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Tax Credits & Deductions for Dependents

Your kids can be helpful at tax time. That doesn't mean they'll sort your tax receipts or refill your coffee, but those charming children may help you qualify for some valuable tax benefits. The IRS defines a dependent as a Qualifying Child or Qualifying Relative. In most cases, a child can be claimed as a dependent in the year they were born or adopted.

The easiest and most accurate way to find out who you can claim as a dependent on your tax return and what tax credits and deductions you qualify for is to start a free tax return on eFile.com. Based on your answers to the tax questions, we will determine whether or not you can claim the person as a dependent and determine which deductions and credits qualify for so you don't have to do the work!

Below are tax credits and deductions you can claim on your tax return because of your dependents, if you qualify for them.

Child Tax Credit

You may be able to get a Child Tax Credit for each of your qualifying children under age 17. The credit is intended to offset the cost of raising children. The maximum amount you can get for each child is $2,000 for Tax Year 2018.

If you do not benefit from the full amount of the Child Tax Credit (because the credit is greater than the amount of income taxes you owe for the year), you may be eligible for the refundable Additional Child Tax Credit.

Credit for Other Dependents

Dependents who do not qualify for the Child Tax Credit may still qualify you for the Credit for Other Dependents. This is a non-refundable tax credit of up to $500 per qualifying person. The qualifying dependent must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. resident alien.

Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

You may be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit if you pay someone to care for your child or children under age 13 so that you can work or look for work. This credit can be worth up to 35% of some or all of the expenses you paid to the care provider, based on your yearly income and the number of children. The maximum credit for 2018 is $3,000.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax benefit for low-income people who work and have earned income from wages, self-employment, or farming. The EITC reduces the amount of tax you owe and may also give you a refund.

Adoption Tax Credit

You may be able to take the Adoption Tax Credit for qualifying expenses you paid to adopt a child. These expenses include adoption fees, attorney fees, court costs, traveling expenses (including lodging and meals while away from home), and other expenses directly related to the adoption. If you claim the Adoption Credit, you must file a 1040 Form with the required adoption-related document

American Opportunity Credit

You can claim the American Opportunity Credit credit if your child is in his or her first four years of post-secondary school. The maximum amount you can claim is $2,500 per eligible student, per year. This credit has been extended through 2018.

Lifetime Learning Credit

 If your dependent doesn't qualify for the American Opportunity Credit because he or she already completed four years of post-secondary school, you may be able to claim the Lifetime Learning Credit. The amount of the credit is 20% of the first $10,000 of combined post-secondary tuition and fees you paid for your dependent child. The per year (not per child) total should be no more than $2,000.

Though you cannot claim both tax credits for one student, you can claim one of the credits for one student and the other credit for another student.

Student Loan Interest Tax Deduction

You may be able to claim the Student Loan Interest Deduction for interest paid on a qualified student loan, even if you choose to claim a student tax credit. If you decide to claim the deduction, you could reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500 of the student loan interest you have paid for your dependent child. You don't need to itemize your deductions to claim this deduction.

Dependent Earned Income

Keep in mind that even though you might claim a dependent on your tax return, you do not claim any income they earned from working. If your dependent has income they may be required to file a tax return. If this case, you may not be able to claim the person as a dependent based on various factors:

  • Total earned income,
  • Filing status,
  • Age AND
  • Amount of support you have provided for your dependent during the Tax Year

However, you might be able claim the person as a qualifying relative based on the factors above (limits and qualifications vary).

