IRS Publication 501 Exemptions, Standard Deductions and Filing Information

The term “dependent” means:

  • A qualifying child, or
  • A qualifying relative.

The terms “ qualifying child ” and “qualifying relative ” are defined later.

Qualifying Child

There are five tests that must be met for a child to be your qualifying child. The five tests are:

  1. Relationship,
  2. Age,
  3. Residency,
  4. Support, and
  5. Joint return.

Qualifying Relative

There are four tests that must be met for a person to be your qualifying relative. The four tests are:

  1. Not a qualifying child test,
  2. Member of household or relationship test,
  3. Gross income test, and
  4. Support test.

Age. Unlike a qualifying child, a qualifying relative can be any age. There is no age test for a qualifying relative.

You can claim an exemption for a qualifying child or qualifying relative only if these three tests are met.

  1. Dependent taxpayer test.
  2. Joint return test.
  3. Citizen or resident test.

These three tests are explained in detail later.

All the requirements for claiming an exemption for a dependent are summarized in Table 5.

Table 5. Overview of the Rules for Claiming an Exemption for a Dependent

Caution. This table is only an overview of the rules. For details, see the rest of this publication.

  • You cannot claim any dependents if you, or your spouse if filing jointly, could be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.
  • You cannot claim a married person who files a joint return as a dependent unless that joint return is only a claim for refund and there would be no tax liability for either spouse on separate returns.
  • You cannot claim a person as a dependent unless that person is a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.1
  • You cannot claim a person as a dependent unless that person is your qualifying child or qualifying relative.
Tests To Be a Qualifying Child Tests To Be a Qualifying Relative
  1. The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of them.
  2. The child must be (a) under age 19 at the end of the year and younger than you (or your spouse, if filing jointly), (b) under age 24 at the end of the year, a full-time student, and younger than you (or your spouse, if filing jointly), or (c) any age if permanently and totally disabled.
  3. The child must have lived with you for more than half of the year.2
  4. The child must not have provided more than half of his or her own support for the year.
  5. The child is not filing a joint return for the year (unless that joint return is filed only as a claim for refund).

If the child meets the rules to be a qualifying child of more than one person, only one person can actually treat the child as a qualifying child. See the Special Rule for Qualifying Child of More Than One Person described later to find out which person is the person entitled to claim the child as a qualifying child.

  1. The person cannot be your qualifying child or the qualifying child of any other taxpayer.
  2. The person either (a) must be related to you in one of the ways listed under Relatives who do not have to live with you, or (b) must live with you all year as a member of your household2 (and your relationship must not violate local law).
  3. The person's gross income for the year must be less than $3,700.3
  4. You must provide more than half of the person's total support for the year.4

 

1 - There is an exception for certain adopted children.
2 - There are exceptions for temporary absences, children who were born or died during the year, children of divorced or separated parents or parents who live apart, and kidnapped children.
3 - There is an exception if the person is disabled and has income from a sheltered workshop.
4 - There are exceptions for multiple support agreements, children of divorced or separated parents or parents who live apart, and kidnapped children.