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William Perez

More Questions about Claiming Dependents

By January 24, 2006

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Throughout the tax season I will be answering one tax question per day.

Today I will be answering nine questions, all asking pretty much the same question. Can I claim someone as a dependent? There's new rules to follow, so everybody please listen up.

I will answer each of the 9 questions individually, but first I want to let you know that the rules for claiming a dependent have changed. For many, it will be easier for you to claim a dependent. For some, you are going to lose your tax benefits.

Here's the absolute basics.

  • The basics will not answer all your questions. For that, you will need to read through the new rules for claiming dependents, and figure out for yourself if you can still claim your dependents.
  • The old support test is out. A lot of you have memorized the old rule: provide more than half of a person's total support. Please permanently remove this fact from your memory. It no longer applies.
  • There are two new buzz words: qualifying child and qualifying relative.
  • The rules for qualifying child and qualifying relative are different.
  • If someone can claim a child under the definition of qualifying child, then no one else can claim that same child under the definition of qualifying relative.
  • For qualifying relatives, you need to pay attention to the relationship between yourself and the dependent. Some relationship have mandatory residency requirements. Other relationships do not.
  • If you need help determining if you can claim a child, please have every person who could possibly claim a child sit down and discuss the issue rationally -- before anyone files their taxes. Anything less than this will result in unnecessary IRS audits. Please don't subject your family members to this additional stress.

Now, on to the specific questions:

  1. S. Overman asks, "Would it be better to claim a dependent throughout the year instead of waiting to claim on your tax return? I realize that my tax refund would not be as much if I would claim throughout the year but I would like to know how much difference I could expect both ways."

    This is related to withholding on your paycheck. You should claim a level of withholding allowances appropriate to your tax situation. A general rule of thumb, claim the same number of withholding allowances as you claim personal exemptions on your tax return. You can use my article and the IRS Withholding Calculator to adjust your paycheck withholding.

  2. J. Varela asks, "I have a daughter with my ex-girlfriend and we have joint custody. I pay child support and provide insurance for her. My question is my ex does not work and usually never has is she allowed to have someone else claim my daughter? Such as her grandmother? This has been going on for years and I am just curious. Any response will be greatly appreciated."

    I cannot determine what your ex-girlfriend's tax situation is. But here's one of the general rules. In order to claim a child as a dependent, the child must live with you for more than half the year. Since your daughter does not live with you, then you would not be able to claim your daughter as a dependent. Now, who else would be eligible to claim your daughter is irrelevant to your tax situation. As long as the child meets the tests for qualifying child, she can be claimed as a dependent.

  3. J. Shaylor asks, "Can you take a tax credit for your child if they worked a portion of the year?"

    If the child is meets the definition of a qualifying child, then yes you can still claim your child as a dependent. One of the new criteria for a qualifying child is that the child cannot provide more than half of his or her own financial support. (This new support test is not related at all to the age test, as under the old rules.)

  4. Misty McCumbers asks, "How much do I get for my 9 month old son who was born on 4-15-2005?"

    You can claim your son as a dependent, as long as he meets the criteria for a qualifying child. It does not matter when in the year he was born. You still get the full personal exemption.

  5. M. Boutte asks, "My girlfriend was married the first 5 months of 2005 but has since divorced. She has two dependant children under 17 who live with her full time. Her ex-husband has agreed not to claim either of the kids on his return this year. Consequently, i'm wondering if my girlfriend would be able to file under Head of Household for the year 2005. If not, what would be her best status options. Thank you."

    As long as the child meet the criteria of qualifying children, then your girlfriend can claim her children as dependents. Generally, that means the children lived with her for more than six months of the year and that the children did not provide more than half of their own financial support. As an unmarried person with at least one dependent, your girlfriend would be eligible to file as Head of Household.

  6. J. Finders asks, "What are the rules for claiming a child, when the child lives with both parents for six months each?"

    Great question! The new rules say that you can claim a dependent if, among other things, the child lives with you MORE than half the year. So if the children are living with you for EXACTLY half a year, you might be losing out. But not to fear, the new rules have tie-breaker tests for exactly this situation. If the children spend EQUAL time with both parents, then the parent with the highest adjusted gross income gets to claim the kids as dependents.

