Can you claim a Qualifying Child who is not a dependent?
For you to claim any child-related tax benefits, the child must satisfy all five of these tests to be a qualifying child under the Uniform Definition of a Qualifying Child:
- Relationship – a qualifying child must be your descendant, sibling or a descendant of your sibling and related to you through birth, marriage or adoption. Foster children also meet the relationship test.
- Residency – a qualifying child must live with you for more than half the year (even if it's only by one day more than half).
- Age – a qualifying child must be under the age of 19 all year, unless they are a student. If the qualifying child is a full-time student for five months or more during the year, they must be under age 24. A qualifying child who is permanently and totally disabled does not have to meet the age test.
- Support – a qualifying child must not have provided more than half of their own support.
- Joint Return – a qualifying child must not have filed a joint tax return with a spouse (unless they filed only to claim a refund).
If all 5 tests are satisfied, you may be able to claim the following tax benefits even if your qualifying child is not a dependent.
Head of Household (HOH) filing status If you are a custodial parent of a child who qualifies as your dependent and you completed Form 8332, allowing the noncustodial parent to claim the child as a dependent, then you can file as Head of Household even though you are not claiming the child as a dependent this year. You can read more on filing as HOH here.
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) In the situation described above regarding divorced parents, as the custodial parent, you may still be able to claim the EITC if you meet all the other rules. You can read more on the EITC here.
Child and Dependent Care Credit (CDCC) In the situation described above regarding divorced parents, you may be able to claim the CDCC if you meet all other rules. You can read more on childcare tax credits here.
In addition, you may be able to claim the CDCC for a child who is not your dependent if either of the following is true:
- The child's gross income was $4300 or more.
- You could have claimed the child except that you (or your spouse, if you are filing jointly) qualify as the dependent of another taxpayer.
Important: If a child can be a qualifying child for more than one taxpayer, the IRS uses tiebreaker rules to determine who can claim the child-related tax benefits for the child. Be sure to check these rules before completing your return if someone else could also claim the same child as a qualifying child.
Can I claim my married child as a dependent on my return?
A child getting married is something most parents celebrate. It's an exciting development to be sure, but it may not be good news from a tax perspective. That's because marriage represents a change in legal status that often means a parent can no longer claim the child as a dependent.
The IRS has a general rule that states you cannot claim a married person as a tax dependent. Luckily for parents of young couples, that rule does have exceptions.
It may be permissible to claim your child who is married as a dependent on your tax return if all of the following statements are true:
- Your married child is your qualifying child or qualifying relative.
- Your married child is a citizen of the United States, a U.S. resident alien, a U.S. national or a resident of either Canada or Mexico.
- You, the parent, cannot be claimed as a dependent by any other taxpayer.
- Your married child did not file a joint tax return with their spouse.
If your married child either does not file taxes or files a separate tax return from their spouse and all of the other requirements to claim this child as a dependent are met, then you can claim your married child as a dependent on your tax return.
Important: Even if the married child filed a joint tax return with their spouse, it may be possible for a parent to claim the married child as a dependent.
If your child who is married DID file a joint tax return with their spouse but meets all the other requirements to qualify as your dependent, then you may claim the married child as a dependent on your return if all three of the following statements are true:
- Neither your married child nor their spouse was required to file a tax return (i.e., their income was below the filing threshold and no other events triggered a requirement that they file a federal tax return).
- If they filed separately, neither your married child nor their spouse would have any tax liability.
- Your married child and their spouse filed a joint tax return ONLY so they could claim a refund of withheld taxes.
If your married child files a joint tax return with their spouse but all of the previous statements are true and all of the other requirements to claim this child as a dependent are met, then you may be able to claim your married child as a dependent on your tax return.