Despite the proverb to the contrary, two people can’t live as cheaply as one. The IRS recognizes that supporting another person carries a financial burden, and they give you a tax break for doing so, in the form of a tax exemption for each of your dependents. Your children are your dependents as long as they meet certain IRS rules. But the law can be confusing when your dependent marries. Her husband’s contributions to her support and the couple’s tax filing status will help determine if you can still claim your daughter as a dependent.
The IRS says your qualifying child may be a full-time student younger than age 24, as long as she is enrolled in school at least five months of the year. Your daughter, step-daughter or adopted daughter may be your qualifying child. She must be younger than you or your spouse. She may live near the school during the school year but should live with you the rest of the year. She can’t provide more than half her own support. If your daughter is permanently disabled, she may be any age and qualify as your dependent.
You may claim your married child as your dependent as long as she doesn’t file a joint tax return with her husband – unless they file the return solely to receive a refund, not because they owe taxes. For instance, if your daughter worked a part-time job for part of the year and income taxes were withheld from her paycheck, she and her husband could file a joint return to claim a refund of those taxes, as long as they didn’t earn enough to owe other taxes.
The IRS says your child qualifies as your dependent if she doesn’t contribute more than half of her support. Examples of items that constitute her support are food, housing, transportation, medical insurance and schooling. If you contribute more than half of the cost of these items, then you support your child and may deduct her as a dependent, as long as she meets all the other requirements for a qualifying child.
While claiming your child as a dependent allows you to reduce your gross income by subtracting an exemption for her, you may also garner other tax benefits. Having her as a dependent may allow you to file as head of household, which entitles you to a higher standard deduction and a lower tax rate. Supporting a child might also qualify you for the earned income tax credit.
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.