You can claim the child as a dependent if certain criteria are met. There are two types of dependents, each subject to different rules:
- A qualifying child
- A qualifying relative
For both types of dependents, you’ll need to answer the following questions to determine if you can claim them.
Dependent taxpayer test: The taxpayer, or spouse of the taxpayer if filing jointly, cannot be eligible to be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
Married Filing Jointly test: If you file a joint return with your spouse, you cannot be treated as a dependent. (This rule does not apply if the joint return was filed only as a claim for refund and no tax liability would exist for either spouse if they had filed separate returns).
Citizen or resident test: The person claimed as a dependent must be either a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, U.S. resident alien, or a resident of Canada or Mexico. An adopted child that lived with the taxpayer all year passes this test if the taxpayer is a U.S. citizen or U.S. national.
In addition to the above, you must be able to answer "yes" to all of the following questions to claim an exemption for your child.
Relationship test: The child must be the taxpayer’s son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, half sister, or a descendant of any of these, such as the taxpayer’s grandchild, niece, or nephew.
Residency test: The child must have lived with the taxpayer for more than half of 2019.
- Temporary absences (e.g., school, vacation, business, medical care, military services, or detention in a juvenile facility) are considered as time living with the taxpayer.
- Exceptions apply under the rules for children of divorced or separated parents. See IRS Publication 501 for details.
Age test: The child must be
• Under age 19 at the end of the tax year and younger than the taxpayer (or spouse), or
• Under age 24 at the end of 2019, a full-time student for any part of five calendar months during the tax year, and younger than the taxpayer (or spouse), or
• Permanently and totally disabled at any age
Support Test: The child cannot have provided more than 1/2 of his/her own support during the tax year. Welfare, TANF, and scholarships received by the child are not considered support.
Relationship or Member of Household Test: To be considered a qualifying relative, a person must be:
- A son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, or a descendant of any of these
- A brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, or a descendant of any of these
- A father, mother, or an ancestor or sibling of them (does not include foster parents)
- A stepbrother, stepsister, stepfather, stepmother, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, or
- Any other person (other than the spouse) who lived with the taxpayer all year as a member of the taxpayer's household as long at the relationship did not violate local law. Exceptions: Temporary absences for special circumstances such as school, vacation, business, medical care, military service, or incarceration count as time lived in the home. Also, the taxpayer's mother or father does not have to live with the taxpayer as long as the taxpayer is able to claim the parent as a dependent and paid more than half the cost of keeping up the parent's main home (including nursing homes) for the entire year.
Not a Qualifying Child Test: The relative cannot be a qualifying child of any other taxpayer for the year.
Gross Income Test: The relative's gross income must be less than $4200 for the year. Gross income is all income that is not tax-exempt. Examples of gross income include taxable Social Security benefits, taxable unemployment compensation, and certain scholarships and fellowships (i.e., monies used to pay higher education expenses other than tuition, fees, supplies, books, and course-required equipment).
Support Test: The taxpayer must have provided over 1/2 of the relative's support during the year. This test does not apply to persons who qualify as dependents under the children of divorced or separated parents rule and multiple support agreements.
If you meet the criteria to claim the child as a dependent and your return is rejected because someone else claimed the child, there is a process in place to remedy this. If you qualify to claim the child under the law, file a paper return and claim the child as a dependent. This will start action on the part of the IRS to determine who actually qualifies to claim the child.
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