When a student is "away at college", they are still considered to be living with you, for tax purposes, even if living off campus.
A child of a taxpayer can still be a “Qualifying Child” (QC) dependent, regardless of his/her income, if:
- He is under age 19, or under 24 if a full time student for at least 5 months of the year, or is totally & permanently disabled
- He did not provide more than 1/2 his own support. Scholarships are considered third party support and not as support provided by the student. Loans are considered support provided by the student, unless the parent co-signed the loan.
- He lived with the parent (including temporary absences such as away at school) for more than half the year
So, it doesn't matter how much he earned. What matters is how much he spent on support. Money he put into savings does not count as support he spent on him self.
The support value of the home, provided by the parent, is the fair market rental value of the home plus utilities & other expenses divided by the number of occupants. So, not only do you count what you spent on room & board, you count your home's value too. The IRS has a worksheet that can be used to help with the support calculation. See: http://apps.irs.gov/app/vita/content/globalmedia/teacher/worksheet_for_determining_support_4012.pdf
There are two types of dependents, "Qualifying Children"(QC) and standard ("Qualifying Relative" in IRS parlance even though they don't have to actually be related). There is no income limit for a QC but there is an age limit and student status test, a relationship test and a residence test. Only a QC qualifies a taxpayer for the Earned Income Credit. The Other dependent (qualifying relative) credit is worth (up to) $500 per dependent and is non-refundable. That is, it can only be used to reduce an actual tax liability.
A person can still be a Qualifying relative dependent, if not a Qualifying Child, if he meets the 6 tests for claiming a dependent:
- Closely Related OR live with the taxpayer ALL year
- His/her gross taxable income for the year must be less than $4200 ($4150 in 2018)
- The taxpayer must have provided more than 1/2 his support
In either case:
- He must be a US citizen or resident of the US, Canada or Mexico
- He must not file a joint return with his spouse or be claiming a dependent of his own
- He must not be the qualifying child of another taxpayer (if the student normally lives with the other parent, then he is her qualifying child and you cannot claim him)