Since he doesn’t live with you his father must give you a signed form 8332 giving you permission to claim him. I assume that you didn’t live with the dad any part of the last 6 months of the year in which you intend to claim him. You can’t get earned income credit based on claiming the dependency or child care credit and can’t use the child to qualify you to file as head of household.
It's not clear why his dad can't claim him. Usually the parent that the child lives with is the one who can claim the child as a dependent.
Support is not the only thing that determines who can claim a child as a dependent. You probably cannot claim him because he did not live with you for more than half the year. The father is the custodial parent, and your son is probably a "qualifying child" of his father. That means that you cannot claim him, unless you get a signed Form 8332 from the father allowing you to claim the child.
You can use the tool at the following link on the IRS web site to determine whether you can claim your son as a dependent.
He’s dad can’t claim because he doesn’t have a job that takes taxes out and I just did that tool thing you sent me and it says I can claim him on my taxes because I still buy and support him and nobody else can claim him
1. Verify with the father (the custodial parent) that he is not claiming the child.
2. Get a signed form 8332, from the father, allowing you to claim the child.
You said "His dad can’t claim because he doesn’t have a job that takes taxes out".
That's not true. There's more to it than that. It depends on what other income he has. Do they live with some other relative (e.g. child's grandparent). That other relative is more likely, than you, to be able to claim the child.
You said "I just did that tool thing you sent me and it says I can claim him on my taxes because I still buy and support him and nobody else can claim him."
That's not true. It's more complicated than that. There are two types of dependents, "Qualifying Children"(QC) and Other ("Qualifying Relative" in IRS parlance). Only a QC qualifies a taxpayer for the the Child Tax Credit. They are interrelated but the rules are different for each.
The support test is different for each type. The support test, for a QC, is only that the child didn't provide more than half his own support. The support test for a Qualifying Relative (QR) is that the taxpayer provided more than half the relative's support. If you claim the child under the qualifying relative rules, you only get the $500 Other dependent Credit, and not the (up to) $2000 child tax credit. You want to claim the child under the rules for divorced and separated (including never married) parents, not the support rule (you want him to be a QC, not a QR).
As others have said, when the non custodial parent is claiming the child, you cannot claim the Earned Income credit (only the custodial parent is allowed the EIC). But, you can claim the Child Tax credit.
If the father does not file a return he is not a tax payer so you can claim the child as a qualifying relative. But that is ONLY if you can show that you provided more than half of his support. Realize that much of his support is housing provided by the father. See the worksheet below. As mentioned, if he gives you a signed form 8332 it would be much clearer that you qualify to claim him.
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