Children and dependents can be a huge tax deduction, but exactly who qualifies as a dependent? We’ve simplified the criteria into a few simple questions to determine whether you can claim someone as a dependent.
A dependent must be your qualifying child or qualifying relative and be a U.S. Citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national or Canadian resident and meet specific requirements for you to claim them as a dependent.
Here’s how to tell if that human eating pizza in your house is actually a dependent.
Who Qualifies As a Dependent?
If your child meets all of these criteria, you can claim them as a dependent.
- Relationship to you: To be claimed as your dependent the child must be an: child adopted child, foster child, brother or sister, or descendent of one of these relations
- Residence: The child must live in your home address for at least half the year
- Age: To be claimed as a dependent the child must be under age 19 or under age 24 and a full-time student. If a child is permanently disabled they can be any age to qualify as a dependent on your taxes.
- Income: To qualify as a dependent the child must not have provided more than 50% of their own financial support during the tax year.
- Joint Support: The child can’t file a joint tax return unless it’s to claim a tax refund for federal taxes withheld or estimated taxes paid.
Now let’s talk about how a relative can qualify as a dependent on your tax return.
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How Can A Relative Qualify As a Dependent?
To claim a relative as a dependent on your taxes, the child must fit these criteria:
- Qualifying Child: They can’t be the qualifying child of another taxpayer, or your qualifying child
- Max Income: They must have earned less than a maximum income. In 2020 this was $4300
- Total Support: You must have provided more than 50% of their total support for the tax year
- Member of Household: The potential dependent must have lived all year in your household or be related to you
Tip: The IRS has a brief questionnaire at https://www.irs.gov/help/ita/whom-may-i-claim-as-a-dependent to help you determine whether someone is your dependent.
Can You Claim a Significant Other As a Dependent?
You might be surprised to know that a girlfriend, boyfriend, domestic partner, or friend could be claimed as a qualifying relative and therefore as a dependent. It actually varies by state law, but you have to do a lot more than their laundry to get a tax deduction.
Here are the criteria for claiming your significant other a dependent on your taxes:
- Member of Your Household: The potential dependent must have been a member of your household for the entire tax year.
- Qualifying Relationship: The person must not have a relationship to you that violates the law. For example, they can’t be married to someone else and qualify as your dependent.
- Dependent Relative: The person must meet all of the criteria as a dependent relative
Can You Claim a Dog As a Dependent?
A dog or other pet can’t be claimed as a dependent, even if they are very needed or co-dependent! However, in certain cases, dogs can be claimed as a tax deduction including service animals and foster pets.
Hopefully, it’s now a lot clearer whether your child, relative or significant other is a dependent in the eyes of Uncle Sam.