Can a Jobless Parent Claim Kids as Dependents?

You can claim kids as dependents even if you earn nothing.

You can claim kids as dependents even if you earn nothing.

Raising kids is a full-time job. You may not be working outside the home due to any number of reasons, though, including the high cost of childcare and the challenges of finding a job with a flexible schedule. If you're not working outside the home, you may get some help when you file your taxes. Jobless parents can still claim kids as dependents. Doing so can help cut your tax bill. Filing taxes with no income with dependents, might allow you to get back money even if you haven’t paid any taxes.

Claiming a Child on Taxes When Unemployed

If you have no income, can you get a tax refund? Even if you have no earned income for the year, the Internal Revenue Service may still want you to file a return. For example, unemployment benefits are taxable, and you have to report them to the IRS. As long as you file your taxes, claiming a child on taxes when unemployed may help you get a credit or refund. As of 2017 each dependent exemption was worth a $4,050 deduction of taxable income.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has eliminated exemptions for dependents starting with the 2018 tax year. Instead, each tax filer's standard deduction is higher. If you file as head of household, your standard deduction is $18,000 for 2018. If you are married filing jointly, your deduction is $13,000. If you are filing as married filing separately or as a single filer, your standard deduction is $6,500.

Determining Whether You Have a Qualifying Child

A qualifying child has to be under age 19, or 24 if she’s a student. The IRS does not impose an age limit for disabled children. Qualifying children have to live with you at least half the year and don't earn more than half of their living expenses on their own. You can claim children other than your own if they're related to you. Stepchildren, adopted children, foster children and your brothers and sisters are all eligible. When these kids have kids, their offspring are also eligible.

Claiming the Child Tax Credit

A dependent child under 17 might make you eligible for the Child Tax Credit, the Additional Child Tax Credit, or a combination. As of the 2018 tax year, the Child Tax Credit is nonrefundable. This means that if your credits exceed your liability, you will not owe anything, and the IRS will not refund you the difference. For the Additional Child Tax Credit, you must have at least $3,000 in earned income. If you qualify, the IRS may refund you up to 15 percent of your earned income above $3,000.

Consider Claiming Additional Tax Credits

If you've got kids 12 and under, or a child that can’t take care of himself, you may qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit. When you pay for child care while you look for work or go to work, you can get up to $3,000, or $6,000 for two or more children. The credit can’t be for more than your tax liability. If you or your spouse have earned income, you're eligible for the Earned Income Credit. The amount depends on your income and number of children you're trying to claim.

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About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.

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