Your love and devotion to your girlfriend might be admirable, but it won't convince the Internal Revenue Service that you are entitled to claim her as a dependent on your tax return. To claim her, she has to meet the IRS criteria for a "qualifying relative" – even though she's not a relative. It's very difficult, but not impossible, to claim girlfriend as dependent when you file your income taxes.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
You can claim a girlfriend as a dependent as long as she meets the IRS's qualifications, including being dependent on you for more than half of her income.
How to Claim a Girlfriend as a Dependent
Your girlfriend's gross income for the year cannot exceed the value of an exemption. Gross income includes all income not exempt from taxes and is figured before taking into account any deductions or exemptions. You must provide more than half of the support for your girlfriend during the year. Support includes the expenses of living such as housing, utilities, food, medical care and education. For example, if you pay rent and your girlfriend lives with you, that counts as support you paid for her. If you pay for 60 percent of her support, you meet the support test. However, if you pay 49 percent, her parents pay 41 percent and she pays 10 percent, you don't meet the test. Since your girlfriend isn't a member of your family and therefore can't meet the relationship test, she must meet the residency test. The residency test requires that she live with you for the entire year. However, temporary absences don't disqualify your girlfriend. These include absences for education, illness, vacation, business and military service.
Claim a Girlfriend as Dependent Exceptions
Even if your girlfriend checks all the boxes as a dependent, you can't claim her if anyone else could claim her as a dependent child. Usually, dependent children can only be claimed until the year they turn 19, but if your girlfriend is a full-time student, her parents can claim her until the year she turns 24. However, if her parents can't claim her as a dependent, and she meets all the other requirements, you may be able to do so.
Income Limits for 2018 Taxes
The laws regarding claiming a nonrelative have not changed with the new tax laws. You still can claim her as long as she passes the IRS's test as a dependent. You will still need to provide more than half of her financial support and she still has the same income limit as she did in 2017. As always, you cannot claim wife as dependent, so once you say, "I do," this option goes away.
Income Limits for 2017 Taxes
In 2017, your qualifying girlfriend could make up to $4,049 in adjusted gross income to qualify as a dependent for tax purposes. This amount changes over time.
Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."