Sometimes a person with a disability must depend on relatives for most or all of her support. You might find that you need to assume this responsibility for an older sibling, especially if your parents are retired and don’t have the financial resources. If you and your sibling meet Internal Revenue Service qualifying tests, you can claim her on your tax return.
You can claim a brother, sister or other relative with a disability as a dependent provided IRS qualifying rules are satisfied. A stepbrother, stepsister or sibling by adoption is eligible. If a disabled sibling has children, you may also claim them if they meet IRS standards as qualifying children. A sibling with a disability may be older than you and still be claimed as a dependent. In fact, there are no age limits for a qualifying dependent who is disabled.
A sibling with a disability is qualified only if he is completely and permanently disabled according to IRS rules. There are two conditions that must be satisfied. First, he must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. This means he can’t earn a living because of the physical or mental impairment. In addition, a doctor must certify the condition is expected to last continuously for at least a year or is fatal.
For you to claim a sibling with a disability, she must live with you for at least one-half of the year and may not provide more than half of her own support. She can receive disability benefits and still be claimed as a dependent. However, she may not claim herself as a dependent and may not be claimed by another person. A qualifying sibling with a disability must be a U.S. citizen, resident alien or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
When you claim a sibling with a disability on your tax return, you get an additional dependent exemption. The amount of the exemption was $3,800 as of 2012. A disabled sibling also counts as a qualifying child for the Earned Income Tax Credit. If you have to pay for care for your sibling with a disability because you work or must look for work, you may qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit. This tax credit can be up to $1,050 for one child or dependent or $2,100 for two or more qualifying children and dependents.