If you have children, you can often claim them as dependents on your annual tax return. However, when your children receive Social Security checks because of a disability, disabled parent or deceased parent, tax returns become a bit more complicated. Although you can still claim a child who earned income during the year as a dependent, the Internal Revenue Service may require a separate tax return filed under the child's name.
Taxable Social Security
Not all Social Security benefits are taxable. To determine whether your dependent child's benefits could be taxable, divide the child's annual benefits by 2 and add the result to the child's other taxable income for the year. If the total is more than $25,000, some of the child's benefits may be taxable, and he may need to file his own tax return. In most cases, the maximum taxable amount equals 50 percent of the child's total annual benefits.
If your dependent child receives more than $950 in taxable unearned income, including Social Security benefits, he must typically file an annual tax return to report the income to the IRS and pay any tax he owes. In most cases, dependent children must also file tax returns if their earned income exceeds $5,950 or if the total of their earned and unearned income exceeds $6,250. However, these limits are slightly higher for children who are blind.
Filing the Return
If your child receives Social Security benefits and is required by law to file a tax return, he must do so in his own name. Although you can file the return on his behalf, you cannot claim the child's taxable income on your own tax return. If you choose to file on your child's behalf, you can sign the return and handle any related communications with the IRS. If neither you nor your child files, the IRS will hold your child responsible for any owed tax or penalties related to the return, unless the child is unable to file his own return because of age or disability.
Supplemental Security income is never taxable. Although most children won't owe tax on more than 50 percent of their benefits, a child may owe tax on up to 85 percent of his benefits if the sum of one-half of his benefits and his other taxable income is more than $34,000. A dependent child may also owe tax on more than 50 percent of his benefits if he is married, files a return separate from his spouse and lived with his spouse at any time during the tax year.
Amanda McMullen is a freelancer who has been writing professionally since 2010. She holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and statistics and a second bachelor's degree in integrated mathematics education.