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Dependent care

I’m wondering if I’m able to claim child dependent care this year. My ex and I alternate years claiming our 2 children (no court order, we had a amicable split) The forms we received from our daughters pre school has both mine and my ex’s name on it.  We alternate months paying the pre school expense. My ex has no problem with me claiming it I just don’t want it to throw a red flag with her name being on it as well. 

2 Replies
Level 15
Level 15

Dependent care

Only the custodial parent can claim the child and dependent care credit. For tax purposes the custodial parent is the parent that the child lived with for more nights during the year. It doesn't matter what your agreement or divorce decree says about custody.

The parent who claims the credit can only claim expenses that he or she actually paid, not expenses that were paid by the other parent. That might not matter because with one child you can only claim a maximum of $3,000 anyway. But if it's a problem, in the future the noncustodial parent should give the money to the custodial parent to pay for the care, instead of paying the provider directly.


Level 15

Dependent care

I have an issue if you mean that you and the ex simply move the kids (in total) from one parent to the other parent without taking in the IRS  custodial vs non custodial rules.  Hopefully you have been doing this correctly...


There is no such thing in the Federal tax law as 50/50, split, or joint custody.  The IRS only recognizes physical custody (which parent the child lived with the greater part, but over half, of the tax year.  That parent is the custodial parent; the other parent is the noncustodial parent.)

Who can claim the exemption and credits depends on who is the custodial parent. (By the IRS definition of custodial parent for tax purposes - this is not the same as the legal custody that a court might grant.).

The test that the IRS uses to determine the custodial parent is where the child lived for more than 1/2 (or greater part) of the year. The IRS will go so far as to require counting the nights spend in each household - that person is the custodial parent for tax purposes (if exactly equal and more than 183 days - The custodial parent is the parent with the highest AGI, if less than 183 days then neither parent has custody so the child cannot be claimed by either parent). And yes they are that picky.

See Custodial parent and noncustodial parent  under the residency test in Pub 17
Only the Custodial parent can claim: (Child would be listed as non-dependent EIC & CC only)
-Head of Household 
-Earned Income Credit
-Child Care Credit

The non custodial parent can only claim: (Child would be listed as dependent)
-The Exemption
-The Child Tax Credit

But only if specifically specified in a pre-2009 divorce decree, separation agreement or the custodial spouse releases the exemption with a signed 8332 form - after 2009 the IRS only accepts a signed 8332 form that must be attached to the non-custodial parents tax return.

Note. If you are the non-custodial parent filing your return electronically, you must file Form 8332 with Form 8453, (U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal) for an IRS e-file Return. See Form 8453 and its instructions for more details.  This must be done within 3 days of your e-filed return being accepted by the IRS.


In the Turbotax interview : 


If you are the custodial parent where the child physically lived for more than half the year (183 nights) then:

When you enter the dependent, you say that he/she is "Your child" (not you and your spouse if remarried), 
he/she lived with you the whole year, 
“no” the child did not pay more than half of his/her own support,
"yes", you have a custody agreement, 
and "yes", the other parent is claiming this year.  

That will give you the EIC, Child Care Credit and Head of Household filing status if you otherwise qualify.

The child would be listed as "non-dependent EIC & Dependent Care only".
The other (non-custodial) parent can claim the child’s exemption and child tax credit only and needs a signed 8332 form to do so.


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