How to File Your Federal Taxes If You Can Be Claimed As a Dependent by Another Person

Your parent will collect a personal exemption on your behalf if they claim you as a dependent.

Your parent will collect a personal exemption on your behalf if they claim you as a dependent.

If someone else is claiming you as a dependent on their tax return, you aren't completely off the hook for filing federal taxes. Depending on your situation, you may still have to file a tax return. The filing process for dependents isn't anything special, but you won't be able to claim the same level of exemptions and deductions.

Who's a Dependent

Even if you're living at home or your parents support you, they can't automatically claim you as a dependent on their tax return. Children can be claimed only if they're under 19, under 24 and a student, or permanently disabled. Children, step-children, siblings and step siblings, and any of their descendants can all qualify as a dependent child for tax purposes. Children also have to meet certain residency and support requirements for parents to claim them as dependents.

Who Needs to File

Dependents may not technically need to file a tax return, but it's a good idea to do it if you've had any income tax withheld during the year. You may be due a refund, and reporting the information on a tax return is the only way to get it. For 2013, a dependent needs to file a tax return if he has unearned income of more than $1,000 or earned income above $6,100. Salaries, wages and professional fees are considered earned income. Unearned income comes from items like interest income, dividends, capital gains and survivor annuities.

The Filing Process

Dependents use the same tax forms as their non-dependent counterparts. However, you won't get the same level of deductions compared with those who can't be claimed as dependents. When your parent or someone else claims you as a dependent, they get to claim an extra exemption on your behalf. The IRS doesn't want you to double dip, so you can't claim a personal exemption. The amount of your standard deduction will be lower.

Alternative to Filing

If you have earned income and want to file, you must report it on your own tax return. However, if you have only unearned income and you don't want to go through the process of filing, your parents can usually list it on their return. This works only if the unearned income was less than $10,000 and you didn't have any federal income tax withheld.


About the Author

Based in San Diego, Calif., Madison Garcia is a writer specializing in business topics. Garcia received her Master of Science in accountancy from San Diego State University.

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