Claiming a child as a dependent can save you thousands of dollars on your federal income tax. If you’re a parent and you live with your children, claiming them is relatively straightforward. Claiming a child on taxes that is not yours is also a possibility depending on the circumstances. To claim a child on your taxes, the child has to meet the IRS requirements for a qualifying child or a qualifying relative.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Someone who isn't the father or mother may be able to claim a child on their income taxes if the child meets the requirements to be a "qualifying child" or "qualifying relative."
Claiming a Child on Taxes That Is Not Yours
To claim a qualifying child as a tax dependent, the child has to be a U.S. citizen, a legal resident or a resident of Mexico or Canada. The child also can’t be claimed as a dependent by anyone else, and in most cases, she can’t file a joint tax return with someone else.
The qualifying child you are planning to claim also must be related to you. She can be a step child, foster child, sibling, half sibling or adopted. The child of someone in any of those categories would also qualify if she meets the other criteria.
To claim a qualifying child, you also need to be financially supporting the child by providing more than half of her support, and the child must live with you for more than half the year. The child also must be younger than you or your spouse if you’re filing jointly and under age 19 or under age 24 if she is a full-time student.
You may also be able to claim a child as a qualifying relative. For a qualifying relative, there is no age requirement, and the child doesn’t have to live with you. The child can be a sibling, a niece or nephew, a sibling of one of your parents or a son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law or sister-in-law.
The qualifying relative must have an income of less than $4,050, and in most cases, you must provide more than 50 percent of her support for the year.
Exceptions to Claiming a Child on Taxes
There are exceptions to some of the requirements for claiming a child on taxes that is not yours. For example, the age limits for a qualifying child don’t apply if the child is totally and permanently disabled.
You also can’t claim a dependent if someone else is claiming you as a dependent. For example, if you’re living with your parents and are taking care of a child, if your parents claim you as a dependent, then you can’t claim the child as your dependent.
There are also exceptions to the requirement for the child to live with you for more than half the year. If the child is not living with you due to an illness, due to being kidnapped, due to pursuing an education, for business reasons, for a vacation, for military service or due to being detained in a juvenile facility, then they may still be able to be claimed on your taxes.
There are also exceptions to the requirement for qualifying relatives to provide more than half of her support. In situations where multiple people support the child and no one provides more than half of her support, those providing support must agree in writing about who will get the deduction.
It’s important to review the requirements carefully because the penalties for claiming false dependents is steep. Civil penalties can include a $5,000 fine and a penalty of 75 percent of the amount owed if you underpaid your tax return due to fraud.
Claiming a Child That Is Not Yours on 2018 Taxes
If the child meets the requirements, you can claim him as a dependent on your 2018 taxes, which are filed in 2019. Depending on your income, you may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. To qualify for the EITC if you’re single, head of household or widowed, your income has to be less than $40,320 if you are claiming one qualifying child, less than $45,802 if you’re claiming two qualifying children and less than $49,194 if you’re claiming three or more qualifying children.
If the child is a qualifying relative and you don’t have any qualifying children, your income needs to be less than $15,270. If you’re married filing jointly, your income needs to be less than $20,950 if you have no qualifying children, $46,010 for one qualifying child, $51,492 for two qualifying children and $54,884 for three or more qualifying children.
Claiming a Child That Is Not Yours on 2017 Taxes
You may also be able to qualify for the EITC for your 2017 taxes, which are filed in 2018. If you are single, head of household or widowed and have no qualifying children, your income must be less than $15,010. If you have one qualifying child, your income must be less than $39,617. For two qualifying children, your income must be less than $45,007 and for three or more qualifying children, it must be less than $48,340.
If you are married filing jointly and have no qualifying children, your income must be less than $20,600 to qualify for the EITC. If you have one qualifying child, your income must be less than $45,207. For two qualifying children, your income must be less than $50,597 and for three or more qualifying children, your income must be less than $53,930.
- IRS: Publication 501 (2017), Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information
- IRS: Falsely Padding Deductions on Returns is on the IRS Annual "Dirty Dozen" List of Tax Scams to Avoid
- IRS: 2018 EITC Income Limits, Maximum Credit Amounts and Tax Law Updates
- IRS: Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
- IRS: 2017 EITC Income Limits, Maximum Credit Amounts and Tax Law Updates
Melinda Hill Sineriz is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience. Her work has appeared on Pocket Sense and Sapling. She specializes in business, personal finance, and career writing. She has worked in insurance sales and financial planning, helping families to manage their money and prepare for the future. Learn more about her and her work at thatmelinda.com.