I am married and filing separately. My husband and I are both employed full time and have two children. We live together and share expenses. My husband and I each claim one child on our W4. Since I only claim one child on my W4, can I claim both children on my taxes if my husband doesn't claim either of them this year? In the past we have each claimed a child on our taxes.
Yes, you can do that. What you claimed on your W-4 is withholding allowances, not dependents. The dependents that you claim on your tax return have nothing to do with the withholding allowances that you claimed on your W-4.
Probably. I did just as much and took the $2,000 child tax credit that I lost from the spouse's refund. IRS doesn't usually apply the dependent rules about who actually provided the support when there are no conflicting claims to the dependent (i.e. only one person claims the child). In the worst case, you could render the IRS adjustment disallowing it to be moot by amending the separate returns into a joint return, which probably would gain you both more money than just the dependent credit.
What you claim on your W-4 does not lock you in to what you can claim at actual tax filing time. It is only an estimate for withholding purposes. In your situation, it is totally optional how you split up the kids on your tax returns. You can do it anyway you want. Only if you can't agree, are there rules establishing priorities.
But the bigger question is: why are you filing separately? That usually (almost always) the worst way to file.
MFJ vs MFS
If you choose married filing separately as your filing status, the following special rules apply. Because of these special rules, you will usually pay more tax on a separate return than if you used another filing status that you qualify for.
1. Your tax rate generally will be higher than it would be on a joint return.
2. Your exemption amount for figuring the alternative minimum tax will be half that allowed to a joint return filer.
3. You cannot take the credit for child and dependent care expenses in most cases, and the amount that you can exclude from income under an employer's dependent care assistance program is limited to $2,500 (instead of $5,000 if you filed a joint return). For more information about these expenses, the credit, and the exclusion see Pub 17, Chapter 32.
4. You cannot take the earned income credit.
5. You cannot take the exclusion or credit for adoption expenses in most cases.
6. You cannot take the education credits (the American Opportunity credit and the lifetime learning credit), the deduction for student loan interest, or the tuition and fees deduction.
7. You cannot exclude any interest income from qualified U.S. savings bonds that you used for higher education expenses.
8. If you lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year:
a. You cannot claim the credit for the elderly or the disabled,
b. You will have to include in income more (up to 85%) of any social security or equivalent railroad retirement benefits you received, and
c. You cannot convert amounts from a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA.
9. The following deductions and credits are reduced at income levels that are half those for a joint return:
a. The child tax credit,
b. The retirement savings contributions credit,
c. Itemized deductions, and
d. The deduction for personal exemptions.
10. Your capital loss deduction limit is $1,500 (instead of $3,000 if you filed a joint return).
11. If your spouse itemizes deductions, you cannot claim the standard deduction. If you can claim the standard deduction, your basic standard deduction is half the amount allowed on a joint return.
You may not be able to deduct all or part of your contributions to a traditional IRA if you or your spouse were covered by an employee retirement plan at work during the year. Your deduction is reduced or eliminated if your income is more than a certain amount. This amount is much lower for married individuals who file separately and lived together at any time during the year.
If you actively participated in a passive rental real estate activity that produced a loss, you generally can deduct the loss from your non-passive income, up to $25,000. This is called a special allowance. However, married persons filing separate returns who lived together at any time during the year cannot claim this special allowance. Married persons filing separate returns who lived apart at all times during the year are each allowed a $12,500 maximum special allowance for losses from passive real estate activities.
If you live in Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington or Wisconsin and file separately, your income may be considered separate income or community income for income tax purposes. See Pub 555 Community Property - http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p555.pdf