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How to Claim Tax Exemption for a Dependent?

In order to claim tax exemption for a dependent, there are tests that your or the dependent must meet. In general you can claim a tax exemption for a qualifying child or a qualifying relative only if these three tests are met:

1) dependent taxpayer test

If you could be claimed as a dependent by another person, you cannot claim anyone else as a dependent. Even if you have a qualifying child or a qualifying relative you cannot claim that person as a dependent (possibly no one will be able to claim that exemption).

How to Claim Tax Exemption for a Dependent

If you are married and filing a joint return and your spouse could be claimed as a dependent by someone else, then you and your spouse cannot claim any dependent on your joint return.

2) Joint return test

You generally cannot claim a married person as a dependent if he or she files a joint return. The joint return test does not apply if a joint return is filed by the dependent and his or her spouse merely as a claim for tax refund from the IRS and no tax liability would exist for either spouse on separate tax returns. For example, if the dependents earned money during the tax year and had taxes withheld. However, they earn too little to be required to file tax returns so they file a joint return to get the refunds from the taxes withheld. They pass the joint return test.

3) Citizen or resident test

You cannot claim a person as a dependent unless that person is a US citizen, US resident, US national or a resident of Canada or Mexico for some part of the year. However, there is an exception for certain adopted children.

For an adopted child: if you are a US citizen who has legally adopted a child who is not a US citizen, US resident, or US national, this test is met if the child lived with you as a member of your household ALL year. This also applies if the child was lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.


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