  7. J. Robert asks, "Hi Mr. Perez. How are you doing? I'm happy to ask you that question, i would like to prepare my own taxes. I support a child more than 50%. Her mother wants me claim her this year. My question is: what title can i put on? (Child or other). And how many years that takes not to be claimed with that child? Thank you so very much."

    I'm doing very well, thank you for asking. There's new rules for claiming a dependent. Please un-learn the old "more than 50%" rule. It no longer applies. Under the new rules, the child needs to live with you for more than half the year, and the child cannot provide more than half of her own support. Also, you must be related to the child in certain ways. However, these new rules only apply for qualifying children -- that is, dependents who are your child, grandchild, etc. It sounds like this child isn't your biological, foster, or adopted child. In that case you would need to follow the rules for "qualifying relatives." For qualifying relatives, there may be a residency requirement. It sounds like this particular child is not related to you except informally. In that situation, the child needs to live with you for an entire calendar year. Now, here's the kicker. This particular child would be a qualifying child of her parent. And "once a qualifying child, always a qualifying child, and never a qualifying relative," according to H&R Block tax expert Kathy Burlison. That means, you cannot claim the child as your dependent, since the child likely meets the criteria to be someone else's qualifying child.

  8. J. Robert asks a follow-up question, "Can someone unmarried claim a child as a head of household? However the status of that used to be single. What relation can i get if I want to claim my sister's-in law child?"

    A niece might qualify as a "qualifying child" under the new rules, since a niece is a descendent of your sister, and thus you would meet the relationship test for qualifying child. However, you need to look at the other three criteria as well. Your neice needs to live with you for more than half the year, must not provide more than half of her own support, and must be under age 19 or under age 24 and a full-time student. So did your niece live with you, or with her mom? If she lived with you both equally, then using the tie-breaker tests, only her mom would be able to claim her as a dependent. If you qualify to claim your neice, the relationship you indicate on Form 1040 is "Neice." If a taxpayer is unmarried and has at least one dependent, then the taxpayer would qualify for the Head of Household filing status.

  9. K. Goyne asks, "If you have a parent living with you all year, and they are receiving Social Security benefits, but they do not work can, you claim them as a dependent on your taxes?"

    Parents would fall under the category of "qualifying relatives" under the new rules for claiming a dependent. Under these rules, you can claim your parents as dependents if they each earn less than $3,200 in taxable income and you provide more than half of their total financial support. If their only source of income is Social Security, then none of their Social Security benefits are taxable, and they would have zero taxable income. In that situation and you provided over half of their financial support, then yes you can claim your parents as dependents. (And they don't have to live with you either, since there's no residency requirement for parents.)

Throughout the tax season I will be answering one tax question per day. Do you have a question? Visit the Ask a Tax Question page. Disagree with my answers? Post your comments in the Tax Forum. Find more answers in the Tax Question of the Day Archive page.

December 11, 2007 at 3:20 am
(1) Carrie Hackney says:

We filed last year for the tax returns season 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2003, should we anticpate we will get a “Kicker” check for each yea?
…Also, What is the criteria for receiving a the 2007 Tax Kicker check.
Would you already have gotten taxes back from stae when you filed? …or perhaps you owed $$$ to the state but in a very minimal amount of about $50 or less, would we still be elegible for a Kicker Refund check?

January 28, 2008 at 10:18 am
(2) jean says:

Is it true that this year the people that are working will recieve some kind of a check from the irs. Im not sure what its called I heard that if your single you get$600 And$300 for each kid.

January 23, 2010 at 12:57 pm
(3) James says:

On #9, do you still need to report the SS income even if it is not taxable?

January 24, 2010 at 5:15 pm
(4) William Perez says:

James, Social Security benefits are reported on the tax return of the person who actually receives the benefits. In other words, if your parents are getting Social Security, then they would report that on their tax return (not on your’s).

January 27, 2010 at 2:10 am
(5) MARIA says:

my mother and mother in law are staying with us.they are legal residents both are not working and we provide 100% support to them.can we claim them both as dependents?


June 29, 2010 at 5:26 pm
(6) PJ says:

I have an unusual situation and need to know if I can claim my nephews this next tax season? They are the children of my step-sister, and will have lived with me for over half the year. CPS was involved but the children were not taken because I said I would care for them so CPS stepped out. Is it possible for me to claim them or does Mom make off with the tax break that should be used toward the care of the children?

