Who is a dependent?
For every dependent you have, you can claim a dependent exemption on your federal income tax return. In 2012, each dependent gives you a deduction worth $3,800.
If you're supporting someone who lives with you, say a boyfriend or a friend down on her luck, you might be able to claim that person as a dependent.
And if economic realities mean that you’ve had grown children move back home with you, or that you’ve extended financial help to a family member, they too might qualify as your dependents.
Tip: The rules for dependents can be tricky. To claim someone as a dependent you'll need to answer all relevant questions in the Personal Info section of TurboTax. We want to make sure you receive any tax breaks for which you qualify.
Exemptions for children who qualify
You can receive a dependent exemption for each qualifying child, who could include:
- Your child, stepchild or foster child
- Brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister
- Or a child or grandchild of any of these
To qualify as a dependent child, the child must live with you more than half of the year and be under age 19 at the end of 2012, or under age 24 if a full-time student. That's defined as attending school full time for at least part of five calendar months of the year -- whether at home or away at school.
If your child provides more than half of his or her own support, you can't claim the child as a dependent.
To determine if a child qualifies as your dependent, complete the Personal Info section in TurboTax.
Note: There are special rules for children of divorced or separated parents and for persons receiving support from two or more individuals. If you are in this situation, read IRS Publication 504: Divorced or Separated Individuals.
Many families provide homes for relatives such as parents or grandparents, or give financial support to relatives who live across town or across the country.
Here's a list of the people considered to be relatives who might qualify as dependents even if they don't live with you:
- Children, grandchildren, and stepchildren
- Siblings, including half and step siblings
- Parent and grandparents
- Aunts and uncles
- Nieces and nephews
- Fathers-in-law, mothers-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law, and sisters-in-law
They must ALSO meet these qualifications for the year:
- Have been a citizen or resident of the United States, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
- Did not file a joint income tax return with anyone else.
- Received more than half his or her support from you.
- Had less than $3,800 of income for the entire year. (Generally that amount does not include Social Security benefits.)
Note: If your child is not a qualifying child for 2012 because he or she does not meet the age/student test or the principal place of residence test, you may still be able to claim a dependent exemption for the child as your qualifying relative, but only if he or she has gross income under $3,800 and you provide more than half of his or her support.
Answer the questions in the Personal Info section of TurboTax to determine who qualifies as your dependent.
Members of your household not related to you
If you're supporting someone who lives with you, claim that person as a dependent ONLY if:
- The person lived with you all year.
- He or she is a citizen or resident of the United States, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
- He or she did not file a joint income tax return with anyone else.
- You provided more than half of his or her support.
- The person has less than $3,800 of income for the entire year. (Generally that amount does not include Social Security benefits.)
Claiming yourself or your spouse as a dependent
Our customers often ask if they can claim themselves or their spouses as dependents. Well, it doesn't work quite like that.
You and your spouse are each entitled to a personal exemption from taxes of $3,800 on your tax return. (So you can't claim yourself or your spouse as a "dependent," but you already get the same financial benefit from your personal exemption.)
TurboTax automatically calculates this for you.