On the Income Tax Form Can You Claim Your 17-Year-Old As a Dependent?

The IRS maintains strict guidelines for claiming dependents.

The IRS maintains strict guidelines for claiming dependents.

Children can put quite the strain on your budget, so you don’t want to miss out on any opportunity to use your kids to save money, especially on your taxes. However, nobody wants the IRS auditing a return, so you need to know the rules before you claim kids as dependents on your taxes.

Tip

Your 17-year-old child is still young enough to potentially be claimed as a dependent under the qualifying child criteria.

Claiming 17-Year-Olds as Dependents

The tax code contains two ways to claim someone as your dependent: either as a qualifying child or a qualifying relative. Under either test, you can’t be claimed as someone else’s dependent, and your child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national or a resident of Canada or Mexico. The qualifying child requirements include that the child must be under 19 at the end of the year or a full-time student under age 24, the child must live with you for at least half of the year, and the child can’t provide more than half of her own support.

The tests for a qualifying relative are more stringent. Your child can’t be the qualifying child of anyone else, the child’s gross income can’t exceed the amount of a dependent exemption ($4,050 for the 2017 tax year) and you must provide more than half your child’s support during the year.

If My Child Files Taxes Can I Claim Him?

If you’re wondering “If my child files taxes, can I claim him?” the answer depends on whether he filed a joint return or single return. If he filed a joint income tax return, you can’t claim him as a dependent on your tax return unless that return was only filed to claim a refund of taxes withheld or estimated tax payments. If any tax is owed on the joint return, you’re not allowed to claim him.

The answer to “At what age do you need to file taxes?” isn’t an age – it's income. The minimum income to file taxes for a single 17-year-old dependent for the 2017 tax year is $1,050 of unearned income, earned income in excess of $6,350 or total income in excess of the larger of $1,050 or earned income plus $350.

Dependent Exemptions Eliminated for 2018

Starting in the 2018 tax year, the deduction for each exemption you claim on your federal income tax return is eliminated. So, regardless of whether your 17-year-old meets the requirements to claim as a dependent, your taxable income won’t go down as a result like it has in prior tax years. Unless the law is changed, you will start receiving a deduction for dependents starting in the 2026 tax year.

Value of Exemptions for 2017

For 2017, each dependent you claim reduces your taxable income by $4,050. However, it’s a deduction rather than a tax credit, which means that the amount depends on your marginal tax rate. For example, if you fall in the 10 percent tax bracket, the exemption saves you $405. If you’re in the 25 percent tax bracket, that same exemption saves you $1,012.50.

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About the Author

Based in the Kansas City area, Mike specializes in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."

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