June 29, 2010 at 6:40 pm
(7) William Perez says:

You would be eligible to claim your nephew as a dependent if all of the following are true:

Your nephew lives with you for more than half the year;
Your nephew does not provide more than half of his own financial support; and
Your nephew is age 18 or younger; or is a full-time college student age 23 or younger.

January 6, 2011 at 6:14 am
(8) julie says:

I have a 20yr old daughter full time in college she is single and had a baby on 120110, she works part time can she file HH? Will I be able to claim her and the baby as dependents?

January 11, 2011 at 11:44 am
(9) LINDA says:


January 11, 2011 at 9:53 pm
(10) William Perez says:

For the purposes of the child tax credit only, the child must be under age 17 at the end of the calendar year. Your 20 year old daughter might qualify as a dependent under either the qualifying child or qualifying relative rules, but she won’t qualify for the child tax credit.

January 18, 2011 at 6:59 am


January 25, 2011 at 3:10 pm
(12) Deb Newgent says:

what if the child has not lived as a resident for the year
but all other criterias are met for “qualifying child”

January 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm
(13) William Perez says:

A child must meet all the requirements in order to be claimed as a dependent. Some types of dependents, however, do not have a residency requirement. You’ll need to review the criteria closely when making your determination.

January 27, 2011 at 9:37 pm
(14) Joanne says:

Could you just clarify the concept of total support? My parents live with me and only have Social Security income. They do not pay anything towards room, board, food, utilities, furniture, etc. However, they pay for their own car and clothing. Medical bills are paid through Medicare and hopefully Charity Care, if they are approved. Would I be considered as providing at least half of their support?
Thanks for any guidance you can provide. They have lived with me for 9 years and I have never claimed them before. However, they don’t submit tax returns since they only have Social Security income, so I figured I might ought to try. Is it likely to trigger an audit if I do?

February 8, 2011 at 8:05 am
(15) Kaetlin says:

I am married, I have a child who’s three years old. My husband and I have been seperated for quite sometime now. I originally had physical custody of our son from march until july, the months of jan and feb we lived together and the month of August +but he was unemployed in Jan and Feb and we both took care of him in AUg. I technically have been taking care of him since jan. Now in sep he got temporary physical custody of him and has had him since because we are going through the court proceeding. Since I took care of our son provided his health insurance all year long, pay support right now, and had him living with me since Jan until Aug would I qualify to be the one to claim him on our taxes.

April 16, 2011 at 1:25 am
(16) lucille says:

Hi Mr. Perez,
My question is, I was self employed as a child care provider for 6 mo in 2008, 12 mo. in 2009, and 10 weeks in 2010. During that time, I helped to support my 16 year old grandson with almost all of his needs. Can I claim him even if he did not live with me?

April 16, 2011 at 2:34 pm
(17) William Perez says:

Lucille, an excellent question. Most likely, the grandson’s parent or parents are eligible to claim him as a dependent. Under the tie-breaker tests, parents are more eligible than grandparents for claiming the dependent.

January 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm
(18) wendy says:


January 18, 2012 at 11:03 am
(19) becky says:

I am 44 years old. I receive SS disability, 1100.00 a month. Because of this, I moved in with my boyfriend as i cannot support myself anymore. I have lived with him over a year, and though my ‘income’ from ssd goes towards supporting myself, he pays for all of the rest. (mortgage, groceries, utilities, etc) Can he claim me as a dependent on his taxes this year?

January 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm
(20) andii says:

I am 20 yrs old, if my mother claims me how much would she get for me?

January 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm
(21) Chuck says:


I have a step child who lives with his mother and I full time. He receives Social Security Survivors benefits due to his father passing away. Do we have to claim this income? The SSA1099 is in his name. Can we still claim him as a dependent? Does we need to file a return for him?

Thank you

January 31, 2012 at 11:28 pm
(22) Tina says:

I have two children with my ex husband, so we normally each claim one child. This year he stopped paying childsupport in May because of becoming unemployed. Does he then lose his rights to claim one of my children. He also does not see the children, so they spent no time with him.

