A dependent must either be a qualifying child or qualifying relative, there are different rules for each. Correctly identifying your dependents can significantly impact your return. The information below will help you determine who qualifies as an eligible dependent on your taxes.

Qualifying Child

  • Your qualifying child must be a son, daughter, stepchild, adopted child, foster child, grandchild, sibling, stepsibling, or niece or nephew.
  • The child must be under 19 at the end of the year and younger than you (or your spouse if filing jointly), under age 24 if a full-time student and is younger than you (or your spouse if filing jointly), or any age if permanently and totally disabled.
  • The child must have lived with you for more than half of the year. Temporary absences such as being away at college count as living with you.
  • The child cannot have provided more than half of their own support for the year.
  • The child cannot file a joint return.  A joint return can only be filed by the child and his or her spouse for the sole purpose of receiving a refund of income tax withheld or estimated tax paid.

Qualifying Relative

  • Your qualifying relative cannot be the qualifying child of any taxpayer. The qualifying relative must either live with you for the entire year as a member of your household or be related to you. This can include a child that does not meet the qualifying child test, a relative such as a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or in-law, or anyone unrelated to you that is a member of your household.
  • The qualifying relative’s gross income for the year must be less than $4,050 (2017).
  • You must provide more than half of the person’s total support during the calendar year.

A word about kids away at college

Very frequently a student who leaves home to attend college will file a personal tax return to obtain a small refund. They do not understand that they still qualify as a dependent of their parents and cannot claim their own exemption. This causes a problem on the parent’s tax return and costs the parents a significant amount of money. This situation takes time and effort to correct. If your dependent is going to file a tax return, be sure that it is filed correctly.