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Who can you claim as a tax dependent?

Claiming tax dependents can help you save money, but you want to make sure you do so properly. Getty Images/iStockphoto

As the April 18, 2023 tax return filing deadline nears, many Americans are trying to get their tax situation in order. Given that many people will have more tax liability this filing season, such as with some pandemic-related tax benefits expiring, you might be looking to maximize tax savings by claiming tax dependents.

If you do think you can claim tax dependents, that can make you eligible for more deductions and credits, as well as the head of household filing status. However, the rules can be somewhat complex, and you want to make sure that you properly claim dependents. In this article, we'll take a closer look at who you can claim as tax dependents and what that could mean for your taxes.

You can get your taxes done right (and a maximum refund) by using an online tax preparation service like TurboTax now.

Who can you claim as a tax dependent?

To claim someone as a dependent, they have to fall under the category of either a qualifying child or qualifying relative.

That can include many types of family members, such as children, stepchildren, and foster children, as well as relatives such as siblings, nieces and nephews, parents and more.

The key is to see if they meet the IRS requirements for being "qualifying." For tax year 2022 (which you would file an income tax return for in 2023), you can review IRS Publication 501, Table 5 for more detail on what makes someone a qualifying child or qualifying relative.

Traditionally, you need to provide more than half of someone's financial support during the year for you to claim them as a dependent. There are also restrictions around the age for qualifying children (generally under 19, with some exceptions) or income for qualifying relatives (the prospective dependent needs to have less than $4,440 in gross income for the year.).

You can even claim unrelated people as dependents if they live with you the whole year, among other requirements, to count as a qualifying relative.

Make sure to properly include your legal dependents when filing your taxes in order to maximize your refund. You can easily file your taxes in less than 15 minutes online now

Who can't you claim as a tax dependent?

There are a few exceptions regarding who can't be claimed as a tax dependent. For example, you can't claim your spouse as a dependent. Household employees such as housekeepers also can't be claimed as your tax dependents.

Another restriction is that you can't claim most foreign residents as tax dependents, as they need to either be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. resident, a U.S. national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.

You also generally can't claim someone as a qualifying child or qualifying relative if they're married and file a joint return, unless that's to claim a tax refund.

Limits on tax dependents' claims

If you claim someone as your tax dependent, then they can't claim someone else as their own tax dependent. Likewise, if someone claims you as their dependent, then you wouldn't be able to claim someone else as your tax dependent.

Also, the same dependent generally can't be claimed more than once by different taxpayers, e.g., both you and your sibling can't claim your parent as a dependent.

In the past, claiming someone as your dependent could reduce your taxable income by enabling you to claim personal exemptions for dependents (which meant these dependents couldn't claim their own personal exemptions if they filed their own tax returns).

The Tax Cuts and Job Act eliminated these personal exemptions through the end of 2025, although it raised other tax benefits that can come from claiming dependents, like the Child Tax Credit. The Child Tax Credit also increased as part of pandemic relief in 2021 but has since reverted to $2,000 per qualifying child.

How you can claim tax dependents on your return

To claim tax dependents, you'll need to start by listing your dependents' names on the first page of Form 1040 for your individual income tax return. From there, as you go through filling out your tax return, you'll find various places to claim dependent-related tax benefits, such as the Child Tax Credit or Earned Income Tax Credit. Tax prep services can help guide you through what to claim and how to do so. The pros at TurboTax can help you file your return and get a maximum refund now.

The ability to claim tax dependents and the benefits of doing so can vary from person to person, so it's important to see what applies to your unique situation. Claiming tax dependents can help you save money, but you want to make sure you do so properly. So, consider speaking with a trusted professional such as an accountant or another tax advisor.

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