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Who qualifies as a dependent?

SOLVEDby TurboTax2Updated 3 weeks ago

There are two definitions of a dependent: you have to be either a qualifying child or a qualifying relative. Your spouse is never considered your dependent.


A qualifying child must pass all six of the following tests to be a dependent:

  1. Relationship: The child is your child, foster child, adopted child, sibling, stepsibling, or a descendent of one of these (for example, grandchild, niece or nephew).
  2. Residence: The child lives in your home for more than half the year. If they're temporarily absent, that still counts as time living in your home. A temporary absence could be time spent at college or boarding school, or time away for medical care, military service, or juvenile detention. Different guidelines apply for children of divorced or separated parents.
  3. Age: The child is age 18 or under at the end of 2023, or a full-time student age 23 or under.
  4. If the person is disabled, there is no age limit.
  5. Support: The child doesn't provide more than half of their own support.
  6. Nationality: The child is a US citizen, US resident alien, US national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico. An adopted child who doesn’t meet this requirement, but lives with you for the entire year can be your dependent, as long as you're a US citizen.

Marital status: Generally, a married dependent can't file a joint tax return with a spouse. The only exception is when the married dependent files a joint return only to get a refund of taxes paid (no tax credits are received) and, if separate returns are filed, neither the dependent nor spouse would have a tax liability.

If a child is a qualifying child for two or more persons, only one of them can treat that child as a qualifying child. To determine which person can treat the child as a qualifying child, the following tiebreaker rules below apply:

If only one of the persons is the child's parent, the child is treated as the qualifying child of that parent.

If the parents do not file a joint return together, but both parents claim the child as a qualifying child, the IRS will treat the child as the qualifying child of the parent with whom the child lived for the longer period of time during the year. If the child lived with each parent for the same amount of time, the IRS will treat the child as the qualifying child of the parent who had the higher adjusted gross income (AGI), for the year.

If no parent can claim the child as a qualifying child, the child is treated as the qualifying child of the person who had the highest AGI for the year.

If a parent can claim the child as a qualifying child, but no parent claims the child, the child is treated as the qualifying child of the person who had the highest AGI for the year, but only if that person's AGI is higher than the highest AGI of any of the child's parents who can claim the child.

A qualifying relative must pass all five of the following test to be a dependent:

  •  Relationship: The person lives in your home for the entire year and is considered to be a member of your household or is related to you.
  • Gross income: Generally, their income is less than $4,700 (not including Social Security or welfare).
  • Support: Generally, you provide more than half the person's support. Special rules apply for children of divorced or separated parents or children receiving support from two or more people.
  • Marital status: Generally, a married dependent can't file a joint tax return with a spouse. The only exception is when the married dependent files a joint return only to get a refund for taxes paid. If both spouses filed separate returns, neither the dependent nor the spouse would have a tax liability.
  • Nationality: The person is a US citizen, US resident alien, US national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico. An adopted child who doesn't meet this requirement, but lives with you for the entire year can be your dependent, as long as you're a US citizen.

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