Dependent Investment Income

According to the IRS, you may be able to qualify for including your dependent's investment income on your tax return. Your dependent will not be required to file a return if you choose to do this. You can do this if you meet the following conditions:

  • Dependent was under 19 years old (or under 24 years old if he or she was a full-time student) at the end of the Tax Year
  • Dependent total gross income was less than $10,000
  • Dependent income is only from dividends and interest (includes capital gains distributions and Alaska Permanent Fund dividends)
  • Dependent didn't file a joint return for the Tax Year
  • Your child is required to file a return (unless you qualify to include the child's income on your return)
  • No federal income tax was withheld from your dependent's income under the backup withholding rules.
  • No estimated tax payment was made for the year, and no overpayment from the previous year (or from any amended return) was applied to the current Tax Year under your dependent's name and Social Security Number.
  • You are the parent whose tax return must be used when applying the special tax rules for children

To apply for the election to include your child's investment income on your tax return, complete Form 8814, Parents' Election To Report Child's Interest and Dividends, and attach it to your 1040 Form. Please note that if you choose to include your child's investment income on your tax return, your tax rate may increase (in comparison of filing a separate return for your child) and you cannot claim certain deductions (such as itemized deductions).

However, under certain circumstances, a child’s investment income may be taxed at your tax rate (as a parent) if all the following factors apply:

  1. Your child’s investment income was more than $1,900 for the entire Tax Year
  2. Your child is required to file a tax return
  3. Your child was either:
    • Under 18 years of age at the end of the year,
    • Under 18 years of age at the end of the year and didn't have earned income that was more than half of his or her support OR
    • A full-time student over the age of 18 and under 24 years of age at the end of the Tax Year and did not have earned income that was more than half of his or her support
  4. At least one of the child’s parents was alive at the end of the year AND
  5. The child didn't file a joint return for the Tax Year

If all of the factors above apply to the child with investment income and you don't or can't choose to include the income on your return, Form 8615, Tax for Certain Children Who Have Investment Income of More Than $1,900 efile it, must be completed and attached to your child's tax return.

Health Insurance Deduction for Children Of Self-Employed Individuals

If you were self-employed (for example, a sole proprietor or an independent contractor) and you paid for health insurance, you may be able to deduct any premiums you paid for coverage for any child of yours who was under age 27 at the end of the year, even if the child was not your dependent.

In order to qualify for the deduction, one of the following statements must apply to you:

  • You were self-employed and had a net profit for the Tax Year reported on Schedule C (Profit or Loss From Business)Schedule C-EZ (Net Profit From Business) or Schedule F (Profit or Loss From Farming). All schedules are for the Form 1040 (Standard Individual Income Tax Return).
  • You were a partner with net earnings from self-employment for the Tax Year reported on Schedule K-1 (Partner's Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc.), in box 14, code A. This schedule is for Form 1065 (U.S. Return of Partnership Income).
  • You used one of the optional methods to figure your net earnings from self-employment on Schedule SE (Self-Employment Tax).
  • You received wages from an S corporation in which you were a more-than-2% shareholder (Health insurance premiums paid or reimbursed by the S corporation are shown as wages on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement).

The insurance plan must be established under your business. Alternatively, it could be considered for establishment, as discussed in the following statements:

  • If you are a self-employed individual filing a Schedule C, C-EZ, or F, a policy can be either in the name of the business or in your name.
  • For partners, a policy can be either in the partnership's name or the partner's name. You can either pay the premiums yourself or your partnership can pay them and report the amounts on Schedule K-1 (for Form 1065) as guaranteed payments to be included in your total gross income. However, if the policy is in your name and you paid the premiums yourself, the partnership must reimburse you and report the premium amounts on Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) as guaranteed payments to be included in your total gross income. Otherwise, the insurance plan will not be considered to be established under your business.
  • For more-than-2% shareholders, a policy can be either in the S corporation's name or in the shareholder's name. You can either pay the premiums yourself or your S corporation can pay them and report the amounts on a Form W-2 as wages to be included in your total income. However, if the policy is in your name and you paid the premiums yourself, the S corporation must reimburse you and report the amounts on a Form W-2 as wages to be included in your total income. Otherwise, the insurance plan will not be considered to be established under your business.

Medicare premiums you voluntarily paid to obtain insurance in your name that is similar to qualifying private health insurance can be used to figure the self-employed health insurance deduction. If you previously filed returns without using Medicare premiums to figure the deduction, you can file tax amendments to refigure the deduction. However, amounts paid for health insurance coverage from retirement plan distributions that were nontaxable because you are a retired public safety officer cannot be used to figure the deduction. You can claim the deduction on Form 1040, on line 29.