All income that is not specifically exempted by law from taxation is subject to federal income taxes, regardless of your age, dependency or marital status. How much of your income is subject to taxation is determined in part by how many exemptions you can claim. The types of exemptions that apply to your income can be significantly impacted by whether or not you can claim yourself on your federal income tax return.
You can't claim yourself on your federal income taxes if you are another person's qualifying child. You are someone else's qualifying child if you are under 19 years old, or under 24 if you are a full-time student, did not provide more than half of your own support for the whole year, lived in the other person's home for at least half the year, are related to the other person as a child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half-sibling, step-sibling or one of their descendants, and you are not filing a joint tax return.
You can't claim yourself on your federal income taxes if you are another person's qualifying relative. You are someone else's qualifying relative if you lived as a member of that person's household for the whole year in a relationship that does not violate local law, the other person provided more than half of your total support for the year, and your gross income for the year was less than $3,700. In certain cases you might be the other person's qualifying relative even if you don't live in the same home.
You can claim an exemption for yourself if you are single and no one else is entitled to claim you as a dependent. If another person can claim you as a dependent, you cannot claim yourself, regardless of whether the other person does or does not claim you as a dependent. If you are married and file a joint return, you can claim an exemption for yourself and another exemption for your spouse. If you are married and file separate returns, you can claim an exemption for yourself, but not for your spouse.
Each exemption reduced the amount of your income that is subject to federal income taxes by $3,700 for the 2011 tax year. If no one else can claim you as a dependent, you can claim a personal exemption for yourself. If you are married and file a joint return, you can take another personal exemption for your spouse. You can claim an exemption for each of your dependents. The value of both personal exemptions and dependent exemptions is the same, but you are never your own dependent and your spouse is never your dependent.
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