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IRS: Who am I allowed to claim as a dependent?

As people prepare their 2021 tax returns for the IRS, they have a lot of questions. One is who they’re allowed to claim as a dependent.

"taxes" spelled out with wooden blocks with a calculator and pen on an orange background, representing tax returns to the IRS

Claiming a dependent can give you a larger reduction on your taxes.

Many people feel that only children are dependents, but there are actually more people that may qualify as a dependent.


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Who is a tax dependent and how does the IRS let me claim one?

The IRS defines a dependent as a child or relative that depends on a taxpayer.

Credits and deductions claimed are determined by the relationship between the taxpayer and dependent.

This means child tax credits, earned income credits, and child dependent care credits to name a few.


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What qualifies a child as a dependent?

  • They’re a part of your family, meaning your biological child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half sibling, step sibling, or a relation to any of these people.
  • The child is under a certain age
  • They live with you
  • The child cannot financially support themselves
  • They cannot file a joint tax return
  • They have residency or citizenship status


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What qualifies a relative as a dependent?

  • They aren’t someone else’s qualifying child
  • They’re related to and live with you
  • Their gross income is under the limit
  • You provide over half of their support financially throughout the year
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