Tax Guide for Dependents


    A dependent must be either a “qualifying child” or a “qualifying relative.” You are allowed one exemption for each person you can claim as a dependent. And don’t forget, if you have a baby who is born on December 31, you can claim an exemption for the entire year!  

    A qualifying child and/or a qualifying relative must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, U.S. resident or a resident of the U.S., Canada, or Mexico, and, if married, must not file a joint return unless filing only to get a refund and a tax liability does not exist for either filer. If you (or your spouse if filing jointly), can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return, you cannot claim anyone as a dependent. 



    A qualifying child must meet the following tests:  

    •    Relationship - The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, eligible foster child, your brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, or half sister, or the descendant of any of them. 

    •    Age - The child must be under age 19 and must be younger than you (or your spouse if filing jointly), or under age 24 and a full-time student and must be younger than you (or your spouse if filing jointly), or any age if permanently and totally disabled. 

    •    Residency - Generally, the child must have lived with you in the United States for more than half the year. 

    •    Support - The child must not have provided more than one-half of his/her own support for the year. 

    •    Joint Return - The child cannot file a joint return for the year. An exception applies if your child and his or her spouse file a joint return only to claim a refund of income tax withheld or estimated tax paid. 

    •    Special test for qualifying child of more than one person - If the child meets the rules to be a qualifying child of more than one person, you must be the person entitled to claim the child as a qualifying child.  



    A qualifying relative can be a child that does not meet the qualifying child test or be a relative (such as parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or in-law), or can be an unrelated member of your household. A qualifying relative must meet the following tests: 

    •    Not a qualifying child - The person cannot be your qualifying child or the qualifying child of any other taxpayer. 

    •    Member of household or relationship - The person must either live with you for the entire year as a member of your household or be related to you.  

    •    Gross income test - The person’s gross income for the year must be less than $3,900. 

    •    Support test - You must provide more than half of the person’s total support during the calendar year.  



    A social security number, Individual Taxpayer Identification number, or Adoption Taxpayer Identification number is required for any person you claim as a dependent.  



    Usually, the parent who has physical custody of a child for the greater part of the year is allowed to claim the exemption for that child. However, there are instances when someone other than the custodial parent can claim the child.  

    •      The noncustodial parent can claim the exemption when the custodial parent signs a waiver (Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Claim to Exemption for Child of Custodian). This rule also applies to parents who never married.  

    •      Post-1984 decree or agreement. If the divorce decree or separation agreement went into effect after 1984 and before 2009, the noncustodial parent can still attach certain pages from the decree or agreement instead of Form 8332. For any decree or agreement executed after 2008, Form 8332 or similar form must be used. Beginning with 2009 tax returns, a noncustodial parent claiming an exemption for a child can no longer attach certain pages from a divorce decree or separation agreement instead of Form 8332 if the decree or agreement was made after 2008. This noncustodial parent will have to attach Form 8332 or a similar statement signed by the custodial parent and whose only purpose is to release a claim to exemption.