Claiming Dependents on Your Taxes: A Guide

By Erin Ollila, Contributor, on March 29, 2018

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Are you a solopreneur with children? If you’re new to the world of self-employment taxes, you’ll want to make sure you’re following all the rules when it comes to claiming dependents. But you may be shocked to discover that your qualifying children aren’t the only dependents you can claim on your taxes — you may be able to include other relatives, too. Wondering how it all works? This guide will clear up exactly who you can and cannot claim on your taxes.

The Fundamental Rules for Claiming Dependents

Your dependents are typically your children, but they can also be relatives that relied on your support during the tax year for which you are filing. While there are certain qualifications for each class of dependent, here are the basic requirements anyone you’re considering claiming must meet in order to be considered:

  1. The individual must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or a resident alien.
  2. They may not be claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s tax form.
  3. They must have a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN).

Typically, a dependent’s TIN will be their Social Security Number, but it can also be their Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN).

What Are the Rules for Claiming Your Children?

So, what are the requirements your children must meet in order to be eligible for dependent status? Besides the above, they also have to pass the five following qualifying child rules:

  1. Relationship: This individual must be your “son, daughter, adopted child, stepchild, foster child or a descendant of any of them such as your grandchild.” A “qualifying child” could also include your sibling, step sibling or half sibling, or any of their descendants.
  2. Residency: Your child must have lived with you for more than half of the year for which you’re filing.
  3. Age: At the end of the filing year, the individual must be under the age of 19 — or younger than 24 if they are a full-time student. It’s important to note, however, that there is no age requirement if your child is permanently disabled.
  4. Support: You must financially support your child. They are allowed to work, but the job must not provide more than half of their support for the given year.
  5. Joint Return: No one else can claim your child as a dependent on their taxes. In addition, your child can’t file their own joint return — unless they do so only to claim a refund.

What Are the Rules for Claiming Other Types of Dependents?

Children aren’t the only types of dependents that can be listed on your taxes. Here are the requirements to keep in mind for qualifying relatives:

  1. For 2017 taxes, this person must not have made more than $4,050 in the calendar year.
  2. You must have provided more than half of this relative’s support during the year for which you are filing.
  3. This individual must have lived with you for the entire year. There are some exceptions to this rule, though. For more information, refer to “Relatives who don’t have to live with you” in Publication 501 from the IRS. If you think you meet an exception, you may want to double-check with an accountant before filing.
  4. You must be the only person who is claiming this relative as a dependent.

What Proof Do You Need?

In order to claim your dependents at tax time, you will need to provide a variety of different supporting documents. To pass the residency test, for instance, you will need to send in a photocopy of social service, daycare, medical or school records that prove that you and your child have lived together for more than half of the given year. For more guidance on the materials that will be required for your unique situation, check out IRS Form 886-H-DEP.

By referring to the above information and associated IRS materials, you should be able to easily determine exactly who you can claim as a dependent this year. When in doubt, refer to a tax professional for more insights about your unique situation.

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