July 18, 2012 at 3:30 pm
(23) Lauren says:

I haven’t worked this year and I live with my boyfriend and my two children,one of my kids isn’t his but she’s lived in the home for more than half the year and my boyfriend has provided for us both. Question is is my boyfriend allowed to claim me and my daughter as dependents?

July 28, 2012 at 8:06 pm
(24) elvie says:

hi. my question is, I supported my son from his 4 year course. Last june 2012, he graduated from college. He will start working 2nd week of August. can i claim him as a dependent since he was unemployed for 7 months (student). What are my options?

January 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm
(25) Frank says:

No earn income receive social security disability does it benefit to file income tax on claiming two grandsons for the year 2012,and if I file will get a return.

January 10, 2013 at 7:47 am
(26) Debbie Lattaladi says:

I collect SSDI but my granddaughter lives with me and I support her – she is five. Can i file an income tax return and will I get a EIC for the child?

January 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm
(27) mary says:

hi i helped with supporting my cousin FOR 9 MOUNTHS AND THEN c.p.s TOOK THEM CAN I STILL CLAIM THEM

January 24, 2013 at 8:51 pm
(28) Adianna says:

If I provide for my sister that’s on welfare and nephew can I put them as dependents on my taxes??

January 28, 2013 at 4:17 pm
(29) Tracy says:

Can you claim a friend that has lived with you the whole year, but worked and made less money?

February 4, 2013 at 10:08 pm
(30) Betsy says:

I have a question. What if someone has a. 17 yr old daughter who has worked part time all year, can they claim themselves on there taxes as well as the parent claim them.
Thank you

February 13, 2013 at 1:38 am
(31) alyssa says:

Hi mr perez! I seem to be having some issues maybe you can help me. My son born on new years last year is now eligible to claim, however, his father and i have since split. Basically what i want to ask is we lived together i guess kind of the whole year last year but my ex was gone months at a time in other states to work. He paid most of the rent i still paid some but thats all he paid i provided all utilities and diapers and food and necessities for my son all his medical bills are in my name and i took care of him…im wondering yes he did make more money than me but he did not pay for anything for his son he has claimed him on his taxes and i think this is wrong? Am i incorrect? Can i file a discrepancy?

February 14, 2013 at 1:21 am
(32) Nancy says:

I have a 9month old baby, he was born in April 2012. I started doing my taxes & it shows up that my child does not quilify as a dependent.

February 27, 2013 at 7:22 pm
(33) stephanie says:

Question ?my mother in law dont live with me ,but she wants to claim her two grandchild ,but my the boys are in disabilitie , will she be able to claim my boys , grather ask then to get in trouble

July 13, 2013 at 1:53 am
(34) Tina Lynn says:

#1 My husband is custodial parent to our 2 daughters 1 will be 18 in Nov. other will be 20 in Dec and both will be in college. He has had custody since 2007 and has been collecting nys workmans comp (which is non-taxable I am told, plus child support from me, and social security for my kids because I am disabled which also are non-taxable to him. How is it that he doesn’t pay taxes and has been claiming my kids? I don’t get it! If he has not earned income, and not paid tax, where is this $ he’s not claiming turning into a refund for him for claiming my kids?
#2 The kids will be in college 10 months out of the year, if I am getting social security disability and disability retirement (which I am taxed on) why am I not allowed to claim them as dependents just because he is named custodial parent but has no taxable income and we have joint custody? Please explain this situation to me, and have I been dooped all these years for not claiming them when I am the one who pays tax on social security payments he receives on my behalf and child support I pay which comes from my social security benefits. Totally confused

July 15, 2013 at 4:29 pm
(35) William Perez says:

Tina, in order to be eligible to claim your children as dependents, you’ll need to meet several eligibility criteria. The eligibility criteria for children to qualify as dependents includes factors such as the taxpayer’s relationship to the children, the age of the children, where the children reside, and how much financial support the children provide for themselves. You can review the various criteria to see if you are eligible to claim them as your dependents.

August 4, 2013 at 11:13 am
(36) Teshia says:

How long do you have to be working in order to claim your child and yourself?

August 18, 2013 at 2:19 pm
(37) Jean Ritzie says:

My granddaughter has a child 4 years old. The father has never really been in the picture and she has been supporting her child on her own. The father committed suicide 2 years ago and never really worked anywhere. Is her child eligible for anything from social security?

