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How To Use Dependents To Boost Tax Return FAQ

Claiming children or relatives as dependents on your tax return can lead to savings or a nice refund. Here are some frequently asked questions on the topic.

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If you’ve been thinking about claiming someone as a dependent on your tax return, here are some common questions and answers that may be able to offer some clarity.

1. Who can you claim as a dependent?

There are two main categories of dependents that you can claim on your return. The first is a qualifying child. The second is a qualifying relative.

2. What is a qualifying child?

To determine if someone is a qualifying child, the IRS uses the following criteria:

Age – The child must be younger than 19 at the end of the tax year and younger than you, a student under 24 and younger than you, or totally and permanently disabled.

Relationship – A qualifying child must be one of the following: daughter, son, foster child, stepchild, sister, brother, half-sister, half-brother, stepsister, stepbrother, or a descendant of any of those.

Residency – The qualifying child must have lived with you for over half the year. If they were away at school, on vacation, or at camp, this time counts as residing with you.

If the child was born and died in the same year, they are considered as living with you the entire year.

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Things get trickier in terms of residency when separated or divorced parents are involved. If that’s the case, the parent with custody usually fills the residency requirement. There are exceptions, however, where the non-custodial parent can claim the qualifying child.

Support – To claim a qualifying child, you will have had to provide over 50 percent of their support during the year, which includes things like lodging, transportation, medical care, tuition, food, clothing, etc.

Since every situation is different, it’s best to contact a tax professional before claiming a child. They will be able to tell you if you can claim them according to your situation.

3. What is a qualifying relative?

To be deemed a qualifying relative, the person cannot be a qualifying child. You will have had to provide over half of their support during the year, and they must have a gross income lower than $4,200 for 2019.

Also, the qualifying relative must have either lived with you all year or be related in some way, such as your brother, sister, father, mother, grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, etc.

4. Can you be a dependent and claim dependents as well?

If you are listed as a dependent on somebody else’s tax return, you cannot claim any dependents.

5. What are the citizenship requirements for dependents?

A dependent must be one of the following:

  • U.S. citizen
  • U.S. resident alien
  • U.S. national
  • A resident of Canada or Mexico

6. What are the benefits of claiming someone as your dependent?

Listing a child as your dependent can be particularly helpful, as it opens you up to the following tax breaks:

  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Child and Dependent Care Credit
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit
  • Lifetime Learning Credit

Other dependents, meanwhile, can result in credits to help you as well to either reduce what you owe or increase your tax refund.

Eric Tomasso