Client Question: Who Can I Claim as a Dependent?

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are three basic tests that you must pass in order to claim someone as a
dependent on your tax return.

you cannot claim anyone as a dependent if they can be claimed as a dependent by
another person.  If the dependent is
married, they cannot file a joint return with their spouse.  Exception:  You may claim them if the only purpose for
the joint return was to claim a refund and the dependent would not have a tax
liability (either jointly or if filing married filing separately).

the dependent must be a U.S.
citizen, a national, or a resident alien. 
Residents of Canada
or Mexico also qualify.  Exception:  A child does not have to meet the citizenship
test if he has been legally adopted by a U.S.
citizen or national, or if the child lived with the adoptive parent as a member
of the household all year.  This
exception also applies if the child was lawfully placed with the taxpayer for

the dependent must be a Qualifying Child or a Qualifying Relative.

Qualifying Child must:

  1. Be
    the taxpayer’s child, stepchild, eligible foster child, brother, sister,
    stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of them
  2. Be
    (a) younger than the taxpayer and either under age 19 or a full-time student
    under age 24, or (b) any age if totally and permanently disabled
  3. Live
    with the taxpayer more than half of the year
  4. Not
    provide more than half of their own support
  5. Not
    file a joint return (unless filed only to claim a refund)
  6. Not
    a qualifying child of another taxpayer with higher priority under the
    tie-breaker rules.  Call your tax advisor
    for advice if you think someone else may also be able to claim them.

Qualifying Relative must:

  1. Not
    be the taxpayer’s or anyone else’s qualifying child
  2. Either
    (a) live with the taxpayer all year as a member of the household, or (b) be
    related to the taxpayer
  3. Have
    gross income of less than $3,800
  4. Receive
    more than half of their total support for the year from the taxpayer claiming

Like any good CPA, I need to add a
disclaimer:  Unfortunately, it is
impossible to offer comprehensive tax info over the Internet, no matter how
well-researched or written.  And remember,
I love my readers, but having me bookmarked on your computer doesn’t make you a
client:  Before relying on any
information given on this site, contact a tax professional to discuss your
particular situation.