August 28, 2013 at 3:50 pm
(38) William Perez says:

Jean, sorry to hear your story. I’m not an expert on Social Security benefits. I suggest you give the Social Security Administration a call.

August 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm
(39) Darlean Higgins says:

Yes, i am turning 19 on August 30th, 2013 and i recently moved out of my parents house into my widowed grandmothers house (July 10th, 2013). She has been getting old timers ect, so ive moved in to make sure she remembers to feed her dog, and take her daily meds. We have filed for food stamps, and we have those now. She gets SS monthly and she is 68 years old. She wants to put me on her SS because i now live with her. Can i still have a job/work while living with her? I am attending college this coming up Spring, and im wondering if i can work or not to cover more of my expenses. Thank you for your time, and id really like to get this answered asap because ive been sitting around doing nothing cause she tells me no. But my grama is a little cookoo and not always 100% truthful so i cant take her word for it. Anyway, please let me know cause if i can work while living with her itd be nice to already get a job.

August 28, 2013 at 3:38 pm
(40) William Perez says:

Darlean, good questions! However I am not familiar with the ins-and-outs of Social Security. All I know is that for tax purposes, you can work and get Social Security at the same time. I’d recommend talking to someone at the Social Security Administration.

November 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm
(41) Sheena williams says:

Hi Mr.Perez I just have a ?? ok I worked 2 jobs in the summer of 2013 but only for 3 months a job.I was wondering I dnt think I worked enough to get taxes back ..but however I’m pregnant I’m due on 1/14/2014 I was just asking can my babyfathers dad claim me on his taxes ?

December 5, 2013 at 2:37 am
(42) Cristal says:

Mr. Perez, I kind of think I got the hint of what my answer may be, but here’s my question…my father in law wants to claim my daughter as a dependent to the irs because he’s getting money owed taken back from each paycheckand wants to lower his monthly load. We rent a room so technaclly live under his roof but i work and suport her as well as recive state aid. Will that affect me when I claim her in income taxes? I was thinking ot falls under the child rule but would we end up being audited?

December 20, 2013 at 2:42 am
(43) LaTonya says:

I’m 20yrs old && Have A 9month old daughter && I stay With My Mom. I Was Wondering Can My Mother File My Daughter && Myself On Her Taxes She’s Taking Care Of Us. But I Get $ 318.00 From Welfare So Will That Still Be Alright For Her To File Us..,??

January 1, 2014 at 12:06 pm
(44) Rhonda Elbert says:

My boyfriend is on social security and his son lives with him.can he file federal taxes and receive money for them.thank u

January 18, 2014 at 5:35 pm
(45) amber says:

Can i claim my children on my taxes they are currently in cps care but will be returning home .

January 21, 2014 at 6:23 pm
(46) Ashley says:

I’m 19 and I live with my boyfriend my mom claims me as a dependent and I’ve worked a couple jobs this year I’m wondering if it would benefit me more not to be claimed by her. I also can’t receieve fafsa because of her income but she’s not able to help pay for school. What are my options ? Could I get a tax return ?

January 23, 2014 at 7:09 pm
(47) Greg horvath says:

I have a daughter that lives with her mother that i pay child support and insurance for can i claim her and what proof do i need to show we were never married

January 26, 2014 at 3:59 am
(48) Mendozav says:

My boyfriend add me as a dependent and his tax refund lowerrr! I dont know if the tax preparer is screwinv him up or this could be possible?

January 28, 2014 at 2:32 am
(49) Brionna says:

Can I claim myself for taxes returns?

January 30, 2014 at 1:04 am
(50) Jenny k says:

If im reciving welfare can my father claim my son ?
I want to make sure I dont stop reciving the help from welfare

January 31, 2014 at 12:01 am
(51) Jimmie Mazza says:

Hi, I have taken care of my grandson’s 16 year girlfriend for over a year and I would like to claim her. She lives with me full time and I pay for everything, she doesn’t work. None of her relatives are going to claim her. Can I?

February 1, 2014 at 6:54 am
(52) jesse says:

My oldest child is 14, I got married & had four other children. Can i still claim my daughter if we have different last names??

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