Today's question comes from Lissette in Florida. She asks, "My fiance claimed my kids and myself as dependents, but I was told by the IRS that one of my kids was claimed by someone else. I asked my exhusband if he claimed my son, but he said no. So my question is how do I find out who did?"
I hear this question all too often. Let me lay out the basics, and then give you some tips for resolving the matter.
First, there are new rules for claiming a dependent. Under the new rules, the child must live with you for more than six months out of the year. So if the kids lived with you, you are entitled to claim them. However, your fiance cannot claim them as dependents, since the kids already meet the requirements to be your "qualifying child." That means no one else can claim them under the "qualifying relative" rules.
Second, tax return information is confidential. So if someone else claimed your kids as dependents, there is no way for you to find out who claimed the kids except by asking the person directly. The IRS won't tell you (they would get in trouble for the unauthorized disclosure of a taxpayer's confidential information), and the local tax firm cannot tell you (tax preparers are forbidden from revealing any information about their clients).
Third, it won't help to have your fiance claim the children on his tax return. The IRS will audit both parties (your fiance and the other person who claimed the kids). In an audit situation, the IRS will rule against your fiance, because the kids would meet the test to be your qualifying children, and therefore he cannot claim them as qualifying relatives. The IRS would also rule against the other person if the kids lived with you for more than six months.
So what can you do? The most you can do is ask your friends and family, in an attempt to find out who claimed the kids. If you do find out, you can ask them to file an amendment so that you can claim the kids. You should also ask them to not claim the kids in the future.
Once you get married, you and your husband can file a joint tax return and claim your kids as dependents. You might have to endure an IRS audit to prove the kids lived with you -- but the audit will be worth it. The other person will be prohibited from claiming your kids as dependents in the future.