4. Support: You must have provided more than half of the individual's total support during the year. Support includes money spent for food, shelter, clothing, medical or dental expenses, education expenses, and other similar items. To help you in determining if you have provided more than half the support for a person, here is a Worksheet for Determining Support that you can use.

To determine who qualifies as a dependent relative on your return, use the qualifying relative tax tool or review this worksheet for determining the financial support you provided for someone.

See more tax rules for children, dependents, and qualifying relatives.

How To Claim a Qualifying Relative on Your Return

When you prepare your return on eFile.com, you can enter your information on the Dependent screen. Be sure to answer all the questions carefully and pay particular attention to the questions on the Advanced Options link at the bottom on the Your Dependent section to make sure that your dependent gets added to your return correctly.

See where to enter information on eFile.com.

Qualifying Relative Special Cases

In some situations, the IRS has outlined special cases which allow a person to be claimed as a qualifying relative despite the requirements listed above. These include temporary absences and multiple support agreements.

Temporary Absences

A person is still considered to be living with you during any period of time when either of you are temporarily away from home due to school, business, military service, medical care, vacation, or in the case if a child has been kidnapped. If a qualifying relative is placed in a nursing home permanently or indefinitely, they are still considered to be away on a temporary absence.

Birth or Death

If someone died at any time during the year, but lived with you as a member of your household for any portion of the year, they are considered to have lived with you for the entire year. If a child was born at any time during the year, but lived with you as a member of your household for the rest of the year, they are also considered to have lived with you all year. In the case of either birth or death, any related hospital stay is considered a temporary absence.

Income Not Used for Support

Any income that someone receives, but does not spend on their own support, is not counted as part of their income used for their own support in the support requirement for a qualifying relative. For example, if a person had $2,700 in income, but only spent $2,400 for their own support (e.g., lodging, meals, clothing) and you spent over $2,400 for their support, then you have provided more than half of their support.

Multiple Support Agreement

If you and one or more other people together provide more than half of a person's support and that person meets the requirements to be the qualifying relative of each of you, you can agree among yourselves who gets to claim the person as a qualifying relative. It can be either one of you who provides more than 50% of the person's support, but only one person can get to claim the dependent. Each of the other persons providing support will need to sign a statement agreeing not to claim the dependent for the year. Whoever claims the dependent should keep the signed statements for their records.

If you claim the dependent under such a multiple support agreement, you should include with your return the eFileIT Form 2120 Multiple Support Declaration. When you prepare your return on eFile.com, you can include this form and eFileIT with your return.

Qualifying Relative Examples

Can I claim my wife as a dependent? What about my boyfriend or girlfriend? Can I claim my parents on my taxes? See the examples below for more information.

  1. Adult Child - Your son was 24 and single at the end of the tax year. He was unemployed and lived at home all year long. He is too old to be your Qualifying Child, but because his income was only $2,000 and you provided more than half of his support for the year, he is your qualifying relative and can be claimed as your dependent.
  2. Parent - Your mother is retired and had no income all year. She lived on her own, but you provided more than half of her support for the year. She is your qualifying relative and you can claim her as a dependent.
  3. Girlfriend or Boyfriend - Your girlfriend (or boyfriend) lived with you all year and they earned $500 from selling clothes online and did not have a wage job. Their parents provided some support for them, but you provided more than half of their support. The person is not under 19 years old and is not a full-time college student, so they are not the parents' Qualifying Child. He or she is your qualifying relative and you can claim them as a dependent.
  4. Child of Girlfriend/Boyfriend - Your girlfriend's 8-year old son, who is not your child, lived with you and your girlfriend all year. Your girlfriend had no income and you provided more than half of her son's support. He is your qualifying relative and you can claim him as a dependent. This same scenario works if it is a child of your boyfriend who lived with you all year and you provided half the child's support. In the past, you would not be able to claim your girlfriend's child as a qualifying relative because the child was considered to be the Qualifying Child of his or her mother, even if she did not claim the child as a dependent. The IRS has revised this and now allows the boyfriend with whom the mother and child lived all year (or the girlfriend with whom the father and child lived all year) to claim the child as a dependent if the parent’s income is so low that she or he does not need to file a tax return.
  5. Husband/Wife - Your spouse, whom you live with, does not work and you generate all the income for your family through work and provide all of their support. You can not claim your spouse as a dependent or qualifying relative; when you are married, you will file a joint return or a separate return. Regardless, the IRS and states do not allow you to claim your spouse as a dependent. Generally, married filing jointly is more beneficial.

Can You Claim a Tax Credit for Having a Non-Child Dependent?  

You can claim a nonrefundable tax credit, the Credit for Other Dependents, for $500 per dependent that is your qualifying relative (not your qualifying child) and does not qualify you to claim the Child Tax Credit. The credit amount begins to phase out at a maximum income of $200,000 ($400,000 for married filing jointly taxpayers).

This credit is available for Tax Years 2018-2025 and is generally available for any dependent age 17 or older, including relatives and girl/boyfriends.

If a person does not qualify as your qualifying relative, you can still claim them as a dependent if they are your qualifying child. If they are not your qualifying child nor your qualifying relative, then you cannot claim them as a dependent. Dependents are good news when it comes to your tax return because they may qualify you for other tax deductions and credits.

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