Dependents

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If you want to claim a dependency exemption for a person, all five of the following dependency tests must be met:
  1. The member of household or relationship test,
  2. The citizen or resident test,
  3. The joint return test,
  4. The gross income test, and
  5. The support test.
(Special rules apply to allow parents to claim the exemption for a kidnapped child in certain circumstances. Refer to Tax Information for Parents of Kidnapped Children, Tax Information for Parents of Kidnapped Children, for more information.)

The first test is the member of household or relationship test. To meet this test, a person must either live with you for the entire year as a member of your household or be related to you. The Form 1040A Instructions and Form 1040 Instructions list all relatives who meet the relationship test. Your spouse is never considered your dependent. A person is not considered a member of your household if, at any time during the tax year, your relationship with that person violates local law. If a person was born or died during the year and was a member of your household during the entire part of the year he or she was alive, the person meets the member of household test.

The second test is the citizen or resident test. To meet this test, a person must be a citizen of the United States, resident alien, or a resident of Canada or Mexico. To find out who is a resident alien, refer to Resident and Non-Resident Aliens, or refer to Publication 519.

The third test is the joint return test. Generally, you are not allowed to claim a person as a dependent if he or she files a joint return. However, you may claim a person who filed a joint return merely to claim a refund of tax. This exception applies if neither the person nor the person's spouse is required to file a return and no tax liability would have existed for either the person or the person's spouse if each had filed a separate return.

The fourth test is the gross income test. Generally, you may not claim as a dependent a person who had gross income of $3,100 or more for 2004. Gross income is all income in the form of money, goods, property, or services that is not exempt from tax. There are two exceptions to the gross income test. If your child is under age 19 at the end of the year, or is a full-time student under the age of 24 at the end of the year, the gross income test does not apply.

The fifth test is the support test. To claim someone as your dependent you must provide more than half of that person's total support during the year. A special rule applies to children of divorced or separated parents, or to children of parents who have lived apart at all times during the last six months of the year. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as the person who provides more than half of the child's support. The noncustodial parent can meet this test if the custodial parent releases his or her claim to the exemption on Form 8332 (PDF), or by a substantially similar written statement. Refer to Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information for more information.

You must include a valid social security number, individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), or adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN) for each dependent claimed on your tax return or the exemption will be disallowed. For more information on the ITIN, refer to Individual Taxpayer Identification Number - Form W-7 or refer to Publication 1915 (PDF). For more information on the ATIN, refer to Publication 968, Tax Benefits for Adoption.

For more information on dependents, refer to Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information, and Publication 929, Tax Rules for Children and Dependents.

Source: IRS.gov

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