Who Can Be Used for Dependents in Filing Income Taxes?

Relatives of all ages can be dependents.
i RL Productions/Digital Vision/Getty Images

In 2014, every dependent you claim provides a $3,950 dependent exemption on your tax return. This means you can subtract $3,950 from your gross income for each dependent you claim, which reduces your taxable income. Dependents can also make you eligible for tax breaks on things like child care and education expenses. The Internal Revenue Service won’t let you claim just anybody. Dependents have to meet strict IRS criteria before you can claim them on your taxes.

The Relationship Test

A dependent must be related to you in some way. Your own kids are eligible to be claimed as dependents as long as they meet certain criteria. So are adopted children, stepchildren and foster children. You might be able to claim a brother or sister if they meet the other IRS criteria as dependents. Offspring of any of these relatives are also potential dependents. For example, you could claim a niece, nephew or your own child’s kids. Other relatives such as parents, aunts, uncles and cousins may also qualify.

Age and Support Tests

Before a child can be used as a dependent, she must meet IRS age and income requirements. Dependent children have to be under age 19 at the end of the year. The age limit is extended to under 24 years old when a kid is a full-time student for five or more months out of the year. There is no age limit when a child has a permanent disability. A dependent child can have her own income as long as she doesn’t provide more than half of her own support and doesn’t claim herself as a dependent. Married children can be claimed provided they don’t file a joint tax return except to get a refund.

Residency Tests

To qualify as a dependent, a child must live with you for at least 50 percent of the calendar year. Children who are away at college are still counted as residents of your household. A dependent, whether he is an adult or a child, also has to be a United States citizen or national. Alternatively, a dependent can be a U.S. resident or a resident of Canada or Mexico.

Adult Dependent Relatives

Adult relatives can be used as dependents on your tax return as well as children. Most of the qualifying rules are the same, but there are a few differences. Adult dependent relatives can include older relatives such as parents, aunts and uncles. An adult dependent must live with you for the entire year, not just half the year. You have to provide at least half of the dependent relative’s support. In addition, a dependent relative may not be claimed if she has a gross income of more than $3,950 as of 2014.

the nest