5 Tests To Claim a Dependent On Your Tax Return

Joseph Meyer
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1. Support Test

In order to claim your children and dependents on your tax return and deduct child-related expenses, you must be able to prove that you provided more than 50% of their support.

You can do this in a few ways, including:

  • providing more than half of your child’s financial support
  • having custody of your child and making more than half of the child’s financial decisions
  • providing more than half of the child’s food, clothing and shelter

It’s important to note that just because you make the majority of the financial decisions and provide the majority of the support, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re considered the primary caretaker. Custody status is based on factors including each parent’s level of participation in their children’s lives.

Practice Tip: Keep detailed records that show the dates you paid for your child’s expenses and copies of your child’s deductions, such as school contributions, receipts or medical bills.

2. Gross Income Test

Gross income is defined as the amount of income you earned before any deductions or withholdings are taken out. If you file a joint return, your gross income is the combined gross income of both spouses. If you file a separate return, your gross income is the income earned by the spouse with the lower income.

If you lived with your parents or someone who provided you with financial support, you can't claim them as your dependents. This is a common situation for college students, as they may live off-campus and be financially dependent on their parents.

3. Member of Household Relationship Test

This test basically states that you can claim a child on your taxes if he or she lived in your home for the entire year. If the child was away some part of the time, you can claim them as a dependent, as long as it was for a while and that he or she still maintained a close relationship with you and you still provided financial support. If you're able to provide any of the following evidence, they can help you pass this test.

· Schooling – You sent the child to school or college, and you paid for the majority of the tuition.

· Clothing – You bought the child's clothes and they live with you.

· Food – You provide at least half of the child's food, and you share living expenses.

· Lodging – You live with the child and he or she pays no rent or has a smaller amount of rent than you.

· Transportation – You paid for transportation of more than 50% of the cost the child's travel.

Take note that the child should be younger than you for you to claim them as a dependent. Also, beware that you need to have the right documents in order to add the child as a dependent on your taxes. If you need help understanding what documents you need, your CPA should be able to help you out.

4. Joint Return Test

The most basic test is to determine whether your dependent is required to file a tax return. This test is required for all taxpayers, but it’s particularly relevant if your dependent child is also part of the same household.

If the child must file a tax return, they’re obligated to file their own return. If they aren’t required to file their own return, you’re able to claim them as a dependent.

Here’s how you can make a determination based on the joint return test:

If your dependent is married, you would generally need to file a separate return.

If your dependent is filing separately due to a divorce decree, they’re not considered to have filed a joint return.

If your dependent is filing a separate return because of another reason, such as they’re a dual-status alien, it’s safe to assume that they didn’t file a joint return.

If your dependent has a filing status of “single” or “head of household,” it’s safe to assume that they didn’t file a joint return.

5. Citizen/Residency Test

This is probably the easiest test you can pass. To meet this test, the person you're claiming as a dependent must have been:

· A citizen of the United States for the whole year, or

· A U.S. national or

· A resident of the U.S. during the whole year.

You can easily prove the citizenship of a child by providing the child's birth certificate or naturalization certificate.