What Is A Dependent For Tax Purposes?

What Is A Dependent For Tax Purposes?
What Is A Dependent For Tax Purposes?

What are the qualifying characteristics of a dependent for tax purposes? Following is a general explanation on how to determine dependents, and how it relates to your tax status, liability and the credits you can claim on your tax return.

There are a few assessments that a person must pass in order to qualify as a dependent on a U.S. tax return. For starters, individual must be the taxpayer’s child, stepchild, foster child, sibling or step-sibling, or a relative of one of these, and the individual must live at the taxpayer’s residence for greater than 6 months of the tax year. There are exceptions for children of divorced parents, kidnapped children, and for children who were born or died during the year.

The individual must be under the age of 19, or 24 if a full-time student. Finally, the individual must not have contributed more than one-half toward his or her own support during that year in order to qualify as a dependent. Other qualifying points include, U.S. citizenship and single status or married filing as a single person.

If the individual fulfills all of these requirements, then any of the applicable deductions, exemptions, and credits can be used for them. Some of these include dependent day care expenses, child tax credits, medical expenses, earned income credit, and various itemized deductions. Determining eligibility often means the difference between owing money to the government and receiving a refund from them.

The child and dependent care expenses cover things like daycare, after school programs, private childcare services, etc. Any qualifying children the child and dependent care expenses must be under the age of 13.

The child tax credit is similar to the earned income credit because it is a straight credit. Taxpayers with a qualifying dependent that is under 17 years old may only take the child tax credit.

Determining if you have any dependents that you can claim on your annual tax return might take a little work, but it can be well worth it in the long run. You could be rewarded with a nice tax refund, thanks to the credits, exemptions, and deductions that your dependent(s) will give you the opportunity to claim.

Have a Federal Tax Issue? The Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic – Low Income Taxpayer Clinic can consult with you to provide advice regarding your IRS tax issues, and/or potentially act on your behalf for FREE if you qualify for assistance (come to a clinic intake session)!


Jim Floyd is the Staff Enrolled Agent at the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic – Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.

As an Enrolled Agent, Jim is a federally-licensed tax practitioner with unlimited rights to represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. This means he is unrestricted as to which taxpayers he can represent, what types of tax matters he can handle, and which IRS offices he can represent clients before. Enrolled agent status is the highest credential the IRS awards.

To attain the enrolled agent designation, candidates must demonstrate expertise in taxation, fulfill continuing education credits, and adhere to a stringent code of ethics.

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