About Claiming Children on Tax Returns

Claiming your child lowers the amount of taxes you pay.

Claiming your child lowers the amount of taxes you pay.

When you are a parent, finding ways to save is always important because kids are expensive. The Internal Revenue Service gives you credit for raising your children by offering several tax breaks to parents. Although claiming your kids is relatively straightforward, you must make sure they meet all the requirements all of a dependent.

How Much Money Can You Save by Claiming a Child on Your Taxes?

How much you save on your taxes depends on your earnings and the amount of your tax bill. At the bare minimum, you can claim an exemption for the child, which is $3,800 as of 2012. When you claim an exemption, you lower your taxable income, which in turn, lowers how much you owe the IRS. If you provide more than half the child's support, the child lives in your house and you are single, you can use the head of household filing status, which also reduces your taxable income. Some refundable credits, like the earned income credit or the adoption credit might lower your tax bill so much that you will receive a refund. These credits have an income limit and if you qualify, your savings will be much larger than someone who doesn’t.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Claim a Child?

There is no minimum age to claim a child on your taxes; however, to claim a child, you can't be claimed as a dependent yourself. For example, if you are a teenager, have your own child and your parents claim you on their income taxes, you can't claim your child on your own return. If you support yourself and your child and can't be claimed as a dependent on anyone else's taxes, you can claim your child, regardless of your age.

Can a Mother Claim a Child on Taxes if Unmarried?

Marital status doesn't matter to the IRS when it comes to claiming a kid. As long as the mother can't be claimed as a dependent on another person's taxes and the child qualifies as a dependent, the mother can claim the child regardless of marital status. To qualify as a dependent, the child must be under 19, or under 24 and a full-time student, live with the mother for more than half the year, not claimed by another person, and the mother must provide at least half the child's support. The dependency rule also applies to other members of her family, including her brother or sister, niece or nephew or any other family member who is a child that she supports. If the mother is single and paying at least half the bills to maintain a child's home, she can claim the head of household filing status, which reduces her taxable income and cuts her tax.

Can a Child Be Claimed on Taxes Until They Are 18 Yrs. Old?

In reality, there is no age limit to whom you can claim on your income taxes. There are two types of dependents -- a qualifying child and a qualifying relative. A qualifying child is someone who is under age 19 or under age 24 and a full-time student. A qualifying relative is someone who is any age, for whom you provide over half the support, earns less than $3,700 as of 2012, and lives in your house for the entire year. If you still support your 21-year-old son and he still lives in your home, you can claim him as a dependent as a qualifying relative on your taxes as long as he meets the income and support guidelines.

Can a Parent Claim Their Disabled Child on Their Taxes After the Age of 18?

Generally, there is an age test, but a child who is permanently and totally disabled isn't included in the qualifying child rule. The IRS explains a permanently and totally disabled person as someone who can't work due to a mental or physical disability, and a doctor must deem that the condition has or will last for at least a year or result in death. If you are a parent of a child who is permanently and totally disabled, you can claim the child on your taxes even after he turns 18.


About the Author

Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.

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