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Who Can I Claim as a Dependent?

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Why Should I Claim Someone as a Dependent?

Claiming someone as a dependent is a type of tax exemption that can save you can thousands of dollars on your taxes. For 2015, a dependent can save you up to $3,900. If you have multiple dependents this can add up to a significant amount of money.

Additionally, you can write off many expenses associated with having a dependent, such as childcare expenses, medical expenses, and other itemized deductions involving children or family issues.

Who Can Be a Dependent?

The IRS has rules that cover almost every single type of dependent, but they can generally be broken down into two categories: Children and Others.


If you have a child, you may be able to claim them as a dependent if they meet the following requirements:

  • Support: In order to claim your child as a dependent you need to provide over half of his or her support during the year. Support can mean food, housing, clothing, education, medical care, etc. This does not mean your child cannot have a job, just as long as that job does not provide more than half of your child’s support.
  • Relationship: The child you are claiming must be related to you in some way. Whether a stepchild, an adopted child, a foster child, a half-sister, even the child of one of your relatives, there must be some sort of relationship.
  • Age: A qualifying child must be under 19 years old, or if he or she is a full-time student, then under 24. If your child is over the age limit, then you cannot claim them as a dependent. However, there is no age limit if your child is permanently disabled.
  • Residence: Generally, your child must live with you for more than half the year, but there are exceptions. Additionally, your child must be a U.S. resident or citizen.
  • Only Claim: In order to claim your child as a dependent, you must be the only person claiming them as a dependent. This can complicate things when a couple is divorced with joint custody of the children. Usually, the divorce agreement will include some sort of provision on who can claim the children as dependents.


Children are not the only people you can claim as a dependent. Others who may qualify include parents and even people not even related to you, such as an unmarried partner, if they meet the following requirements:

  • Support: You may be able to claim your partner or a relative as a dependent if you provided over half of his or her total support during the year.
  • Income: Your partner’s or relatives’ gross income for the year must be less than $3,900 in 2012 (not including tax-exempt income, such as Social Security or welfare).
  • Residency: Your partner or relative must be a U.S. resident or citizen that has lived at your residence all year. An exception exists if the person is a type of relative listed on the "relatives who don’t live with you" list found in IRS Publication 501.
  • Only Claim: You must the only person claiming this person as a dependent. This also means that the person you are claiming cannot file a joint tax return with someone else.

Do I Need an Attorney?

It is unsurprising that many people need professional help when it comes to doing their taxes, since tax law can be very complicated and confusing. As there are many different exceptions and exemptions, it is best to consult with a tax attorney or a CPA, in order to see if you can claim someone as a dependent. Luckily, you can claim the cost of consulting with someone about preparing your taxes as a tax deduction!

Photo of page author Kourosh Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 07-01-2015 03:52 PM PDT

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