Claiming Dependents on Your Tax Return

According to a Pew Research Center Study, a record 57 million Americans, or 18.1 percent of the U.S. population, lived in a multi-generational household. This is double the number from 1980. With the rise of young adults moving back home, it drives growth in multi-generational households. The same study revealed roughly one in four individuals ages 25 to 34 lived at home, compared to just 11 percent in 1980.

This creates more complexity when it comes to dependent deductions.

Aside from the intangible benefits of living with and caring for family members, there are also tangible benefits to having dependents. In fact, if you support family members, you might reap the benefit of claiming dependents on your tax return.

Yet like any other tax deduction, you need to adhere to rules for claiming dependents. Here is more information to review prior to filing this year’s return:

1 – Identify Your Dependent(s)

In simple terms, a person whose financial support is primarily provided by you is considered a dependent. But in order to qualify for a dependency exemption, they must fit the bill. Here are the rules for claiming dependents:

Qualifying Child

  • Must be your child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half-sibling, step-sibling or a descendant of those.
  • Must have lived with you for more than half of the year*.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen, resident, or national, or resident of Canada or Mexico.
  • Must be: younger than you (or your spouse) and under the age of 19, or under the age of 24 if a full-time student; or permanently and totally disabled.
  • Must not have provided more than half of his or her own support for the year.
  • Must not be filing a joint return for the year.

For children of divorced or separated parents, there are special rules that apply. The rules apply when all of the factors are true:

  • One or both parents provided more than half of the child’s total support for the calendar year.
  • One or both parents have custody of the child for more than half of the calendar year.
  • The parents are divorced, legally separated, or live apart at all times during the last six months of the calendar year.

Generally, the parent who is the custodial parent has the right to the dependency exemption. The custodial parent is generally the parent with whom the child spent the most nights during the year. However, the custodial parent can release the child’s dependency exemption to the noncustodial parent by signing Form 8832.

Qualifying Relative

  • Must be a member of your household or related in one of the following ways:
    • Children (including legally adopted children), foster children, stepchildren, or their descendants, including grandchildren
    • Siblings, including half or step-siblings
    • Parents, grandparents or any other direct ancestors
    • Stepparents
    • Aunts or uncles
    • Nieces or nephews
    • Fathers-in-law, mothers-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law
  • Can’t be anyone’s qualifying child.
  • Generally, you must have provided more than half of his/her support for the year.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen, resident, or national (or resident of Canada or Mexico).
  • Can’t have a gross income exceeding $4,000.
  • Must not be filing a joint return for the year.

Once You Have Identified Your Dependent(s)…

Do you meet the above criteria for claiming dependents? You generally can take an exemption for each of your dependents. Your exemption is subtracted from your adjusted gross income, which reduces the amount of taxable income.

This year, the amount you can deduct for each exemption has increased from $3,950 in 2014 to $4,000. However, you can lose at least a part of the benefit of your exemptions if your adjusted gross income is $154,950 for a married individual filing a separate return; $258,250 for a single individual; $284,050 for a head of household; and $309,900 for married individuals filing jointly or a qualifying widow(er).

Other Considerations For Claiming Dependents

On top of the potential dependent exemption(s), you can claim additional deductions or credits for your dependent’s education or healthcare. Once you discover the deductions and credits available to you, you can better plan better for your family’s financial future.

Need help? Partner with Block Advisors. With an average tenure of 15 years each, our tax advisors are experts in complicated tax situations.

Find an Advisor closest to you now.

* Or if a newborn meets the test as long as they lived with you for more than half of the portion of the year remaining after the newborn’s birth.


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