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Who Qualifies as a Dependent on Your Taxes?

Who Qualifies as a Dependent on Your Taxes?

Find out who you can claim as a qualifying child and as a qualifying relative

For most taxpayers, claiming a dependent results in a fairly significant tax benefit, oftentimes a refund. But who exactly can you claim as a dependent?

There are actually two different categories of dependent: qualifying child and qualifying relative. Both have different requirements and are treated differently by the tax code. If a credit refers to a “dependent” either category qualifies, but if it refers specifically to a “qualifying child” then you cannot use a qualifying relative to claim it.

In order to claim someone as your qualifying child, he or she must

  • Be your biological or adopted child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half sibling, stepsibling, or a descendant of one of these
  • Be under age 19, under age 24 if a full-time student, or any age if permanently and totally disabled
  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico
  • Be unmarried, or married but not filing a joint return
  • Have lived with you for at least half the year, unless absent due to illness, education, business, vacation, or military service
  • Not have provided more than half of his or her own support

In order to claim someone as your qualifying relative, he or she must

  • Have lived with you all year as a member of your household, or be one of the following family members: child, parent, sibling, stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling, half sibling, grandparent, grandchild, child-in-law, parent-in-law, sibling-in-law, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew
  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico
  • Be unmarried, or married but not filing a joint return
  • Not be a qualifying child of you or someone else
  • Have a gross income of less than $3,800
  • Have more than half of their total support for the year provided by you

Do note that no one can be claimed as a qualifying child and a qualifying relative at the same time. If someone qualifies for both, qualifying child status takes precedence.

Also be aware that no two taxpayers can claim the same dependent. If someone else claims your dependent, your e-filed return will be rejected by the IRS and your paper filed return will automatically prompt an audit. Contact the IRS in this event.

The tax professionals at PriorTax can help answer any further questions you have about dependents. Start your return today and claim your tax refund.

Photo via Dustin McClure on Flickr. 

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